Oh , the poor rich aristocrats are being picked upon again as they begin to lose their European Union farming subsidies .
The proposal, being drawn up by the European Commission, is the first attempt in years to tackle the scandal of giant agri-businesses and millionaire barley barons – as opposed to smallholders and family farmers – being the chief beneficiaries of the Common Agricultural Policy. The plans, due to be submitted for consultation with EU member states on 20 November, will suggest that some of the largest payments to super-rich landowners and industrial farms could be reduced by as much as 45 per cent. Although the British Government officially supports reforms to CAP it is particularly wary of any proposals that target large holdings because the vast majority of farm subsidies in the UK go to big businesses and wealthy landowners. Analysts also warned that the Commission's proposals could be significantly watered down by the time member states actually come to vote on the issue some time next year and that Britain and Germany were most likely to be the main countries behind any such move.
"It's a start ..." said Claire Godfrey, Oxfam's EU policy adviser. "But what it still doesn't do is actually address the inequalities in the distribution of subsidies."
£544,000 slashed to £299,000
One of the richest women in the world and a landowner whose farms bring in more than £0.5m a year in subsidies. The Queen's Sandringham estatein Norfolk nets her £404,000 a year in subsidies; Windsor Castle brings in a further £140,000.
£225,000 slashed to £121,000
The heir to the throne received approximately £168,000 in subsidies for his organic Home Farm at Highgrove in Gloucester between 2003 and 2004, while farms in the Duchy of Cornwall – the 141,000-acre estate which provides most of the Prince's income – brought in more than £135,000.
Duke of Westminster
£325,000 slashed to £178,750
A regular in the top five richest men in Britain, the duke receives a healthy remuneration from the EU thanks to his farmlands in Cheshire, Lancashire and Scotland. A report by Oxfam in 2004 claimed his subsidies were the equivalent of £1,000 a day from the taxpayer, compared to the £7 a day in tax credits that a single mother received at the time.
Duke of Marlborough
£370,000 slashed to £203,500
The 81-year-old Duke,head of the Churchill family, received subsidies worth more than £510,000 over a two-year period between 2003 and 2004. His 1,600-acre Oxfordshire estate, which includes Blenheim Palace and largely farms cereals, brings in just under £370,000 a year
Duke of Bedford
£380,000 slashed to £209,000
The Duke's 5,400-hectare Woburn Abbey is widely known for its safari park, but at least half the land is arable, and has been known to bring in more than £700,000 in subsidies over a two-year period.
Earl of Leicester
£250,000 slashed to £137,500
Holkham Hall, the earl's 18th-century Norfolk seat, is surrounded by 25,000 acres of land, much of which is set aside to grow cereals. The estate's 405 hectares of wheat and 486 hectares of barley make him eligible for annual support of around £254,280, the equivalent of £686 a day
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