Agriculture Bill

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Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Amendment Paper: HL Bill 130-IV Provisional Fourth marshalled list for Report - (21 Sep 2020)
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I begin by referencing my interests at Rothamsted Research, as recorded in the register. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, my noble friend Lord Whitty and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, for their amendments. They have all given powerful examples of the public health concerns that arise from close contact with pesticides. As the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay said, sadly, all too often our experience has been that the health problems come to light when the damage has already been done. You cannot blame the public for their scepticism when they are assured that chemicals are safe, because the reality all too often appears further down the line.

My noble friend Lord Whitty specifically raises concerns about the impact on those living and working adjacent to fields which are regularly sprayed. Farm workers have the details of the chemicals involved and, we hope, the appropriate protective clothing, but no such provision is made for the local population, so the provision in my noble friend’s amendment for a minimum distance to be set by regulation between private land being sprayed and nearby residential areas seems eminently sensible.

When we debated this in Committee, we argued for research into alternative methods of pest and disease control, in keeping with the wider aspirations of the Bill to deliver integrated pest management and greater biodiversity. We also argued that targets should be set for the reduction in pesticide use. This becomes eminently achievable as precision farming techniques become more widespread, and these issues were rightly raised by the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, in speaking to his amendment. I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that what he is describing is best practice, not universal practice, and this is where the problems lie.

In Committee, the Minister confirmed that once we have left the EU at the end of the year, we will take responsibility for our own decisions on pesticide use in the UK. She also confirmed that the Government will consult on a national action plan to reduce pesticide use later this year, so it would be helpful if the noble Lord could update your Lordships on the timetable for that consultation and the progress to date. Can he also confirm that any recommendations will continue to be based on the precautionary principle?

In the meantime, the challenge of my noble friend Lord Whitty’s amendment is more immediate and pressing. Whatever the Government’s overall plans for pesticide reduction, there are likely to be continuing problems for those living close to fields that are being sprayed. This is an immediate issue of public health protection. I therefore hope that the Minister is able to provide some reassurance to my noble friend that action to protect those residents is being planned as part of the wider review. If he is unable to satisfy my noble friend, I make it clear that if my noble friend pushes it to a vote, we will support him. In the meantime, I look forward to the Minister’s response.

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 am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, bringing with them experience of agriculture or medical specialism. I declare my farming interests as set out in the register.

Turning to the amendments of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, I should first say to all noble Lords that the Government are committed to protecting people and the environment from the potential risk posed by pesticides. As I will explain, the Government have a robust regulatory system in place to ensure that pesticides are not used where that may harm human health. The use of pesticides is allowed only where a comprehensive scientific assessment shows that people will not be harmed. The scientific risk assessment carried out before pesticides are authorised covers all situations where people may be exposed to pesticides, including risks to residents and bystanders from the volatilisation of the pesticide’s active substance after application of the product. Products found to have an unacceptable risk from exposure would not be authorised.

The risks of possible pesticide spray-drift from pesticide use are assessed before a new pesticide product is authorised. This includes the effect of different factors, including wind speed, and the results are used to set specific statutory conditions of use for that pesticide as we only authorise products that will not have any harmful effect on human health.

The label on a pesticide product is the main source of information for the user of that pesticide. Phrases such as those listed in Amendment 76 relate to the classification of the concentrated product rather than the diluted spray. The information is required to minimise the user’s exposure and to ensure that they use the product safely and effectively. All users of pesticides are required to follow the statutory conditions of use for any pesticides they use. They should also follow the guidance contained in the Code of Practice for Using Plant Protection Products. The code requires that all users take reasonable precautions to protect the health of people, creatures and plants, to safeguard the environment, and, in particular, to avoid pollution of water. The code specifies that users must ensure that pesticides are only applied in the appropriate weather conditions with the correct, properly adjusted equipment, and that applications must be confined to the area intended to be treated. Collectively, these controls ensure that people are properly protected, based on appropriate risk assessments. They allow pesticides to be used where this is safe and will help UK farmers to provide a supply of high-quality affordable food.

The Government are committed to monitoring the impacts of the use of agricultural pesticides. Indeed, monitoring schemes are in place to report on the level of usage of each pesticide and on residue levels in food. They also collect and consider reports of possible harm to people or to the environment. We will continue to review the monitoring arrangements to ensure that they remain effective in supporting the authorisation process.

Turning to Amendment 80, I am most grateful to my noble friend for raising integrated pest management and the more precise use of pesticides, including through new technologies and new concepts, to which my noble friend Lady McIntosh referred. Pesticide users can reduce the need for pesticides, further reducing risks to the environment, combating pest resistance and supporting agricultural productivity. This is very important for all farmers: pest resistance is another issue we must contend with. The Government have made a commitment in the 25-year environment plan to putting integrated pest management at the heart of their approach. There are advances in this area that we should all champion.

A number of points have been made by noble Lords, but I particularly want to pick up the matter raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and deal with the precise issue of lacuna and gap. That is precisely why the upcoming consultation on the draft updated UK National Action Plan for the Sustainable Use of Pesticides will set out how the Government will deliver our 25-year environment plan commitment. I also say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and my noble friend the Duke of Wellington that as part of this, the Government are considering the extent to which targets may support the delivery of integrated pest management. The consultation on the national action plan will be launched later this year and will set out these plans in more detail. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, that in Committee we had an extensive debate on gene editing and as I said then, we believe that the best way forward is to have a full and proper consultation on those matters.

I turn now to Amendment 78. I was very pleased to meet the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, to discuss these matters. The Government agree that pesticides should not be used where they may harm human health or pose unacceptable risks to the environment. By pesticides, we mean all the plant protection products commonly used in agriculture and beyond, including herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. A robust regulatory system is in place to deliver that objective and to make sure that an authorised product, used correctly, does not harm people. As has been said by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, that system derives from EU law and, in particular, Regulation 1107/2009, setting out the rules for assessing and authorising pesticides, and Regulation 396/2005, setting limits for pesticide residues in food. All this EU legislation will be carried over in full into UK law at the end of the transition period.

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14:53

Division 1

Ayes: 276


Labour: 127
Liberal Democrat: 76
Crossbench: 54
Independent: 12
Green Party: 2
Bishops: 2
Conservative: 1

Noes: 228


Conservative: 192
Crossbench: 27
Independent: 4
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Ulster Unionist Party: 2

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15:37

Division 2

Ayes: 122


Liberal Democrat: 73
Crossbench: 32
Independent: 5
Labour: 5
Conservative: 3
Green Party: 1
Ulster Unionist Party: 1
Bishops: 1

Noes: 234


Conservative: 198
Crossbench: 25
Independent: 4
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Labour: 1
Ulster Unionist Party: 1

Amendment 89 not moved.
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, we have certainly had a fulsome debate on this matter. Whether it was in favour of or against these amendments, the opinion of this House was very clear. As I said, the Government’s manifesto commitment—I am pleased to add further to the record of my remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker—is that in all our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high standards of environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.

I am grateful to my noble friends Lady Noakes and Lady Neville-Rolfe. I would reply to the noble Lords, Lord Purvis of Tweed and Lord Rooker, by saying that none of the 20 continuity trade agreements signed to date would undermine domestic standards. This demonstrates the Government’s commitment not to compromise on our high standards in trade agreements. I am fully aware that until all the trade agreements have been signed and settled, some of your Lordships simply will not believe that this is the case. I look forward to those noble Lords who are determined that this is not the case at least having the courtesy to say, “Actually, our fears have been allayed”. I set that as a challenge.

I confirm once again that the Government are well aware of the vital importance of maintaining—indeed, enhancing—the UK’s farming reputation, as it serves as an excellent platform to increase demand for UK produce and consequently enhance export opportunities for our agri-food businesses.

On my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s Amendment 90, the Government are dedicated to improving animal welfare standards. For instance, we have committed to a serious and rapid examination of the role of labelling in monitoring high standards and high welfare across the UK market; we will consult on that at the end of the transition period. The animal welfare labelling consultation’s objective is to seek stakeholder views on different possible policy outcomes for improving consumer transparency in relation to the animal welfare standards of produce for sale. This could apply to domestically produced products and those imported from third countries, as well as animal welfare standards on farms, in transport and at slaughter. The Government will consider what possible labelling reforms might be pursued in the light of responses to the consultation, which at this stage they do not want to pre-empt. Changes to how products are labelled will not mean changes to our existing standards for how products must be produced. I also say to my noble friend that marketing standards in England are already very high, as they are consumer and retailer led and often go over and above the current EU standards. We will not use Clause 35 to lower standards for products either produced in England or imported, only to make or amend domestic marketing standards.

On Amendments 89ZA, 93 and 105, as your Lordships know, the Government made an unequivocal commitment in our manifesto not to compromise on our high standards in our trade negotiations. Of course, I understand concerns in this area; they have been aired this afternoon. I have already said that noble Lords’ immediate concerns can be allayed by the example of the 20 continuity agreements. I wish to highlight the risks of duplication and complication in what the amendments present, compared with our existing protections. I will tell your Lordships of the robust processes, bodies and systems in place to protect our standards.

The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 retains in law our standards on environmental protections, animal welfare, animal and plant health and food safety at the end of the transition period. This provides a firm basis for maintaining the same high level of protection for both domestic and imported products. Any changes to legislation would require these to be brought to Parliament and the usual parliamentary scrutiny processes to apply. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe referred to beef and poultry. Notably, this includes the EU law banning the import and production of hormone-treated beef, which has been transposed into domestic law and will continue to operate in the UK after the end of the transition period, applying in all parts of the UK.

I also reiterate that existing food safety provisions relating to pathogen reduction treatments permitted on poultry carcasses will continue to operate independently in UK law after the transition period. It remains the case in the UK that no substances other than potable water are approved to wash poultry carcasses.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked a number of questions. First, the Government’s manifesto commitment is clear and covers environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. This includes standards applied to the assessment of novel foods, which the FSA will continue to lead. Also, a range of physical and documentary checks will ensure that biosecurity is maintained, alongside protecting animals and plants in public health. Also, the border operating model—I am happy to send it to the noble Lord—has been published with much more detail.

Given not only their experience but the considerable work they undertook, the noble Lords, Lord Krebs and Lord Rooker, will know that the independent work of our food regulators—the Food Standards Agency, or FSA, and Food Standards Scotland, or FSS—and rigorous processes will continue to ensure that all food imports into the UK are safe and meet the relevant UK product rules and regulations. This will include imports under new free trade agreements. In addition, the FSA recently announced that its chief executive will develop a regular written assessment, which will provide the FSA’s view on the state of food standards and consumer interests. Regulated food products, such as food and feed additives, enzymes, flavourings or GM food and feed, undergo the FSA’s risk assessment process before being placed on the UK market. This process is rigorous, independent of government and based on robust scientific evidence.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, that the process will bring a substantial weight of expertise to bear. The FSA has doubled the number of risk assessors since 2017. It can draw on the expertise of 100 scientific experts and support staff and has recruited 35 additional members to its advisory committees. It also takes wider consumer interests into account, such as the impact on the environment, animal welfare and food security, drawing on appropriate expertise and stakeholders to do so. Moreover, the expertise of other government departments such as Defra, the devolved Administrations and agencies such as the Animal and Plant Health Agency may be brought to bear in the risk analysis process and when considering risk management options.

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18:12

Division 3

Ayes: 307


Labour: 136
Liberal Democrat: 81
Crossbench: 61
Independent: 15
Conservative: 6
Green Party: 2
Bishops: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 212


Conservative: 185
Crossbench: 17
Independent: 5
Democratic Unionist Party: 4

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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This has been another good debate on another key issue in the Bill. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on these amendments, which cover the key variances of opinion on approaches to food standards for imported product through the mechanism of a Trade and Agriculture Commission.

In Committee, I expressed anxiety about the approach of a Trade and Agriculture Commission, should this be the only way that UK food and production standards could be maintained as future trade deals are negotiated. From these Benches, we wanted to secure the enactment of the UK’s minimum level of food standards by enshrining it in legislation. That your Lordships’ House passed this measure earlier tonight has added to our confidence that the House of Commons is being asked to think again on this issue.

This allows us to approach these amendments with confidence that the Trade and Agriculture Commission could provide valuable insights and independent analysis on all trade deals concerning food standards, which would encompass the equivalents of production methods, welfare standards and environmental conditions that apply in the UK.

There are essentially two amendments from two very eminent Members of your Lordships’ House, although they are subject to further amendments. Amendment 97 is led by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. She has come into the House from the Commons, having served as a very successful chair of the other place’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. I pay tribute to the way she steered that prominent committee.

Amendment 101, also with amendments, is proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, and others. It has the backing of the National Farmers Union, which has been prominent in discussions throughout proceedings both here and in the Commons. The NFU could not team up with a better proponent for agriculture. The noble Lord, Lord Curry, spoke of his reflections on his career in agriculture. Over many years, he and I met at several key moments of agricultural policy developments. They might be designated as crossroads for agriculture. Here is another: he will probably say that he has met me too often.

While I commend the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, we much prefer the reconsidered amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, and I am grateful for the remarks of my noble friend Lady Henig in her summary of the situation. We will support Amendment 101 rather than Amendment 97, should that be pressed to a vote.

We welcome the developments that took place over the summer and I can signal that we will approve the amendment, with or without the further amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. Amendment 102 widens the representation on the commission and further enshrines its permanence beyond the temporary nature that was the Government’s very limited concession on this proposal. That amendment provides better clarity on Amendment 101 than Amendment 104 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee.

The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, puts the commission on a statutory and permanent basis, with key powers to make recommendations to the Government and Parliament on all future trade deals. This key improvement should be taken back to the Commons for reconsideration, underlined by the widespread approval of this House. This key mechanism to adjudicate independently on trade deals is needed for consumer confidence and demanded by farmers, endorsed by all their unions in all parts of the United Kingdom. The NFU has secured the agreement of the British public through a petition signed by over a million people.

The potential loophole that exists for food that goes into the food service sector needs to be plugged by the commission. We would contend that your Lordships should return this amendment to the Commons with a powerful majority. The commission could build up considerable expertise that will be crucial for the future of food standards and an excellent resource in parliamentary scrutiny of future trade deals.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords for contributing to another thought-provoking debate. I will deal with the amendments as one because they are so interrelated.

As noble Lords will be aware, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 retains in law our standards on environmental protections, animal welfare, animal and plant health, and food safety at the end of the transition period. The independent advice of our food regulators, the FSA and FSS, and the rigorous processes they have developed, will continue to ensure that all food imports into the UK are safe and meet the relevant UK product rules and regulations, including imports under new free trade deals. A range of other government agencies, such as the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Health and Safety Executive and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, will ensure that the full range of standards and import requirements within their remits are upheld.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, will remember what I said in response to an earlier group of amendments, but I will repeat it. The FSA has doubled the number of risk assessors since 2017. It can draw on the expertise of 100 scientific experts and support staff and has recruited 35 additional members to its advisory committees. It also takes into account wider consumer interests such as the impact on the environment, animal welfare and food security.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, also spoke about the Japan trade deal. The audit and verification function is currently being developed within Defra and will be in place and operational before the end of the transition period. All existing import standards will continue to apply to the new Japan trade deal, as they will for other trade agreements.

In addition, a range of established stakeholder groups is already in place to advise the Government on trade policy development. These include the DIT’s agri-food trade advisory group, which has a recently renewed membership of more than 30 representatives from the industry who will provide close technical and strategic advice to the Government as negotiations progress. This approach has been welcomed by these stakeholders as a way to input meaningfully into ongoing trade talks. Defra also continues to run various supply chain advisory groups, such as the arable group, the livestock group and the food and drink panel. These groups already provide valuable expert advice to help the Government develop trade policy and they will continue to do so.

In addition to this, the Government listened closely to valuable feedback from Parliament and stakeholders, most notably the NFU—of which I should declare my membership—to strengthen these existing arrangements. In July we established the Trade and Agriculture Commission, which operates under the auspices of the Department for International Trade. Defra is closely involved in this work and Defra officials are part of the commission’s secretariat.

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I will conclude by saying why I think Amendments 97, 101, 102 and others that have been put forward this evening are necessary. We find ourselves in a very weak negotiating position, and I do not accept that either the advisory group on trade or the Trade and Agriculture Commission as currently formed are up to the job. That is why we have tabled the amendments this evening. We find ourselves with no one from this country having the trade and negotiating experience that we need. We have reached out to New Zealanders and Australians to perform that duty for us. So that is why, in my view, subject to what my noble friend says, we need to have a vote on some of the amendments this evening.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, for the sake of the record, I will repeat for my noble friend my replies to the noble Lord, Lord Trees. I said that since 2017, the FSA has doubled the number of its risk assessors. It can draw on the expertise of 100 scientific experts and support staff, and it has recruited an additional 35 members to its advisory committees. In addition, I should say to my noble friend that it takes wider consumer interests into account, such as the impact on the environment, animal welfare and food security. I also said in my reply that the function of audit and verification is currently being developed within Defra and will be in place and operational before the end of the transition period.

I am not going to repeat my speech about the number and range of trade advisory groups and the people who have been asked to join the working groups on the Trade and Agriculture Commission. I said specifically that the wide inclusion of authoritative figures was a testament to the fact that the Government recognise the need for advice on these matters and will listen. I am surprised at the suggestion from my noble friend that this country does not have within its midst—because it does—people with great expertise in trade negotiations. That is why we want the Trade and Agriculture Commission to have within it people with a range of expertise. The commission was specifically asked to undertake this work in the context of there already being statutory bodies in place, and I think I have given, in very long and detailed responses to both this and an earlier group, details of the capability and the range of work that the FSA and other bodies will undertake.

On the arrangements for a commitment to a transparent and inclusive trade policy, I shall repeat again what I said, so that it is clear. Parliament has a clear scrutiny role under CRaG which provides parliamentarians with a period of 21 sitting days to scrutinise the final treaty text before it can be ratified. Those are the provisions that I set out. I also said that we would be going beyond the statutory requirements of CRaG. I shall not repeat the long passage I set out earlier, but we will set out the way in which Parliament will be informed and updated, and the way in which Parliament and the committees of both Houses will have a very considerable opportunity to opine on these arrangements.

On the national food strategy, I am sorry, but Henry Dimbleby has been asked to do a very thorough piece of work and he has been undertaking that. My noble friend may say that it is not satisfactory that his final report will not be available until the end of the Trade Bill, but I have no doubt that during the passage of that Bill, Parliament will have a lot to say—I am convinced that parliamentarians in both Houses will have a great deal to say. It does not mean that we should stop the Trade Bill because we are awaiting the very important final report from Henry Dimbleby. As I have already said, the Trade and Agriculture Commission has been asked to look into some of the early recommendations in Henry Dimbleby’s report. I have nothing more to say on the matter. I have explained why I think the Government’s bona fides are strong, but I sense that your Lordships will think to the contrary.

Amendment 97 withdrawn.
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Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)
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My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. All noble Lords who have taken part in this debate have spoken passionately and knowledgeably on the subject of climate change. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, believes that a real plan for how to move forward is essential, but the Government have no vision on how to achieve this.

Unlike many of your Lordships, I am not an expert, but I can see all around me the signs that the planet is warming, and this is having a detrimental effect on all of us. Farming is often blamed for contributing to climate change, and certainly it does not help, but the blame cannot be laid entirely at the door of farmers. We are all responsible and have our part to play in reducing carbon emissions.

The target of 2050 for the reduction of our emissions is far too far away. In order to monitor our progress as a nation, an interim target of 2030 is essential. Agriculture and the NFU have estimated that they will be able to achieve their net zero target by 2040. It is a pity that the Government cannot follow this example.

The noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, referred to the burning of peat bogs, and I ask the Minister whether such a practice would qualify under the ELMS. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, stressed how important it is to reduce our emissions by 2030, and I am sure we all agree. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, expressed concern around the debate on emissions that farmers need to respond to the problems before them, taking into account the economic consequences. He said that the rural economy is very fragile and that a degree of realism is needed.

As I have said previously, I will not be here in 2050, but my children and grandchildren will, as will the children and grandchildren of the majority of noble Lords taking part today. I will give just two very different examples of the effects of climate change globally.

I am lucky enough to have stood in the Maasai Mara very close to a white rhino. I was absolutely terrified and did not move a muscle. What a magnificent beast it was. Soon, if we do nothing, the 3,000 that are left out of the previous 65,000 will be gone. On a more parochial level, the bullfinch is one of my favourite birds and used to be seen in our hedgerows. This bird has all but disappeared from our countryside, and it is nearly five years since I saw a solitary bullfinch.

UK agriculture alone has not directly caused these two instances, but it has not helped. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, we need to address this and have effective targets. Now is the time to take action; now is the time to set an interim target for 2030; and now is the time to stand up and be counted. I hope that the Minister is able to agree with this amendment and I look forward to his comments.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this very important debate on the noble Baroness’s Amendment 100. The first thing I would like to say is that I am most terribly sorry if a letter has not been attended to, but the messaging I have had is that, whatever the noble Lady decides, my door is always open and we can arrange meetings if there are—as I know there will be—continuing discussions on a range of things relating to climate change and agriculture. I want to put on record that I try my best to attend to correspondence and it seems that this one has slipped through the net—so I apologise for that.

This is a crucial matter and, as far as I am concerned, we must all work together on this. In June 2019, the Government amended the Climate Change Act to legislate for a target of net zero by 2050 and introduced carbon budgets, which cap emissions over successive five-year periods. The Government have set these as interim targets on the road to net-zero emissions. I am particularly interested in this matter, and I went through the noble Baroness’s amendment. The Secretary of State is already required to have due regard to the Government’s commitment to achieving net zero as set out in the legally binding Climate Change Act 2008, and in reference to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The Committee on Climate Change advised that emissions reductions will be needed in all sectors to achieve the UK’s net-zero GHG emissions target by 2050. Targets are set by the Act, but we do not have sector-specific targets under it; this is true across all sectors and departments. The absence of legally defined sector-specific targets ensures that we can meet our climate change commitments in the most cost-effective way across the economy, maximising social and environmental benefits and mitigating damaging trade-offs.

In the United Kingdom, agriculture at this moment constitutes 10% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. I entirely agree that agriculture must—and I underline “must”—play its part in addressing this grave matter. I note, for example, the 2019 report from the Committee on Climate Change on achieving net zero, which says:

“It is difficult to reduce agriculture emissions to near-zero given the inherent biological processes and chemical reactions arising from crops, soils and livestock.”


Agricultural greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by 16% since 1990, with many farms using more efficient agricultural practices. My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised land-use change and forestry: all of these can continue to provide benefits in carbon sequestration. I would be the first to say that more needs to be done, and much more needs to be done.

I am obviously pleased about the ambition shown by many in the sector, including the National Farmers’ Union. Climate change represents a significant challenge. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, quite rightly feels passionately about this matter, so perhaps the words “significant challenge” are a terrible understatement. This is a very grave matter that we need to address. However, I will say that there are great opportunities for the sector, and we will continue to work closely on this issue with the NFU and other leading stakeholders, including through the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan partnership.

Another point the noble Baroness made in her amendment was on the devolved Administrations. Agriculture is a devolved matter, as we all know, so each national Administration is responsible for their own policy to address climate change in the direction of agriculture. The nations are united in a desire to reach net zero and reduce emissions from agriculture. This can be seen, for example, in DAERA’s efficient farming implementation plan, or in the Welsh Government’s Prosperity for All publication that outlines their low-carbon delivery plan. We will work together across the union to ensure we are delivering a solution that will work for the whole of the United Kingdom. This includes agreeing common frameworks, which include a framework on the best available techniques for preventing and minimising emissions.

Defra takes a key role in supporting emissions reduction from agriculture and land use by providing scientific advice and evidence. This includes long-term breeding work to develop more efficient, productive and resilient crops and livestock, as well as research on more efficient feeding strategies for livestock. Such research includes the clean growth through sustainable intensification project, which is due to complete in November of this year. This research has been carried out alongside academics, government officials, stakeholders and farmers, and will outline productivity and land management options, as well as advice on actions and innovative technologies that will reduce emissions from agriculture. These options will be the most effective, best value for money and most feasible for the sector to action. This research has influenced, and will continue to influence, development of future farming policies such as ELM.

I am very pleased that Clause 1(1)(d) of the Bill already enables the Secretary of State to give financial assistance for the purposes of

“managing land, water or livestock in a way that mitigates or adapts to climate change”.

ELM will be the key delivery mechanism for this and a powerful vehicle for achieving goals set out in the 25-year environment plan, our net-zero target and commitments made in the Clean Growth Strategy. Schemes such as the productivity grant scheme, the Woodland Carbon Fund and the expanded Countryside Stewardship scheme will also contribute to emission-reduction goals alongside ELM. I agree with the point that my noble friend Lady McIntosh made: working with nature will be an increasing imperative and feature of our work.

As set out in the ELM policy discussion document published in February, it is proposed that tier 3 of the scheme should focus on delivering landscape-scale projects that can make significant contributions to national priorities such as net zero. This could include funding for afforestation, peatland restoration and wetland creation. We have proposed that the scheme should also incentivise environmentally sustainable farming through tier 1 and the delivery of locally targeted environmental actions through tier 2.

The provisions of the Environment Bill will bring all climate change legislation within the enforcement remit of the office for environmental protection, also known as the OEP. Under the robust governance framework established through the Climate Change Act, our independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, scrutinise government actions and hold us to account. The OEP will work closely alongside the Committee on Climate Change on climate issues, ensuring that their individual roles complement and reinforce each other.

The OEP is required to monitor the Government’s progress in improving the natural environment in accordance with the content of environmental improvement plans, the first of which is the 25-year environment plan, and—I emphasise—targets. It must produce an annual report on its findings. When undertaking this independent assessment of the Government’s progress, the OEP may consider that the Government could improve progress in meeting one or more of the goals within the 25-year environment plan. For example, this could include a recommendation that additional funding be provided to deliver the purposes set out in Clause 1 of the Agriculture Bill.

Having now been given a sight of her letter, I also say to the noble Baroness that Defra is not the only department responding to climate change. Reducing carbon emissions and enhancing the environment are priorities for the Government. Indeed, there is a new Cabinet Committee on Climate Change to oversee this effort and drive forward action across the whole of government. BEIS leads across government on climate change and net zero, and all departments are working to deliver. For example, DfT published the first phase of our transport decarbonisation plan in March 2020 and MHCLG aims to publish a heat and building strategy later this year. Next year the UK will host the vital COP 26 climate negotiations, and we are determined to use this conference to promote ambitious action to deliver the transformational change required by the Paris Agreement.

I looked very closely at the detail of the noble Baroness’s amendment. I think I have covered all the components of the amendment in terms of what the Secretary of State is already required under law to have due regard to in this matter. I have spoken of our work with the devolved Administrations, which again is imperative because there is no point us all spinning in our own orbits. This will need a collaborative approach.

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22:23

Division 4

Ayes: 249


Labour: 125
Liberal Democrat: 68
Crossbench: 34
Independent: 12
Bishops: 3
Green Party: 2
Conservative: 2
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 200


Conservative: 175
Crossbench: 19
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Independent: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 1

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22:37

Division 5

Ayes: 266


Labour: 122
Liberal Democrat: 71
Crossbench: 39
Independent: 12
Conservative: 9
Bishops: 4
Democratic Unionist Party: 3
Green Party: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 159


Conservative: 145
Crossbench: 10
Independent: 3

Amendments 103 to 106 not moved.
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Moved by
107: Schedule 5, page 60, line 26, at end insert—
“Apiculture
4A(1) The Welsh Ministers may by regulations modify any of the following legislation so far as it has effect in relation to Wales—(a) retained direct EU legislation relating to apiculture, and(b) subordinate legislation relating to that legislation.(2) In this paragraph “retained direct EU legislation relating to apiculture” includes in particular—(a) Articles 55 to 57 of the CMO Regulation, and(b) retained direct EU legislation made under that legislation.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment allows the Welsh Ministers to amend retained direct EU legislation relating to apiculture.
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Moved by
110: Schedule 6, page 73, line 45, at end insert—
“Apiculture
5A(1) DAERA may by regulations modify any of the following legislation so far as it has effect in relation to Northern Ireland—(a) retained direct EU legislation relating to apiculture, and(b) subordinate legislation relating to that legislation.(2) In this paragraph “retained direct EU legislation relating to apiculture” includes in particular—(a) Articles 55 to 57 of the CMO Regulation, and(b) retained direct EU legislation made under that legislation.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment allows the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland to amend retained direct EU legislation relating to apiculture.
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Moved by
111: Clause 48, page 41, line 38, at end insert—
““EU regulation”, “EU decision” and “EU tertiary legislation” have the same meaning as in the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (see section 20 of that Act);”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the Minister’s amendments to insert new Clauses (Continuing EU programmes: power to provide financial assistance) and (Retained direct EU legislation).
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Moved by
112: Clause 50, page 42, line 18, leave out “appropriate authority may” and insert “Secretary of State may, subject to subsections (1D) and (1E),”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment and the other government amendments to Clause 50 are about the extent to which the Secretary of State and the devolved administrations may make supplementary, incidental, consequential or transitional provision in connection with provisions of the Bill.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, the government amendments in this group are technical. They amend the list of provisions in the Bill for which the Secretary of State and the devolved Administration Ministers can make supplementary, incidental, consequential or transitional provisions. We have brought them forward at the recent request of the devolved Administrations—that perhaps pre-empts the question as to why this was a recent request of the devolved Administrations. 

The effect of these amendments is that the devolved Administration Ministers have the power to make supplementary and consequential provision to amend primary legislation, either UK or devolved, in all additional areas of the Bill where a legislative consent Motion is being sought. 

This is not about filling any legislative gap or changing government policy. These are technical amendments which were needed to ensure that the devolved Administrations have the necessary powers to make such provisions, should it be required.  The amendments reflect the slightly different powers each devolved Administration is taking in the Bill. For example, Clause 34, on agricultural tenancies, applies only to Wales.  

Officials from the four Administrations have worked closely together on this issue to ensure that the scope of powers under Clause 50 provides all Ministers with the necessary powers, consistent with the devolution settlements. I am pleased the clause has been amended to satisfy Welsh, Scottish and DAERA Ministers. I beg to move.

Baroness Morris of Bolton Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Morris of Bolton) (Con)
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The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, is no longer speaking in this group, so I call the next speaker, the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I also thank the Minister for that helpful clarification, and thank him very much for listening in Committee, when devolved issues were given a thorough airing. We certainly were made very much more aware of some of the issues and challenges that we will face on agriculture going forward, in trying to reach agreement between the devolved Administrations.

It was helpful that he clarified those famous words, “appropriate authority”, which seem to be peppered throughout all our legislation and which always leave us with the question of what the appropriate authority is, but he has very helpfully clarified that now. It was also helpful that he clarified that this was a recent request, which explains why this has come back at a fairly late stage.

I thank the Minister; he will be pleased to know I do not have any questions. Following on from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, as this is the end of Report stage, I would just like to thank both Ministers for their enormous patience and courteousness throughout the whole process. Although we did not always agree, I thought we disagreed with particular aplomb and understanding, so I thank them very much. I know that we will have the opportunity to make more formal thanks at a later stage. It has been a long process, and I think it is time to wrap up at this point.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I would just like to thank the two noble Baronesses for their very kind remarks and brief contributions to this debate. I wanted to thank them and all on the Front Bench, including my noble friend Lady Bloomfield, and other noble Lords, for this Report stage of the Agriculture Bill. Our disagreements have always been civilised, and there are many things on which we can agree. I think these amendments are also important because they put into reality the very strong working relationship between Ministers and officials across the devolved Administrations.

Amendment 112 agreed.
Moved by
113: Clause 50, page 42, line 19, at end insert—
“(1A) The Welsh Ministers may by regulations make supplementary, incidental or consequential provision in connection with—(a) sections 31 to 33, so far as relating to Wales,(b) section 34 and Schedule 3, so far as relating to Wales,(c) sections 36 and 37, so far as relating to Wales,(d) section 43 and Schedule 5,(e) section 44, and(f) section 49 and Schedule 7 so far as they apply in relation to Wales.(1B) The Scottish Ministers may by regulations make supplementary, incidental or consequential provision in the law of Scotland in connection with— (a) sections 31 to 33, so far as relating to Scotland, and(b) sections 36 and 37, so far as relating to Scotland.(1C) DAERA may by regulations make supplementary, incidental or consequential provision in the law of Northern Ireland in connection with—(a) sections 31 and 32, so far as relating to Northern Ireland,(b) sections 36 and 37, so far as relating to Northern Ireland,(c) section 45 and Schedule 6, and(d) section 49 and Schedule 7 so far as they apply in relation to Northern Ireland.(1D) The Secretary of State may not make regulations under subsection (1) containing provision which could be made—(a) by the Welsh Ministers under subsection (1A)(a) or (b) or (d) to (f),(b) by the Scottish Ministers under subsection (1B)(a), or(c) by DAERA under subsection (1C)(a), (c) or (d).(1E) The Secretary of State may make regulations under subsection (1) containing provision which could be made—(a) by the Welsh Ministers under subsection (1A)(c),(b) by the Scottish Ministers under subsection (1B)(b), or(c) by DAERA under subsection (1C)(b),only if the Secretary of State has first consulted (respectively) the Welsh Ministers, the Scottish Ministers or DAERA.”Member’s explanatory statement
See the explanatory statement to the first government amendment to Clause 50.
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Moved by
122: Clause 51, page 43, line 4, at end insert—
“(ia) giving financial assistance by the Secretary of State under section (Continuing EU programmes: power to provide financial assistance);”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the Minister’s amendment to insert new Clause (Continuing EU programmes: power to provide financial assistance).
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Moved by
123: Clause 52, page 43, line 19, at end insert “apart from sections (Continuing EU programmes: power to provide financial assistance) and (Retained direct EU legislation);”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is partly consequential on the Minister’s amendment at page 43, line 29 and also secures that new Clause (Retained direct EU legislation) extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, by virtue of Clause 52(4).
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Moved by
125: Clause 53, page 43, line 34, at end insert—
“(za) sections (Continuing EU programmes: power to provide financial assistance) and (Retained direct EU legislation);” Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment secures that new Clauses (Continuing EU programmes: power to provide financial assistance) and (Retained direct EU legislation) will come into force on the day on which the Act is passed.