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Written Statement - Judicial Review of the Basic Payment Scheme

Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
From the very beginning of the review of the Common Agricultural Policy the Welsh Government has worked side by side with the farming industry, farming unions and other stakeholder bodies to find the best possible way forward for Welsh agriculture.  The decisions taken by Welsh Ministers have been carefully thought out and made taking account of the needs of the farming industry as a whole.
 
From an early stage it was apparent that the required move to an area-based Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) with common area rates would mean that some recipients would receive higher payments and some lower than had previously been the case through the Single Payment Scheme.  The anticipated payment rate for land in the Moorland region was seen by some as contentious but there were good reasons for setting that rate, based on the productivity of the land in question. However, the recent legal challenge brought against the Welsh Government on the Moorland region has shown that, as certain land below 400 metres will have the character of moorland, but will nevertheless not fall within the definition laid down by the Regulations, it is not possible to have a moorland payment region at this time.  We have accepted this and all parties have agreed to the making of a Consent Order by the Court quashing the regulations that define the BPS payment regions.  I will now be considering the options available to the Welsh Government, which I will consult on, and which will be subject to approval by the European Commission.  I shall provide members with further information on this in due course.
 
As a result, the current Technical Review process for classification of land under the CAP arrangements will not be completed; the Welsh Government will reimburse all those claimants with outstanding appeals for the fees charged by contractors in producing a stage 2 report for reclassification of land under the Technical Review Process.
 
I believe the original decision to have a Moorland region was, and remains, right for Wales in policy terms. Throughout this CAP reform process our aim, supported by the industry, has been to recognise the productivity of the land by the payment rate applied to it and to minimise disruption to the industry as a whole.  It seems unlikely now that we will be able to introduce a Moorland region that is fair to all concerned in this current reform process.  However, I will be considering the feasibility and desirability of introducing a Moorland payment region for the BPS as part of the CAP Mid Term Review or possibly as part of the next CAP reform.
 
Farmers and other rural stakeholders will be understandably concerned about the implication of these developments, and the impact of the Court order, and I will make sure that they are kept fully informed as to next steps with further consultation on options for the Basic Payment Scheme payment regions and payment rates.