§ The Minister for Rural Affairs (Mr. Tim Boswell)
As part of the Government's war on waste initiative, we have recently conducted a comprehensive efficiency scrutiny on the burdens of paperwork on farmers. We included three working farmers in our team. The report is with Ministers, and we plan to publish it shortly for consultation.
§ Mr. Dover
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his reply. May I ask him to do two things? First, will he recognise that, with the problems of bovine spongiform encephalopathy and the need for birth dates, sexes and mother-father records, he should ensure that the required amount of paperwork is again reviewed to ensure that a minimum burden is placed upon farmers? Secondly, will my hon. Friend ensure that the officials in the regional offices of his Ministry do not ask for an undue number of returns?
§ Mr. Boswell
I think that I can give my hon. Friend those assurances. We shall be as helpful as we possibly can and we shall reduce the burdens wherever we can. I am sure that he will appreciate that rules are rules and that we cannot give carte blanche to suspend the rules of payment schemes. We shall, however, be as flexible as possible in our interpretation of them.