Agriculture Bill

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Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 17th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 130-III(Corrected) Third marshalled list for Report - (17 Sep 2020)
Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it seems only right that, having spoken on the amendments in the fourth group, which would have restricted financial assistance to solely supporting production, I also respond to these amendments, which call for the opposite.

Amendments 43 and 44 come from different places but clearly demonstrate the importance of allowing a level of financial assistance for purposes other than production. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, when she said on Tuesday evening that she wishes to see a United Kingdom where there are no food banks. Their proliferation in both rural and urban areas in the last 10 years is a failure of government to address poverty issues in our communities. The devastating effects of the pandemic, combined with the disastrous rollout of universal credit, have pushed more and more people in this country into reliance on these services, which casts an indelible blight on one of the world’s richest economies.

I am particularly interested to hear the Minister’s response to Amendment 44, which raises the lack of progress—in public, at least—in relation to the UK shared prosperity fund. I know that my colleagues in both national and local government in Wales are particularly interested to know what happens next in the distribution of this promised funding, which replaces the generous EU grants of previous decades. I share my noble friend Lady Young’s fears about the shared prosperity fund being neither shared nor prosperous.

In relation to Amendment 44, does the Minister believe this point is covered by the government amendments in the group after next? If not, is there any form of contingency should a gap arise in the availability of development funds?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. I will take Amendments 43 and 44 together. I would like to reassure your Lordships that we recognise the importance of the issues that these amendments raise. Farmers and farming households make a valuable contribution to our national life, and we recognise that the needs of farming households may change as we move away from the common agricultural policy.

As set out in their manifesto, the Government intend to introduce the UK shared prosperity fund to replace EU structural funds. The manifesto also stated that it will, at a minimum, match the size of those funds in each nation, which was reiterated by the Chancellor in the last Budget. The final decisions about the quantum and design of the funding will take place after a cross-governmental spending review.

The Government have made a long-standing commitment to ensure that all policies are rural proofed—that is, ensuring that policy outcomes work in rural areas. This includes the development and delivery of the UK shared prosperity fund, on which Defra and MHCLG officials are working closely. In advance of the introduction of the UK shared prosperity fund, £60 million of funding will continue to flow to rural businesses via the final tranche of the growth programme, which the RPA is currently assessing.

The fund will play a vital role in supporting rural and coastal communities in recovery and renewal from Covid-19, and our expectation is that the growth programme and LEADER elements of EAFRD will be a component of the fund. This was set out in a letter from the Defra Secretary of State to the chair of the EFRA Select Committee on 7 September. Defra officials continue to work closely with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which leads on the fund’s development, to ensure that its design takes account of the dynamics of rural economies and particularly the challenges faced by rural communities, as well as the opportunities that I believe rural communities have. We have been in contact with MHCLG Ministers and I can assure your Lordships that MHCLG recognises the importance of these considerations.

I fully recognise the importance of reassuring rural communities and farming households about the future of local growth funding. The Government will look to set out their national approach to local economic recovery and devolution through a White Paper expected in the autumn. We firmly believe that the best way to make progress is to continue to work collaboratively at local and national level. The MHCLG has established an economic recovery working group, which meets regularly, bringing together a range of local growth partners to work on emerging themes and concerns across the country, including those relevant to rural areas. This includes representatives from rural local enterprise partnerships and local authorities.

If new socioeconomic support programmes were to be operated under Clause 16, they would have to operate under broadly the same framework dictated by the existing CAP. Clause 16 provides the Secretary of State with the power to modify or repeal retained EU legislation relating to rural development in England. This clause will not be used to introduce any new schemes, as they will be covered under Clause 1.

I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, and the noble Earl will accept my confirmation that the UK shared prosperity fund will provide great opportunities for growth and investment in rural communities and will include the successor for the growth programme and LEADER elements of EAFRD. I believe this is a cause we all share and hope that, on that basis, given the explanation of the work we are undertaking between the two departments and the imperative of rural proofing, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Deputy Speaker (The Earl of Kinnoull) (Non-Afl)
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I have received a request to ask a question from the noble Earl, Lord Devon.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, when we come to the amendments in my name I will explain that they intend to, and will, provide for the smooth running of existing schemes under the EU programmes, not only so that they can continue to work well but so that people due to receive funds from them can do so. The amendments we have discussed were about additional and beyond, but my amendments on retained EU law are technical amendments to ensure that the existing programme under the existing schemes can work effectively.

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this short debate, albeit that it has taken place over two days—three, if you add in yesterday. I also thank the Minister for his carefully worded reply. I know that he personally understands the problems I have described and the importance of the wider rural economy, not only to farmers and farming households but to those who live on the edge in our countryside and whose poverty remains largely ignored by government.

Meanwhile, I reassure my good friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, that it was never my intention to take money away from ELMS, or even the agricultural budget—or perhaps, as she might have put it more figuratively, I had no wish to hang another bauble on to the ELMS Christmas tree. I was trying to make the “rural affairs” bit of Defra a bit more of a reality, as recommended by two Select Committee reports of this House in recent years. However, as hinted at by my very old friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm, it is probably best to keep rural communities alongside all other communities and therefore firmly within the ministry for communities, now known as MHCLG.

The Minister has indeed given me some comfort in what he said about the shared prosperity fund, although I realise that nothing is certain before the comprehensive spending review. It might have been good to hear some indication as to when we will get any tangible details about the shared prosperity fund, but I suppose, with our economy currently on a precipice of uncertainty owing to the fallout from Covid and the ongoing doubts about the Brexit deal, it would have been asking too much to expect more detail when neither the Treasury nor MHCLG have any firm grip on where they are going.

Anyway, I will stop there. In the light of the Minister’s undertakings on the Floor of the House about a future rural component of a shared prosperity fund, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Moved by
45: After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause—
“Continuing EU programmes: power to provide financial assistance
(1) The appropriate national authority may give financial assistance to—(a) a person who is a party to an agreement entered into in accordance with any of the following provisions—(i) the Rural Development Regulation,(ii) any legacy rural development provision, or(iii) Articles 32 to 35 of the Common Provisions Regulation (community-led local development), so far as relating to support for rural development,where the agreement has not concluded, or(b) a producer organisation implementing an operational programme approved in accordance with the producer organisations aid provisions.(2) In this section—“appropriate national authority” means—(a) the Secretary of State, in the case of an agreement entered into or an operational programme approved in accordance with any provision or provisions so far as having effect in relation to England;(b) the Welsh Ministers, in the case of an agreement entered into or an operational programme approved in accordance with any provision or provisions so far as having effect in relation to Wales;(c) DAERA, in the case of an agreement entered into or an operational programme approved in accordance with any provision or provisions so far as having effect in relation to Northern Ireland;“the Common Provisions Regulation” means Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund etc;“legacy rural development provision” means any EU regulation, EU decision or EU tertiary legislation relating to support for rural development that preceded the Rural Development Regulation (including—(a) Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005 of 20 September 2005 on support for rural development,(b) Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/99 of 17 May 1999 on support for rural development,(c) Council Regulation (EEC) No 2080/92 of 30 June 1992 instituting a Community aid scheme for forestry measures in agriculture,(d) Council Regulation (EEC) No 2078/92 of 30 June 1992 on agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environment and the maintenance of the countryside, and(e) Council Regulation (EEC) No 1096/88 of 25 April 1988 establishing a Community scheme to encourage the cessation of farming);“the producer organisations aid provisions” means—(a) Articles 32 to 38 of the CMO Regulation, which make provision about aid for fruit and vegetable producer organisations (“producer organisations aid”),(b) so far as relating to producer organisations aid, Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/891 of 13 March 2017 supplementing the CMO Regulation with regard to the fruit and vegetable, and processed fruit and vegetable, sectors, and(c) so far as relating to producer organisations aid, Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/892 of 13 March 2017 laying down rules for the application of the CMO Regulation with regard to the fruit and vegetable, and processed fruit and vegetable, sectors;“the Rural Development Regulation” means Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment allows the Secretary of State, the Welsh Ministers and DAERA to continue to make payments where agreements and programmes are currently supported under an EU programme relating to rural development or fruit and vegetable producers.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 46, 107, 110, 111, 122, 123, 124 and 125 in my name. Following new legal advice from the European Law Group and the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, these technical amendments are being tabled to put beyond doubt that a body of retained EU law relating to multi-annual programmes under rural development and common market organisation will be created at the end of the implementation period, where this is not created automatically by virtue of the interrelationship between the withdrawal agreement and European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.

Clauses 14, 15, 16 and their equivalents in the Welsh and Northern Irish schedules all rely on a body of retained EU law being created on implementation period completion day that can then be applied in domestic law and modified as required. Article 138 of the withdrawal agreement means that rural development programmes and some parts of the common market organisation will continue to operate under EU law after the end of the implementation period. However, Section 3(2)(a)(bi) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 prevents EU legislation that is directly applicable in domestic law as a result of the withdrawal agreement under Section 7A of EWA also becoming retained EU law. I am sorry about this, but I want to go into some technical detail so that it is very clear to your Lordships.

This created a legal doubt as to whether the legislation governing the relevant rural development and CMO aid schemes would roll over to become retained EU law. These amendments therefore put that question beyond doubt by ensuring that a body of retained EU law relating to multi-annual agreements and programmes in rural development and CMO will be created at the end of the implementation period. They also provide a payment power to continue paying existing holders of agreements or programmes once the EU funding ends. This power to pay does not depend on modifying retained EU law. Such a power is necessary to ensure domestic funding can step in when existing EU budgets are exhausted in circumstances where these agreements and programmes continue to be regulated under the withdrawal agreement.

As I said, these are technical amendments required to ensure the Bill works as it was originally intended, so that modifications may be made to existing programmes where appropriate, simplifications and improvements may be made to schemes and scheme beneficiaries can continue to receive payments. These government amendments are supported by, and made with the approval of, the devolved Administrations. That is most important and the schedules for Wales and Northern Ireland are at their request. I also emphasise that there is no change to the policy intent of Clauses 14, 15 and 16. I beg to move.

Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Deputy Speaker (The Earl of Kinnoull) (Non-Afl)
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I call the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford.

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Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we welcome these technical government amendments, aimed at providing greater certainty over the state of legacy funding schemes and EU-derived legislation.

I appreciated the Minister’s technical explanations in his introduction. However, I would appreciate it if he could explain why these amendments have been tabled only at this late stage of consideration, given that the points they cover will have been on the department’s radar for quite some time.

A number of EU exit statutory instruments have been found to contain errors that have required correction by later instruments. Is there a mechanism for changes to be made to these provisions should any problems arise? We have spent a summer of U-turns, with a plethora of problems arising across government in a range of offices and service delivery and systems simply not working. Should it not be the case with good governance that problems are dealt with before they become a problem? I urge the Minister to use his expertise in these matters to look at these mechanisms again and ensure that changes can be made to the legislation in good time in this House.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, this has been a very helpful debate. I am most grateful to noble Lords for their general welcome for the amendments, although I want to deal with some of the points made. I will be the first to say that the perfect form is something we all aspire to, but I am afraid that we are all human.

I want to explain this matter precisely because my noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Baronesses, Lady Wilcox of Newport and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, made absolutely fair points. The advice from the European Law Group about retained EU law changed recently, prompting Defra lawyers to want to put beyond doubt that we can continue to pay beneficiaries under existing CAP schemes.

I would not blame the noble Lord, Lord Mann, if he was not listening to our earlier deliberations, but I explained on Tuesday that one reason why the Government were keen to start the transition is that we are the first to say that we do not think that the CAP has been directed properly or that it has given value for money on all the things we want to do. I am happy to send that reference to the noble Lord; we are clear that that is why we want a transition and want to start now. As for existing programmes, I also say to the noble Lord that this is about where people have entered into existing programmes in good faith. We want them to have the ability for that to continue, as the programmes were forces for good, and for those applicants to receive the funds that they thought were the case.

On a point raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh, I say to noble Lords that part of what we will want to do in supporting the farming sector but also rural communities is that there will be financial assistance through Clause 1 and other clauses in this Bill for farmers. I emphasise that the whole essence of the UK shared prosperity fund is that “shared” means across the country. I assure your Lordships that this is the case everywhere I go; it means to former mining communities, rural, coastal, suburban and urban. It is a shared prosperity fund, and it will not be successful unless it is precisely that. I absolutely understand that it is important that all communities—certainly those that have been going through very difficult times over quite a long period of time and particularly in those areas where industrial change has been so acute—are included.

I am grateful to all noble Lords for their welcome for these measures. As I say, I have had to bring them forward because there has been a change of advice. As for my noble friend Lord Caithness’s question about whether there are other sectors, I try to master this brief but mastering other departments’ briefs might be a little difficult. However, I will send that message back.

As for the length of the programme—the “natural end” that my noble friend Lady McIntosh spoke of—I cannot say precisely for each and every scheme, but we have said that we will fulfil our promise to pay for those schemes that are in existence through domestic funding for the length of those particular schemes. I cannot comment on each and every scheme, but we say that we will back those schemes that have been entered into in good faith.

With those explanations—I will look at Hansard in case there are more technical details—I beg to move.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
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I have received no requests to speak after the Minister.

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Moved by
46: After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause—
“Retained direct EU legislation
(1) To the extent that any legislation within subsection (2), (3), (4) or (5) would (in the absence of this subsection) be prevented from becoming retained direct EU legislation on IP completion day by section 3(2)(a)(bi) of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, section 3 of that Act is to have effect in relation to that legislation as if subsection (2)(a)(bi) of that section were omitted.(2) The legislation within this subsection is—(a) Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on support for rural development,(b) Regulation (EU) No 1310/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down certain transitional provisions on support for rural development,(c) any EU regulation, EU decision or EU tertiary legislation relating to support for rural development that preceded the Rural Development Regulation (including—(i) Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005 of 20 September 2005 on support for rural development,(ii) Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/99 of 17 May 1999 on support for rural development,(iii) Council Regulation (EEC) No 2080/92 of 30 June 1992 instituting a Community aid scheme for forestry measures in agriculture,(iv) Council Regulation (EEC) No 2078/92 of 30 June 1992 on agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environment and the maintenance of the countryside, and(v) Council Regulation (EEC) No 1096/88 of 25 April 1988 establishing a Community scheme to encourage the cessation of farming),(d) any legislation made under the legislation in paragraphs (a) to (c), and(e) so far as relating to support for rural development—(i) Regulation (EU) No 1303/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 laying down common provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund etc, and(ii) any legislation made under that Regulation.(3) The legislation within this subsection is—(a) Articles 32 to 38 of the CMO Regulation, which make provision about aid for fruit and vegetable producer organisations (“producer organisations aid”),(b) so far as relating to producer organisations aid, Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/891 of 13 March 2017 supplementing the CMO Regulation with regard to the fruit and vegetable, and processed fruit and vegetable, sectors, and(c) so far as relating to producer organisations aid, Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/892 of 13 March 2017 laying down rules for the application of the CMO Regulation with regard to the fruit and vegetable, and processed fruit and vegetable, sectors.(4) The legislation within this subsection is— (a) Articles 55 to 57 of the CMO Regulation (provision about aid for apiculture), and(b) any legislation made under that legislation.(5) The legislation within this subsection is the following, so far as it relates to producer organisations aid, apiculture or support for rural development—(a) Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 on the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy,(b) any legislation made under that regulation, and(c) any EU regulation, EU decision or EU tertiary legislation relating to the financing, management and monitoring of the common agricultural policy that preceded Regulation (EU) No 1306/2013 (including—(i) Commission Regulation (EU) No 65/2011 of 27 January 2011 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005, as regards the implementation of control procedures as well as cross-compliance in respect of rural development support measures,(ii) Commission Regulation (EC) No 1975/2006 of 7 December 2006 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1698/2005, as regards the implementation of control procedures as well as cross-compliance in respect of rural development support measures, and(iii) Council Regulation (EC) No 1258/1999 of 17 May 1999 on the financing of the common agricultural policy).”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment ensures that legislation relating to support for rural development, fruit and vegetable producer organisations and apiculture that has direct effect under the Withdrawal Agreement in relation to existing programmes will also be retained direct EU legislation.
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Moved by
49: Clause 17, page 14, line 20, after “must,” insert “on or before the relevant day and”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires the first report under Clause 17 to be prepared on or before the relevant day. The definition of relevant day is inserted by a related Government amendment to mean the last day before 25 December 2021 which is a sitting day for both Houses of Parliament.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendments 51, 54 and 56 in my name.

I thank all noble Lords who contributed to the debate on this topic in Committee. I gave the matter considerable thought following your Lordships’ remarks then. The importance placed by noble Lords on the food security reports is shared by the Government. In Clause 17, the Government are making an important new commitment to analyse relevant statistical data by publishing a regular report on the crucial subject of food security. The food security report will be a significant body of work that will use a set of core measurements and indicators for each of the key topic areas. This will include a range of areas covering both global and domestic food security including, although not limited to, supply sources of feed, resilience in the supply chain and household food security.

As I set out in Committee, the Government have no intention of waiting until the end of that five-year period to publish the first report. I and other Ministers have listened closely to the points made by your Lordships and have been persuaded that there is merit in changing the frequency of reporting in the Bill to require reports to be published at least every three years. We have also been persuaded to include a duty in the Bill that the first report be published on or before the last sitting day before 25 December 2021 for both Houses of Parliament. This first report will include an analysis of statistical data relating to the effects of coronavirus on food security in the UK. The amendments that I have tabled reflect the importance of this new duty while maintaining the great benefit of allowing reports to cover long-term trends. I hope your Lordships will recognise that the Government have heard the feeling in this House on this issue and have acted. I beg to move.

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Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Devon. This is a vital group of amendments covering food security, and I agree that the main purpose of our agriculture is to provide healthy, nutritious food. I welcome the Minister tabling amendments that require the first report on food security to be prepared before 25 December 2021, so long as it is a sitting day of both Houses. A further amendment requires reporting every three years. Others have tabled amendments pressing the case for more frequent food security reports.

I welcome the change in the Government’s position and thank the Minister for his introduction. I have added my name to Amendment 50 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle. This is a similar amendment, which requires that the first food security report be laid within 12 months of the passing of this Bill. It is important that the first report on UK food security should be completed within 12 months of the implementation of the Act and every three years thereafter. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, made a very powerful case for why it is important to get on with this matter. Food security is important to everybody in the country.

The noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick and Lady Boycott, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans would like this food security report to be produced annually. We are all concerned about the state of food security, as we should be. However, I appreciate that the production of this report will be bureaucratic and is likely to take a good deal of data collection. I wonder whether the production of a yearly report would create such an administrative burden that the information contained in it would be insufficiently detailed to be meaningful. I look forward to the Minister’s comments on this.

On Amendment 53 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, it is important that household food security is considered. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw huge food shortages being experienced by households, including those of people working for the NHS who were unable to get to the supermarkets at a reasonable time. As we approach a second spike, food security will again come into focus.

I support the comments of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, on the impact of importing animal feed specially grown in what were previously rainforests in Brazil.

It is a terrible thing to be hungry. We are one of the richest countries of the world, and we must have robust measures in place to ensure that we can feed our own residents. Food security targets are one way to monitor this, alongside an implementation plan to ensure that targets are met. I fully support the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, and I support the Minister’s amendments and look forward to his winding-up comments.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I should in the first instance have declared my farming interests, as in the register.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. I think there is a general feeling, even from those who would have preferred an annual report, that we have come to a good House of Lords consensus on this matter. I particularly want to acknowledge what the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said in speaking to Amendment 50, and all those who supported that amendment.

I turn particularly to what my noble friend Lady McIntosh and others said about Amendment 52. I understand the desire to publish yearly. We feel that it is very important to allow sufficient time to observe longer-term key trends from a variety of sources. We do not think that this would be as well met if it were necessary to publish reports each year. Producing reports at least every three years will allow proper consideration of trends from data. This is what we will put into statute, but if circumstances required earlier reports, of course we would produce them. That is why we very much feel that a report next year, given corona and, indeed, any other circumstances, will be very important.

Such trends may include, for example, the cost of food commodities; the sustainability of natural resources required for food production and supply; and the diversity of entry ports into the UK for food and drink imports. Some of these trends are slow-moving and do not change significantly year on year, but they may well do so over a longer period. That is where we must have that degree of analysis.

I say to all noble Lords, although I am particularly mindful of my noble friend Lord Marlesford, on the continuing work and vigilance, if there are issues of concern, I—and, I am sure, ministerial colleagues in the other place—would want to bring them before the House if there were certain crises. When there have been issues of concern, whether flooding or resilience because of Covid, we of course want to air them and bring them, in my case, before your Lordships. This is a particular point for the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie: much data on food security will be available on an annual basis. Data that will be used in the food security report, such as the Government’s Agriculture in the United Kingdom, the Family Resources Survey and the Living Costs and Food Survey, are published and made publicly available annually. Of course, Defra officials routinely track to spot any unexpected or significant changes. That is all daily work. The reports required under Clause 17 will consider the data produced through these surveys, in addition to less frequently produced data, to provide deeper analysis to help us provide an accurate picture of the UK’s food security to support the development of policy for the future.

On the important matter of the topics to be covered by the food security reports, we shall draw on established statistics, such as those I have mentioned, but officials will also want to monitor new data sources and emerging issues.

On Amendment 55, I reassure my noble friend that the food security report will already cover—under Clause 17(2)(b), regarding UK availability and access—the capability of UK agricultural production of crops, livestock and fisheries produce. This will include the availability of inputs, such as animal feed products. I was very mindful of what my noble friend Lord Caithness said in embellishing on what we are seeing in certain parts of the world.

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Moved by
51: Clause 17, page 14, line 20, leave out “five years” and insert “three years thereafter”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment requires reports under Clause 17 to be prepared at least once every three years (instead of at least once every five years).
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Moved by
54: Clause 17, page 14, line 23, leave out “the report” and insert “a report under this section”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the first Government amendment to Clause 17.
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Moved by
56: Clause 17, page 14, line 32, at end insert—
“(3) In this section “relevant day” means the last day before 25 December 2021 which is a sitting day for both Houses of Parliament.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment inserts a definition of “relevant day” into Clause 17.
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I am pleased to have added my name to this amendment, so ably introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and I thank all noble Lords who have added their support in this debate.

In Committee we tabled an amendment calling for a national food plan to complement the previous clause on food security, and we had a very useful debate which highlighted the need to anchor a food strategy to the funding of farming for the future. Since then, considerably more thought has gone into what the shape of a national food strategy should be, and we believe that this amendment sets out a clear road map for the future. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, made clear, it was well informed by the excellent Lords report Hungry for Change: Fixing the Failures in Food, a substantial piece of work which highlights the need for action in many of the priorities set out in this amendment. It makes the link between the food we grow, the environmental impact and the public health consequences of a poor diet and emphasises the need for a standardised set of reporting metrics on health and sustainability as well as an adherence to procurement standards. It also calls for the establishment of a national food strategy, backed up by the establishment of an independent body, analogous to the Committee on Climate Change, with responsibility for strategic oversight of its implementation. That is what this amendment seeks to deliver.

I have to say that the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, seemed determined to ignore all the evidence, which shows that a lack of access to healthy food, along with poor diets and poverty are driving up levels of diet-related obesity and non-communicable disease. This adds something in the region of £6 billion a year to the NHS bill. There is a cost to this nation from inaction and a benefit to the agricultural sector if we can shift the solution to healthier food production and away from ultra-processed food. The Government need to address these issues.

In parallel with the work of the Lords committee, we know that Henry Dimbleby has also been working on a national food strategy. His interim report was published in July, and a more substantial final report covering many of these issues is due next year. We welcome that initiative. The Government have committed to publish a White Paper within six months of its publication and to follow up the recommendations, which is obviously a welcome step forward. However, there is no obligation on the Government to agree or to enact his proposals, or indeed to follow up the recommendations in our own Lords report. My noble friend Lord Rooker rightly reminded us that Governments have form on not following through on excellent reports of the past. Our amendment therefore seeks to provide legislative assurance that these proposals will be followed up with actions.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, that we are not attempting to pre-empt or prejudge what the recommendations will be; we went to great lengths not to do that. We are asking only that the Government take them seriously and come up with their own food strategy within a set timeframe. Our amendment requires that the strategy be laid before Parliament within 12 months of the day that the Bill is passed, which we believe is reasonable and achievable. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, made clear, it is too urgent for any further delay.

For all the reasons articulated by noble Lords, a national food strategy, based on the issues set out in our amendment, is vital for improving the health of the nation. It is essential that our future agricultural policies are aligned with policies that deliver healthier food to feed the nation. It is a fundamental responsibility of government to act on this issue and to ensure that its agriculture, environment and public health strategies are all joined up on this issue.

I also thank the Minister for his helpful meeting yesterday. We had hoped to persuade him to make this a government amendment, and I still hope that we have persuaded him and he can make that commitment today. However, if that is not possible, I ask all noble Lords to support this amendment if it is put to a vote.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords. I am well aware of the mindset of many of your Lordships, having had discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and other noble Lords yesterday, as well as from what has been said today.

However, I open by saying that the Government are committed to developing a food strategy. I thought that in some of the contributions it appeared as if this was not the case so I point out that commitment, which will support the development of a sustainable, resilient and affordable food system, support people to live healthy lives, and protect animal health and welfare. I say to my noble friend Lord Dundee—without any chiding—that that is why the Government have already commissioned an independent review into the whole of the food sector. The review was launched in June 2019, and in July this year the first report was released, dealing with some of the most urgent questions raised by Covid-19 and EU exit.

The final report from Henry Dimbleby’s review is expected to be published in 2021. It will provide an opportunity to analyse the food system in this country and put forward—yes—an ambitious and comprehensive plan for transforming it. Although it will be for the independent team to develop its final report, it will examine the food system from root to branch, analysing in detail the economics and power dynamics that shape it, the benefits it brings and the harm it does. In doing so, it will look across the interwoven issues of health, climate change—mentioned by my noble friend Lord Caithness—biodiversity, pollution, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases and the sustainable use of resources.

The Agriculture Bill is a framework Bill, and it is unusual to put detailed commitments into this enabling legislation. The Government have been very firm on their commitment to publish a food White Paper within six months of Henry Dimbleby’s final report—my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering referred to that. It is only reasonable to say that we will need that time to reflect and secure agreement from all government departments ahead of Henry Dimbleby’s final recommendations.

We must also be careful not to pre-empt the contents of the final report, providing the independent team the opportunity to assess independently which measures would be most effective for our food system. Specifying what the White Paper must cover at this stage brings with it the risk that it directs thinking in a certain way, which could lead to new and innovative ideas being missed. It would therefore be premature to set out exactly what the Government’s food strategy must cover in the way that the amendment prescribes. The Government also have an issue with fixing a timetable without certainty on the publication date of the final report.

I also see this amendment in the context of the food security reports. Matters such as food supply and consumption, food safety, the resilience of the supply chain for food and household expenditure are already stated as being within the scope of these food security reports. The first report is be published on or before the last sitting day before Christmas for both Houses of Parliament. This report will also include an analysis of statistical data relating to the effects of coronavirus on food security in the United Kingdom, which was a key focus of the first report from the national food strategy. These reports will therefore certainly support the development and fulfilment of an ambitious food strategy.

I am also grateful for the Hungry for Change report, published this July by our Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment. We will of course be building on a wide range of work as we develop our food strategy, including that report and many others.

I will cut in here and say that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, mentioned diet, but only one noble Lord referred candidly to exercise: the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, obviously has a lifetime’s commitment to access and walking. Again, this is not just one thing but a combination of many issues that we have to grapple with.

Tackling public health and food issues properly requires a joined-up and practical approach across government departments, which goes beyond this Bill alone. During the Covid crisis, collaboration between government departments has been vital to ensuring that the food system receives the required support. We set up a joint ministerial food and essential supplies to the vulnerable taskforce, and throughout the crisis this example of cross-government working ensured that vulnerable people had access to food.

We are committed to continuing this level of collaboration and engagement across government to develop and deliver a new food strategy, as will be set out in the White Paper. I say to my noble friend Lord Caithness, for example, that Defra is already working with the Department of Health and Social Care and others to ensure that improving public health is a core priority of government policy.

Covid-19 has brought the risks of obesity and other health issues into sharp focus. As we all identify, it is more important than ever that people achieve a healthier lifestyle. The Government launched their new obesity strategy on 27 July to set out practical measures to get the nation fit and healthier, protect people against Covid-19 and protect the NHS. A coalition of partners is supporting delivery of the strategy through the Better Health campaign, which is encouraging adults to introduce changes to help them work towards a healthier weight.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, referred to his concern about “sooner or later”. I understand that, of course. There is an imperative about the Government’s work in seeking out Henry Dimbleby to bring this forward, and our promise remains to bring forward a White Paper within six months of the final Dimbleby report. If we are on target, Royal Assent to this Bill is probably in October. Advancing this amendment, we are voting, if that is noble Lords’ wish, for something the Government will have to reject in the other place in the end—I must not conjecture on what the other place will do—because of the timing.

I say honestly, and can commit this across government, that I am fully confident that the plans already in place by the Government to develop a comprehensive food strategy will deliver the intent behind this very laudable amendment. There are issues, as in all these things. My noble friend Lord Caithness said he would have liked this or that. There are issues in putting something in the Bill now, but I think we are all united in wanting to ensure that our food system is fair, affordable, healthy and sustainable.

I understand the mood of the House. I think I assess the mood of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, although I must not pre-empt him. I ask him to withdraw his amendment because of the points I have made genuinely. The Government are developing a food strategy; it is an issue of timing. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, has been engaged in the Dimbleby report. She, more than anyone else, can confirm that this is a report of the utmost depth and rigour. The Government will want to have at least six months—or within the six months, as I have said—to make sure we get cross-Whitehall collaboration to bring forward something of lasting value to every person in this country.

My reasoning for asking the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, to withdraw his amendment is not to reject his and other noble Lords’ very distinguished role in bringing this matter forward but to be honest in saying that I think there are difficulties because of the timing. I respect whatever the noble Lord does, but that is why I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB) [V]
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I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate and the Minister for his careful and considered response. Overall, there has been very strong support for the amendment, with some excellent speeches. I will mention just a few points; I cannot really do justice to them all.

My noble friend Lady Boycott made the important point that, in spite of all the efforts made in recent years, things are still heading in the wrong direction. The Food Foundation’s Broken Plate report highlights some stark statistics to support this. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, also emphasised the urgency and pointed out that the current strategy is to let the industry rip. She also highlighted, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, the importance of metrics and measurements to ensure that we know whether we are moving in the right direction.

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17:18

Division 1

Ayes: 280


Labour: 118
Liberal Democrat: 76
Crossbench: 60
Independent: 13
Conservative: 4
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Green Party: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 218


Conservative: 201
Crossbench: 12
Independent: 3
Ulster Unionist Party: 1

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Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) [V]
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I am grateful to the noble Lords who tabled or supported the amendments in this group, which raise various issues relating to devolved competence. Amendment 60 makes what seems a very sensible suggestion of consulting the devolved Administrations before laying regulations under Clause 20. Given that certain modifications to retained EU legislation are likely to impact on the devolved nations, perhaps on some more than others, it seems perfectly right that there should be a formal consultation requirement. However, I note that even formal consultations on many important matters have not been taking place as regularly or as needed in other matters, and I urge the Government to work much more proactively in this manner.

For the past 20 years, we have had three other legislatures in the UK, and none of the new laws resulting from our withdrawal from Europe should be an opportunity for a power grab of devolved responsibilities back to Westminster. I am therefore glad to see that Amendment 92 proposes a requirement for the devolved Administrations to consent to any regulations being made under Clause 35 on standards relating to the marketing of agri-food products. While we would certainly welcome a mechanism for meaningful consultation, we recognise that a requirement for consent could, in certain cases, delay the implementation of important changes to marketing standards.

Amendment 109 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, my noble friend Lord Hain and others proposes a sunset on the Northern Ireland provisions contained in Clause 45 and Schedule 6. As the noble Baroness noted earlier, Northern Ireland has an economy based largely on agriculture and needs a long-term future policy framework without further delay. The case has been strongly made for that amendment and I look forward to the Minister’s response in relation to it.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, this has been a very interesting and thought-provoking debate. I would like to open by setting out a little background, because I think a lot of this would be helpful. The UK Government have been working closely with the Welsh Government, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland—DAERA—and the Scottish Government to develop a UK agricultural support framework. My noble friend Lady McIntosh made this point. We expect to be able to agree this soon.

Defra Ministers already meet our devolved Administration counterparts on an almost monthly basis as part of the inter-ministerial group IMG EFRA, where any modifying of legislation can be discussed. In addition, there are already good working relationships in place within the Defra situation—particularly, from my direct knowledge, between the devolved Administrations. If I am allowed to say so, I very much respect Lesley Griffiths, who is a Minister in Wales. For example, the IMG EFRA meeting, which takes place almost monthly, is used as a forum for discussion on policy changes. The Government intend to keep the devolved Administrations informed on any early thinking on possible policy changes to marketing standards in England.

I also agree with the tenor of this debate, and I want to raise what the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, said about collaboration and tone. That is absolutely key, particularly in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, where agriculture is such a strong feature of national life. I would like to think of England as a rural country but, my goodness, in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales it is at the core of the national economy.

Thinking of Amendment 60, the UK agricultural support framework includes crisis measures, public intervention and private storage aid for collective discussion to ensure there is an opportunity for any concerns to be raised about the effect of changes in one part of the UK or another. The UK Government work collaboratively with devolved Administrations on this matter, and I will give a complete assurance that it is in everyone’s mutual interest that that continues and is successful.

Amendment 92 seeks to ensure the Secretary of State would need to secure consent from devolved Administrations before laying regulations under Clause 35(1). Clause 35 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations on marketing standards for products marketed in England only, so it would not be appropriate for devolved Administrations to be able to veto these England-only changes, which would be the effect of this amendment. In the same way, we have not taken provisions to require the UK Government to consent to change in devolved areas.

I say this because the UK agricultural support framework states that Administrations should refer all planned changes in marketing standards for collective discussion to ensure that there is an opportunity for any concerns to be raised about the effect of changes to standards in one part of the UK or another. The Government think that is the best way forward. It is a way we can collaboratively and collegiately work on such an important issue—the agricultural framework.

Everyone knows that agriculture is devolved, and the Welsh Ministers in DAERA under this Bill have taken powers themselves in Schedules 5 and 6 respectively. Wales can modify retained EU law itself under paragraph 8(2) of Schedule 5, and Northern Ireland under paragraph 2 of Schedule 6.

Turning to Amendment 109; I have thought about this a lot because perhaps there is some confusion at my end. I have heard words such as “parity” on this matter, and a number of noble Lords from Northern Ireland have spoken. My understanding is that the Northern Ireland Assembly has debated and agreed its legislative consent to the Bill. Therefore, we do not believe this Parliament should seek to override the constitutional view agreed by the Assembly.

Reference was made to the committee that recommended a sunset clause, but the Northern Ireland Assembly recommended the LCM without it. Our view, and I entrench this very strongly, is that it is for DAERA to decide and to liaise with the Assembly, not the UK Government. I am intrigued that we are seeking to impose a sunset clause when it has been made clear to me and Defra, as the honest brokers of this, that the Northern Ireland Assembly does not want to set an arbitrary date, and it will be for Northern Ireland to decide how and when it has a new agriculture Bill. We agree with that, and sometimes devolution means that we will have separate ways forward. That has been the LCM from the Assembly and DAERA, and we believe that the Agriculture Bill—of which, as I say, I have been the honest broker regarding the Northern Ireland schedule—gives Northern Ireland plenty of scope to involve its thinking on the delivery of agricultural support. I therefore tactfully suggest that, if we believe that this is a devolved matter, it is for the institutions of Northern Ireland to decide.

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Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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Thank you very much. I would like to say that these amendments are so obviously a good idea for the regulation and adjudication of this part of the Bill. There is nothing else to be said; I hope the Minister accepts them.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, this has been an interesting debate, and I thank all noble Lords for contributing toward it. Of course, I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, is not with us. He sent me a note, and I will have further discussions and considerations with him, because I am very keen to hear what he would have said in this debate.

Turning to Amendments 63, 64 and 67, I would like to assure noble Lords that work is ongoing to determine the most appropriate mechanism of enforcement for the provisions under this part of the Bill. No decisions have been made about who will be appointed as the enforcement body for Part 3. It is important to note, with particular reference to Amendment 67, that while all the measures contained in this part of the Bill will collectively work to improve supply chain fairness, the Government believe enforcement will work best when each particular policy area in Part 3 can be addressed individually. I say that because it is very important that we get to grips with the issues in each sector, identifying those that are distinct as well as those that may be common. I think that would be a pragmatic consideration.

On the suggestion that the Groceries Code Adjudicator should be given enforcement responsibilities, it is important to note that one of the key factors in the adjudicator’s success is its targeted focus on the behaviours of the UK’s largest supermarkets with their direct suppliers. This has enabled the adjudicator to work closely with the industry in developing supply chain solutions. I join other noble Lords in acknowledging in the work of the Groceries Code Adjudicator. It has been a considerably successful tenure of office.

A government call for evidence in 2016 explored the possibility of extending the adjudicator’s remit beyond those directly supplying the largest retailers. The review found insufficient evidence of widespread problems further down the groceries supply chain and concluded that there was no justification to extend the remit. However, it did identify some remaining concerns. These were sector-specific and predominantly concerned with the first stage of the supply chain. Following on from this, we feel that such issues are best addressed with the appropriate and targeted interventions included in the Bill.

Preliminary analysis of the responses to the Government’s consultation on the dairy sector has shown that there are a range of views about appropriate enforcement. I emphasise that an adjudicator-style model is only one of many potential means to resolve contractual disputes and ensure compliance with any new regulations. Amending the Bill to appoint the Groceries Code Adjudicator as the enforcement body would serve potentially to tie the Government’s hands to only one of the many possibilities available. This would also preclude the ability to listen to the views of industry and respond accordingly, which is really important and, we think, critical in creating effective solutions.

The Government are, of course, aware of the issues that farmers face in the supply chain and that is not confined to the dairy sector. To answer one of the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, the Government will carry out similar consultations to explore the issues facing other sectors in turn. Discussions with stakeholders have already begun, to look at the situation in the red meat sector and what sort of interventions could improve the position of producers in that supply chain.

On Amendments 65 and 66, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for highlighting the importance of a robust enforcement regime to ensure that the fair dealings obligations are effective and sustainable. It is important to state that no decisions have been made about the nature of enforcement, or the body responsible for enforcement. The reason is robust and strong: the Government want to work with industry and listen to its ideas and concerns before any final decision is made.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, asked about the consultation on the dairy sector. To be precise, I can confirm that the consultation closed on Tuesday. The consultation included a specific question about dispute resolution and, while the detailed analysis is still being carried out, it is already clear—this is broad-brush, because I asked whether there are any indicators—that stakeholders have a broad range of views about the most appropriate form of enforcement and finding the best solution will obviously require some consideration. The Government aim to publish a summary of responses later this year, which will be very important and will provide greater detail about the views shared and the options available. I hope it will not be too long before there will be scope for that consideration. The Government will exercise due diligence in designing the enforcement regime and appointing a regulator.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, that I do not recognise her description of the rigour with which I and other Ministers consider appointments to public bodies. It is a very serious matter; we recognise that it is a matter of people coming forward to help in the public service. I reassure her that it has no input other than that it must be done rigorously, and the right people need to be chosen.

The Government intend the fair dealing obligations to create positive change for the industry. That is why we are doing it and why this is such an important feature. I am very glad that the noble Lord and other noble Lords have raised this, because this is all part of the prism of this Bill. A lot of people are worried that we are talking too much about the environment, but a lot of the guts and detail of what will come out in the provisions of the Bill are designed to help the farmer in the great production of food, and so that we can help the farmer get fairer dealing.

I have a note relating to the remarks of my noble friend Lady McIntosh on the GCA launching its own investigations. The Groceries Code Adjudicator can launch its own investigations, if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that a large retailer has broken the code. Again, I think the adjudicator’s work has been essential. I think and hope that, in the spirit of this debate, the reason the Government would at this time resist putting forward a particular body, however successful the adjudicator has been in this area, is that the best way to deal with difficulties in certain sectors is to work with the sector to see what is the best mechanism for enforcement. Let your Lordships be in no doubt that these are provisions that we recognise must be attended to, and in short order, because they are the way that will help the farmer in this situation.

In that spirit, I very much hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have come forward to speak tonight. I certainly appreciate the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, in calling for the extension of the role of the adjudicator, and the various discussions with the Minister. I agree that the widespread experience of the Groceries Code Adjudicator should give rise to exploring how the role of that office may be extended.

I remind all noble Lords that agriculture can be characterised as unusual: it is almost unique in that producers invariably buy retail yet sell wholesale. I certainly appreciate the Minister’s comments and the gracious way in which he is going to include the noble Lord, Lord Curry, in further discussions. He has also come forward with a very helpful update on his department’s ongoing deliberations. I appreciate that the Government need flexibility to get the right solutions to each sector’s issues, and I look forward to clarity being provided in the publication of this consultation and to the debates we will have on that later. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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I thank the Tenant Farmers Association for its communications on these clauses. I also thank the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments for further consideration. They tackle many aspects of the two major Acts, the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995, following the Government’s consultations on their workings, on which there has been so much debate. I recognise the passion with which many speakers have spoken tonight. These relationships can certainly become fraught and I appreciate the experiences that the noble Baroness, Lady Rock, shared with the House. It is a difficult and complicated subject that has been deliberated on by the Tenancy Reform Industry Group over many years. The Bill delivers on many of its recommendations, and the Minister will see that they are drafted to balance the interests of tenants and owners.

I understand that many of the amendments were consulted on last year but did not receive enough support and that therefore further, more detailed work may be required. I understand that there remains an appetite in England and Wales to consider the situation further before coming to a conclusion by the enactment of these amendments. The amendments are certainly important and have our broad support, including Amendment 88 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans. We agree that there should be parity between tenants under the 1995 Act and those under the 1986 legislation in objecting to a landlord’s refusal to enter into a specific financial assistance scheme. We wish generally that all farming operations, whatever the terms of their occupancy, should be encouraged to take up the various ELM schemes and make their contributions towards an environmentally sustainable agriculture.

We would also be receptive to the modern interpretation of relationships that could lead to wider inclusion in tenancies, in line with our general encouragement for new entrants to come into the industry, provided they can meet the various eligibility provisions. The noble Earl, Lord Devon, argues that these clauses should be excluded from the Bill, but we would not go along with such an approach. If improvements to the legislation have been agreed as part of the TRIG process, we would not wish to hold them up. However, regarding further amendments, we can see that these may not have received the more considered support as widely as may be necessary for enactment in the Bill. We await the outcome of a more comprehensive assessment throughout the industry.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, used the word “passionate”. It has been a passionate debate and I think that, whatever the tenure of ownership, tenancy or commonhold, the challenges of farming are very profound. Obviously, the Government need to work towards creating an environment in which all types of tenure are able to run a strong business.

Turning to Amendments 69 and 89, the noble Earl, Lord Devon, proposed that we should in effect decide not to take forward what we have banked in our work. The package of tenancy reforms included in Clause 34 and Schedule 3 were shown by public consultations in England and Wales to have broad support. They deliver on many of the recommendations from the Tenancy Reform Industry Group—TRIG. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, made that point rightly, because the Government have brought forward those recommendations which commanded broad support. These provisions will help to modernise agricultural tenancy legislation, providing tenants with more flexibility to adapt to change. That is why it is very important that they remain in the Bill, so that they can be delivered now.

I understand that the noble Earl, Lord Devon, would like to see tenancy reform delivered through a separate dedicated Bill, and I can assure him and noble Lords that both the UK and Welsh Governments are keen to engage in further discussions with members of TRIG to explore whether any further actions may be needed to ensure what we all want, which is a thriving tenanted sector.

On Amendment 84, the tenant farming sector remains, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, said, and as we all know, a crucial element of agriculture in Wales. Within last year’s consultation, the Welsh Government outlined their proposals for a new sustainable land management scheme in Sustainable Farming and Our Land. It also consulted on a series of measures to modernise the tenant farming sector in the agricultural tenancy reform consultation. Policy development on tenancy reform remains ongoing in light of the consultation responses received and is being carried out in conjunction with development of sector-wide proposals for future agricultural support.

The Welsh Government acknowledge the importance of ensuring that tenant farmers are able to access any new scheme, and their view is that a Senedd Bill would provide a more appropriate legislative vehicle for that purpose. Further consideration will be given to what provision is needed in due course. The Welsh Government intend to publish a White Paper later this year to pave the way for an agriculture (Wales) Bill to be introduced in the next Senedd term.

On Amendment 87, there can of course be benefits from tenants and landlords entering into a longer-term tenancy agreement. There has been a lot of talk of three years. As far as I am aware, the parties can, if they so choose, have any length of term they desire; in the same way as with arrangements with any other property, that is a matter for the parties. I was therefore a little concerned that there appeared to be among certain of your Lordships this idea that everything was for three years and there was no leeway. As far as I know, and from my experience, that is not the case.

However, when the Government consulted on this matter of longer-term tenancy agreements, the feedback gathered indicated that introducing shorter notices to quit would be unlikely to affect significantly landowners’ decisions about the length of tenancy to offer. Other factors such as the size, quality and location of the land, and personal motivations for owning land have a much greater influence on decisions about the length of the tenancy term offered.

It is also important to recognise that, while there are benefits to longer-term tenancy agreements, shorter-term tenancies can be more suitable for different business models. For example, short-term lets have been shown to be very often more appropriate for new entrants looking to rent land on a flexible basis to gain experience. They can also be more suitable for some seasonal horticultural businesses. However, I can assure your Lordships that the Government will continue to work with TRIG on this important issue. That includes exploring how the sector can encourage more landowners to offer innovative long-term agreements to tenants who would welcome them rather than defaulting to standard short-term agreements.

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I know that the Minister agrees with the thrust of the amendment. I hope that he will be able to accept the arguments that have been made and agree to the amendment.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, again, all the topics raised in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, are worthy of a much longer debate—no doubt at another time. The amendment highlights the absolute importance of our agricultural workforce. It is important to recall that, with the changes that have occurred and the way that farming is currently done, very often the farmer and his family constitute the entirety of the workforce, compared with the time when, even on smaller farms, many more people would have been employed.

This Government wish to see a strong and resilient workforce across both permanent and seasonal roles. This year has seen initiatives such as the successful Pick For Britain campaign, and Defra will ensure that we continue to recruit British workers into the agricultural sector.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, that we have held discussions with the Home Office. The seasonal workers pilot, held this year, has engaged thousands of workers to travel to work on UK farms, with 6,161 visas issued so far this year—that is the figure that I have with me tonight. The results of the pilot will be very important in enabling the Government to shape and inform future policy on the seasonal workforce.

It is a priority of the Government to ensure an agricultural sector that is not only successful and effective but one in which workers are treated fairly. Skills and training in agriculture will be of increasing importance to enable an innovative, productive and competitive agricultural sector which invests in people and their skills. The needs of agricultural businesses are always changing, and it is critical that skills providers can keep pace. This is particularly important as elements of horticulture and agriculture become increasingly technical and specialised, with advances in technology and automation.

In reference to a question my noble friend Lady McIntosh asked me, agriculture now employs 1.2% of the workforce. That is 476,000 people, 300,000 of whom are permanent agricultural workers—think what that was before mechanisation, when there were probably millions of people working on the land.

Training must recognise the role that advanced land management skills will play in this sector in future and further respond to any changes to requirements caused more immediately, for instance, by the impact of coronavirus. Work is currently ongoing to support this through the agricultural productivity task force of the Food and Drink Sector Council and the skills leadership group. I will send the noble Lord, Lord Curry, a copy of my remarks tonight; I much regret that he is not with us. This was an important point raised. This work aims to remove the fragmentation in the current farming training landscape. It will enable the industry to drive forward a greater uptake of skills, creating clear career-development pathways and promoting the sector as a progressive, professional and attractive career choice. Additionally, we continue to support the work of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, AHDB, which is creating new methods of training to assist in the recruitment and training of seasonal workers.

The Government also fund apprenticeships for training in agricultural occupations. There are currently 32 high- grade apprenticeship standards available in the agriculture, environmental and animal care sector, ranging from level 2 general farm worker to level 6 agricultural/horticultural professional adviser. Employer groups are working with the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to develop a further seven standards. In 2018-19, there were 7,000 enrolments for apprenticeships in the agriculture, horticulture and animal care sectors.

In higher education, the UK is home to many internationally renowned specialist universities that offer highly technical courses covering food production, animal sciences, engineering and sustainable business, among many others. The UK boasts research institutions that are leading the world in understanding crops and livestock. I think particularly of the association of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, with Rothamsted as an example of the really outstanding research institutions on which we and the world will rely.

The amendment also raises the important issue of mental health. The mental health of all sections of the population, including farm workers and those living in rural areas, must surely be a top-order priority. I think we in our generation are all very much more aware of the imperative of addressing this than previous generations, which went through many travails. We are at last recognising and tackling this much better, but there is undoubtedly much more to do.

Defra has for many years provided annual funding to the Farming Community Network, FCN, for pastoral and practical support. The FCN has approximately 400 volunteers located throughout England and Wales who provide free, confidential pastoral and practical support to anyone who seeks help. The Rural Payments Agency works closely with Farming Help organisations to support the farming community in England. That includes having hardship arrangements in place for farmers facing financial difficulties.

Defra also supports the well-being of farmers through a programme of research and is carrying out an initial phase of resilience support through the future farming resilience fund, which this year is providing a £1 million project to provide support to farmers and land managers in England to help them prepare for the agricultural transition. I say to my noble friend Lady McIntosh that, yes, the financial support includes business support and advice. The project covers a range of business and well-being support approaches and measures across different sectors and regions to improve resilience and mental health. Evidence coming from this project will help inform the design of a national scheme, which is currently in development for a launch in early 2022.

On rural housing, I think your Lordships know that I facilitated a rural housing scheme at Kimble many years ago, and it is an issue on which I place great personal importance. The Government recognise that improving the availability of affordable housing in rural areas is essential to sustain thriving rural communities and to support the rural economy. My aspiration of multigenerational villages is very strong. Between April 2010 and March 2019, over 165,000 affordable homes were provided in rural local authority areas in England. Additionally, local authorities can already take advantage of rural exception sites to ensure that affordable housing can be provided to meet local needs, including for agricultural workers. The revised National Planning Policy Framework also supports farmers, with new policies to support the building of homes in isolated locations where this supports farm succession. Permitted development rights allow for the change of use of an agricultural building to a house. In 2018, the regulations were amended to allow up to 865 square metres of floor space to be converted, and up to five dwellings, an increase from the previous three.

I am very concerned for farmers’ and farm workers’ health and safety. The Health and Safety Executive is working closely with a wide range of stakeholders, including the NFU, to promote key messages that will prevent death, injury and ill health. This is an issue that the deputy president of the NFU, Stuart Roberts, and I, have spoken about at almost every meeting we have had. The HSE is working with farm safety partnerships of England, Wales and Scotland to help them drive forward the improvements needed in the farming industry.

I have tried to pick up the points that the noble Baroness, Lady Whitchurch, put into her amendment. If there are any areas that she would like to discuss further in terms of what we are doing and the importance of this work, I will be available to her whenever she wishes. I hope that I have demonstrated that in every sphere important work is already in hand. We need the skilled workforce and the right conditions for people to come and work in the countryside, now and in the future. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this short but very interesting debate. I agree with my noble friend Lord Rooker that we have got a long way to go in getting the policy on seasonal workers right, despite what the Minister has said. We need a huge extension of SAWS. Every time I have talked to the Minister, he has said things along the lines of the Pick For Britain scheme being a success. There are very mixed stories coming out about that scheme, which was slightly predicated on using furloughed British staff to carry out that work in the fields, and that is obviously not a long-term solution. I hope that before we get too complacent about that, the Government have a proper review of the Pick For Britain scheme. To my mind, it was meant to be a short-term initiative. If it is to be a longer-term scheme, we need to look at how successful it has really been.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. She is right, and although I do not know if “land armies” is quite the right phrase, I know exactly what she means. We need to bring it all together into some sort of workforce plan with a holistic approach to delivering on all of this.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, and other noble Lords, raised the issue of training; she is quite right to say that this is not just about the rather old-fashioned courses that we used to have at FE colleges and so on. We can do far more now in terms of online training, flexible training and training for life, because it is not just about going on a course for a year. It is something that should become absolutely integrated into our workforce activities.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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I thank all noble Lords for this serious debate. I understand the sentiments behind these amendments. The UK already has world-class animal welfare standards that this Government are committed to strengthening. The Government have been clear that, as part of our animal welfare reform programme, we want to tackle the issue of farmed animals exported for slaughter and fattening. We are carefully considering how best to implement our manifesto commitment to end excessively long journeys for animals going for slaughter or fattening. I want to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, in particular, given her commentary, that of course we are still in the transition period. This is not possible for us to do; we cannot do it at the moment—we need to get beyond before we do these things. But I shall say more on that in a moment.

First, on the amendment on a ban on exports of live animals for religious slaughter, it is a long-standing government commitment to respect religious freedoms and, although our policy is to prefer that animals are stunned prior to slaughter, we accept the rights of Jewish and Muslim communities to eat meat in accordance with their religious beliefs. The advice that I have received, as we allow religious slaughter in the UK, is that any justification for this export ban would be difficult to reconcile with our obligations under the WTO rules.

The Government are clear that we would prefer animals to be slaughtered as close as practicable to their point of production. I would say to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, that our view is that conducting trade in meat and meat products is preferable to transporting animals long distances to slaughter.

My noble friends Lady Fookes and Lady Hodgson raised the issue of long journeys. The Government have a commitment in their manifesto to end excessively long journeys of animals going for slaughter or fattening. Two years ago, we tasked the independent Farm Animal Welfare Committee, now AWC, not only to look into controlling live exports but to consider more generally what improvements should be made to animal welfare in transport at the end of the transition period. We are considering carefully its report and detailed recommendations.

For example, Amendment 73 would make it an offence to transport farm animals for slaughter or fattening on journeys which are over 10 hours in duration. This 10-hour journey time limit would apply to all species. The AWC report, however, recommends species-specific maximum journey times. The 10-hour limit would be greater than the maximum journey time suggested for some animals in the AWC report—for instance, meat chickens and calves—but would be much stricter than for other species, such as sheep. The evidence suggests that sheep can travel for longer without an adverse impact on their welfare.

AWC’s recommendations also address a number of other important elements of animal welfare in transport, including the temperature and ventilation within the transporting vehicle, space and headroom allowances, and the specific issues concerned with transporting at sea. All these are important issues in determining the overall level of protection of animal welfare during transport. We are carefully considering AWC’s advice and recommendations, and I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, that we are launching a public consultation before the end of the year on how—and I underline “how”—best to implement our commitment to end excessively long journeys for slaughter and fattening and on measures for improving animal welfare in transport more generally.

I say particularly to my noble friend the Duke of Montrose that animal welfare policy is devolved, and we are working on an animal health and welfare common framework with the devolved Administrations to achieve consistency across the UK.

I am grateful to my noble friends for their formidable advocacy and their care for animals. I assure all noble Lords that the Government will advance the issues and fulfil their pledges. I do not wish to be part of the widow and judge scenario. I assure noble Lords that we are moving to fulfil our pledge. I hope that, with those words, my noble friend Lady Hodgson will feel able to withdraw her amendment.