Debates between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 2nd Feb 2021
Thu 1st Oct 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 22nd Sep 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 17th Sep 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 15th Sep 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Thu 23rd Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 21st Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 14th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wed 24th Jun 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 22nd Jun 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords & Report stage
Wed 29th Apr 2020
Thu 12th Mar 2020
Wed 11th Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 9th Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard)
Mon 9th Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued)
Wed 4th Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued)
Wed 4th Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard)
Mon 2nd Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard - continued)
Mon 2nd Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard continued)
Mon 2nd Mar 2020
Fisheries Bill [HL]
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard)
Wed 15th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Wed 8th Jan 2020

Food Prices: Agricultural Policy

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Thursday 18th March 2021

(3 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we will champion free and fair trade and lower barriers at every opportunity. There are great opportunities for British food to be exported. In all the trade agreements that we negotiate, we will stand up for British farming and we will always ensure that the UK FTAs are fair and reciprocal. There is great opportunity for our domestic producers to export as well as have very strong production. Yes, I agree that free trade has been a great success over the centuries.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, as we know, the sustainable farming proposals are for England only. The devolved nations are drawing up their own proposals for reform, which could lead to differential food prices across the UK. Can the Minister update the House on the progress of the joint working group set up to carry out market surveillance and ensure that the UK internal market does not end up with winners and losers in the food price sector?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we have set up the UK agricultural support framework precisely to ensure that there is non-legislative collaboration and co-operation on agricultural support between the four UK Administrations. We will continue with this effective co-ordination and dialogue, so that the internal market of the UK is secure.

EU: Fishing Industry Negotiations

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Thursday 4th March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, until the TCA has been ratified in the European Parliament, the Partnership Council and its specialised committees will not start to function. We in the UK are ready for them to be operational and are making our plans.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, in February last year the Secretary of State wrote to the EU Commissioner raising concerns about its decision to ban the import of class B live bivalve molluscs. In a subsequent letter to food exporters, dated 10 December 2020, it was confirmed that exports of these molluscs would be prohibited. So, why did the Secretary of State claim in a parliamentary Statement this January that he had only recently been made aware of the situation, when, seemingly, he had known and done nothing about it for a year?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I will look into this because that is entirely contrary to my understanding, which is that the European Commissioner made it clear that this was an acceptable trade. We were most surprised to hear that the export of live bivalve molluscs from class B waters would not be accepted. We think that that is not well founded in law and we have sought a meeting with Commissioner Kyriakides on this matter.

UK Shellfish Sector

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I agree with my noble friend’s tone. We seek to have a quick discussion with Commissioner Kyriakides about how this trade can resume. We do not believe that the legal interpretation that they are putting on the class B waters is correct. We are working very closely with stakeholders and the devolved Administrations: my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will have further discussions with the Welsh and Scottish Ministers tomorrow. We wish to resolve this matter. Of course, we want to ensure the smooth passage of exports of our excellent produce.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, yesterday, the Minister was uncharacteristically reluctant to answer my question about compensation, so I will ask it again today: will the fishers affected by this EU ruling have access to the £23 million disruption fund, made available to other fishers whose markets have been disrupted? Will the Government consider increasing that fund now that so many fishers seem to be in need of that kind of compensation?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, of course I shall seek to answer the noble Baroness’s question. The £23 million fund for financial assistance announced today is for those businesses that suffered a financial loss because of

“delays related to the export of fresh or live fish and shellfish to the EU during January”.

With our dialogue with the Commission, we seek to resume this valued trade from class B waters, which we think is completely justified under the law. What is more, many EU businesses have invested in depuration facilities, and that is what they wish.

UK Shellfish Exports

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Tuesday 9th February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, in the Commons yesterday George Eustice once again tried to portray the fishing settlement as a good deal, whereas the truth is that it is unravelling as we speak. It is no wonder UK fishers feel angry and betrayed. You would have thought that the negotiations of the trade and co-operation agreement would have tied down the future access of live bivalve molluscs to the EU at the time of the agreement, rather than as an afterthought when damage to the sector has already been done. As a result, hundreds of tonnes of stock have had to be dumped and the multi-million-pound industry has ground to a halt.

These are more than teething problems. The future of the sector is at stake. The Minister has described the negotiations as technical discussions, but what is to stop the EU reopening other aspects of the fishing deal in return for a settlement on live molluscs? In the meantime, can the Minister clarify exactly what compensation will be made available to those whose livelihoods are affected by the loss of that EU market? Will they have access to the £23 million disruption fund made available for other fishers whose markets have been disrupted? Will the Government consider increasing this fund now that many more fishers appear to need compensation?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con) [V]
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[Inaudible]—to Commissioner Kyriakides, because we want to restore the trade in undepurated live bivalve molluscs. That is the issue here. We think that the interpretation that the Commission has come to is not correct, and we wish to have discussions with the Commission about it. A 25% uplift in fishing opportunities is an important part of the trade and co-operation agreement, and we will be working on that. As the Government have announced, not only is there a £23 million fund for those who have been in difficulty in these early stages but we will invest in a £100 million fund for fishing over the next three years. There is a lot of promise and a lot of opportunity for British fishing interests and the shellfish industry as well.

Genetically Modified Food

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Monday 8th February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, GMO legislation is based on a precautionary principle that states that GMO environmental assessments must be risk-based. Evidence gathered during the consultation will inform risks on both action and inaction.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I declare an interest in Rothamsted Research as recorded in the register. We welcome the Government’s consultation on gene editing and the distinction drawn between genetic modification and gene editing. Can the Minister assure us that any changes in the regulation of gene editing will be balanced alongside policies to minimise the use of artificial pesticides and artificial fertilisers so that there will be a net gain for the protection of public health and the environment from any changes?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, what the noble Baroness has said is why we believe there could well be environmental benefits from gene editing, whether they are reduced use of neutron additions, reduced use of chemical pesticides, increased crop yields or crops that are more resilient to climate change. These are the areas that, in an honest endeavour, we should be looking into and why the consultation is so important as part of the first phase before any change may occur.

Brexit: Farmers

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Tuesday 2nd February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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My Lords, it is important that we have new entrants coming into farming. That is why we will consult and work on plans to introduce exit schemes for farmers who wish to retire, along with schemes to support new entrants. As part of the much wider advice and guidance, we will enhance the support to farmers, particularly as we champion skills and innovation. Many schemes are coming forward and it is very important that farmers understand what is available.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, when launching the sustainable farming statement in December, the Government said:

“The changes will be designed to ensure that by 2028, farmers in England can sustainably produce healthy food profitably without subsidy”.


Is it this Government’s intention that 2028 will mark the end of subsidies for English farming, to be replaced by reliance on the market?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con) [V]
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What we said was that that would be the end of the direct payments system. We are now concentrating on a system of agri-environment and other support mechanisms, which we think are value for money. They will reward farmers for the provision of public goods.

EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement: Fishing Industry

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Tuesday 19th January 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, would the Minister like to join me in condemning Jacob Rees-Mogg’s flippant comment about fish being happier in the UK at a time when the fishers’ jobs are once more on the line? Does he understand the sense of betrayal they feel now that the reality of the Government’s broken promises becomes apparent? As they say, they are furious that the Government have tried to present the agreement as a major success, when it is patently clear that it is not. To begin to make amends, would the Minister like to clarify how much compensation in total will be made available to them? When will the fishers currently tied up in port or delayed in getting their fish to market start to receive the compensation they deserve for this shambles?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the Prime Minister announced that £23 million of funding is being made available to support the seafood sector. It will support those parts of the sector that have suffered genuine loss, through no fault of their own, as a result of disruption and delays of seafood exports to Europe. Details will follow shortly. I would say to the noble Baroness that I think there is an uplift in quota for UK fishers equivalent to 25% of the total value taken by EU vessels from UK waters over the five-and-a-half-year period, and 15% of that uplift is in the first year, so I do not identify with her view. What we want to do is work with all parties to ensure there is a smooth passage for this very important sector, and that is what we are doing, with very regular communication and meetings.

Environmental Land Management Schemes

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Monday 14th December 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, as to any consideration in emergency cases of neonicotinoids, we are always guided by the best scientific assessment available. We will continue to do that and if there was an emergency application, it would be considered according to the science. Obviously, integrated pest management and all those things is another area where advancing the environment is absolutely key.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, given that the rollout of the ELMS pilots is happening later than we would wish, can the Minister confirm that any money not spent in one year will be rolled over to the next, so that farmers will not be disadvantaged by any delays?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, the whole purpose of the reductions in direct payments is that they will remain within the agricultural pot. I confirm that any surplus, if there was one, would be part of an agricultural budget.

Farming: New Entrants

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Monday 23rd November 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend has raised a key point. Not only do we need access to land and skills, we want to ensure this through the productivity grants, which are part of the Agriculture Act and the work we want to undertake in this area. This important part of the Act addresses not only access but also equipment, technology and so forth, whether it is for entrants or indeed established farmers. That is part of our continuing work.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I am sure that the Minister will acknowledge that increasing the number of affordable rural homes is vital to enabling new entrants to come into the farming sector. However, the housing Minister revealed to me recently that the Government do not keep data on the number of existing affordable homes that are lost through sale or inflated rents. When are the Government going to address the haemorrhaging of cheap homes for rent in rural areas so that young families can afford to live and play their part in the rural economy?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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The noble Baroness is absolutely right that affordable rural housing is key to ensuring that we have a vibrant agricultural industry. That is why in 2018 the Government launched the revised National Planning Policy Framework. The rural housing chapter gives strong support to rural exception sites and includes new policies to support the building of homes in isolated locations where that supports, for instance, farm succession. In addition, the Government have amended the permitted development rights to support rural housing and agricultural productivity by enabling up to five new homes to be created from existing agricultural buildings, an increase from a maximum of three.

Agriculture (Payments) (Amendment, etc) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Wednesday 18th November 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction and the helpful briefing that he organised beforehand. When we agreed to take all these SIs in one go, I do not think I realised just what a complicated task we were setting ourselves, because there is an enormous amount of detail in them and they all seem to be connected and to overlap. I therefore have a number of questions, but I fear that I may be referred to other SIs to find the answer.

As my colleague Daniel Zeichner pointed out in the Commons, the Explanatory Memorandum says that Defra does not intend to consolidate the relevant legislation at this time. All I would say is: “Good luck” to the person who eventually takes that task on because of the complications that we can all see before us.

We also face once more our old enemy the correction of previous drafting errors. This is an ongoing saga. Can I suggest to the Minister in all good faith that we need some kind of standing procedure to deal with all the errors that are coming to light and may well come to light in the coming months, rather than having to revisit SIs one by one as we are at the moment?

Turning to the individual SIs, I have a few questions. The first SI makes provision for public intervention, private storage and aid to continue at times of market failure. The proposal is that this should be done administratively, rather than by political decisions. The Minister has clarified that this administrative decision will be published on the Government website. However, given our recent experience of market failure in the collapse of dairy prices, which was a hugely political event, can the Minister explain whether that would be the sort of thing that would be decided as an administrative decision and whether there would be any parliamentary oversight of decisions such as that? Would Parliament have any say on that at all?

This SI also changes the provisions for fruit and vegetable producer organisations. The Minister clarified in the other place that there were 34 in total and four are believed to be transnational. Am I right in understanding that those transnational producer organisations will not be able to apply for support, even if the majority of their production takes place in the UK? Have those affected producer organisations been informed of this change, and are they content with it?

The second SI proposes changes to EU retained law to enable the Secretary of State to approve or cancel protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications for wine. This SI only deals with wine, so I presume that other protected designations are dealt with in other SIs. The SI says that there is not expected to be any significant impact on business. Given the UK’s growing wine industry, which I think we would all accept has been curtailed by EU regulations in the past, will it give our wine producers more flexibility in the descriptions of the wines that they are able to market? Is it envisaged that we would have the UK equivalent of appellation contrôlée as a UK quality standard in future?

What UK body will replace the Commission in registering PDOs and PGIs? Will it be British only or include Northern Ireland? Will UK products such as wine remain registered in the EU or will they have to be re-registered to access the market at the end of transition?

The third and fourth SIs address issues arising from the transition from EU import certificates of conformity to those aligned with the border delivery model. It seems strange that the dates for ending the transition period for these certificates for beef and veal labelling is different from that of hops, hatching eggs and chicks. I refer to the excellent note from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee on this issue. When it asked Defra about this, it was told that some provisions were made to align with the border delivery model, while other timescales meant that there would be a delay for a two-year transition,

“in order to allow policy teams to deliver the necessary IT system changes and recruit additional HMI inspectors”.

Three obvious questions arise from that. First, are some of the border issues so complicated that they need a two-year IT project to complete? Is there any danger of further delays, as we have known in the past, with the IT system not being up and running by that date? Secondly, are the HMI inspectors referred to specialist border inspectors, or is it envisaged that there will suddenly be a huge extra volume of work when the transnational arrangements end—which is why it is being staged, to enable those extra recruitments to take place? Thirdly, has sufficient thought been given to the extra burden on businesses importing across the border which might import mixed cargos with different deadlines for the forms and certificates?

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee also drew our attention to the fact that the UK does not currently enforce poultrymeat marketing standards. I am very grateful that the Minister has clarified, after our pre-meeting with officials, that that is not so much the case and that a clarification has been issued. I thank him for that. However, if poultrymeat is imported from a third country, does that mean it could still say that it was free-range or organic, and that would not be checked? Could it claim not to be chlorine-washed when it has been? I understand from our pre-meeting that little or no poultrymeat is currently imported using these optional descriptions. Can the Minister clarify whether that might be expected to change in the future? These seem to be quite common terms so it is surprising that there are no imports using these labels now. Could unregulated poultrymeat be mixed with other products and given a misleading description? Can the Minister explain what is meant by that explanation? The SI also refers to the organic certificators’ group having been consulted. Is it now content with the proposals?

On a slightly different issue, perhaps I may ask a follow-up question on the application of the Northern Ireland protocol. In a recent SI debate, the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, revealed that 72 border posts were proposed between Northern Ireland and Britain. Is there a list now of where those posts will be based? Are they fully staffed—with trained staff—and ready to be operational at the end of the transition period? Do those trained staff include the specialist inspectors who would have to deal with the checks on the imported fresh food produce that the SIs specifically relate to? I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses for their contributions and important questions on some of these matters. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that although the regulations are detailed they are intended, as I have explained, not to change policy but to ensure that there is operability in this area as we move forward.

On the point about consolidation, I am very grateful that I am not a specialist in parliamentary drafting, because this would be a mammoth task. I very much take on board the noble Baroness’s point about errors. We all regret when there is an error. Having worked with officials, I think they would apologise to the noble Baroness and to us all, but the pressure is sometimes very intense and these things happen. I regret any error that is made, but the most important thing is to be open about it and correct it as soon as we can. The opportunity that arises now, given that we must attend to these SIs, is to be very straightforward and say that there were a number of errors which we are attending to with these SIs. We should not say that the SIs have been brought forward only to deal with errors because they have not.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, referred to the length of time of rural development programmes. Some long-term agri-environment and forestry agreements will still be live after the closure of the current Rural Development Programme for England because of the time taken to deliver the environmental benefits from the programme. She also referred more generally to the protected designations of origins and the protected geographical indications after the transition period. These regulations, along with other instruments, will allow Great Britain to administer and enforce the GI schemes and to ensure that the United Kingdom meets its WTO obligations.

On some other points raised about the relationship to our exports, it is important to say that there are GIs for our exports also. Once awarded GI status, a product name is added to the relevant public GI register, thereby providing a basis for protection against any misuse of the name. I reassure the noble Baronesses that this level of protection will apply to all UK GIs. The register will also contain GIs protected through the withdrawal agreement and trade agreements. This domestic protection will enable us to secure reciprocal levels of protection for our wine products on export markets.

Domestic wine production is a growth sector in England and Wales. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to domestic wines. These regulations maintain the operability of retained EU law, which is the status quo. Our aim is to ensure that imports of third-country wines continue unaffected while continuing to increase domestic wine production. Existing EU GIs, such as Champagne, will continue to be protected in GB through the withdrawal agreement. We cannot use that name for UK sparkling wines. However, our producers are carving out a strong niche for high-quality sparkling wines and I observe, for example, that two Champagne houses are investing in English vineyards.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked about the ramifications for transnational groups in the UK. There are four such groups, three in England and one in Northern Ireland. We have kept DAERA fully informed and are working with affected producer organisations to ensure that they are aware of the impact on their business and to help them plan for the future. Transnational POs can still come together, but EU-based members will no longer be able to claim under the aid scheme after the end of the current programme.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, raised an important point, which we have discussed, about the definition of administrative decisions and ensuring that what might be described as political decisions are not made under the auspices of administrative decisions. Those decisions have limited scope and do not choose the recipients of the intervention or which sectors to intervene in. They are decisions that, following a tendering process, set rates for buying in commodities under public intervention and for private storage aid, and then allow publication of the rates to be offered. Those decisions are made according to clearly prescribed criteria in the CMO regulations. For example, the tendering procedure is clearly laid down in regulations and the quantities, periods and prices involved are subject to overall limits. The amendments in this instrument would allow the tendering procedure to open and the decision on the maximum price to be published, without requiring legislation to open the procedure and publish the price. It is important to emphasise the narrowness of the scope because I agree with the instincts that the noble Baroness outlined. Changes to these rules and amounts would require legislation and parliamentary oversight. The amendments in the instrument do not introduce new processes or powers, or enable the relevant authorities to do anything new. Instead, they ensure that the relevant authorities will be able to continue operating those clearly prescribed mechanisms, as they do currently, and in a timely fashion, after the transition period.

I turn to some of the remarks relating to the Common Organisation of the Markets in Agricultural Products (Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations and the No.2 regulations of the same name. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, asked about beef and veal. My understanding is that in 2019, 6.8% of the beef and veal imported into the UK came from the following non-EU countries: Uruguay, Australia, Namibia, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, New Zealand, Chile, United States of America, UAE, Botswana and Paraguay. The remainder of our imports came from the EU. While the regulations cover only technical requirements for age on slaughter labelling, and when the terms “beef” or “veal” should be used, I reassure both noble Baronesses that separate legislation concerning high production and animal health standards will continue to apply to beef and veal imported into Great Britain after the transition period.

As I have said before, in all our trade negotiations we will maintain our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards. These will not change.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, also asked about importing hatching eggs and chicks and the welfare standards of the country of origin. For hatching eggs and day-old chicks, 85% of our imports come from the EU and we remain committed to high standards of animal welfare and food safety in the future, as we do now.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked about a percentage in relation to hops. I am afraid the detail I have is that we were a net importer of hops and hop products to the worth of £60 million in 2018, while producing £14.1 million-worth ourselves. When I looked into this, one issue was the fact that hops have distinct flavours. We are therefore keen to ensure that there is a continuing ability for production of beer in this country which uses that variety of hop products, although when I studied those figures I thought that there might be some scope for further domestic production. Having looked into that, it is important to ensure that we have that range of hops for our beer production.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about transitional provisions. Funnily enough, in discussing these matters I am obviously seized of the fact that there is this range of dates. I queried this strongly and what we have done—I think this is right—is to have reviewed this on a sector-by-sector basis, to see where it would be practical and possible to align with the border operating model. In doing so, this has resulted in a varying number of end dates. The noble Baroness made a point about having confusion for businesses being the last thing we would want to do. I reassure her that we have actively engaged with businesses ahead of laying these instruments and have updated the relevant guidance on GOV.UK. In fact, representatives from all the sectors have welcomed the provisions, as they allow for appropriate adjustment.

For instance, with regard to the two-year transitional provision concerning EU certificates for fruit and vegetables, I understand we will be using this time to implement upgraded computer systems, as was alluded to, while bolstering our Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate numbers and working with the EU to implement an improved inspection service procedure for member states. After 31 December, the free movement of goods from the EU will end; inevitably, additional checks on imports and additional inspectors will be required. We are working with the APHA to ensure that we have the right calibre of inspectors. That will clearly be important.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, asked about organics. I understand that the UK organics certifying groups are content with the provisions we have brought forward.

In relation to poultry meat marketing standards, I have drawn attention to the correction we made. I reiterate my apologies for it not being sufficiently in context in an earlier version. Although food safety regulations are not covered under these instruments, I reiterate that the Government remain committed to promoting robust food standards and existing food safety provisions, which will of course be retained in the retained EU law. No products other than potable water have been approved to decontaminate poultry carcasses, and this will remain so.

I am mindful of the time so I will be quick in addressing a number of other points. On the Northern Ireland protocol, I am sure that there will be other statutory instruments where, in part, the protocol and the changes following it will need to be applied to other statutory instruments that I bring forward.

I should say, as an aside, that I inquired whether we should have a Northern Ireland protocol SI so that all these matters could be wrapped in it. There was a suggestion that it was rather better to deal with them according to subject matter rather than in that way. If that might have been a suggestion of the noble Baroness, it was one with which I had sympathy, but it was then suggested that it would be more consistent to deal with the whole area of points of concern.

There are one or two further detailed points to cover. On impact, we have worked strongly with businesses because we are conscious that, because of the changes, we need to work with them. We are doing so—that is very important—so that they are aware of the changes and understand why we have a different range of dates to ensure that there are adjustments that work constructively.

If there are any other points, I might receive some information and will write to the noble Baronesses. At this juncture, and mindful that I have already taken a little too long, I commend the regulations.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 1st October 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of these amendments. As I know he is aware, it is clearly very frustrating that they have been tabled at such a late stage. As he has explained, several of the changes come as a result of late requests from the devolved nations. It is a worrying sign of the complexity of legislation across the four nations that decisions are being made on different timeframes and with different consequences for the agricultural community. It underlines our view that we need a robust framework agreement within which we can anticipate and plan legislative changes affecting the four nations in an orderly way in future.

It is understandable that Scotland might want the same powers as other devolved nations to provide financial assistance for rural development initiatives, but I share the concerns of my noble friend Lord Foulkes on this. When were the Scottish Government made aware that the powers applied to everybody apart from Scotland, and when did they put in their request to add these powers into the Bill? If future requests are made by the devolved nations, would it be possible to deal with them via secondary legislation, since, had this Bill passed, where or how else could these matters have been pursued?

The Minister also explained that there had been a drafting error on the management of apiculture. It needs a resolution procedure for changes, which has now been included in the Bill as a negative resolution. Have these late changes been sent to the Delegated Powers Committee for review? What provisions are available if other drafting errors of this kind come to light once the Bill has been passed? It goes without saying that we hope no other errors appear, but sadly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, reminded us, the department has not been exempt from similar errors in secondary legislation in our recent past. Unfortunately, we have form on this.

Finally, the Minister explained that a small number of changes arise from a change in advice from the lawyers about how sections of the withdrawal agreement should be interpreted. Were the lawyers made aware that this Bill was reaching its final stages of consideration and were they given a deadline for their advice which would have allowed the consequences of it to be introduced into the Bill in a timely way? I know the Minister shares our frustration that these issues have arisen at such a late stage. If nothing else, I hope there can be a resolution from the department to learn from these errors so that the same mistakes do not occur in the next piece of legislation and that we can deal with all these matters in a timely manner.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate on these technical amendments. No one could be more frustrated than I am at coming before your Lordships at Third Reading with new technical amendments. It is not desirable, and I regret it.

However, on the issue with the Scottish Government, I emphasise to the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, and all noble Lords that there was no afterthought. Nothing was overlooked. What I am bringing forward is at the request of the Scottish Government. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, that this is why work on the framework, collaboration and working together, although agriculture is devolved, are so important.

We clearly did not want to assume that Scotland also wanted powers and we waited for the Scottish Government to confirm that they wanted the provisions extended to them before assuming that that would be the case. We are in regular contact with officials in the Scottish Government. We understood that they were made aware on 15 September; we gave timings and deadlines, and the Delegated Powers Committee was made aware.

I agree that in the perfect world we would have been able to include these at least on Report, if not before, but they are issues that have recently come forward. As I said, I felt that it was better these were dealt with, as they needed to be, in primary legislation. Given the fact that these were flagged up and that the devolved Administrations sought us to attend to them for them, I thought it would be austere—to say the least—to say, “No, you’d better wait for opportunities within your own Administrations.” That is why, although I am frustrated about it and I recognise that frustration, they have come forward.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords for their kind remarks. I say to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering that no one wants to have legislation that is in error in any sense. That is why we have professionals and lawyers bringing forward that expertise. Obviously, what has happened here is that there are some things which the devolved Administrations have looked at and said, “Actually, we would like to have this within our own legislative framework and our own schedules.”

On the point about apiculture, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, that bees and pollinators are absolutely essential not only for our crops but for the natural world. This was about ensuring that the regulations in Wales and Northern Ireland, and any changes in them, were to be dealt with by the negative resolution. It was not that there were no regulatory powers; it was to confirm it would be through the negative resolution.

As I say, I wish that these matters had come forward earlier, but—I say this particularly as the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, raised it—I want to get these things right. That is why I have asked your Lordships to accept these amendments. I reiterate that they do not represent any change, they are consequential on those tabled on Report, and they reflect the advice that we need to attend to these for the devolved Administrations at their request. Given the time constraints, introducing them at this stage did at least allow us to ensure that the legislation operates as intended and, very importantly, to the satisfaction of the devolved Administrations. We have had very positive working relationships on the Bill, and more widely as a department. I am very pleased that each devolved legislature has agreed the legislative consent for the Bill on the recommendation of their respective devolved Administrations.

I know that my noble friend Lady McIntosh raised issues separate to the amendments themselves, which obviously I will reflect on. In the meantime, I beg to move the amendment.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Report stage & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 22nd September 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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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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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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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)
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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.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 17th September 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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

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.

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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.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, and all noble Lords who have raised important issues about the application and accountability of multiannual assistance plans. All noble Lords, quite rightly, are seeking to provide some rigour in the allocation of £3 billion a year or more which is being set aside by the Government to fund the farming sector for the future. We all have an interest in ensuring that the money is allocated fairly, in line with the strategic priorities, and is seen to be producing value for money.

At the moment, Clause 4 is remarkably light on detail as to how this will be achieved, so I agree with the noble Baroness that an impact assessment is very important and should be standard practice for a government project of this scale. I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, that the public have the right to see how and where this money is being spent. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, raises an important point, which I very much agree with, about the allocation of moneys to each of the strategic priorities. Underlying all of these contributions is a desire to ensure not only that the money is spent wisely but also that it is all spent, so that we are not left gifting unused moneys which could have been put to good use back to the Treasury.

Several noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, have raised issues about the timing of the plans and the need to ensure parliamentary oversight. In this regard, the Minister’s Amendment 35 is helpful as far as it goes, and the 12-month advance notice for future plans is welcome, but he will know that the proposal to lay the first plan before Parliament “as soon as practicable” before the start date is not going to reassure many in the sector whose livelihoods depend on the funding. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, that it would be useful to have some clarity from the Minister as to what that phrase means. I would have thought that the proposal from the noble Earl, Lord Devon, of a two-month deadline, was eminently sensible; I hope the Minister addresses it in his response.

I also commend to noble Lords our Amendment 41, which is coming up in a later group and which would require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament about the progress of the tests and trials before the transition can begin, therefore allowing some parliamentary scrutiny of that process.

The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, raises an important point about the internal market within the UK and the dire consequences for all of us if we do not get the balance right and create a level playing field. This is a huge challenge which is not going to be resolved in this Bill, but he is right to raise the consequences for the farming sector and to urge all parts of the UK to work together on this matter.

I said at the outset that there is a compelling case for more detail on how the multiannual financial assistance plans will work. I am very much hoping that the Minister will provide the reassurance we are all seeking that this work is in hand and that we will see more details in due course, and certainly well before the schemes are launched. I look forward to his response.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to what has been a very interesting debate.

Turning first to Amendment 28, the Government believe that it is important that the public can see how financial assistance being provided under Clause 1 is being spent, as part of our ongoing commitment to openness, transparency and accountability. Clause 2(8) allows the Secretary of State to make secondary legislation to provide that specified information relating to the financial assistance given under Clause 1 is published. Clause 2(9) sets out the information which may be specified. This already includes information about the recipient of the financial assistance, the amount of the financial assistance and the purpose for which the financial assistance was given. Sufficient information will be published under the regulations that the Government are currently developing to underpin subsections (8) and (9).

To inform the development of these regulations, on 4 August the Government launched a public consultation on their proposals for financial and beneficiary information publication. Within the accompanying consultation document, the Government set out how they believe that beneficiary data should be published on a publicly available searchable database, and that details of the name of a beneficiary of financial assistance, postcode, amount of funding received and a high-level purpose of the funding payments should be recorded.

The consultation also proposed that the regulations require the publication of the land management plans—LMPs—which will be a key component and requirement of the environmental land management scheme pilot. The Government seek to strike the right balance between accountability and transparency, on the one hand, and the privacy of agreement holders on the other. On that final point, I assure your Lordships that the Government will publish only information that is relevant and limited to what is necessary in relation to the purposes for which it is processed.

Turning to Amendment 18, this is a framework Bill. As a result, the powers in Clause 1 do not in themselves impose a regulatory burden. The Government believe that impact assessments are very important; where the Bill will introduce new regulatory provisions, the Government will produce and publish regulatory impact assessments in line with the Better Regulation Framework guidance. I have reflected on the points raised in Committee by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. I assure your Lordships that I am fully cognisant of the important role that impact assessments play in providing a solid basis for scrutiny of government policy. With this in mind, I can confirm that the Government will publish the impact assessment narrative that has been prepared for this Bill. It summarises the measures in the Bill that will have a regulatory impact on business and sets out a clear plan for when more detailed, quantitative assessments will be produced for each of those individual measures. This impact assessment narrative will be published later in the autumn.

The Government continue to work closely with farmers, foresters, other land managers and key stakeholder groups to ensure that they have ample opportunities to inform the design of Clause 1 schemes. For example, the Government recently consulted on their proposals for regulations under Clause 2(8) and Clause 3, which will set out the Government’s approach to financial information publication and the enforcement regime to accompany Clause 1 financial assistance, respectively. The Government will also conduct a public consultation before finalising the design of the full ELM scheme, which is to be launched in 2024. This consultation will be accompanied by a full impact assessment.

Turning to Amendments 47 and 106, the Government are keen that we seize the opportunity of EU exit to remake England’s farming policy so that it is suited to the needs and demand of farmers, the environment and the public at large. Welsh Ministers have decided that it is not appropriate to take powers to allow Welsh Ministers to operate or transition to new schemes in this Bill. These powers will be provided for instead by the agriculture (Wales) Bill. We believe that Welsh Ministers must have the space to develop policy to suit the needs of Wales. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, that in forming the agricultural framework, the Government of course considered other countries’ agricultural policy. As this Government develop these proposals further, we will continue to look across the United Kingdom and internationally to be aware of and learn from agricultural policy in other nations.

I turn to Amendment 32. I should note that Clause 4 was introduced following extensive feedback on the Agriculture Bill 2018, taking into careful consideration what would be a suitable timeframe for multiannual financial assistance plans. The first plan period was designed to match the entire agricultural transition period, providing the necessary details on how financial assistance powers in the Bill would be used. Following extensive consultation the Government have legislated for a seven-year transition, as set out in Clause 8. The Government believe that seven years strikes the right balance between signalling the end of area-based direct payments and giving farmers time to adjust. Certainty, in our view, is very important.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 23rd July 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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My Lords, I will speak to my Amendment 277 but also in support of Amendment 220, which would ban the export of farmed animals for slaughter or fattening. The noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, and many other noble Lords set out the case for this extremely well.

My amendment has a very specific intent: to ban the import of foie gras into the UK and to introduce fines for those found guilty of the offence after 31 December 2021. This is an issue of blatant animal cruelty, which has been widely recognised. Foie gras is created by force-feeding ducks and geese massive amounts of food to make their livers swell to 10 times their natural size. It causes enormous suffering. The birds are kept in tiny cages with wire mesh floors and no bedding or rest area. The process of jamming food down their throats several times a day causes disease and inflammation of the oesophagus. There is no higher-welfare alternative for making foie gras. It is intrinsically cruel.

The production of foie gras on UK soil has rightly been banned since 2000. However, imports have sadly not been banned, with the result that the UK continues to import around 200 tonnes of foie gras each year, mostly from mainland Europe. It is time to put a stop to this. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Randall, that it is not about the odd tin of foie gras in someone’s luggage; it is about commercial profit from animal suffering.

When a similar amendment was considered in the Commons, the Minister, Victoria Prentis, agreed that it raised serious welfare issues but that we should consider the matter after the transition from the EU. However, noble Lords will have spotted that the implementation date in my amendment is a year after we have left the EU, so there is plenty of time to bring this law into effect. Noble Lords might also like to know that force- feeding animals is already prohibited in a number of other European countries, including Germany, Italy and Poland.

We need to join the international movement against this cruel activity and implement a ban on imports of foie gras here as soon as we can. Let us hope that if enough countries take a stand on this, it will make foie gras production uneconomical and end this cruel practice for good.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords for participating in this debate. I particularly thank my noble friend Lady Fookes —the word “tenacity” comes to mind. I think everyone agrees that animals should be slaughtered as close as possible to where they have spent their productive lives. I understand, and indeed share, the sentiments behind this amendment.

Over the last 30 years, EU free trade rules have prevented previous Administrations from taking meaningful action on live exports. Having left the EU, the Government are clear that we want to tackle this issue. However, any restriction on trade must of course be in accordance with WTO rules. We are giving careful consideration to the animal health and public morals exceptions in the design of our policy. My noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge used the word “complex”, which is apposite.

The Government committed in their manifesto to end excessively long journeys of animals going for slaughter or fattening. In 2018, along with the devolved Administrations, we tasked the independent Farm Animal Welfare Committee, or FAWC—now actually called AWC—to look into controlling live exports and at what improvements should be made to animal welfare in transport. FAWC produced a report that provides a good basis for future reforms to control live exports and improve animal welfare in transport more broadly, which is also very important.

My noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach and others referred to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland will continue to apply the current EU rules as a result of the Northern Ireland protocol, and so cannot prevent the export of live animals to the EU and beyond. While the amendment recognises that fact, it would regrettably create a loophole which would be detrimental to animal welfare. Animals could be transported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, rested for a short time in accordance with EU law, and then transported to the EU or a third country. There is also a risk that, to ensure enforcement was possible, we would need to introduce greater restrictions on animal movements from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

I say to all noble Lords that the Government are actively considering how they will take forward their manifesto pledge. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, asked whether the amendment would hasten this; as I have said, the Government are actively considering how they will bring forward their manifesto pledge to end long journeys to slaughter and fattening, using the FAWC report as a basis for future proposals.

I turn to Amendment 277. While allowed under EU law, the production of foie gras from ducks or geese by using force-feeding raises serious welfare concerns. The domestic production of foie gras by force-feeding is not compatible with our animal welfare legislation. However, this amendment would penalise someone for bringing foie gras into the country for their personal consumption. The individual British consumer or retailer currently has the choice to engage with the product or not. I understand the strength of feeling on the issue, but in the Government’s view the Bill is about reforming domestic agriculture, not introducing penalties to consumers.

As I ask my noble friend Lady Fookes to withdraw her amendment, I hope that she will not suggest that I am weak or vacillating. We are seeking to plot a course through a complex issue to adhere to and achieve our manifesto commitment. With that, I hope my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone for raising the case for an integrated land use framework today and in her very good contribution at Second Reading. She makes a very important point.

As all noble Lords have said, there are huge competing pressures on land use, and we do not currently have a mechanism to resolve the priorities among those competing claims. We already have expectations on land to deliver carbon storage, extensive tree planting, renewed biodiversity, flood management, water storage and, of course, food, and we are about to add the pressures of all the environmental and habitat improvements set out in Clause 1.

In his excellent speech on food security on Tuesday, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, reminded us that population growth and urban development are producing demands to build 2 million to 3 million more houses, with all the services and infrastructure needed to underpin those communities—new shops, schools, hospitals and so on. This will inevitably put the squeeze on land available for food production.

As we have debated several times, we are busy making policy and legislative decisions in silos and not taking account of the impact of one on the other. This is a major criticism in the latest report by the Natural Capital Committee. It quite rightly identifies the need for a “natural capital assets baseline” against which priorities can be assessed and progress measured.

A land use framework could comprehensively map out the opportunities and benefits of different forms of land use. It could provide clear guidance on cross-departmental priorities and mechanisms for resolving conflicts over land use. It could join up resources and money to rural areas, providing funding on a game-changing scale rather than separate pots of money and layers of bureaucracy. It could also ensure that overarching government priorities such as tackling climate change are delivered coherently, utilising national, local and private funding. I see great benefits in this approach.

I also have a great deal of sympathy for the amendment from the noble Earl, Lord Dundee. These are issues that we have debated in other groups, most notably in the debate on county farms and tenancies. I think we all agree that we need to find new ways to bring new blood and business skills into the sector. The question remains: where will that land come from? How can we make that aspiration a reality?

Finally, the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, would make it more explicit that local planning should be part of the land use strategy. This is understood as one of the competing forces that needs to be balanced by the mechanisms in my noble friend’s amendment, but it is nevertheless helpful to have it spelt out.

This debate has raised some important questions about competing pressures on a scarce, finite and precious resource. I hope the Minister will be able to provide some reassurance that the proposal laid out so ably by my noble friend is being taken seriously.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, especially the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, who has moved Amendment 227, which I will address along with Amendments 228 and 228A.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who have tabled these amendments today and to all those who have stressed the need to maintain the equivalent of the social economic schemes under the rural development fund. I agree with the many other noble Lords who said that both the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, made very compelling cases that underpin those arguments.

It is clear that, to have a thriving agricultural sector, we need a strong rural economy and infrastructure. We need to address the many social problems that are holding those developments back. We know that rural areas are characterised by higher levels of poverty, poorer health and social isolation. Young people in rural areas struggle to find good-quality training opportunities and are held back by poor public transport and the lack of affordable housing. Local businesses find it difficult to access finance and, as the noble Lords, Lord Holmes and Lord Clement-Jones, rightly pointed out, have huge difficulties with broadband connectivity. I agree very much with them that digital literacy can go a long way to tackling the digital divide. The opportunities to make rural areas great places to live and work are being squandered.

I was also interested in the question from the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, about whether local food activities such as outdoor markets could be eligible for rural funds. That gets around some of the arguments we have been having about whether production of food is a public good.

Much of the problem lies with the Government’s failure to adopt a joined-up approach to rural development, bringing together all the departments and agencies with responsibilities in this area. Although rural proofing partly addresses the problem, it is still not providing the funding and policy priority that rural communities deserve. Rural development funding remains just one aspect of the solution. Nevertheless, that funding has provided a vital lifeline for many local communities.

The current Clause 16, on support for rural development, is welcome in as far as it goes, but it leaves a great deal of the detail unspecified as so much is delegated to regulation. It therefore leaves a lot to trust—a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford. I share the concern that funding could be lost without an equivalent funding regime in place. I also share noble Lords’ concern that we must have much greater assurance about access to the shared prosperity fund when the details become clearer.

I welcome the proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, which provides an opportunity for new socioeconomic programmes to help farming families. He has a great deal of expertise in that area and has made the case extremely well, so I do not intend to repeat it. I hope that the Minister can reassure us that the Government do not intend to focus solely on agriculture in this Bill, without a plan to maintain a thriving social and economic infrastructure around it. A thriving rural community with a strong infrastructure and new economic opportunities is the bedrock of an agricultural system, but it will need appropriate funding.

I have not lined up a biblical reference, which seems to be the order of the day today, but I do pray that the Minister can spell out in detail the access to the different rural development funds that will be available as we leave the EU, and the timescales applicable to each of those funds. I look forward to his response.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which goes to the heart of the rural economy and how rural communities play their essential part in it. I turn to Amendments 155, 156 and 157. Clause 16 provides for the continued payment of long-lasting Rural Development Programme for England agreements where they will extend well beyond the end of the current programme in 2020. This is needed because agri-environment and forestry agreements can last for many years. Some will still be active in the 2030s. The Bill does not deal with socioeconomic schemes, because these are short agreements and all payments will have been made by the time the EU rural development funding has been exhausted. Under the withdrawal agreement, Defra will continue to deliver the RDPE under the terms of the EU regulations. It therefore remains the case that all projects agreed under the RDPE will be fully funded for their lifetime. For multiyear agri-environment and forestry agreements, domestic funding will be used to honour commitments once EU funding ceases after programme closure.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, and all noble Lords. The Government absolutely recognise the invaluable contribution that rural areas make to our national life, economically, socially and culturally, and are committed to supporting rural communities through post-EU exit funding and wider government initiatives. It is essential that future generations see a future in the countryside, in agriculture or in a wide range of other elements and components of the rural economy. I am minded of what the noble Lord, Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale said. I have experienced my first Zoom meetings with an agronomist and an arable contractor and so forth. Things that I never thought would happen are happening regularly, so I understand all these things.

A lot of the matters raised in this debate are dealt with separately from the Bill, and I will expand on that. As set out in our manifesto, the Government intend to introduce the UK shared prosperity fund to replace EU structural funds. As the Rural Affairs Minister, I do not identify with the commentary on rural-proofing from the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, who was helpful to us in revising the rural-proofing guidance. We have officials working to ensure that rural-proofing is entrenched in every department. We have been working extremely closely with the MHCLG, which leads on the development of the UK shared prosperity fund, to ensure that its design takes account of the dynamics of rural economies and the particular challenges faced by rural communities. Both departments have been engaging with rural stakeholders to support development of the evidence base around what rural communities and businesses need for the fund. Final decisions about the quantum and design of the fund will take place following the spending review.

My noble friend Lord Dundee spoke about relationships with supermarkets. Some noble Lords are keen on berating the supermarkets. When I spend time going around them, I look at the British produce and the relationship there often is with local farms. That important development of relationships with local produce is strong, whether in large retail outlets or small ones. Clause 1(2) could support productivity measures which could, for example, aid local food chains. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, on the consultation requirement, this clause will only amend existing schemes, not create new ones. We have already consulted on the changes to existing schemes, as part of the Health and Harmony consultation.

Beyond the scope of the Bill, the Government are already taking steps to ensure that our rural communities can prosper. In response to my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, through the outside-in approach, as part of the future telecoms infrastructure review, we are supporting the deployment of gigabit-capable broadband to the least commercially viable UK premises. We are already connecting some of the hardest-to-reach places in the country, including through the superfast broadband programme and the £20 million rural gigabit connectivity programme. We have announced £5 billion of public funding to close the digital divide and ensure that rural areas are not left behind. The Government are also working with mobile network operators to deliver mobile connectivity improvements through a shared rural network. I also highlight the Digital Skills Partnership, launched by DCMS in 2017, to bring together organisations from across the public, private and charity sectors to work together to close the digital skills gap at local level.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked about 5G rollout in rural areas. The 5G Rural Connected Communities programme is looking at potential 5G test cases in rural areas. Through the Rural Connected Communities competition, the Government are funding up to 10 5G research and development projects to run over two years.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, asked about discussions between devolved Administrations and rural development. As all noble Lords know, rural development is devolved, but Defra officials meet counterparts in devolved Administrations to discuss rural policy and share experience.

Returning to digital, although the current rural development programme allows for support for broadband and digital skills, wider government initiatives are the main funding mechanisms for broadband connectivity and digital skills. These are delivered through DCMS, rather than Defra. The role played by me, as Minister for Rural Affairs, and the rural team at Defra, is to work closely with DCMS and, at ministerial level, make sure that there is a complete understanding of the fact that rural communities need to play their part in a modern economy, and of the need to improve that.

Clause 16 gives the power to continue making payments where agri-environment and forestry agreements have already been signed, using Exchequer funds once the EU rural development funding contribution has been exhausted. Without subsections (1), (2) and (5) of this clause, the Secretary of State will not have the powers required to continue making annual payments specified in existing agri-environment and forestry agreements, and farmers and land managers will not be compensated for the valuable benefits that they are delivering. Furthermore, without this clause it would be more difficult for agreement holders to move from a CAP scheme to new domestic schemes under the Bill. For example, subsection (3)(a) will allow agreement holders to terminate their agreements early if they successfully secure a place in an ELM scheme. The Government want to ensure that the environmental benefits delivered through these agreements are retained and built on as we move from the CAP to a new system of ELM, designed with farmers and land managers in mind.

The powers in subsection (3) of this clause facilitate the transfer of existing agri-environment and forestry agreement holders into new schemes operating under Clause 1, such as ELM or the simplified Countryside Stewardship scheme. For example, subsection (3)(c) could allow an existing environmental stewardship agreement holder who is managing a priority habitat to convert their agreement into a new domestic Countryside Stewardship agreement. Without subsections (1), (2) and (5) of Clause 16, we will be unable to pay farmers and land managers for the work they are undertaking, and we risk complicating the transition to ELM for land managers who are already participating in agri-environment schemes. We intend to offer domestic countryside stewardship agreements until 2024, at which point we want to ensure a smooth transition from both domestic Countryside Stewardship and EU agri-environment schemes into ELM.

I do understand and take on board all the points that have been made and our mutual desire to work to ensure that the UK shared prosperity fund is up and running and successful. From a rural-proofing point of view it is imperative that the needs of rural interests, communities and business are taken into account. However, I do hope that the noble Earl, Lord Devon, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-IV(Rev) Revised fourth marshalled list for Committee - (14 Jul 2020)
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me if I do not namecheck everyone who has spoken. I think that, with the exception of a few notable contributions, we were all in agreement that food production linked to human health should be at the centre of the Bill. I have previously cautioned against adding a whole lot of new features to Clause 1, but I make an exception for this issue. This is a fundamental lack in the Bill as it stands, and I will explain why in a moment.

We have tabled Amendments 36 and 92 in this group, and I thank noble Lords who have put their names to them and who have commented favourably on them. Amendment 36 adds an extra purpose to Clause 1. It would make it clear that producing healthy food, including through horticulture, in an environmentally sustainable way should be a key purpose for which financial assistance can be given. Amendment 92 goes on to give a clear definition of “environmentally sustainable way”, in particular emphasising the need to measure the long-term impact on natural resources.

We believe that this approach should be a fundamental objective of our future farming policy, so I want to talk about that overriding principle rather than the individual amendments. As I said, our amendments echo the theme of a number of other amendments this evening that highlight the production of healthy food as a necessity to tackle food insecurity, food poverty and poor nutrition. We believe that the farming community lies at the heart of that.

The Government’s White Paper, Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit, highlighted the key links between our farming and food supply systems. However, incentives to produce healthy food seem to be missing from this Bill. The Minister the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, made clear at Second Reading that financial assistance should not be given for producing food, as this was a commercial decision. He said:

“in our view food is a private good; it is bought and sold. This is the key distinction of the philosophy of the legislation, because its value is rewarded in the market. These new financial assistance powers are intended to reward farmers and land managers for those outcomes that the market does not currently recognise.”—[Official Report, 10/6/20; col. 1830.]


This is a profound philosophical distinction and we profoundly disagree. The danger with this philosophy is that maintaining UK food production is no longer a priority: we increasingly rely on imports and have to fight for enough quality food to feed our nation in the global markets. This is a seriously risky strategy, particularly as we leave the EU and no longer have the right of access to a large, stable food supply market. As we have discovered in the Covid-19 pandemic, these international food supply chains can be precarious, so we argue that feeding our nation is a public good.

However, we cannot simply rely on the food production systems of old. The public health consequences are too stark. As noble Lords pointed out, our nation’s dietary habits are fuelling obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. It is characterised by a low intake of fibre, fruit and vegetables, while we overconsume energy, saturated fats and sugars.

Last year, the Social Market Foundation calculated that more than 1 million people in the UK live in food deserts. These are neighbourhoods where poverty, poor transport and the lack of shops seriously limit access to affordable fresh fruit and vegetables. On the one hand, therefore, we have growing obesity, and on the other hand we have growing food poverty. The recent pandemic illustrated all too shockingly that millions of people relied on food banks and food parcels. The school meal voucher chaos illustrated that tens of thousands of children who relied on schools to provide the one substantial meal of the day were left to skip meals when that provision was taken away.

These are huge public health issues for the Government, but they are also matters where a change in farming practice could fuel better eating habits and lead to a healthier nation. We will not achieve this by intensifying conventional farming methods, which would strip out the natural nutrients in the soil and weaken natural defences to pests and diseases, leading to more artificial crop protection interventions. This is why—and this has been a theme throughout our debate—a whole-farm ecological development has to go hand in hand with generating healthy food. We address the issues of food security and the need for a national food plan in later amendments. In the meantime, I commend these amendments to the House.

I say to the Minister, however, that of all the issues we have debated so far, this is the one where I think the Government have got it badly wrong. I hope that he will reflect on this and come back with a more positive response on report. 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, this has been an absorbing debate once again. I thank my noble friend for her Amendment 35. I shall address Amendments 75, 56, 60, 69, 71, 36 and 92, all of which relate to food production. I declare my farming interests as set out in the register.

This debate has thrown up quite a number of questions, and those that I am not in a position to answer—very often because they require some detail—I shall, of course, answer in writing in a letter that I am proposing to compose when we conclude Committee stage. Because a lot of things are coming up that are repeated quite often, it would be best if we try to co-ordinate with a sensible government response. I hope that is acceptable to your Lordships.

Growing healthy, nutritious food is, of course, the primary role of farmers. It is something that farmers in the United Kingdom do exceptionally well. Through the purposes in Clause 1, the Government want to support goods that benefit society but are not currently provided for by the market. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, is absolutely right: I said it at Second Reading and I say it again. The point about food, in contrast, is that it can be bought and traded: it is rewarded in the market and, indeed, those of us who farm receive income from our production. That is why, in the construction of the Bill, new Clause 1(4)—I say “new Clause”, because I think this is a very important addition and one I strongly support—places a duty on the Secretary of State, when framing any financial assistance scheme, to consider the importance of food production and its production in an environmentally sustainable way. This was a point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and my noble friend Lord Northbrook.

I absolutely agree with the analysis of my noble friends Lord Inglewood and Lord Cormack of what this country and much of the world has gone through in previous times, and why food production is so important. It is important for this country, but also for giving us opportunities to help feed the world through our exports. That is essential too, and it is why I say to my noble friend Lord Marlesford that food production and environmental sustainability not only can but must —I underline “must”—go hand in hand. We should be champions of great British food and drink and I place on record that farmers have, all too often, been maligned. I am reminded of what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said on an earlier Committee day about all the things that farmers do on our behalf.

The duty requires the Secretary of State to have “regard to the need” to encourage sustainable production, rather than simply “to encourage” sustainable production, when designing financial assistance schemes. This is because all schemes must be looked at in the round; each scheme will have different aims and will operate in different ways. While the Government’s future farming schemes as a whole will be designed to encourage sustainable food production, it is not necessarily the case that every scheme is directly aiming to do so. I have one example—the tree health pilot which will start next year—but the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, spoke of another aspect of a scheme which clearly does not directly relate to food production.

The duty, as drafted, gives Ministers the flexibility to design individual schemes in a way which best meets their objectives, while ensuring that there is a clear obligation to encourage sustainable food production overall. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, among many others, spoke of health and well-being. I was very struck by his words. Indeed, the important report that the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans raised, Hungry for Change, is very important, because this will involve multiple departments. I am therefore very pleased to say that I will make sure that Defra will play a key part in that multi-departmental response.

The Government believe that the best place to encourage healthy eating is later on in the supply chain, a point that my noble friends Lord Caithness and Lord Blencathra were referring to: after all, fruit and vegetables can still be used in products that are unhealthy if not taken in moderation. I know that it may be unsatisfactory to noble Lords who see this as an opportunity to attach to the Bill something that we think is best placed in other work, but it is the intention that the national food strategy should address these major challenges, including food security and health. The strategy will build on the Bill to help ensure that our food system delivers healthy and affordable food for all, built on a resilient and sustainable agriculture sector.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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Obviously I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Curry. The construction of the Bill, as I said, ensures that we are rewarding farmers for those matters that we have hitherto not rewarded them for. We will get to that in Chapter 2, which deals with

“Fair dealing obligations of business purchasers of agricultural products”.


We want to address that, which is why it is in the Bill. Clearly, the farmer has not always had a fair deal with agricultural producers and others in the supply chain—and of course in Chapter 3 we will look at producer organisations.

As I said, the construct of the Bill is designed to provide new financial assistance powers within the prism of productivity grants. As subsection (1) states:

“In framing any financial assistance schemes, the Secretary of State must have regard to the need to encourage the production of food”,


and this production must be undertaken

“in an environmentally sustainable way.”

We all want a healthy diet. We all want food security. That is why the Government have been working with industry and will continue to work with industry, as we always have. Industry is often the best at finding sources all around the world so that we have resilience in our food supply.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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Like the noble Lord, Lord Curry, I wanted to probe very quickly on what basis the production of healthy food would ever be classified as a public good. The Minister has reiterated his view that it is a private good. But does he not accept that in some circumstances it would be a public good and therefore entitled to some of the funding that is set out in the Bill?

The problem with referring noble Lords to the later clauses that deal with food security and the national food strategy is that that area does not necessarily have any money attached to it, whereas the financial assistance and the public good element is the one that we are really interested in, so the onus is on that. Are there any circumstances in which the Minister would see it as a public good?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I apologise to the noble Baroness, but the only way that I can reply to that is to repeat that the whole construct of this is to ensure that farming with food production and enhancing the environment go hand in hand. There is obviously a limited sum of money. The noble Baroness and other noble Lords have said that we must be careful that we do not make this Bill a Christmas tree affair by adding everything on—so we need to be pragmatic.

The area where we have not hitherto rewarded farmers is in relation to the purposes set out in Clause 1(1)(a) to (j). They are considerable projects that will, in the end, help us to produce even better food. If one were to start rewarding food production, it would drive a coach and horses through the construct of the Bill, which is that produce is created by the farmer, for which they receive money. They do not often receive money for the projects in paragraphs (a) to (j). We think, looking at the British taxpayer, that this is the best way of reflecting that we need food production for which the farmer receives payment, and in Chapter 2 we recognise that we need to address fairer arrangements for the farmer. But this is better than, in effect, having a direct payment for the food you produce when you are already being paid whatever you sell your wheat or your milk for. We can have a discussion about that price, but in terms of the taxpayer rewarding and acknowledging farmers, we think that subsections (1)(a) to (j) and (2)(a) and (b) are the right way forward.

EU: Xylella Fastidiosa

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, this is why I am very pleased that the UK Plant Health Alliance steering group is working on a plant health assurance scheme. Working with the industry, the scheme will ensure that there is a secure supply where we cannot supply it ourselves, and that those plant materials are secure. Further, members of the public who want to enjoy their gardens will know that the plants they are buying are healthy. This is a work in progress, but a lot is going on.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, it has been four years since the referendum, but the Environment Bill is still not on the statute book. Given the delays, can the Minister assure us that the office for environmental protection will be fully functioning and able to take over the role of the European Commission on 1 January 2021?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I realise that there is great interest in this House in the Environment Bill, and I am keen that progress is made in the other place. We are in a situation where there is a great deal of legislation before us. The OEP is an important body, but we have always said that we will ensure that there are alternative arrangements if, given the position we are in, the OEP is not up and running by 1 January.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 24th June 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-R-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report - (22 Jun 2020)
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for setting out the explanation for this raft of amendments. I should say at the outset that, as a proud Welsh girl, I am strongly support the change of name by the Welsh Government to Senedd Cymru and I am very pleased to see that reflected in this legislation.

I turn now to new Schedule 10. I am grateful to the Minister for writing to us in advance to explain why this new schedule was felt to be necessary, and he has again explained a little about that today. As he said, it was originally intended to be a separate SI. However, like the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, I am slightly concerned that we will not really be able to give it the scrutiny that we would have applied had it come to us separately. As ever, the danger is in the detail, as we have discovered in our previous scrutiny of SIs.

While we cannot go into the detail of the schedule today, I have some general questions. First, paragraph 6(3) amends Article 3 of the North Sea multiannual plan by taking out the reference to MSY in the objectives, while paragraph 6(4) changes the basis on which the data for informing MSY should be calculated. Instead of the established route of basing the data on ICES advice, the Government have introduced the option of using another independent organisation. We have previously debated the merits and, indeed, the calculations of MSY and we will return to this issue later when we debate the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I do not want to rehearse that debate now, but there has to be a concern about the watering down of the MSY objective and the deviation from ICES advice, which is the respected international scientific adviser on fisheries. Can the Minister explain why this wording is being changed?

Secondly, I want to ask about the change to paragraph 6(7) which amends Article 7 of the plan. Why have the Government taken out the word “or” from the previous obligation to take all appropriate conservation measures if stocks fall below sustainable levels? This is a small but significant change in the context of the Bill and it could have a big impact. Moreover, once again it raises our concern that the Government are not serious about delivering environmental sustainability. Why has this deletion been felt to be necessary?

Thirdly, I echo my noble friend Lady Young in asking about the consequence of our sustainability amendment. What are the consequences as a result of this new schedule? If the amendment survives, as I hope it will, would that mean that this schedule has to be changed again?

Finally, I should like to ask the Minister whether these modifications come under the delegated powers in the Bill. Given that we have not had much time to scrutinise them and that we know from our consideration of previous EU exit SIs that mistakes are often made which need to be corrected, how can the Government amend or add to them in the future now that they form part of this primary legislation? I look forward to his response.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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First, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, that when one sees eight pages of amendments, one’s heart sinks slightly as one goes through some of the detail, particularly when they are overwhelmingly technical. However, we are seeking to use this opportunity, which has been driven by the time factor. Of course, yes, we would all have preferred to have had this Bill well on its way to the other place, and indeed probably much further forward, but we are where we are and we needed to take this opportunity. I do not resile from the fact that we have brought these amendments forward.

I turn to a number of the issues which have been raised. On safeguards, where relevant considerations apply, the provisions of Clause 10 apply, so the fisheries authority will have to publish explaining the relevant change of circumstances and the decision made for transparency purposes. On further amendments, a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, lawyers have advised that we will need to review Schedule 10 after the vote on Monday, but these amendments refer mostly in general terms to the objectives and will apply as they do in the Bill.

On the points raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh, the amendments do not introduce changes in policy. We are bringing retained EU law in line with the Bill’s regime. The change from “a calendar year” is being made to recognise that all stocks are set in line with the relevant science. We are thus assured that we are taking the science from recognised bodies seriously.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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This is not my amendment, so I suggest that the clarification is for the noble Baroness.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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I thank a number of noble Lords from around the Chamber for their support of this amendment. I find it ironic that we are being ambitious about the consequences of Brexit, perhaps more than the Government are. A number of noble Lords said, in essence, “Don’t rock the boat because of the ongoing Brexit negotiations”. My response would be that that is what the whole of the Bill is about. It is about setting out what we think the future of the fishing sector should be, so if we were going to take that line—“Let’s wait until we know the outcome of the Brexit negotiations around fisheries”—then we really should not have the Bill in front of us in the first place. We should have written the Bill once we knew the outcome of all that. This is our opportunity to state what we feel are the fundamental principles and framework that the future of fishing in the UK should adopt.

The Bill is therefore not about retaining the status quo. There has been an awful lot of caution in the comments made, but what is the point of doing this if we are just going to steady the ship and carry on as we were? We do not want to retain the status quo; this is about seizing the opportunities that taking control of our own waters can bring. Our amendment is a contribution to a particularly important element of that.

Many noble Lords have shared our concerns about the regeneration of coastal communities and quite rightly made the point that it is not just about the jobs within the fleet but jobs on land, particularly those which could arise in the processing sector. There are obviously very important economic benefits. As my noble friend Lord Kennedy said, what would the Brexit dividend otherwise be if not about these sorts of new jobs?

Perhaps I may touch on the issue of devolution. I would urge noble Lords to look again at the wording of our amendment, because all that it requires the Secretary of State to do is to

“make regulations establishing a national landing requirement”.

It then goes on to refer to the consultation details and has a subsection (4) about the potential for exemptions to the landing requirements. The framework—the essence of our amendment—is a very slight obligation. Of course we expect it to be implemented, as all other fishing developments are, on the basis of a concordat or consensus about how we should go forward.

The Minister said that we already have an economic link for 50% of fish landed in the UK. We do not feel that we are going much further than that, and that 50% economic link is something that has been agreed across the devolved nations. It is important to get back to the basics of what our amendment is saying. It puts no obligation or particular burden on the devolved nations, and I very much hope that they would all welcome and embrace it. It is a very modest change: an average 15% increase in the landing requirement is not rocking the boat, by any means. As I say, it allows for a number of exceptions should the appropriate authorities desire to do that.

The Minister said that he already has this matter under review and that the Government are looking at the licensing agreement and the current arrangements. I take it from that that the Government clearly do not think the current arrangements are as robust and worth while as they would want them to be. All our amendment would do is to take it one step further. Rather than the Minister just saying that the review is taking place, it would effectively put that review into legislation. It says that there should be a review, that we should draw up new regulations and that there should be a consultation—not just with the devolved nations but a much wider one. We feel that that is, in itself, a fairly modest aspiration.

Sorry, I should pick up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, about “the Northern Ireland department”. I accept that, in an ideal world, the amendment would have referred to Northern Ireland Ministers. It was probably drafted before that event occurred; I am sure that it could be tidied up at Third Reading. We could take that point on board but, on that basis, I would like to test the opinion of the House.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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My Lords, I am also very pleased to have added my name to these amendments, and I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has done an admirable job, not only in moving and speaking to his amendments this evening, but in making sure that, throughout its passage, the Bill is based on the best scientific principles. I also think that, in this case, he has made an important argument for using the ICES definition.

We have all been concerned about the different ways in which the established measure of maximum sustainable yield can be misapplied or misinterpreted. It remains the case that there is currently no legal commitment not to fish above MSY in the Bill. The Government also seem to have resisted adding a legal commitment not to fish above MSY because the UK—as we heard in other debates—is negotiating access to shared stocks with other states and do not want their hands tied. This should not be an excuse for inaction.

We remain near the top of the league table for EU member states with the highest percentage of their tack fished in excess of scientific advice. As a start, it is vital that the definition of MSY, set out in the Bill, does not allow further opportunities for dispute. We are therefore very grateful to the noble Lord for bringing us back to the need for a clear definition which puts hard empirical data at the core of the meaning. The noble Lord also rightly highlights that the viability of the stocks should be based not just on reproduction but on other environmental factors.

These definitions are the first step to delivering robust, clear application of MSY, and the contribution it needs to make a truly sustainable fishing policy. The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has made a compelling case for these amendments, and I hope that the Minister can confirm his support for them.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I am particularly grateful for the noble Lord’s amendment because it gives me the opportunity to expand further on how our definition of MSY relates to the fisheries objectives, in particular the precautionary objective, and to our ecosystem approach to fisheries management. I found it immensely rewarding to have early conversations with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and fisheries scientists to explore these matters. I am most grateful to the noble Lord and the scientists for their consideration and time in these helpful discussions.

Under the common fisheries policy, fisheries management has largely focused on the management of individual stocks. Clearly fish stocks interact, however, and fisheries activity also has wider impacts on the marine environment. That is why in our 2018 White Paper we committed to moving towards a more holistic ecosystem approach to fisheries management. This approach is supported by emerging best practice in fisheries science. For example—I emphasise this to my noble friend Lady McIntosh—ICES, the international body that advises on fish stocks, now provides advice on sustainable range alongside the traditional point estimate for MSY. Rather than trying to fish all stocks simultaneously at the point of MSY, setting harvest rates within a sustainable range provides flexibility when dealing with the complex interactions in mixed fisheries.

I say to my noble friend Lady McIntosh that we will be continuing to work with ICES, which, as I say, is an international body of great reputation. For instance, when scientifically justified, the provisions in the Bill would already allow us to underexploit some stocks marginally in the short term in order to seek to ensure that all stocks can be fished sustainably. Given that MSY assessments can fluctuate significantly due to scientific uncertainty, it would also allow us to smooth out year-by-year changes in catch limits to help to stabilise progress towards MSY and provide the industry with greater certainty. Such an approach better reflects the future direction of UK fisheries policy.

I say directly to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and others, that, in future, fisheries management decisions for both single and mixed fisheries will be based on data-driven science and will include broader ecosystem considerations, including environmental change, together with improving the alignment of fisheries management with fisheries science. Our fisheries science specialists at Cefas are already developing cutting-edge mixed fisheries modelling for the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the Celtic Sea to understand better the benefits of future fisheries catches when moving towards MSY and even to lower exploitation rates, and to reduce the risks of stock depletion.

I thank my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay; I have found that it is essential to hear an expert lawyer’s view. The current definition of MSY in the Bill includes references to theoretical MSY and is linked to the reproduction process of stocks because doing otherwise would in practice further restrict the definition and make it more difficult to follow. Giving other factors equal weight as part of the MSY definition in itself, as these amendments propose, could dilute the key criterion of maintaining the reproduction process of stocks.

The MSY definition as currently worded will instead permit us to set harvest rates within sustainable ranges. This provides the necessary flexibility to look at fish stocks collectively within the ecosystem. It enables us to balance complex biological and ecological interactions within our fisheries as we work to rebuild stocks while allowing a sustainable fishing industry. Our definition is compatible with the current ICES interpretation of MSY.

With that explanation of the wider elements of managing our complex mixed fisheries, as well as the commitment around the use of data-driven science to ground our fisheries management decisions, I very much hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 22nd June 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-R-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report - (22 Jun 2020)
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for tabling the amendment and for succinctly and ably addressing the concerns that we raised in Committee about the definition of the bycatch objective in the Bill. We were concerned that the existing wording, which referred to bycatch below minimum sustainable yields being “avoided or reduced”, and bycatch to be landed but only when “appropriate”, lacked the rigour and systematic monitoring of bycatch and discards which the UK Government had agreed. As other noble Lords have said, this issue was explored thoroughly and expertly by the report of the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee. It confirmed the case for an absolute ban on discards, but also identified how the policy was being undermined. We believe that urgent action is needed to make a more stringent policy a reality.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has now taken the debate further by seeking to better define the outcome of a bycatch objective. The outcome should be defined not by whether the bycatch is landed or not, but by whether bycatch is reduced using sustainable fishing applications. Obviously we want to drive this down to the absolute minimum. As the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said, this will be increasingly achievable as we harness the advantages of new technology, particularly the application of remote electronic monitoring, which will be dealt with on a later amendment. We should also learn the lessons of the now discredited catch app, which threatened fishers with legal prosecution from the Marine Management Organisation if they failed to record their catch accurately on the app.

We support this amendment, which adds considerable clarity to the need for bycatch objective, and hope that the Minister will feel able to accept it.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for this amendment, because it provides me with an opportunity to expand on the Government’s position on bycatch. As he said, we had a most productive meeting before lockdown. All the scientists getting together was fascinating; I tried to keep up with them. The Government are fully committed to ensuring that our stocks are fished sustainably, and to ending the wasteful practice of discarding. We now have an opportunity to develop, for the first time, a catching and discards policy tailored to our own marine environment and our diverse fishing industry. As is made clear through the bycatch and ecosystem objectives in the Bill, it is the Government’s intention that we adopt a more holistic approach for our future policies. We will seek to address the challenges of the wider ecosystem, rather than looking at each area in isolation.

Therefore, I emphasise that the Government wholeheartedly agree with the principle behind the noble Lord’s amendment. We aim to reduce the level of catches and mortality of bycatch to protect and conserve vulnerable fish stocks and, I emphasise, other protected species—I was most grateful to my noble friend Lord Randall for mentioning the albatross, for instance. However, we certainly want to work towards a holistic way of reducing and avoiding bycatch.

Indeed, we believe that the current bycatch objective actually goes further than the noble Lord’s amendment, by setting out a number of sub-objectives. The Government and the devolved Administrations will be legally bound to set out policies relating to all of these sub-objectives in the joint fisheries statement. I therefore hope that this will help my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

Clause 1(6)(a) states that bycatch, and the catching of fish that are below minimum conservation reference size, should be reduced. That is similar to the noble Lord’s amendment, but our objective goes on to stipulate that we will also work to avoid it entirely where we can—I say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that it is important that we are working towards avoidance rather than reduction. That might be achieved through more selective fishing practices—I think the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, alluded to that—and we think that is a stronger position to be in on the matter.

The specific reduction or avoidance in catching those fish which are under minimum conservation reference size, or juvenile fish, is important in the Bill’s objective too. It is particularly important to protect those juvenile fish, as they are, quite clearly, what sustain the stocks for the future. These fish can be at specific risk of being targeted and then sold on or used as bait, which is why paragraph (c) specifically notes that policies must be set out to avoid creating a market for the landing of those fish.

Paragraph (b) of the bycatch objective in Clause 1(6) also sets out the need for accurate recording and accounting for of all catches, which is essential in capping overall mortality. By not accurately recording all catches, we believe that we risk introducing uncertainty in whether stocks are being fished at or beyond MSY—maximum sustainable yield. The amendment proposed by the noble Lord removes some of this detail which, in practical terms, we believe may unintentionally undermine the sustainability of our stocks and may mean that protected species are not conserved. I know that that is not the intent of the noble Lord or of any noble Lords in this amendment.

The bycatch objective in the Bill has been carefully thought through and worded in such a way as to tackle not only discarding itself but also the root cause of discarding in the accidental take of fish. As I say, I found our discussion with the scientists stimulating, but I hope that these further remarks on this issue will help the noble Lord to feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Fruit and Vegetable Harvest

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Thursday 30th April 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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The noble Lord is right that more needs to be done. We do not eat enough fruit and vegetables but, at the same time, the Pick for Britain initiative—and I think we will find much greater awareness as we reach the peak of the growing season—means that we can absolutely use this opportunity to encourage the British consumer to buy and eat this excellent British produce.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government seem to be relying on an army of furloughed staff to come forward to pick the UK harvest this year, but the furlough scheme is currently available only until the end of June. What will happen when those staff go back to their original jobs? How can he be confident that we will have enough pickers now and in the long term? Will there be enough volunteers and, if not, what is the plan B?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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The Pick for Britain website and all that we are doing there is designed precisely to ensure that the point of the noble Baroness’s last question does not take place. We are clear that we want more people to come forward, particularly in their local areas; we think that students will have an important role to play. We are asking growers to put their vacancies on the website, so that there is a much greater range of opportunities. We will certainly work to ensure that those who continue to be furloughed—from what I am hearing, there will be waiters, chefs, hotel staff, students and landscape workers—are able to make a major contribution to this harvest.

Garden Centres

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Wednesday 29th April 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Fowler Portrait The Lord Speaker
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The Earl of Sandwich. Is he there? No. I call the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I agree with previous noble Lords who have spoken that there is no real logic to the Government’s current position on this. Hardware stores can be open but garden centres cannot. On behalf of the 300,000 or so allotment holders in the UK, perhaps I may remind the Minister that, in this time of crisis, we are making a great contribution to feeding friends, neighbours and the local community, and indeed are giving surplus produce to local food charities. So there is an urgent need to free that up. We rely on garden centres to replenish our stocks. I hope that the Minister can give us some guarantee that we will be put at the top of the list in the next stage of the lockdown so that people can have access again.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I thank the noble Baroness. Obviously, we want to keep this under particular review. I am very sympathetic to all the points that noble Lords have made, which is why I am working closely with the HTA so that, when it is deemed appropriate, we can reopen garden centres as soon as possible.

Agriculture: Dairy Prices

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Tuesday 28th April 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, that is a very helpful suggestion. From the calls that I have been having with the Secretary of State and retailers it is clear that a lot of work is going on. One of the advantages of the temporary easement of competition law is to ensure that there is available capacity in the supply chain for processing milk into other dairy products such as cheese and butter, but I will very much take away the point noble Lord has made.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister understand the urgency of the problem and the need to act quickly? As we have heard, a cohort of dairy farmers are currently pouring milk away and their businesses are close to collapse. They need reassurances that their businesses will not go to the wall. They are only a minority of farmers but obviously they are still an important group. Given the importance of the UK dairy sector to our food sustainability in the years to come, what guarantees are the Government able to give that that group will be protected? There have been a lot of talks, but they need underpinning with guarantees—that is really what is being called for at the moment.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I understand what the noble Baroness is saying, and it is why we are working with the banks on this part of the dairy sector in particular. In fact, Defra has had priority discussions with the major banks to ensure that they are clear that farmers, milk buyers and milk processors are eligible for the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. The Agriculture Bill will provide us with opportunities for further work on a range of initiatives to improve the position of milk producers. However, I understand absolutely the noble Baroness’s point about urgency. That is why we are in urgent discussions with, and are working with, farming bodies and organisations.

Japanese Knotweed

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Thursday 12th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, we accepted the recommendation in the Science and Technology Committee report to commission a study of international approaches in the context of property sales, and we expect to receive the final report at the end of March. I shall make sure that the noble Lord receives it. On the psyllid, there are problems with climatic issues, so more recently we have been seeking psyllids from the north and west of Japan, where we think the climatic conditions could be more similar to our climate.

As for the work that CABI, the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International, is doing with the leaf spot fungus, this is a single-mating type of specialist pathogen developed into a product for direct application, but which would not persist and spread in the wild or threaten any native species. I emphasise that because the last thing we want is any unintended consequences. This is going to take some years to reach the shelves if it is successful, but it is all part of our endeavour to control this very invasive plant.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I refer to my entry regarding Rothamsted in the register of interests. It seems that the much-maligned Japanese knotweed does have some uses after all: it has been found to contain a unique compound which can outperform traditional antibiotics in tackling Lyme disease. Does the Minister agree that this underlines why we need more research into using nature-based solutions to tackle animal and human diseases?

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That reminds me of a point that my noble friend Lady McIntosh raised. We have had a discussion about the requirements—not only REM but all the ways in which we need to work. We absolutely need to work with industry but we also need to say to it, “It is in your vital interests to work on this area because, in the end, if there aren’t sustainable stocks, there isn’t a sustainable industry”. They are so intertwined. I repeat that, once a scheme is up and running, the existing arrangements for prosecution of overfishing and the issuing of fines remain. This is an add-on, a further tool. There are other countries where it has worked well; this is an opportunity and work is in hand. We want to get the best scheme. It is important that we look internationally to see where it has worked and where it has not so that, when we deploy this, it hits the right target.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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Again, that is very helpful. I agree absolutely with the Minister that it is a good idea to look at what is working well internationally. If there are schemes that work well, we should certainly try to learn from them. It is a good idea also to take this slowly and at an appropriate pace with respect to the consultation. Having introduced one scheme, the last thing we want is for people to be confused about the legal underpinnings and their obligations. So, taking it in stages is a good idea. I accept that this is work in progress. It would be great to be updated at some point about how that consultation is going. It is a very delicate balance to set the charges to a level which bring about the right behaviours. They will need to be very nimble because what works in one sector or quarter might not work the same way in another. I do not envy the people who are trying to set those rates so that they incentivise the right behaviours.

I thank the Minister. It has been helpful to get these issues out on the table. Of course, I echo the points made about REM by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. That is an issue that we have rehearsed before and will rehearse again. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, made that point extremely well, and I hope the Minister will take it away and reflect on it further. As he says, there are all sorts of sustainability activities that one can imagine the fishers being funded to carry out that are not just straight fishing. If we were being more imaginative in the Bill, we could be more imaginative on those sorts of issues as well.

I want to say something about funding, because the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, quoted the Secretary of State on long-term funding commitments and asked which budget they will come from. I know that the Minister mentioned the spending review, but that is not the same as the commitment that seems already to have been made. I think he said that he would write or give us further information. Perhaps he could do that in writing to say what that longer-term funding will be and how it will be funded in the future. That would be extremely helpful, because that question mark still hangs over this.

I was not convinced. I did not come to bang my drum for Amendment 113 in particular, but the more the Minister tried to rubbish it, the more I got quite defensive about it. For example, in the Bill we have this long list of reasons for funding to be given by the Secretary of State, some of which are quite major and others one might think are not so significant. We are trying to say that collecting the scientific data is as important as them. I am sure that it is. It must be on a par with that because it is at the heart of our sustainability measures. Given that we already have a long list, I cannot see why we cannot add a paragraph (j) to the bottom of that long list.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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The point is that I can foresee that there would be scientific analysis of the majority of them. It is not as if science is over there; science will provide the solutions and the answers to this long list. That is why—obviously not successfully—I am seeking to deploy that science and the collection of scientific data are absolutely included. That is a given, and it is applicable. There will be all sorts of ways in which science can apply for financial assistance with regard to much of that long list.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 9th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, we very much welcome the tabling of these amendments, all of which deal with the introduction of remote electronic monitoring cameras on vessels.

I say first that I listened very carefully to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. I am sorry that he felt that we did not take his comments seriously when he last made them. I certainly listened carefully to what he had to say when this was last debated. I am quite prepared to admit that maximum sustainable yield is not the best measure, but I have not read the book or the scientific treatise to which he referred. I would say back to him: if not that, then we need to find the right form of words that we can put in the Bill. We all know that we want to deliver sustainability. It does not have to be through maximum sustainable yield or, indeed, through some of the other amendments that we have elsewhere in the Bill, which talk about setting the standard above maximum sustainable yield so that there is some leeway. But if that is not the right measure, we need to find something that can practically be put in a Bill. I am very happy to talk to him and learn a bit more about how we might do that.

We agree with the noble Lord and others who have spoken that full and verifiable documentation of catch is absolutely important and can provide help with enforcement and be an added safety feature on boats. Again, I agree with particularly the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Krebs, that these amendments could be the vehicle for bringing about a major change in a Bill that in many other respects seems to maintain the status quo. They are, therefore, important amendments and we hope that we can follow them up on Report.

If the UK is to achieve its sustainable fishing goals, it needs advance data collection to allow authorities to be better informed about the true state of our fishing stocks, to ensure that quotas are set in line with the most up-to-date and accurate scientific advice. REM has the great advantage of providing data in real time, and could provide a complete snapshot of fish stocks and their movement around our waters. This could also add to our intelligence about the impact of climate change and warming waters. It could also create new economic opportunities. Historically, two-thirds of UK fishing stock has been fished beyond its sustainable limits, but better scientific advice does not necessarily mean fewer fishing opportunities. The New Economics Foundation has estimated that if catches were properly aligned with the best scientific data, the yield could actually increase to something like 45% higher landings, and an additional gross value of around £150 million across the UK coast. Better data would also allow more opportunities to classify UK-caught fish as sustainable and to qualify for the Marine Conservation Society’s approval, which could boost their sales in supermarkets and lead to more sustainability.

We therefore see the introduction of REM as a win-win for the sector. Many larger vessels already have this technology; the challenge for us is to roll this out so that it is a universal requirement for all licensed vessels fishing in our waters. Obviously, we do not want the cost to be a barrier for smaller vessels, but the cost of this equipment is coming down and the Government could help by issuing some standard specifications that would make production more efficient. We also have Amendments 113 and 120 to be debated later, which would allow financial assistance to be given to aid the gathering of scientific data that might help in this regard and could be used to subsidise REM for those on the smaller fleet.

We draw a big distinction between REM and the catch-tracking app that has been introduced by the MMO for boats under 10 metres. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, raised concerns about this in a previous debate, but I hear the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, say that he thinks it is a good idea. We will have to agree to disagree on this, because for us it seems that this has been gone about in completely the wrong way. It comes with the power to prosecute and demand heavy fines—up to £100,000—for those found to have imputed catch weights into their smartphone that are wrong by a margin of 10% or more. Many of these boats do not have accurate weighing scales on board, however, and many fishers are forced to rely on estimates, which can clearly lead to incorrect data being submitted. It feels as if a whole new layer of bureaucracy and red tape is being introduced by these measures, whereas REM would provide an independent measure of the catch.

I turn to the specifics of the amendments. Those in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, are rather absolutist in their approach, making the installation of video equipment a condition of licences being granted to both UK and foreign vessels. Amendment 112, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, offers an alternative way forward, requiring REM on vessels of more than 10 metres and commissioning a feasibility study for under-10s. Amendment 124, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, would allow a phased introduction of REM and might be the best solution if we are to find a consensus about a way forward.

Regardless of the approach, there appears to be a consensus that we should move forward towards mandatory video monitoring as part of the fight against irresponsible behaviour and for better data collection on fish stocks. I hope noble Lords will support these amendments.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for her Amendments 77A and 80A, and to other noble Lords for their amendments, which, in various ways, seek to place requirements on fisheries licensing authorities to introduce onboard monitoring equipment and cameras on British boats and foreign vessels fishing in UK waters. I reiterate that this Government remain fully committed to reducing bycatch and ending the wasteful discarding of fish. While we recognise the potential of onboard monitoring and cameras as an effective technology to monitor, control and enforce the end of wasteful discarding, Amendment 77A could divert us from taking a more appropriate, risk-based, intelligence-led enforcement approach through vessel monitoring systems and aerial surveillance, for example, as well as ones that may develop in the future, such as onboard observers or drones.

Control and enforcement, and fishing vessel licensing, are both devolved matters. The amendment cuts across devolved competence by trying to prescribe this at a UK level. It is for each devolved Administration to decide how best to control their waters, tailoring their management measures to their specific industry.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Monday 9th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-IV Fourth marshalled list for Committee - (9 Mar 2020)
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 the noble Baroness for her amendment. The UK Government’s robust fisheries enforcement system is delivered in England by a number of agencies working in partnership, in particular the Marine Management Organisation, or MMO, the inshore fisheries and conservation authorities, or IFCAs, and the Royal Navy. Fisheries enforcement is a devolved matter, with each Administration ensuring that appropriate control and enforcement matters are in place in its waters.

As I am sure noble Lords are aware, the UK has recently taken significant steps and we have been working closely with the devolved Administrations to ensure that the UK can enforce its fishing rights. As the noble Baroness said, the Royal Navy is increasing its force of offshore patrol vessels, or OPVs, from four to eight ships over the next year. Currently, four are operating at sea, conducting enforcement and overseas tasking, with four in build or regeneration. Of these, at least—I emphasise the “at least” to the noble Baroness—two Royal Navy OPVs are always provided to support MMO activity in English waters.

The MMO’s core provision includes two offshore patrol vessels and up to two aircraft. IFCAs provide an additional layer of inshore surface surveillance capability, which includes 22 vessels. Administrations share assets when appropriate. This may be as a joint working, MoU or chartering arrangement. For example, the MMO and the Welsh Government have agreed an MoU to undertake joint working and patrolling in each other’s waters.

Marine Scotland’s aircraft and patrol vessels have operated in other Administration’s waters, and it is receptive to requests for its assets to assist when possible. Marine Scotland operates a fleet of three marine protection ships and two surveillance aircraft. In Northern Ireland, DAERA has one fisheries protection vessel, accompanied by two fast-response rigid inflatable boats, or RIBs, dedicated to inspection work. Wales operates three vessels: a 24-metre monohull, a 19-metre catamaran and a 13-metre fast response cabin RIB.

In respect of England, via the MMO we have increased the number of front-line warranted officers by 50% for 2019-20, which is 35 people, putting in place a framework to increase aerial surveillance capacity by a maximum of two surveillance aircraft as risk and intelligence demands and chartering two additional commercial vessels to enable an increase in routine sea-based inspections to supplement provision from the Royal Navy Fishery Protection Squadron. I say to the noble Baronesses that it is one of the oldest front-line squadrons in the Royal Navy. It goes back many centuries and has a long history of dealing with these matters. There have been all sorts of instances in the past and, if this were to occur again, I am confident that our service men and women would have the ability and knowledge to deal with these matters proportionately and sensibly.

Additionally, it is also important, since we had an earlier discussion about this, that surface patrol vessels are complemented by satellite-based surveillance technologies such as vessel monitoring systems, or VMS, and electronic reporting systems, or ERS, monitored by the MMO from Newcastle. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, will know about this, but when I and the noble Lord, Lord West of Spithead, went to the MMO, this was a feature of every vessel we were taken through. I am sure that the MMO would be very pleased for noble Lords to look at this interesting capability. I would be very happy to facilitate that.

These provisions are in line with the MMO’s latest assessment, based on a risk-based, intelligence-led control and enforcement strategy. This is regularly monitored and reviewed, which is entirely appropriate to ensure that in all circumstances we are receiving that assessment.

The amendment’s proposed requirement for a Minister to declare the UK Government’s fisheries enforcement resources sufficient duplicates our existing policy and procedure. In addition, noble Lords will also be aware of the Joint Maritime Operations Coordination Centre, or JMOCC, which was officially approved by the Home Secretary in October 2017. The JMOCC has enhanced the co-ordination of cross-agency patrol capabilities, increased information and resource sharing, promoted prioritisation across government assets and enhanced aerial surveillance operations to derive maximum surveillance benefit. In place in its operational headquarters, the JMOCC has highly trained and professionally qualified representatives from key stakeholders, including Border Force, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Transport, the National Maritime Information Centre and the police, as well as the MMO and Marine Scotland. This ensures that available resources can be fully and appropriately utilised across the United Kingdom, thereby maximising our maritime capability, including fisheries protection.

As I have highlighted, the control and enforcement is a devolved matter, and it will continue to be for each devolved Administration to decide how best to control its waters and what new arrangements may be needed in future. In that context, I should say that Defra, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive will continue to work together to share information and ensure a co-ordinated approach to monitoring, compliance and enforcement across UK waters. That will be undertaken.

I have perhaps gone into more detail on some of the abilities for all parts of the United Kingdom to contribute to this process, so I hope noble Lords will forgive me for that detail. I hope with that explanation—

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

There were other questions posed by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, to which I hope the Minister will respond. Going back to the Navy, the Minister talked about the MMO having a risk-based intelligence review that justified the number of vessels it was able to provide. However, it seems to me—I am sure my noble friend Lord West would reiterate this point—that there is a sense that the Navy is overstretched, and that the two or four vessels to which the Minister referred as being available do not seem a lot in the short term. I am sure that eventually things will settle down again, but in the next 18 months I can see that small skirmishes could break out because of misunderstandings in all sorts of places. People could misunderstand the new rules, for example. It only needs something to happen in the English Channel and the Irish Sea at the same time for resources to be stretched. Does the Minister think that there are sufficient resources? That is the real question, not what everyone else thinks. Does the Minister, who is ultimately responsible, feel that this is sufficient resource?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I absolutely understand the point made by the noble Baroness. My assessment is that this is at the right level, and the fact is that the Royal Navy is growing or doubling its vessels. That is why I emphasised the phrase “at least”. There is an agreement between the MMO and the Royal Navy about those two things. I emphasised “at least”; all our efforts will be to ensure that there are no difficulties at sea, which would be in no one’s interests. That is precisely why I explained about the doubling of the number of front-line warranted officers, and why I outlined increasing aerial surveillance and the work of surveillance technologies. All this is upscaling, precisely to accommodate the point made by the noble Baroness, if we are in potentially uncertain times, rather than where we were before. I described the increase in almost every feature of what is available to us at sea, including technology and personnel, to accommodate the possibilities that the noble Baroness outlined. I am basing my judgment on a much more rigorous assessment than me just saying yes to the noble Baroness. It is also why JMOCC is so important, because so much of this is intertwined with those organisations involved in JMOCC. It is terribly important that the MMO and Marine Scotland are part of that because there may be a time when fisheries protection becomes an issue and all this resource across the United Kingdom and the Royal Navy may need to be deployed.

I will say that the answer is yes, but it is not a glib yes. It is because the people who understand these areas have assessed and advised us that we should increase what we have done. That is why I am confident that we are where we should be. However, I emphasise to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that it is really important that all these matters are kept under review. That is why I deliberately emphasised that, on this matter, there is strong working with all four fisheries administrations in the United Kingdom interest.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
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I think I am going to ask one of my dumb questions, which I know the Minister will tolerate. I am trying to understand the process here, because 1 July is quite soon for the negotiations to be complete. The Minister said that both Houses will be able to scrutinise. Scrutiny quite often happens after the event. How will Parliament be kept informed of those negotiations before the ink is on the paper and everything is a signed and sealed deal? Which bits of the two Houses will see this before it is signed? We had a skirmish about this with the overall withdrawal agreement and it would be good not to have to repeat that anguish for something as specific as this. Can he reassure me that we will see those details and be allowed to comment on them before it is all signed off?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

I think it would be best if I just repeat that the Prime Minister has already committed to provide further details as the negotiating process develops. I have said those words at the Dispatch Box twice now, and that both Houses will have access for scrutinising the actions. I well understand the point the noble Baroness is making. Obviously the Government have responsibilities for negotiations, but the Prime Minister has already committed to provide further details as the negotiating process develops. I do not think anyone could interpret that as being at the end, when everything has been said and done.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In that case, I am grateful to the noble Lord and I think it would be helpful if he could just check the point that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised—I know he said he would—about what was said at his committee last week. I will look at Hansard carefully but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I had better look at the Bill again, and check exactly what I said so that I do not, in any way, say anything to the contrary. Certainly, the mechanism for new quotas and how we best benefit coastal communities is an area we are looking at with considerable interest. Clause 23(2) allows:

“A determination under subsection (1) may be made only for the purpose of complying with an international obligation.”


The determination can relate only to the high-level function of setting the UK’s overall pot in line with any international negotiated outcome, or the UK’s overarching obligations under international law. This might be even more of a clincher. On my noble friend’s point, I will look at Hansard, because I did not intend to make that inference and I do not think I did. For the record, Clause 23 is for the determination of only the UK pot of quota. It does not provide for allocating to industry at fisheries administration level.

To conclude, I absolutely take the point of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington: the best available scientific evidence is absolutely clear. We all want the same thing. With that explanation, I hope the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the Minister has given a lot of detail, so I feel that I too will have to go back and read through Hansard. I am trying to clarify our very simple first amendment, the one that would put “must” rather than “may” in Clause 23(1). At the moment, it reads:

“The Secretary of State may determine, for a calendar year—


The maximum quantity of sea fish that may be caught by British fishing boats;


The maximum number of days that British fishing boasts may spend at seas.”


Our amendment said:

“The Secretary of State must”.


If it is okay in some calendar years for the Secretary of State to determine that, I am not quite clear why it is not okay every year, which is what our amendment would have achieved. In which years is it all right to do it, and in which years is it not? This is where I am lost, because if the principle is accepted—which it clearly is because it is spelled out there—why not do it every year?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

Again, the problem with the amendment stating “must” is that it concerns the determination of all fishing opportunities. If it says “must”, the amendment becomes a requirement that would involve stocks determined on different timescales. There are also some non-quota species where there is no specific determination. The word “may” allows the determination of the annual fishing opportunities. The problem with the amendment making it “must” is that it brings in these non-quota species. The issue I have sought to put across is that making the determination compulsory embraces all stocks—because it “must”. Obviously, there will be annual fishing opportunities for all those that involve quotas and so forth, and we will be having annual negotiations and arrangements. It is not that the Secretary of State will suddenly say, “I don’t think we’ll do this, this year”; it is that making it “must” brings in these stocks determined on a different timescale and non-quota species. That is the problem as I understand it: the amendment has that legal interpretation.

The original provisions ensure that the Secretary of State fulfils the function of determining UK fishing opportunities through Clause 23(1). Making it a “must” brings into scope stocks that would not be subject to the determination of annual fishing opportunities. That is as I understand it. If it is any different, perhaps I can discuss with the noble Baroness, but that is, in our view, the problem with the interpretation of that amendment.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

Again, the provision talks about “for a calendar year”, so these are annual fishing opportunities. “Annual” means every year; it does not mean that by saying “may”, the Secretary of State can decide not to bother one year. That is not the case—rather, it is about the fixing of annual fishing opportunities.

As I say, I have been informed that the original provisions are sufficient to ensure that the Secretary of State fulfils the functions of determining UK fishing opportunities, but if I have anything further that will assist noble Lords, I will of course communicate it. I think that the interpretation of this power to determine serves the correct purpose, but if there is a pressing need to have discussions with noble Lords on the matter outside the Committee, I am happy to do so. However, as I say, I have been advised that there is no problem with it.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I feel that the more we dig, the more complicated and confusing this gets. I understand that the noble Lord has to read out the brief he has been given, but I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that if it is not here, where is the wording to say that there will be an annual determination of the fishing stock? It may be that it is somewhere else in the Bill and I have missed it, but if it is not, it should be here. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has made a helpful suggestion about how the Government could address that point. I am still not clear on what the Minister said about what would apply and what would not, but the overarching point to make is that it needs to say in the Bill that there is a total number of fish stocks; that needs to be spelled out somewhere.

I think that I am reassured by what the Minister has said about consultation, but again it is one of those things which is covered in a number of different places in the Bill. We need to make sure that everything lines up so that the reassurance he has given means that this is covered elsewhere Bill, as well as by the comments he has made today.

I note what he said about the Delegated Powers Committee report, which has reminded me that I should take another look at it, but on the basis of what he said, I am sure that the committee has not raised any issues, so I will not pursue that.

I turn finally to the point about the scientific advice which was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington. I think that we have a running theme of agreeing to disagree on this. Once again, we hear what the Minister has to say but we do not feel that the wording is good enough, so we may bring this back in some form on Report. There is a general view around the Committee that we need to pin down the significance of the scientific advice and make sure that it is heeded on all occasions. That is what the noble Baroness is trying to do.

That is enough for now and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Wednesday 4th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-II(a) Amendments for Committee, supplementary to the second marshalled list - (3 Mar 2020)
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Before the Minister sits down, may I ask a simple question: does he think that the phrase “international obligations” means international negotiations such as I described, which would include the ongoing regular annual negotiations? Or do “international obligations” cover some wider commitment to international law? If that phrase means the former—the negotiations that go on from time to time—that is quite troubling, because that is where we got into difficulties with the common fisheries policy and other issues. We had our own sustainability principles, and then we traded them away, because that was the outcome of the trade negotiations. Before I comment more widely on what the Minister has said, I am just wondering what that phrase means.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

So that I am not anything other than very clear with the noble Baroness, I shall read from the Bill: in Clause 48, on interpretation, an

“‘international obligation of the United Kingdom’ includes any obligation that arises or may arise under an international agreement or arrangement to which the United Kingdom is a party”.

That is the definition.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

I think I am consistent, in that there are many treaties that do not relate to fisheries, and I am consistent in saying that this is in relation to our international fisheries obligations. With the other amendment that we discussed, the drafting could have involved us in all the 14,000 treaties—I think it was 14,000—whereas here I believe it is distinctly involved in and engaged with the arrangements for fisheries within our international obligations.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Just to pick up on that point, the definition to which the Minister has pointed us is about international agreements or arrangements

“to which the United Kingdom is a party”.

That could mean anything or everything that we deal with and negotiate on an international basis, and it continues to raise concerns about the outcome of those negotiations, and whether such considerations will trump our more aspirational objectives, which we agreed in Clause 1. We may come back to that. I continue to have a sense of disquiet about the implications —as I do about the phraseology around the word “socioeconomic”, which we shall not bottom out now; we have debated it several times. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that we are in danger of trading the long-term benefit to the marine environment for short-term advantage. Whatever the good will of the Government may be, some of that practicality and necessity will, sadly, get in the way of some of our more profound objectives.

I listened carefully to what the Minister said about the other factors. He talked about dynamic policy-making and reacting to new emerging issues. It just feels as if this will be a moveable feast and will not provide the stability that the fishing community and the devolved Administrations would welcome. I am worried that the wording provides a little too much flexibility.

I quite like the “catastrophic event” phrase: it was the Government’s phrase in the first place, and I just quoted it back. I would have thought there was some merit in adopting it anyway, because such things will be factors. There could be extreme weather changes, or other circumstances could have an impact that the Government would want to respond to, but which would not be covered under the other terminology in the Bill. This is all a bit unsatisfactory, but obviously I am not going to pursue it at this point, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for tabling this amendment. He raises an important point about the need for the most up-to-date scientific evidence on the state of stocks to aid planning and quota allocation. As previous debates established, there are a number of different timescales resulting from the provisions in the Bill and it is important that we somehow manage to mesh them effectively. One of them, the reporting of the state of stocks, is currently a three-year timescale, whereas this amendment quite rightly proposes a timescale of one year.

We feel that there are strong arguments for this. Given that quota negotiations and fishing opportunity determinations are due to be made annually, and they are meant to draw upon the latest and best scientific advice, it makes sense for the stock reports to coincide with this timescale. Given that the Secretary of State has the opportunity to make mid-term revisions to fisheries management plans, access to the latest data would provide the best possible motive for change. We would go one stage further and hope that these stock reports could be officially collated by Defra and the devolved Administrations and made publicly available. Given that we are moving towards real-time stock measurement and given that the scientific processes we are putting in place will be much more real-time and up to date, I do not think that this is too onerous; therefore we support this amendment and hope the Minister agrees.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his Amendment 75, which requires annual reports on the state of

“stocks for which there are fisheries management plans.”

Existing annual publications provide information on the state of our fish stocks. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee publishes the UK biodiversity indicators annually on behalf of Defra and the devolved Administrations. These indicators include two covering sustainable fisheries: one shows the percentage of quota stocks harvested sustainably, and the other the percentage of quota stocks whose biomass is at such a level to maintain full reproductive capacity. These indicators are national statistics and part of the UK’s commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity to report on our progress towards its goals and targets—the Aichi targets. Our indicators on sustainable fisheries show data back to 1990.

The Government published their 25-year environment plan in 2018, in which they committed to develop a new set of indicators to report on the state of our natural assets, and to publish an annual report on their progress in meeting the goals and targets set out in the plan. The first annual report, published in May 2019, had an indicator on sustainable fisheries alongside a narrative setting out how we are progressing towards our broader goal for sustainable fisheries. The indicator and narrative will be updated in the 2020 report due in the spring. The evolution of the Fisheries Bill and the introduction of our provisions for fisheries management plans means we will need to reflect and consult more widely with stakeholders as it may be more appropriate for each plan to contain its own reporting framework rather than for us to do a single annual report.

There are also some devolution implications arising from the amendment which cause concern. It would commit the Secretary of State to report annually on any stocks in fisheries management plans published by the devolved Administrations covering their waters only. The devolved Administrations would determine how and when they report on the state of stocks covered by their fisheries management plans. In addition, we have enhanced the transparency framework set out in the Bill by committing to provide triennial reviews of the joint fisheries statement and the implementation of fisheries management plans. There are stocks for which we do not currently have sufficient data to assess their status, and we have made provision in the Bill to collect further evidence to determine sustainable levels. The proposed three-year reporting cycle for fisheries management plans will set out our progress for these data-poor stocks.

I am very happy to have further discussions with the noble Lord if he thinks there are any loose ends, but with the existing annual publications—he is probably aware of them already—and the requirements in the Bill, we are asking the question that we all want to know the answer to, which is: are we making progress and is this working? With what we have already and what is planned in the Bill, his aspirations are covered. On that basis, I hope he will withdraw his amendment.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 4th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-II(a) Amendments for Committee, supplementary to the second marshalled list - (3 Mar 2020)
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

I wrote to your Lordships, and I can read what I said in that letter about the size of the fleet, if that would help:

“Lord Krebs raised a question about advances in technology leading to a smaller fishing fleet. As technology advances, the UK fleet may be able to catch more fish in a more efficient and targeted way, which is one of the reasons why the Bill includes a sustainability objective. The sustainability objective in the Bill includes a fleet capacity objective, seeking to ensure that fleets are balanced with fishing opportunities available and that they are economically viable but do not overexploit stocks. Given this objective, we will assess the impact of any additional quota that is negotiated once fishers start to fish against it, as it relates to the size of the fleet.


As to more precise details, I am afraid that I will have to write to the noble Lord.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we have had a very interesting discussion arising from these amendments. I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, for giving us some very moving examples of the tragedies that can occur at sea. I was very taken by the noble Lord’s description, and the message that came through to me was how reliant those vessels are on each other, so that a mistake by one person who does not know what they are doing affects not just that person’s life or livelihood; it can actually bring the whole vessel down.

That underlines the absolute need for everybody on the boats to know what they are doing and to have the appropriate level of skills to make sure that nobody is put in unnecessary danger. The licensing regime that underpins the arrangements in the Bill provides a new opportunity for us to set standards and say, “We won’t license the boat unless the people on your vessel can all prove a certain level of knowledge and skills.” It happens in other industries, and I do not see why we should not have something similar in the fishing sector, so we could be more proactive on this.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I do not have a great deal to add to the words of the noble Baroness, who has obviously used this debate to ask for clarification from the Minister on a number of questions. I do not disagree with that, but I do not necessarily support the aim of questioning that Clause 1 should stand part, so I shall leave it to the Minister to answer his noble friend’s questions.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for enabling me to wrap up why the Government feel that Clause 1 is so important to shaping our fisheries management regime for the future. The objectives, which have been under considerable discussion, support our commitment to leave the natural environment in a better state. As noble Lords are well aware, Clause 1 sets out eight fisheries objectives that will shape and guide the fisheries policies of the four fisheries administrations. They build on and develop the objectives set out in the common fisheries policy.

The aim of the first objective—the sustainability objective—is to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally sustainable while delivering economic and social benefits. My noble friend Lady McIntosh, particularly in raising the aim of the second objective—the precautionary objective—stresses that the absence of adequate scientific information should not justify postponing or failing to take management measures that will conserve fish stock and its environment. This objective includes our commitment to achieve maximum sustainable yield for all stocks as quickly as practically possible.

I stress that the UK has always been a strong advocate for fishing within safe ecological limits such as MSY, both in international agreements and in negotiations over catch limits for stocks we have an interest in. I say specifically that this will not change. The new provision in the Bill to produce fisheries management plans, which we will discuss at a later point, further supports this ambition.

The clause also makes clear that effective fisheries management needs to take into account the wider implications for the marine environment. The aim of the third objective—the ecosystem objective—is therefore to ensure that negative impacts of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem are minimised. This will help ensure that we have a healthy marine environment on which our fisheries resources and others rely. This includes addressing the issue of incidental catches of sensitive species. The clause recognises the need to reverse negative impacts to meet our ambition to restore our marine environment. The availability and use of good data are vital for effective management of our precious marine resources. The fourth objective, therefore—the scientific evidence objective— confirms our commitment to contribute to the collection and sharing of data between the fisheries administrations; and that fisheries and aquaculture activities are based on the best available science.

The fifth objective is the bycatch objective. Its aim is that bycatch is avoided or reduced, that catches are recorded and accounted for, and that bycatch—that is, fish—is landed where appropriate. Tackling bycatch tackles the root cause of discarding, and the UK Government remain fully committed to ending the wasteful discarding of fish, acknowledging the impact this can have on fisheries management and the marine environment.

The equal access objective confirms the position of the four fisheries administrations, which noble Lords have discussed—that UK fishing fleets should continue to have access to fish across UK waters regardless of their UK home port. Another point that my noble friend Lady McIntosh raised was on the national benefit objective. As I have set out, this recognises the importance of fishing by UK boats to our coastal communities and the UK more generally. The objective will therefore ensure that the fisheries administrations set out policies that help realise economic and social benefits from UK boats, including those under foreign ownership. In terms of UK-registered vessels, and regardless of who owns the quota, the economic link is precisely designed to ensure that coastal communities are advantaged.

The aim of the climate change objective—a new objective that came into this list—is that the impact of the fishing and aquaculture sectors on climate change is minimised and that their management adapts in response to climate change. These objectives, and the steps we will set out in the fisheries statements on how we will achieve them, are integral to protecting our precious marine environment and maintaining profitable fishing and aquaculture industries today and, of course, for the years to come. This is absolutely why it is so important to the environment that the next generation is prepared to go to sea to ensure a sustainable harvest, which is after all what we all seek.

I will look at Hansard to check if there were any further points that my noble friend has raised, but I have no further information so will make sure that I cover them with another letter as soon as I can. I hope that noble Lords have already received the letter arising from Monday. In the meantime, I hope that I have given her—she probably approves of much of Clause 1—the opportunity to understand that these are hugely important objectives. They set the framework from which we all must now take these matters forward. I hope that she will feel able to agree to Clause 1.

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am speaking to Amendment 48 in my name, but I also echo the arguments made by other noble Lords. Our amendment seeks to achieve a very similar objective to many others in the group: to maintain stocks of sea fish at or above sustainable levels. We are all, in our different ways, seeking to clarify and firm up the wording which would achieve that. As with some of the other debates, we believe that this is a core principle that should lie at the heart of the Bill.

The objectives set out at the front of the Bill emphasise the importance of sustainability, but this means nothing unless we use the Bill to tackle the scourge of overfishing and bring fish stocks back up to sustainable levels. Of course, as we have discussed before, we recognise that this is not just a UK problem but a global problem. Globally, 29% of stocks are overfished, many of them illegally, or they are unregulated. The Blue Marine Foundation has said that, if these trends continue, the world’s seafoods will collapse by 2048.

This is an opportunity for us to play a leading role globally in addressing this crisis. However, we will only have respect and influence if we are seen to be putting our own house in order. Coming out of the common fisheries policy is an ideal time for us to show leadership on this. Taking more control of UK waters provides a rare opportunity to revisit the scientific data, make a baseline stock assessment, create space for stocks to replenish and reset the dial on how much fishing should be allowed to achieve long-term sustainability. That is why we want to see a requirement not to fish above sustainability levels as a guiding principle running through this Bill.

This should apply equally to UK fishers and foreign vessels given a licence to fish in our waters. Amendment 48 would require fisheries management plans not just to contribute to the restoration of stock levels up to sustainable levels but to go further, by restoring the stock and creating a long-term reserve, so that we can begin to repair the damage that has already been done.

Of course, we recognise that much of the fishing allocation around our shores will continue to be determined through negotiation with our European neighbours, but they have already signed up to the principle of maximum sustainable yield through the common fisheries policy, so they cannot really object if we take a more robust stand on this issue than the negotiations around the CFP have so far delivered.

As we have discussed, we will in due course have new opportunities to fish in UK waters, and this is an area where we could make the most progress. This will be under our direct control, so the benefits can be shared between the recovering fish stocks and the UK fishers who understand that it is in their interest to let those stocks regenerate.

I hope that the Minister will recognise the sense of these arguments and seek ways to incorporate the principles into the Bill.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this very interesting debate relating to the Bill’s new provisions for the UK Government and, where appropriate, the devolved Administrations, to publish fisheries management plans. These plans will set out the action that we will take to get stocks to sustainable levels. Where we cannot make such an assessment, we will gather scientific data so that such an assessment is possible.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, knows how fond I am of her. The sustainability objective is the first objective of this Bill. I am starting to take exception to the questioning of the bona fides of the Government, who have worked with the devolved Administrations to bring this forward. This Bill is absolutely predicated on sustainable fishing for the future, and we will not be doing our fishing community any good if we overfish and do not have good custodianship of our waters. That is the whole basis of this work, and the legally binding nature of the statement and the fisheries plan. When I hear noble Lords talking as if this Government were being negligent about sustainability and the importance of sustainability to the whole basis of this work, I will go round in circles and re-explain why these objectives are part of a balance which we have agreed with the devolved Administrations.

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for tabling Amendment 33. I recognise her clear intention to ensure that fisheries management plans make a vital contribution to enhancing the protection of the marine environment. I firmly believe that the clauses as drafted in this Bill will support a holistic, ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, will not be embarrassed by me highlighting what she said: that this country is well ahead. It is recognised as one of the leaders. Obviously, we want to be doing even better than everyone else, but it is important to reflect on the bona fides of all Administrations to get this right and to have a vibrant fishing fleet.

The joint fisheries statement requires the Administrations to explain how fisheries management plans will contribute to the fisheries objectives, including the ecosystem objective. The four fisheries administrations are also bound by our wider body of marine legislation, including the provisions in the Marine Strategy Regulations, the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations and the Marine and Coastal Access Act. The fisheries management plans will make an appropriate contribution to delivering these broader obligations, and I am confident that these plans will deliver the environmental improvement that the noble Baroness, and all noble Lords, are rightly seeking.

In relation to Amendments 34 and 48, the clause already requires fisheries administrations to set out policies to manage stocks in such a way as to restore them and grow them over time. I agree that in some circumstances it may be necessary or desirable to fish some stocks below maximum sustainable yield for conservation purposes. This could be to ensure that all stocks in a mixed fishery can be managed sustainably, for instance. The clause already allows this. To refer specifically to the second part of the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, we already have spatial measures to protect key areas of the sea to allow recovery, and fishing stocks at levels no greater than their maximum sustainable level will, by default, leave a proportion of the stock to allow regeneration. The UK Government are also committed to supporting our fishers. It is therefore important that fishing activities are managed to achieve economic, social and employment benefits, as well as contributing to the availability of food supplies.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, tabled a series of important amendments on the topic of the health of stocks, measured by BLIM. This is the scientific term for the limit reference point for all the mature fish in a particular stock. Amendment 55 from the noble Baroness would add a definition of BLIM to the Bill. This amendment cannot be considered in isolation as it links with other amendments that aim to introduce provisions to manage stocks to levels above BLIM elsewhere in the Bill—so I will address it first.

The proposed definition of BLIM—I have to say that I am not an expert on this, so this is what I am advised—is not the same as that used by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, ICES, the body which provides scientific advice on many of the fish stocks in the North Atlantic. ICES defines BLIM as:

“A deterministic biomass limit below which a stock is considered to have reduced reproductive capacity.”


Introducing a different definition in law could inadvertently create issues with interpreting and applying ICES’s advice in future. I am very happy to have a discussion with the noble Baroness, if that would help, because I am afraid it is out of my area of expertise and it might be interesting.

Returning to Amendment 45, there are many factors that can affect the biomass of a fish stock, and fisheries management plans will have to take them into account. Commercial fishing is by no means the only pressure on fish-stock biomass, although I acknowledge that it often is the most significant. Of course, a priority of the fisheries administrations will be to recover fish stocks to healthy levels of biomass, and this will be a key purpose of fisheries management plans. Fisheries administrations will produce fisheries management plans irrespective of whether the stock is overfished, because stocks currently fished at sustainable levels must also be managed attentively to ensure that they maintain their biomass status.

This amendment would restrict authorities to creating fisheries management plans only for commercially exploited stocks and those below BLIM, which would not be the best outcome for all stocks found in UK waters. This amendment may also inadvertently mean that we would be unable to manage some stocks. For instance, there are data-poor stocks where it is not possible to set a BLIM level. This includes certain stocks of lemon sole, ray, dogfish and boarfish. The Bill’s objectives already seek to provide that the health of stocks is restored and maintained and, in particular, the stocks below BLIM would be covered by the precautionary objective. This means that the amendment is not required to achieve its desired purpose and would instead create an inappropriate restriction in the remit of authorities to create fisheries management plans.

Amendments 49 and 49A allow me to set out the important matter of how policies support the achievement of the objectives. The clause in question places a duty on fisheries authorities to set up policies to restore and maintain a stock to sustainable levels, or contribute to these aims, when there is sufficient scientific evidence to do so. These amendments would delete the section on contributing to these aims, which would mean that the policies would have to restore or maintain a stock immediately to sustainable levels, which may not be possible. Furthermore, Amendment 49A adds an unnecessary requirement to meet unspecified criteria on taking a precautionary approach, as plans will already have to be compatible with the precautionary approach.

I say also to my noble friend Lady McIntosh that fisheries management plans can include details of the type of stock, the type of fishing and the geographical area to which they relate. Each plan could therefore cover multiple stocks in a geographical area. Clause 2(5) makes it clear that fisheries management plans set out policies for “one or more stocks”. I assure the noble Baroness that the wording on “contributing” does not remove the duty for authorities to restore and protect stocks.

To give an example of a policy that would contribute to a stock’s sustainability, if a fisheries management plan covers a fishery that targets only part of a stock, the policies set out within that plan cannot achieve sustainability for the whole stock. The devolution settlement allows for the different fisheries administrations in the UK to produce their own plans that contribute to a stock’s management, and the clause reflects this. The proposed amendments would run contrary to the devolution settlement. The same applies for stocks shared with other countries, where our policies, no matter how effective, can go only so far as to contribute to the restoration or protection of stocks.

Agriculture: Genome-edited Crops

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Wednesday 4th March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we did not agree with the 2018 European Court of Justice ruling that all GE crops must be regulated as GMOs. There is an advantage in terms of seeking to improve the environment and productivity, and helping the agricultural sector, by exploring further how to better regulate genome-edited organisms. There is a lot of opportunity here. As I emphasised in my Answer, safety and the environment are of primary concern, but there is great scope here.

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

My Lords, I do not have any farming interests, but I declare my interest in Rothamsted agricultural research, which is in the register.

There is no doubt that genome editing can make an important contribution to reducing pest-resistant and drought-resistant crops, but does the Minister agree that consumers will be properly reassured by the science only if it is published openly and shared for the common good so that everybody can see the background to that science?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

I absolutely agree with what the noble Baroness has said. That is precisely what we need to do when considering any changes. The most important thing is consumer confidence. We are absolutely clear that there is merit in certain genome-editing activity. The noble Baroness mentioned the Rothamsted Research institute. There is also the Earlham Institute, the James Hutton Institute, the Sainsbury Laboratory and the John Innes Centre. All of our great laboratories are very positive about this research, and we do think that we should reconsider the current regulations.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard - continued) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Monday 2nd March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (2 Mar 2020)
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, this debate has turned into rather an intriguing one, with lots of contributions. I am grateful to noble Lords for these amendments, which all relate to a matter emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Mawson; that is, ensuring that coastal communities which rely on fishing see a benefit from fish caught in UK waters. The UK Government agree that this is a matter of the upmost importance, but I suggest that other routes beyond this Bill should be used to secure this outcome as well.

Amendment 18 would include recreational and environmental use of fisheries in the national benefit objective. Amendment 19 seeks to ensure economic, social and employment benefits from fish and aquaculture activities. The objective as it stands in the Bill highlights that UK boats, including foreign-owned but UK-flagged boats, should provide economic, social and employment benefits to the UK when fishing against the UK’s fishing opportunities. This is currently achieved through a licence condition requiring all UK vessels to demonstrate an economic link to the UK. The Bill also extends the ability to prescribe an economic link in respect of foreign vessels licensed to fish in the UK through the foreign vessel licensing regime, if this is negotiated internationally.

Perhaps I might take a moment to set out what the economic link requirement currently stipulates of UK vessels. The requirement is delivered through the licensing regime and can be controlled and enforced by the fisheries authorities and the Marine Management Organisation. The economic link is a devolved matter, but currently this licence condition is UK-wide, as agreed in the 2012 fisheries concordat between the Administrations.

I say in reply to my noble friend Lord Lansley that we do not need legislation to amend or set an economic link; it is managed through licence conditions. The conditions of the economic link are that vessels must land at least 50% of their catch of quota species into UK ports; have at least 50% of their crew normally resident in the UK; spend at least 50% of operating expenditure in the UK; or demonstrate an economic link by other means. In practice, this last option usually involves the donation of quota to the under-10 metre quota pool.

In 2018, the majority of vessels met the economic link by landing at least 50% of their catch in UK ports. Twenty-seven vessels met the economic link through other economic link criteria. Of the 27, 22 complied by donating 714 tonnes of quota worth £2.5 million, and five employed a crew the majority of whom were resident in the UK. This quota was put into the under-10 metre pool, which is managed by the MMO, and vessel owners who have valid licences are entitled to fish for it.

Other parts of the Bill, in particular paragraph (a)(ii) of the sustainability objective in Clause 1, already state the UK Government’s aim of ensuring that fishing activities are managed so as to achieve economic, social and employment benefits, which I hope provides the reassurance that my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay seeks in his Amendment 19. This would include the management of recreational and environmental use of fisheries. As such, Amendment 18 does not need to be included because the Bill achieves the same effect as the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, seeks. I am happy to have further conversations if that presents difficulties for her, but that is the position as I understand it.

There are some further, practical issues to consider in relation to these amendments. It is not clear what any national benefit requirement for the recreational sector could be or for those exploiting the resources for environmental reasons; nor would it be easy to consider how any wider national benefit requirement could be delivered.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, seeks through Amendment 20 to extend the scope of the objective that the fishing activities of UK fishing boats should benefit the UK to include the activity of foreign vessels and, through Amendment 21, to require that a majority of fish be landed by UK boats for processing at UK ports. I shall speak to these amendments in turn.

In the future, any access by non-UK vessels to fish in UK waters will be, as all noble Lords know, a matter for negotiation. Access will be on the UK’s terms and for the benefit of UK fishermen. Our access negotiations will always seek to bring environmental, economic and social benefits to the UK. Therefore, through our negotiations, benefits to the UK from any foreign vessels fishing in our waters would be sought and secured, without such an amendment to the Bill.

There would be a number of practical challenges to delivering the change that Amendment 21 seeks to impose. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and my noble friend Lord Lansley referred to this. The imposition of this requirement on UK vessels would make many vessels’ existing business models inoperable, as they rely on non-UK markets for the sale of their catch. This is often the case where prices are higher or, in some instances, where appropriate port facilities in the UK are not available. There could be implications for safety if vessels are not able to access suitable ports at the appropriate time. Further, enforcing increased landings into the UK could result in lower prices for the catching sector.

The amendment refers specifically to fish for “processing in UK ports”. While we want to encourage greater processing in the UK, as it creates value and brings employment, there are challenges in practice. We have some world-class processing plants in the UK, but they are not necessarily found in ports. It will also take time and money to invest and build processing capacity. We must also recognise that markets for processed fish need to be developed and there can be good value to be gained from the sale of, for example, unprocessed fish or live shellfish.

Landing requirements currently exist as part of the economic link condition attached to all UK vessel licences, as I have already detailed. This proposed amendment would make it more difficult for other mechanisms which benefit UK coastal communities to operate, including quota donations made under the economic link condition, resulting in a fall in fishing opportunities for the inshore fleet. Schedule 3 to the Bill sets out vessel licensing powers, which we will continue to use to impose economic link conditions on UK registered boats. The economic link policy is being reviewed, to ensure that it remains as effective as possible as we leave the CFP. However, I believe that a licence condition remains the most flexible and effective way of achieving this objective.

Amendments 77, 78, 80, and 84 seek to introduce a new national landing requirement and apply it to vessels licensed using powers in the Bill. While the Government support the intent of these amendments, which is to ensure that the UK benefits from its valuable natural resources, we believe that their aims are addressed both in the Bill through the national benefit objective, as I have previously highlighted, and the provisions to license foreign vessels for the first time, which would allow us to impose on them requirements which are equitable with our licensing regime for UK boats.

There is already work being undertaken on this topic by the Government and by the devolved Administrations. The amendments as drafted would not be appropriate to include in the Bill as they do not respect the devolution settlements—the economic link being a devolved matter, as I have set out. As made clear in the UK Government’s fisheries White Paper, the economic link conditions will be reviewed with a view to strengthening them. The Scottish Government consulted on this issue three years ago. We wish to work with the devolved Administrations to consider whether having the same economic link conditions across the UK would simplify matters for industry.

I am sure noble Lords will agree that, in developing options for reform, we must consider the best interests of the whole fleet, including those British vessels that land abroad when it is most profitable, and ensure that vessels can continue to operate as successful businesses. As we review the economic link, we will carefully consider the impact of changing the required share of landings into UK ports. Setting a fixed percentage for required landings into UK ports by all vessels could present practical difficulties, as the infrastructure for handling large increases in landings may not be in place, and it could disrupt existing supply chains. Furthermore, it would not necessarily benefit the inshore fleet, as quota that has been donated to the under-10 metre pool in the past would, instead, be required to be landed into UK ports by foreign owned vessels. The current drafting of the Bill respects and reflects the devolution settlements, where each Administration is responsible for setting licence conditions, including the economic link. It would therefore not be appropriate for the Secretary of State to be legislating for the whole UK, as proposed.

I realise that this has been a fairly lengthy explanation, but I hope that it has been helpful in demonstrating the UK Government’s commitment to, first, seeing a real benefit from fishing for our coastal communities, and secondly, ensuring that our fishing industry is given enough flexibility to flourish. I understand the rationale behind all the amendments, but I have sought to outline some of the practical intricacies of the fishing industry.

One of the generous remarks by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, repeated today, is that the more you learn about the fishing industry, the more you realise how little you really know, because of its intricacy and complexity. I have tried to outline some of the points of difficulty that the amendment presents, although I absolutely respect the importance of supporting our coastal communities. With all that in mind, I ask the noble Baroness at this stage to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I shall read what the Minister said in detail in Hansard. He said that this is riddled with complexity, and I am sure that that is true, but did I understand him to say that there is a working party already working on issues around the national landing requirement? Is it that he thinks this is a good idea but, as we were discussing earlier, everything has to be agreed with the devolved nations and therefore we cannot agree anything in the Bill? Is this something that is already in train but has not yet been signed off? Is that really what he is saying? I understand that there may be details underneath it.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I repeat what I said: work is already being undertaken on this by the Government and the devolved Administrations. It is work in progress, but that is the right route, particularly as these are devolved matters and that is important. The Government want to find ways: although we must and do respect the devolution settlement, there are many respects where we have been seeking to work together and why we are legislating on behalf of all four parts of the United Kingdom on this matter. It is the case that we are acting in concert with the devolved Administrations. We are very mindful that many of these areas are devolved, but we think that in the interests of simplicity and straightforwardness there are many areas where we would like to have a single focus, as it were.

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, for tabling these amendments, and I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said.

The noble Baroness raised an important point about consultation, although, as we discussed in the earlier amendments, I am not sure—I think she acknowledged this—that adding it to the list of objectives is the right way to go about it. But the sense of what she is trying to achieve certainly has merit.

A number of the delegated powers in the Bill contain consultation requirements with devolved Ministers and/or representatives of the fishing industry. However, in that respect, the need for consultation is reserved for specific purposes and is envisaged as a one-off, whereas this amendment proposes a more regular and longer-term consultation. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said he thought it was at the basement of the types of consultation we should have but, nevertheless, we agree that there should be more comprehensive regular engagement with relevant stakeholders.

Moving further than the noble Baroness’s amendment, we need to make sure that the different sections of the UK’s fleet—the trawlers and the 10s and so on—are all effectively represented in the process. We need to make sure that the spread of stakeholders is right.

We are not doing very well with this Bill because we keep having to revisit and go back and forth to parts that we have already discussed. We have amendments later in the Bill which deal with the issue of consultation, and the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has said that he has more detailed proposals with regard to the establishment of advisory boards and so on.

In the mix of all that there is the fundamental issue of consultation, and all these proposals have merit. We will listen carefully to what the Minister has to say on this issue and, when we have dealt with all the amendments we have tabled, we will try to pull together a considered view about the best wording and the best way forward. We would like to get this element of the Bill right and we may well have to come back to it on Report. As I say, we will listen to what the Minister has to say but we may need to pool our ideas to take this issue forward, and we should do so.

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 grateful to my noble friend and my noble and learned friend—I am sorry he is not able to be present—and wholeheartedly agree with the principle that fisheries management should be informed by the best available evidence and that there should be close working between the UK Government, the devolved Administrations, industry, scientists and interested parties. All noble Lords who have spoken in this shortish debate have referred to that.

It is a long-established approach for the Government to engage widely on the implementation of policy. We have an expert advisory group considering issues relating to fisheries policy and, because the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, raised one or two points, I would like to indicate which organisations are part of that to show the spread: the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, the United Kingdom Association of Fish Producer Organisations, the Scottish Association of Fish Producer Organisations, the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association, Greener UK, the British Retail Consortium, the Association of IFCAs and the UK Seafood Industry Alliance/Provision Trade Federation.

Additionally, we have a Marine Science Co-ordination Committee, bringing together bodies across government, together with senior scientific advisers. I mention in particular Professor Mike Elliott, director of the Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies and professor of estuarine and coastal sciences at the University of Hull, and Professor Michael J Kaiser, professor of marine conservation ecology at the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University. I mention this because it is important that your Lordships understand the range of the expert advice we are receiving.

The UK Government are also supporting initiatives from the industry—

Fisheries Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 2nd March 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Fisheries Act 2020 View all Fisheries Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 71-II Second marshalled list for Committee - (2 Mar 2020)
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for allowing us to debate these important principles about the ownership of our marine stocks. He is right to say that the Bill currently lacks ambition and relies far too much on sustaining the status quo, with all the inequalities and inadequacies that we have identified, which have belied our fishing negotiations over the years.

During the course of the Bill, we will have some difficult discussions about the allocation of existing and future fishing rights, and I suspect that they will not be so easily resolved by this simple declaration. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, about the issues of devolution. We have to be careful about our language, but it is important to say at the outset that no claim on rights should be permanent and all should be subject to our overriding commitments on sustainability.

This is also a welcome opportunity to register the important role that the fishing industry plays in many coastal communities across the UK. This Bill must be a vehicle for supporting and strengthening those communities while at the same time protecting our marine stocks, rather than being the means through which we exploit a natural resource for purely business and economic benefit. At the same time, a flourishing fishing industry is good for the nation as it provides healthy, locally accessed food, as well as trading opportunities with our neighbours.

In this regard, would the Minister like to comment on the words of the Treasury advisor, Tim Leunig, who has been quoted as saying that the

“Food sector isn’t critically important”


to the economy, and that

“ag[riculture] and fish production certainly isn’t”?

I know the Minister will say that this is not government policy, but what message do comments like this send to a sector already nervous about its future? From our side, we want a vibrant UK agriculture and fisheries industry and to encourage UK consumers to buy British and have faith in locally accessed food. I hope that the Minister will disassociate himself from these comments and send a message back to the Treasury that it should not be employing or listening to advisers who are so out of kilter with the views of most politicians and the vast majority of the British public.

On the subject of trade deals, although the Bill is intended to be negotiation neutral, does the Minister agree that there is a responsibility on the Government to secure a deal with the EU and EEA which allows us, first, to catch more of what we eat and, secondly, to easily sell the catch that we will not eat into those markets? We understand the intentions behind tabling this amendment today. It is of course important to restate that the resource belongs to the nation, but I suspect that we will be debating these issues for many days to come, no doubt giving us the opportunity to explore and spell out in more detail what that really means during consideration of the Bill. 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 grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for bringing forward this amendment and, indeed, to all noble Lords who have spoken. While I fully understand the aim of this amendment, to make it clear that UK fish stocks belong to the nation, I take this opportunity to explain why I cannot support it and, indeed, why the Government cannot do so. I am mindful of what my noble friends Lord Lansley and Lord Caithness have said, particularly when it comes to devolution.

We were clear in our fisheries White Paper that we consider that

“The fish in our seas, like our wider marine assets, are a public resource and therefore the rights to catch them are a public asset.”


I should also say at this juncture, in declaring my farming interests, that the sustainable harvest that we get from our seas, our lakes and, indeed, from our farming sector are absolutely crucial to this nation. I emphasis particularly—as, I am sure, would the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch—that, as far as I am concerned, it is in the national interest that we have a vibrant farming and fisheries sector. We want that not only because it is a public good but because, in order to feed the nation as well as in terms of our exports, with climate change and all the pressures from that, we are going to have to find innovative ways of feeding ourselves and the wider communities of the world. So I say absolutely that in my department, and indeed across the nation, we look to our farmers and our fishers.

I put on record that there are dangers in both sectors and there are too many fatalities; I think safety is of primary importance. I take this opportunity to say to the noble Baroness and all your Lordships that this—after all, Defra covers environment, food and rural affairs—is a very important part of our food supply and a very healthy one.

On a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, during the passage of the previous Fisheries Bill the then Fisheries Minister—now the Secretary of State—made it very clear in the other place that

“it is a statement of fact that”

fish

“are a public asset, and our common law tradition enshrines that.”—[Official Report, Commons, Fisheries Bill Committee, 11/12/18; col. 141.]

The need to view fisheries as a public good is reflected in the measures that we take to promote sustainable fishing. It is, for example, reflected in our approach in Clause 27, “Sale of English fishing opportunities”. Any scheme set up under this power, having been through consultation, would recognise the value of fisheries and raise revenue for the public good. That revenue could be used to support fisheries science, particularly the stock surveys that underpin annual negotiations on the total allowable catch and in-year fisheries management.

I assure the noble Lord that this principle is further covered by the objectives in the Fisheries Bill. The key objectives in this instance are the national benefit and sustainability objectives, which state that

“fishing activities of UK fishing boats bring social or economic benefits to the United Kingdom or any part of the United Kingdom”

and that fishing activities are

“environmentally sustainable in the long term”.

That is a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to: we want our fishing and coastal communities to have a vibrant future.

We believe that the effect of this amendment would have a profound implication for the existing quota system. I know there are critics of the current regime, but it is also not without its supporters. Indeed, there has been considerable investment in the regime, and it has allowed our quotas to be well-utilised. For example, the flexibility to sell or lease quota has proven helpful to fishers as it enables them to continue to fish for certain stocks when there has been more of an abundance, or if a fishing stock for which they have a quota is not proving to be profitable. It can also be a solution to fishers not being able to fish all their quota for one species because their quota for another species in a mixed fishery has been exhausted.

This is another point that I would like to make to the noble Lord. While under 10-metre vessels may receive only a small percentage of the total UK quota, they receive a greater share of the stocks that are important to them. For example, in 2018 around 77% of the weight and 78% of the value of UK under 10-metre landings were from non-quota species such as crabs and lobsters. The UK Government recognise the need for balance between continuity in the existing system and opportunities for change in future. That is why the fisheries White Paper noted that existing quotas would continue to be allocated using the existing methodology but that additional quotas negotiated will be allocated using a different methodology. This approach has been broadly welcomed across the industry, which agrees that this is a sensible way to proceed—learning, piloting and ensuring that the industry is not destabilised. That really is an important feature of this matter. We do not wish the industry to be destabilised; in fact, quite the reverse.

I say to the noble Lord that I think the amendment rocks the delicate balance between the certainty of the existing system and the new opportunities that new quota would bring. I also have to say at the beginning of this Committee stage that what resonates with me is that not only has the Bill been through an earlier phase in the other place but it has been worked out really strongly and collaboratively with the devolved Administrations. I say to your Lordships, as we embark upon this particular voyage, that it is important to recognise that this is a piece of work that we are also legislating for the devolved Administrations, and the points that my noble friends have made are extremely pertinent. On that basis, I hope the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Agriculture Bill: Food Production

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Monday 27th January 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, Clause 17 provides a duty to report to Parliament on food security. This country clearly has a high degree of food security and we rely on a supply of healthy and homegrown produce. The whole point of the Agriculture Bill is to ensure that we have efficient farming, good-quality produce and an improved environment—those things go hand in hand.

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

My Lords, this matters because “public goods” in the Agriculture Bill refers to the activities that will receive government funding or financial assistance. Despite the noble Lord’s warm words, where does the production of healthy, local food fit into the Government’s financial assistance priorities? The detail of that is in a completely different part of the Bill from the one that lists what will get financial assistance. This is obviously an important distinction.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, without being pedantic, Clause 1 is about the Secretary of State’s powers to give financial assistance. It sets out 10 items of public good for which there is public money because there is not a market. However, as I said, Clause 1(4) refers to food production. Other elements of the Bill involve innovation, agritech and R&D, all of which will increase productivity and help farmers to produce food. The first section is about rewarding farmers for things they are already doing, and which we want them to do even more, but for which there is no market as such.

Trade Policy: Environmental Aspects

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Thursday 23rd January 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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The noble Lord hits on an important part of what we need to do. We are working on this; I have already had discussions with the Department for Transport, and I will continue to do so. We are very clear about the importance of this issue. One of the chief areas I am concerned about is invasive species, which is one of the key five environmental problems. What the noble Lord has said is extremely helpful.

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

My Lords, the Government have said repeatedly that they do not intend to water down the UK’s high environmental, welfare and food safety standards. It is a mantra that we all understand but, of course, the President of the United States and others have different views on all this. We need more certainty. Can the Minister clarify which Bill will be used specifically to confirm that commitment, and what is the timetable for putting it on the statute book? We need that certainty.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as has been said, the Trade Bill is coming back before Parliament in this Session; that will be the opportunity for Parliament to give due consideration to this issue. It is important, as I have said and will continue to say, and your Lordships will perhaps not have to wait long to see the bona fides of what we have been saying: we have a good reputation and we want to enhance it. That is what is really important and in the national interest. We can be ever more prosperous by being a leading beacon for a low-carbon economy.

Office for Environmental Protection

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Monday 20th January 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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Yes. The intention is very much for this to go beyond what we had with the EU’s oversight. This will be with our domestic legal arrangements. This will concern public authorities, be they arm’s-length bodies or local authorities. The important point about our domestic system is that we will be able to locate and rectify and that, through its enforcement options, it will be able to rectify what needs to be rectified.

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

My Lords, on that issue, does the Minister agree with the Natural Capital Committee’s recent report, which went one step further? It recommended that Office for Environmental Protection’s remit should also cover the private sector and private landowners. Does the Minister have any views on that?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I must say that the OEP is predicated on the responsibility of public authorities. Clearly, if, for instance, a water company or a private individual contravened a law, it would be for one of those public bodies to take action, be it the Environment Agency or whatever. The key point about this legislation is that it concerns the oversight of the Environment Agency or government or a local authority. There are already mechanisms in law where someone transgressing environmental law can be taken to task; this is about enshrining that local authorities can also be.

England Coast Path

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Thursday 16th January 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, just to be clear, the first stretch of the path opened in 2012. I am in dialogue with senior officials at Natural England because, obviously, we wanted it to be finished this year. The Government granted a further £25 million to advance completion from 2030 to 2020. We want to keep up the pressure. I have set out very clearly the reasons for this delay; there is about an 18-month delay because of the court case and its implications for nature conservation designations. I am as confident as I can be, subject to any planning matters, that we will complete this.

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

My Lords, this is a fantastic initiative, started by the Labour Government and due to be completed by this Government in 2020. Does the Minister share my dismay that the deadline is slipping, and can he confirm that, despite the severe cuts that Natural England has suffered, it still has the resources to drive this project through to completion and deal with the outstanding legal cases it is now having to face?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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Clearly, I am disappointed that we have not been able to complete it, but the truth is that there was nothing we could do about the People Over Wind case in Europe. It was legally court-required of Natural England to reassess those areas of the path that have European conservation designations. Nothing could be done about that. I am confident, having spoken to the chief executive and working with her officials, that everything is being done. The £25 million is there for them; they have spent about £22 million already and are within budget.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Wednesday 15th January 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful for everything the Minister has said. I did ask—I do not know whether he specifically addressed this point—whether there will be a general non-regression clause in the environment Bill. He has talked about there being legally binding targets for improvements in some areas. I understand all of that—the Government will have improvements on air or water quality or whatever it might be—but the great advantage of a generalised principle of non-regression is that it applies to everything: not just the Government’s priorities today but the things that are not sexy today and that might be on the back burner. It encompasses everything, and I am not sure whether the Minister has given me that reassurance. Maybe it was buried away in his script, but it would be helpful if he could say it again.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

The environment Bill has not been published yet, but it will not be long. I am not in a position to start talking about the detail of some of the clauses tonight, but that is why I spent some time on this. I say directly that I cannot start suggesting what the clauses of the Bill will be about, because I am not in a position to do so.

As I have tried to set out in this explanation, I obviously understand the points that have been made, but I am not sure I agree with all that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, may have said about some of these matters. Yes, of course we should endorse the work of the past, but I sometimes sense a determination that either this Government or the party I represent would find it impossible to be positive and strengthening about the subjects we are discussing. I would regret that, because the whole focus of what I have tried to explain in detail—it is why I was asked to deal with this amendment—is precisely to show that this department and the Government are absolutely committed to maintaining and enhancing our already high standards, including through the legislation which will come forward very shortly.

As regards any Section 8 regulations made under the withdrawal Act, noble Lords already have the ability to scrutinise any changes which those regulations might make to retained EU law. This Bill is a vehicle to implement the withdrawal agreement, not, in our view, to legislate for environmental policy.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness and to all noble Lords for this important debate. I have gone on rather longer than I think I was requested to because I felt it important to set out some detail on the measures that the Government will bring forward, and to highlight what is a clear direction of travel. Our intention is to move forward. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness and other noble Lords will accept my firm commitment on behalf of the Government and the department, and that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in support of our amendment. I should say at the outset that the Minister will know, as we have said before, that he is held in high regard by this Chamber. We obviously do not doubt his intentions and commitment on many of the things he talked about. A lot of our concerns arise not from the intentions of Defra, or even perhaps the intentions in a future environment Bill, but through the pressures which will come from elsewhere. We can only anticipate or guess those pressures at this stage—from future trade Bills and future deals that might be wanted done.

Our anxiety is not about the Minister’s good intentions; we can see what is in the Conservative manifesto and the good words that have been written about all this. Many of us have worked on a number of the animal welfare issues that the Minister talked about, so, again, we do not doubt his good intentions or his record on all that. But we are going into an uncertain future, and deals will have to be made outside our immediate remit. I suppose that is where our concern comes from.

I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Randall, for sticking his neck out on this issue, even if he back-tracked slightly. I had intended this to be slightly more than a probing amendment, and we have had a good debate as a result of it. We want to believe in the Government’s commitments in the way that he described.

Our particular concern about non-regression, which I know that the Minister felt he could not really respond to in the detail that we would have liked, was that it would give us that underlying safety net when everything else is moving around quickly, as it will be in the next year. I am still sorry that we were not able to go as far as we would have liked on that issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, was absolutely right: these progresses in policy that we have made over the years are hard fought for and hard won, and we all hold them very dear.

I have gone as far as I can at this point in the evening in probing the Minister. We are looking forward to the environment Bill. If it is anything like the draft we have already seen, it will be a long tome and we will spend many happy hours debating it all. I hope that we will see in writing the legal commitments that the Minister implied we will get at that point, so I look forward to the publication of and debate on that Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Farming

Debate between Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Baroness Jones of Whitchurch
Wednesday 8th January 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I am well aware that upland farming and sheep production in Wales are extremely important. That is why our lamb exports to Japan, China and India are a way forward. As the noble Lord has said, it is clearly a devolved matter. Defra has strong and good relationships with the devolved Administrations, particularly that in Wales, and we want the agricultural sector in Wales to be successful, as we want it to be in the rest of the United Kingdom.

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

My Lords, the Minister will know that many hill farmers rely on farm subsidies to survive, so can he clarify whether the Government intend to maintain the £3.2 billion cash pot that was previously available for farm support to the end of the seven-year transitional period that is envisaged, even if the pot is distributed in a different way? Will that overall pot be maintained?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I take the opportunity of the noble Baroness’s question to speak of a manifesto commitment. We will guarantee the current annual budget to farmers in every year of the Parliament. I am very pleased that in December last year the Chancellor confirmed nearly £3 billion of funding for 2020. By way of a simplified countryside stewardship scheme that is coming in and through the pilots of the environmental land management scheme, we want a scheme flexible enough to work across England and all sectors, so that we enhance the environment and that the public good already being done by many farmers is properly recognised.