Review tax breaks for farmers, says advisor

Economist Dieter Helm said the current system led to "subsidy addiction"
Economist Dieter Helm said the current system led to "subsidy addiction"
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A leading economist has said tax breaks for farmers should be reviewed, amid concerns the current system leads to "subsidy addiction".

Professor Dieter Helm, who advises Environment Secretary Michael Gove, made the comments on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Prof Helm, who said he was speaking in a personal capacity, said: "If you're producing 0.7 per cent of output, receiving £3 billion of subsidies for that output of about £9 billion and being exempted on rates, and being exempted on diesel and being exempted on inheritance tax, this is quite a list and we've got there by accident almost, one after another of these concessions has been made, it's kind of a subsidy addiction in the end.

"Farmers receive not just the £3 billion of subsidy, they receive a whole range of other benefits that nobody else in the economy gets."

Professor Helm chairs a committee advising the Government on the environment.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) distanced Mr Gove from the remarks.

"These ideas are not under consideration. The Secretary of State has been clear that he wants to go on generously supporting farmers for many more years to come."

National Farmers Union vice president Guy Smith told the BBC that government assistance helped British agriculture stay competitive.

"What we are rightly weary of is having to compete against farmers in other parts of the world who get greater levels of support, or who have different costs of production because of different policy."