Anger at bil­lion­aire sub­si­dies

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

Bri­tish tax­pay­ers are pay­ing more than £400,000 a year to sub­sidise a farm where a bil­lion­aire Saudi prince breeds race­horses.

The New­mar­ket farm of Khalid Ab­dul­lah al Saud - owner of the leg­endary horse Frankel - is among the top 100 re­cip­i­ents of EU farm grants in the UK.

The sys­tem’s crit­ics say Brexit will let the UK re­di­rect £3bn in sub­si­dies to­wards pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

A spokesman for the prince de­clined to com­ment.

Farm sub­si­dies swallow a huge chunk of the EU’s bud­get. They were started af­ter World War Two to stim­u­late pro­duc­tion, but led to food moun­tains that had to be dumped.

A com­pro­mised re­form process the so-called “green­ing“of the Common Agri­cul­tural Pol­icy - re­sulted in farm­ers mostly be­ing paid de­pend­ing on how much land they own.

The UK’s top ben­e­fi­cia­ries in­clude es­tates owned partly or wholly by the Queen (£557,706.52); Lord Iveagh (£915,709.97); the Duke of West­min­ster (£427,433.96), the Duke of Northum­ber­land (£475,030.70 ) the Mor­mons (£785,058.94) - and many wealthy busi­ness peo­ple.

Asked if the Queen thought it ap­pro­pri­ate to re­ceive tax­pay­ers’ sub­sidy based on the size of her land hold­ing, a spokesman for the Palace said: “Sub­si­dies are open to all farm­ers, and are re­ceived on the Queen’s pri­vate es­tate. We would not com­ment be­yond the de­tail that is al­ready in the pub­lic do­main.”

A spokesman for the Duke of West­min­ster also de­clined the ques­tion, but said the farm pro­duced qual­ity food while tak­ing the en­vi­ron­ment very se­ri­ously.

In EU-wide rank­ings, the UK scores highly on the trans­parency of in­for­ma­tion about who re­ceives what, although the iden­tity of some landown­ers on the list is con­cealed through off­shore trusts.

The big con­ser­va­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions Nat­u­ral Eng­land (£970,580.50), the Na­tional Trust (£2,666,880.26) and the RSPB (£2,002,859.51) are among the top re­cip­i­ents.

They also get ex­tra pub­lic money un­der a par­al­lel grant de­signed to en­cour­age wildlife. The lat­ter two ar­gue for re­form of the sub­si­dies.

A cam­paign for re­form is be­ing launched by Green­peace, which does not nor­mally fo­cus on farm­ing, but says Brexit de­mands a re­ex­am­i­na­tion of many poli­cies.

The group said it was an “out­rage” that sub­si­dies were given to those such as Khalid Ab­dul­lah al Saud, who owns Jud­dmonte Lim­ited farms. His stal­lion Frankel is said to be worth over £100m for breed­ing.

Green­peace chief sci­en­tist Doug Parr said: “The sub­sidy sys­tem is ut­terly bro­ken. We need pub­lic money spent on farm­ing to be of­fer­ing demon­stra­ble pub­lic ben­e­fits.”

The Tax­pay­ers’ Al­liance added: “Farm­ers should be put on no­tice. Tax­pay­ers shouldn’t be hand­ing out what are ef­fec­tively land sub­si­dies, of­ten to ex­tremely wealthy in­di­vid­u­als.”

Top of De­fra’s 2015 pay­ments list is Aberdeen­shire farmer Frank Smart, whose busi­ness net­ted grants of £2,963,732.77.

He told re­porters: “I don’t want to dis­cuss any part of my busi­ness with the me­dia, thank you.”

Mr Smart would not com­ment on com­plaints that he has been “slip­per farm­ing” - a tech­nique in which farm­ers buy up land prin­ci­pally for the grants at­tached to it. The prac­tice is not il­le­gal but it has been heav­ily crit­i­cised.

One MP, the Con­ser­va­tive Richard Drax, is in the top 100 ben­e­fi­cia­ries. His jointly-owned farm re­ceived £351,752.29.

Past EU at­tempts to rad­i­cally re­form the sub­si­dies have been blocked by Europe’s farm­ers.

Two min­is­ters in the govern­ment’s en­vi­ron­ment depart­ment, De­fra, re­ceive farm sub­si­dies.

Lord Gar­diner of Kim­ble de­clares an in­ter­est as a part­ner in CM Ro­barts & Son, (SIC) which nets £45,479.19 in direct pay­ments.

George Eus­tice is a direc­tor of a Cor­nish farm re­ceiv­ing £2,313.

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