How English is setting an example for French farmers

It’s pay-back time for our Bill English. Pay-back time for French farmers, too.

The farmers are doing it under orders.

With our Bill – splendid bloke – it’s voluntary.

His attitude goes a long way to demonstrating the intrinsic superiority of English over the French when it comes to morality and exemplary behaviour. Something to do with the genes.

Two Radio NZ reports paint the contrast.

The French farmers are being ordered to pay back hundreds of millions of euros after the European Union ruled they had received state aid which amounted to unfair competition.

France, the biggest beneficiary of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, was rapped for granting farmers funds that were intended to help them cope with a crisis in the fruit and vegetable market.

The European Commission says the country’s growers received more than $NZ712 million in illegal subsidies from the French state between 1992 and 2002.

France’s Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire says the Government will now have to launch proceedings to be reimbursed by the farmers.

He did not specify the amount the state would be seeking back but said there will be a case-by-case study to ensure struggling farmers were not driven into bankruptcy.

It won’t be easy.

The fruit and vegetable growers union has said growers will refuse to give back subsidies.

Back here in Wellington, Finance Minister Bill English is to pay back about $12,000 worth of his taxpayer-funded housing allowance.

Reason: he agrees with Alf the payments are not a good look.

Mr English, who lives in his family home in Wellington, has received almost $24,000 from Ministerial Services in the first six months of the year for accommodation.

The amount is about twice as much as other MPs and ministers who live in their own homes in the capital.

The larger payment has been possible because Mr English’s house is owned by a family trust, of which he is neither a trustee or a beneficiary.

Mr English says he does not accept that he has done anything wrong, but he understands that it does not look good.

He says as Minister of Finance it is his job to lead by example, and he intends to clear it up by paying back the difference between the allowance he has been receiving and the smaller allowance available to other MPs.

As you can tell from the language Bill used, Alf was able to positively influence his decision.

Meantime the Government has released the terms of reference for the review of ministerial accommodation in Wellington and is expecting a report by the end of August.

Prime Minister John Key asked Ministerial Services on Monday to take a fresh look at the rules, in the face of the row over MPs and ministers’ expenses.

Alf has come through this squeaky clean and hence is in a position to give advice to Bill English and others, and to applaud the Government’s decisions to try to clean things up.

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