EU Member States are obliged by the European Union to make available the data on recipients of Common Agricultural Policy money by 30th April each year, with data from the preceding year. Today is 1st May and Defra has put this message on its CAP payments website:

Due to the General Election campaign, this website will not be updated with the 2009 figures until after the election.

What the hell is going on?

OK, civil servants during the election period are restricted in what they can do due to the purdah rules. But the main gist of the Cabinet Office guidance for the period is this (from here):

During an Election campaign, the Government retains its responsibility to govern, and Ministers remain in charge of their Departments. Essential business must be carried on. However, it is customary for Ministers to observe discretion in initiating any new action of a continuing or long-term character. Decisions on matters of policy on which a new Government might be expected to want the opportunity to take a different view from the present Government should be postponed until after the Election, provided that such postponement would not be detrimental to the national interest or wasteful of public money.

There is absolutely nothing new about publishing CAP data. It is a long standing obligation under EU law that the UK government has to respect. So why are they not doing it? Which minister fears the release of this data now? Or is it just pure risk aversion somewhere?

In the meantime if you want to see who got what in 2008, constituency by constituency, then see Farmsubsidy’s excellent election website.

5 Comments

  1. Pingback: UK Bureaucrats Cosy up to Tories : Joe Litobarski

  2. french derek

    If the EU really wanted (needed?) to get agreement around changes needed to the CAP all they would have to do is insist that payments go only to genuine farmers – and not to all these (very profitable) food processing companies (Tate & Lyle, etc, etc). That should bring the cost of the CAP down enormously.

  3. Good work, Jon!

  4. It’s also worth noting that the Scottish Government saw no problem in publishing the data for 2009 for Scotland. It’s available here:

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/grants/LatestPayments/SIACSpayments2009

  5. Jon, I share your bafflement. An official at Defra was kind enough to write to me directly to inform me of the decision.

    She told me: “This decision reflects the need to maintain, and be seen to maintain, the impartiality of the UK Civil Service, given the potential risk that CAP payment information relating to any individuals involved in the election might be used as part of election campaigning.”

    I think they were fearing for the possibility that candidates receiving farm subsidies may not appreciate their payments being made public during the campaign. I can think of quite a few candidates who do get farm subsidies, just three of which are Zac Goldsmith, Neil Parish and Robert Sturdy. I’m sure there are more.

    Note that our election site presents data from 2000-2007, not 2008, as you indicated in your blog post.

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