New environment minister benefits from thousands in EU farm subsidies
New environment minister Lord Gardiner benefits from thousands of pounds in EU farming subsidies and will now be involved in decisions on the future of the controversial scheme, Unearthed can reveal.
The news comes after the National Trust called for a complete overhaul of the current farm subsidy scheme, which critics claim rewards land ownership over food production and environmental protection.
Gardiner is a partner in CM Robarts & Son, which has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in farm subsidies under the EU’s common agricultural policy, including £105,433 in the last two years alone.
The vast majority of this has been paid through the so-called single farm payment, which the National Trust has said should be abolished for rewarding land ownership over providing a public good.
Lord Gardiner, who has previously spoken about the importance of the subsidies, is also a former deputy chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, which is calling for the single farm payment to be continued post-Brexit.
Earlier this week an Unearthed investigation revealed that farming minister, George Eustice, also benefits from the payments.
This means that half the Defra ministerial team hold a direct financial interest in the future of the scheme.
A Defra official confirmed to the Guardian that Lord Gardiner would be involved in all decisions on farming subsidies.
Both Eustice and and new environment secretary, Andrea Leadsom, have previously received donations from owners of country estates that receive thousands in farm subsidies.
In 2015 Eustice received a £5000 donation from Stalbury Trustees, a group of Conservative Party donors that includes the Marquess of Salisbury, a former Tory minister whose estates received almost three hundred thousand pounds last year.
A spokesperson for the department said: “The secretary of state has been very clear that we all now have an unparalleled opportunity to make sure our policies are delivering for Britain and to grow our world-leading food and farming industry.”
“She has underlined the need for continuity for farmers and together with her ministerial team is looking forward to working with industry and the public to develop new proposals that provide tailored support for our agricultural industry as we leave the EU.”
Promises to farmers
Leadsom and Eustice have previously promised to maintain the subsidies. In July, Leadsom told the Countryside Alliance that current levels of the single farm payment would be guaranteed if she were Conservative leader.
While Farmers for Britain, led by George Eustice, organised a letter to the Telegraph in March, arguing that the subsidies could be maintained or increased from the claimed £350 million per week that would be saved if Britain left Europe.
Today the National Trust, which is one of the biggest recipients of subsidies, called for radical change to the system.
This includes abolishing the single farm payment, which is paid per hectare of land that you own, rather than for the food you produce or for improving the local environment. Meaning that the more land you own, the more money you make.
And because most of the farm subsidies are paid through the single farm payment – £2.3 billion last year – critics argue that this amounts to an unfair redistribution of wealth from the general public to big business and the landed gentry.
Speaking to Unearthed, Shadow Defra secretary Rachael Maskell said: “On one hand promises have been made by ministers with private interests in farm subsidies and on the other hand the Government failed to publish its 25 year plan for farming before the summer because leaving the EU was not considered.”
“The government’s handling over this major policy area, affected by leaving the EU, has been nothing short of shambolic. People need to plan their businesses now and it’s unacceptable that they have no security over the future of the CAP.”