Taskforce Will be Guided by Outcomes

UK - Three words dominated when the English pig industry met Jim Paice's red-tape supremo Richard Macdonald — outcomes, legacy and assurance.
calendar icon 8 September 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

Speaking informally about the work of his farming regulation taskforce, Richard Macdonald advised NPA to be guided by outcomes. "I want the taskforce's final report to provide solutions that will not compromise outcomes," he said. "Above all, we must ensure we have safe food."

He urged the industry to think not just about the mechanics of getting rid of some of today's red-tape, but to help him produce a report with a lasting legacy. "That may sound a bit pompous but to put it another way, it would be a great shame if in ten years time another group had to be commissioned to deal with regulations that are going through the pipeline in 2010."

And on the subject of making better use of Red Tractor audits, he advised the pig industry to put itself in Brussels' shoes. "It may be that Brussels says it is not prepared to accept a farm assurance scheme or other process unless it is accredited and approved by the final regulator," he said, citing the recently introduced Environment Agency IPPC assurance bolt-on.

It was clear from NPA's meeting with Richard Macdonald that the taskforce chairman will welcome broad-brushstroke proposals from the pig industry, as well as nuts-and-bolts suggestions on how to substitute farm assurance audits for specific farm inspections.

The problem facing the pig sector is that almost all the red-tape it wishes to eliminate comes from Brussels.

When European Commission apparatchiks cite gold-plating by member countries as the cause of over-regulation, rather than European directives themselves, they are being disingenuous, because many of the European directives that impact on the pig sector are prescriptive and it is not immediately apparent how the United Kingdom government could lessen their impact without falling foul of European Commission auditors.

The result is an increasing demand from regulators for paperwork and yet more paperwork. "What happens to it all?" wondered NPA chairman Stewart Houston. "Where does it go? What is it used for?"

As for other ideas, Richard Macdonald wondered whether the worthy guidance booklets produced by Defra and the regulators could be quite a lot shorter. "Personally I get to two pages and start to struggle," he observed.

NPA's working group on regulation has already put together an extensive document covering many areas where regulation is contradictory, repetitive or just over the top. But a lot of work remains to be done and this relies on contributions by producers, processors and others.

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