All 14 Lord Gardiner of Kimble contributions to the Agriculture Act 2020

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Wed 10th Jun 2020
Agriculture Bill
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2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Tue 7th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad): House of Lords
Thu 9th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 14th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 16th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 21st Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 23rd Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 28th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 15th Sep 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Thu 17th Sep 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (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 1st Oct 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

3rd reading & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard) & 3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 20th Oct 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 9th Nov 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 10th June 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 13 May 2020 - large font accessible version - (13 May 2020)
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Relevant document: 13th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee

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, in declaring my farming interests as set out in the register, it is clearly a privilege to open this debate. The policies that flow from the Bill seek to strengthen our agricultural and horticultural industries and protect the long-term future of food production in this country. They will help deliver a fairer return from a fairer marketplace for food producers.

Financial assistance will be provided for protecting or improving the environment and will allow the environmental land management—ELM—scheme to provide financial assistance for the delivery of outcomes such as cleaner air and water and thriving plants and wildlife. The Government will also provide financial support in connection with managing land or water to help mitigate flooding. There will also be support for action to improve animal health and welfare, reduce endemic disease, keep livestock and soils healthy, and support public access to and enjoyment of the countryside. Farmers and land managers will be rewarded for their vital work in enhancing our environment and looking after our landscapes.

The Government and food producers have important contributions to make when it comes to tackling climate change. These provisions will put our farmers at the heart of an ambitious enterprise: to meet the goals of the 25-year environment plan and achieve the Government’s world-leading commitment to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. The National Farmers Union has already shown admirable leadership in its work on seeking net-zero emissions.

The Bill recognises at its heart that food production and a flourishing natural environment can—and must—go hand in hand. This is explicitly demonstrated in Clause 1(4), which places a duty on the Secretary of State to have regard to the need to encourage the production of food by producers in England, and in an environmentally sustainable way, when framing financial assistance schemes. It includes provisions for financial assistance to encourage farmers, foresters and growers to improve their productivity in a sustainable way. The Government will provide grants so that they can invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure.

I know that Ministers sometimes receive reports from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee with some trepidation, but I am most grateful to—indeed, I thank—the committee for its consideration of the Bill, its overwhelmingly positive report and its commentary on an improvement to an earlier Bill. Of course, we will consider closely any residual issues and concerns raised by the committee.

In setting a seven-year agricultural transition period from direct payments to a new system, the Government wish to ensure a gradual move so that farmers can adapt. Over the past few months, the role of farmers and food producers in feeding the nation has quite rightly been on everyone’s minds. Working as I do at Defra, I particularly want to record my gratitude to all who have worked so hard, from farm to fork, to ensure we have access to the food we need. The importance that the Government place on food security is recognised in the Bill, with a duty placed on the Secretary of State to lay a report on food security before Parliament at least—I emphasise at least—every five years. We would certainly not intend to wait five years before publishing the first report, which will of course take into account what has been learned from the current pandemic.

The Secretary of State will have the powers to act in truly exceptional market conditions, such as those we are enduring at present, or in extreme weather conditions if these result in a severe disturbance in agricultural markets. As we move from area-based payments towards payments for the delivery of public benefit, we must also make sure that our farmers are fairly rewarded by a fair marketplace for the food that they produce.

Part 3 of the Bill contains provisions to strengthen the position of farmers in the food supply chain. Fair dealing provisions will introduce statutory codes of practice to regulate those buying from farmers; we will look at the dairy and red meat sectors first. Farmers’ position in the supply chain can also be strengthened by allowing groups of farmers to form producer organisations, which can access derogations from competition law, giving them the power to co-ordinate activities and become more competitive. The Bill contains powers to collect and share data, allowing the Government to strengthen existing market reporting services, and to provide information which will help farmers to make clearly evidenced business decisions and manage risk.

The Bill will enable the streamlining and modernising of the regulation of fertilisers. It also sets up the new multispecies livestock information service in England, which will provide the best livestock traceability. As a Minister with biosecurity in my brief, I think it essential that we enhance traceability.

The Bill also attends to a fairer distribution of the red meat levy, which I know has been an issue in Wales and Scotland. It will make pragmatic modifications to tenancy legislation, introducing more contemporary arrangements that will work for both tenants and landlords. It also contains powers to amend existing marketing standards, and to make new organics regulations and amend the existing regime so that these can be modernised to work better for domestic producers.

Part 6 provides powers to ensure the UK’s compliance with its obligations under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Regulations made under this part will allow the apportionment, between the nations of the United Kingdom, of agreed limits on certain types of financial support. I should note that this clause refers only to the Agreement on Agriculture and not to other WTO treaties, such as GATT, which the United Kingdom is bound to as a WTO member.

Clauses 43 to 45 and Schedules 5 and 6 have been included in the Bill at the request of the Welsh Government and DAERA Ministers. I am pleased to present them on their behalf. The Scottish Government have chosen to introduce their own agriculture Bill.

The Government have made it clear in the joint letter from the Environment Secretary and the International Trade Secretary published on 5 June, which I asked to be circulated to noble Lords yesterday, that they are alive to the issue of trade standards. My honourable Friend the Minister for Farming in the other place has stated:

“In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”


I can confirm that all food—I emphasise all food—coming into the country will continue to have to meet existing import requirements as the withdrawal Act transfers EU standards on to the UK statute book. This specifically means that the import of chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef, for example, is prohibited.

I realise that this is a brisk run-through of some elements of the Bill but I want to keep my remarks fairly short, so that we have plenty of time for other contributions. The Agriculture Bill is the beginning of a journey that we acknowledge will take time. We will put farmers and land managers at the heart of that journey. It needs to be their project too; it will not work if it is not. We will support them through the agricultural transition by adequately rewarding them for protecting and enhancing the environment, while enabling their businesses to prosper in the production of outstanding British food and drink for domestic and international consumption.

In this context, given the immense challenges that this planet faces—an increasing world population; climate change and its impact; the imperatives of enhancing the environment; and sufficient food production—how should we best use scientific advances to aid us? We have to wrestle with all these challenges. Innovation has been part of agricultural history, as have the traditions of good husbandry and custodianship. We clearly seek a blend of succeeding generations of farmers and new entrants. Coming from farming stock, I say that we ask much of the British farmer—as usual, at the very beginning, in contending with the weather. As some of your Lordships will know from an earlier consideration on derogation, this year had an exceptionally wet winter and spring followed by an exceptionally dry May.

I look forward to this debate because, by coming from all parts of the country, noble Lords will be well aware of the dynamics of their local farming sectors. I beg to move.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, what an exceptional debate. It will be impossible for me to answer all the questions that have been posed but I will say what I always say: I will seek to follow up in writing those questions either that I have not covered or which require further embellishment.

I was struck by some noble Lords’ words because there are some elements of this debate that I think have been unduly negative, but I agree with the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord McConnell, that there are great opportunities for what we are going to be considering in the coming weeks. The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, referred to a welcome approach and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to a balance between the environment and food production. The noble Baronesses, Lady Mallalieu and Lady Quin, emphasised that we have to work with farmers. None of this is going to work unless it becomes the farmers’ enterprise as well. That is what I will explain in further detail.

There were three Vs: “vision”, from the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and the noble Lord, Lord Curry; “viticulture”, from my noble friend Lord Naseby; and “the veterinary profession”, from my noble friend Lady McIntosh. All this shows the interconnection, the jigsaw puzzle that is the countryside, which so many of your Lordships know about.

My noble friend Lord Dobbs referred to innovation. I think we are on the cusp of a further agricultural revolution. Of course we need to use that knowledge wisely. I am conscious of the institutions that we have in this country that we need to prosper.

I want to clarify a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and perhaps my noble friend Lady Rock, in referring to food. Of course food is essential. It is essential for everyone in the world. However, 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. Coming from traditional farming stock, I can say that the reason why we see beautiful countryside is that many landowners and farmers actually want to embellish their landscapes.

I turn to trade standards. So many noble Lords have referred to this that I am not going to mention everyone by name. However, I want to refer to what my noble friends Lady Browning and Lady Chisholm had to say: in the negativity that I came across, let us not forget the British leadership that there has been on many of the activities raising trading standards across the world. That has been our influence. I know that our ambassadors raise standards across the piece and across the world. We should be proud of that.

My noble friend Lord Ridley referred to exports. I think it is the UK’s reputation for high-quality products that drives the demand for UK goods. Our success in the global marketplace depends on us continuing to maintain this reputation. I have said this many times, and I am starting to believe that certain noble Lords are determined not to believe me when I say it, but all EU food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards will be retained and form part of our domestic law. I emphasise that that includes all existing import requirements. Any changes to existing legislative standards would require new legislation to be brought before Parliament.

I should also say that in the UK food safety is regulated by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. Decisions to allow new regulated food products or processes—for example, food of animal origin treated with certain substances—into the UK market will be taken by Ministers in the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, informed by the independent advice of the FSA and FSS. This is a point that I would make particularly to the noble Lord, Lord McCrea, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and I emphasise it because I fear that we are getting into a determined position that everything is negative. That is why I refer again to my honourable friend the Minister for Farming, who stated in the other place that

“there can be no question of sacrificing the UK livestock or other farming industries for the US trade deal.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/5/20; col. 335.]

On labelling, raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Somerset, and my noble friend Lord Dobbs, I highlight the Government’s commitment to a serious and rapid examination of what can be done through labelling to provide reassurance that we intend to promote high standards and high welfare across the UK market. The Minister for Farming said that

“we will consult on this at the end of the transition period.”—[Official Report, Commons, 13/5/20; col. 335.]

Obviously, the Government have ongoing trade negotiations with the EU, an issue which was raised, and we have committed to a free trade agreement, to ensure that there are no tariffs, fees or quotas across all sectors.

My noble friend Lord Naseby referred to horticulture. Clause 1(2) allows us to introduce support for anyone starting or improving the productivity of a horticultural activity. I should also say to the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, that, when discussing productivity—I was struck by this—it is in the context of sustainability. It is not about allowing something that potentially improves productivity but then does environmental damage. That is not what is intended at all; this is about sustainable productivity.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, referred to the delivery of public goods and the measurement of such. The Baroness, Lady Bakewell, was right in what she said. The interconnected Environment Bill provides the office for environmental protection with the functions to scrutinise the Government’s environmental commitments, including those under Clause 1 of this Bill.

On the reference to our manifesto commitment, the UK Government’s election manifesto guaranteed the current annual budget in every year of the new Parliament, giving significant certainty on funding for the coming years.

I say to the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, that the first period of the multiannual financial assistance plan—in Clause 4—will cover a period of seven years, starting from 2021. It will set out the Government’s strategic priorities for agriculture policy during that period and describe which financial assistance schemes are expected to come into operation during that period.

My noble friends Lord Lindsay and Lord Duncan, and others, referred to future funding allocations for the devolved Administrations. In response to the Bew review, the Government committed to engage with the devolved Administrations to develop a fair approach to future funding allocations, and to consider the needs of farmers in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, recognising that agriculture policy is, and will remain, devolved. This work in ongoing.

On arrangements for Northern Ireland, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, that the deal with the EU makes it clear that Northern Ireland is, and will remain, part of the UK customs territory. This allows the UK to ensure unfettered market access for goods moving from Northern Ireland to GB. The arrangements we introduce will reflect this. The Prime Minister has been clear that, beyond the limited changes introduced by the protocol, there will be no changes to GB-NI trade. Northern Ireland remains part of the UK’s customs territory.

Under the protocol—I say this wearing my biosecurity hat—agri-food checks and assurances will be required for the movement of goods from GB to Northern Ireland. This is to protect supply chains and the biosecurity of the island of Ireland, as a single epidemiological unit. The protocol establishes that Northern Ireland will align with EU sanitary and phytosanitary rules, including in relation to the movement of animals and products of animal origin.

I should say also to the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, that we will want to bring down the level of checks to a pragmatic, proportionate level that recognises the high standards across the United Kingdom, in line with the protocol provision that both parties must use

“their best endeavours to facilitate … trade”,

and avoid controls at Northern Ireland ports as far as is possible. We will actively seek to simplify and minimise electronic documentary requirements for this trade.

As for the wider state aid framework after the transition period, this is a matter on which the Government will set out their position in due course. The Government will continue to ensure that agriculture support schemes, now and in the future, are compliant with the UK’s domestic legal framework. If necessary, the Government will work on any domestic legislation required, once they have set out their position on subsidy controls.

I turn now to Wales and the devolved Administrations. I emphasise that the reason I am so pleased to bring forward provisions for Wales and Northern Ireland is that they are at those Administrations’ request. The devolved Administrations have asked us to do this, so I can confirm to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady Humphreys, and the noble Lord, Lord German, that Defra and the Welsh Government reached agreement on the WTO agreement on agriculture. The bilateral agreement was published on GOV.UK and the Welsh Government website in March 2019. My officials continue to work closely with the Welsh Government, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and officials from the Scottish Government to agree and implement an administrative UK agriculture support framework. The aim of the framework is to ensure effective co-ordination and dialogue between the Administrations on agriculture subsidy, marketing standards, crisis measures, cross-border holdings and data collection and sharing. My experience is that, beyond the hyperbole, the arrangements and conduct of business with officials and Ministers between the devolved Administrations and the UK Government are very positive, and on these matters we are working very much to a common objective.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, that it has been agreed that a joint approach on organics is beneficial to the sector and we consider a UK-wide power the best way to achieve this. I also say to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, that we want to see consistent protection against unfair trading practices for farmers, wherever they are in the United Kingdom. We continue to consult widely and meaningfully with everyone who will be affected by our new codes of conduct, including the devolved Administrations and producers in those territories. Their views will be listened to and respected.

The noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, asked about the Livestock Information Service. This is a very important part of the programme. We shall work with the devolved Administrations to ensure that we share data to allow seamless traceability across the UK. Each territory’s tracing system will be able to communicate with each other to support day-to-day business operations such as cross-border movements.

I turn to the issue of new entrants. As I made clear in my opening remarks, it is very important that we ensure that there are new entrants and that they remain for the long term. The industry relies on attracting new talent and we will offer funding to councils with county farms estates, landowners and other organisations that want to invest in creating opportunities for new entrant farmers.

On financial assistance for active farmers, a point raised by my noble friend Lady Rock, we anticipate that farmers will receive a large proportion of the financial assistance provided for in the Clause 1 schemes.

I turn now to the focus of the Bill. I emphasise what many noble Lords have said: a strong environment is the way in which you can farm well. If your soils are not in good heart, you will not produce the food we need for both domestic and export production. That is why it is important that we work together on ensuring that farmers will, as we hope and believe, help the nation in achieving our environmental goals and in producing food for people both at home and abroad.

A number of noble Lords raised the issue of agricultural transition. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, said that the period was too long, while other noble Lords said that it was not long enough. We think that the seven-year period gives sufficient time for the sector to adapt to a new model. Delaying the start of the agricultural transition would just delay the many benefits of moving away from direct payments, which we believe are poorly targeted. The phasing out of direct payments will free up money so that we can start to introduce new schemes, which will be a more effective way of rewarding farmers for the work that they do and help to prepare them for the future. For most farmers—around 80% of them—our maximum reduction in direct payments for 2021 will be no more than 5%. I should also say that this is well within the usual payment fluctuations caused by exchange rate changes that farmers faced under the CAP. In this context, I have also referred to the manifesto pledge about funding.

However, I am very struck by what a number of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, and the noble Earl, Lord Devon, said about what has been described as the gap. I want to concentrate on this and will express my understanding of the points that have been made. We will offer a simplified countryside stewardship scheme for 2021-24 alongside productivity grants. Countryside stewardship will provide an additional long-term income stream whether it is for, for example, new hedges, wildlife offers, managing ponds or, particularly, livestock yards and manure storage to reduce pollution and improve water quality. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, referred to that point and to how we work with farmers to achieve the climate change goals we set ourselves. Productivity grants will be available to invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure, such as efficient irrigation systems and precision slurry application equipment. The Government will ensure a smooth transition into the ELM scheme and no one with an environmental stewardship or countryside stewardship agreement will be unfairly disadvantaged when we transition to the new arrangements.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, and particularly to the noble Baronesses on the Front Benches, that work on the collaborative design of the ELM scheme is well under way. There are 53 tests and trials up and running, and funding of more than £6.6 million has already been given. The ELM national pilot will commence in late 2021 and will run until 2024, when we intend to launch the full ELM scheme. A number of noble Lords raised upland and hill farmers and also lowland farmers. There are many environmental benefits, such as clean air and water, which will help, and benefits to landscape, to which the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, referred.

A number of points were made on results. We will be working on that because we want to ensure that the approach achieves the results we need. On access, of course, all farmers and land managers will continue to comply with the regulatory standards, including those on public rights of way. We think the ELM can fund the creation of new paths and the maintenance of footpaths and bridleways, which will be very beneficial.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, mentioned GIs. The Government are setting up new domestic schemes which will provide protection for GIs after the transition period.

On the impact assessments, we will be providing analysis and will publish further evidence in the form of impact assessments at the point of secondary legislation or when we consult on new schemes under Clause 1: that is how we are undertaking that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, asked about cross-compliance. Again, we wish to retain standards. On forestry, again there are many points to be made. My noble friend Lord Shrewsbury and the noble Lord, Lord Trees, asked about animal welfare schemes. We will be working on that and considering different forms of animal welfare schemes. On the issue of food security, I am very happy to discuss this, but I will highlight that the report will draw on a range of regularly reported and publicly available statistics and data. The majority of data covered will be available between the reports—but I understand the points that have been made.

Data on food waste is one of many aspects that will be considered when assessing the global availability of food. Skills are very important. In the wider educational area, there are currently 28 high-quality apprenticeship standards available in the agriculture, environment and animal care sector, and I will write further on that.

On gene editing, again the Government agree that the EU approach is unscientific. We are committed to adopting a more scientific approach to regulation in the future. I have to say that the Government will not adopt a new approach without proper consultation, which I hope will provide assurances. On tenants and their eligibility, of course tenants will be eligible and will be part of the ELM pilots.

Change can be testing, so the Government will work closely with farmers to ensure that schemes work for the farmer and the country. Farming is the backbone of the countryside; farming communities are at the heart of the wider community. The food and drinks industry is vital to this country; so is a resilient and healthy environment. They must go hand in hand. I look forward to further stages of the Bill; I have a fair idea of the collision points that may transpire; and I hope we will do it in a spirit of friendship and, indeed, as an endeavour to do the right thing. However, I commend the Bill and I beg to move.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad): House of Lords
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Committee - (7 Jul 2020)
There have been many other interesting contributions. I apologise to noble Lords if I have not mentioned them; I cannot possibly do justice to them all. Despite the wide range of contributions, I have been impressed by the common themes that have come out. There appears to be a consensus around what needs to be done to improve the Bill. Let us hope that that spirit of consensus continues as we debate later clauses. I look forward to continuing the debate in that spirit. 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, this has quite clearly been an extensive debate; it has been most rewarding for me to hear such a range of views on Clause 1 and financial assistance. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, that I have thoroughly enjoyed this debate. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch: there will be disagreements along the way—I have no doubt—but I think we should all be enthusiastic about the opportunity that we have.

I open by declaring my farming interests as set out in the register. I also say to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that I agree with the sound comments he made in many respects. That is precisely why there is an agricultural transition period of seven years and why we are working with farmers on tests and trials, so that we get this right.

Turning to the amendments, as I must and will, I may ask for your Lordships’ indulgence and support in my discussion with the Chief Whip if I go a little over time, because I want to address all the amendments properly.

On Amendment 1, we have chosen to use the term “may” rather than “must”, which is entirely consistent with other legislation. Free from the constraints of the common agricultural policy, the Government need the flexibility to reprioritise and adapt in response to changing environmental circumstances and new evidence. “May” also gives the flexibility to establish and fund schemes for a range of different purposes. The Government set out their long-term vision for what we will use public money to fund in the 25-year environment plan and the policy document published alongside the Bill. I emphasise to all noble Lords and absolutely confirm that there is no doubt that we will introduce new financial assistance.

I agree with the noble Baronesses, Lady Young of Old Scone and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and my noble friend Lord Trenchard that the construction of the Bill is deliberately broad so that we can embrace almost everything raised on many of the matters. I will have to say that the Government are very clear on some amendments. If, when we come to it, I mention ponies and other breeds, that is the context in which the Government have problems with some of the amendments. We want to ensure that we have it broad deliberately, so that many of the points noble Lords have made are embraced.

On my noble friend Lord Dundee’s Amendment 74, the Government recognise that farms should be incentivised to deliver multiple purposes. However, it will be very hard, if not impossible, to separate farms into single-purpose or multipurpose farms in this way. To take an example, if financial assistance is given for

“managing land or water in a way that protects or improves the environment”

under Clause 1(1)(a), many of those actions are likely to contribute to other purposes, such as mitigating or adapting to climate change in Clause 1(1)(d), reducing environmental hazards in Clause 1(1)(e) and so forth. This would tie the Government into creating systems that attempt to unpick the complexity of the natural environment to meet a bureaucratic requirement—albeit, I accept, a well-intentioned one. I think this was a point the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, made from his experience: beware of creating a bureaucratic monster by trying to have a perfect form.

In Amendments 4, 16, 21, 91 and 236, the noble Earl, Lord Devon, seeks to limit the scope of the purposes for giving financial assistance to the management of land by removing “water”, thereby narrowing what the Government can pay for under future financial assistance schemes. There are critical actions related to the management of water, and indeed of livestock, that the Government would want to pay for, particularly through ELM. For example, the mitigation of and adaptation to climate change can be supported by encouraging farmers to manage their livestock feed, to help reduce emissions that are emitted from livestock. Protecting and improving our environment or our cultural and natural heritage may involve the management of water. For example, creating, maintaining and restoring water-based habitats on farms can support a healthy ecosystem and ensure that we meet our commitments to biodiversity. This may involve the management of ponds, lakes and ditches, which would not be included in a definition of agricultural land.

I take this opportunity to refer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, about nitrates. The Government have taken action to mitigate nitrate pollution by placing farmers under regulations and providing them with grants. Farmers in nitrate-vulnerable zones are bound by the nitrates regulations.

The requirement of

“managing land or water in a way that maintains, restores or enhances cultural or natural heritage”

includes the management of our wetlands. Just to clarify, the marine environment is not in scope of the Bill, but I was very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, mentioned curlews. A much longer conversation with the noble Lord is required on crayfish. I have worked on this, and there are difficulties. At a later time I will perhaps spend some time explaining the issues.

Clause 1(1)(j) provides for financial assistance to be given for the protection and improvement of soil. This assistance will further aid in meeting this ambition for sustainably managed soils. Soil is clearly one of our greatest natural assets and the Government are committed to having sustainably managed soils by 2030, as set out in our 25-year environment plan, under which we are developing a healthy soils indicator. I also say to the noble Earl, Lord Devon, that the Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 define environmental outcomes that land managers must take account to avoid, including soil run-off and erosion. Indeed, civil sanctions are available.

On Amendments 5, 17, 89, 27 and 28 from my noble friend Lord Lucas, the Bill already allows funding for the management of land and water in a way that conserves the environment or our cultural or natural heritage, which could include “conserve” habitats. On the amendment that would expand the definition of “conserve”, Clause 1(5) already includes creating, protecting and maintaining.

Clause 1 allows support for the conservation of species and habitats if it contributes to protecting and improving the environment or maintaining, restoring and enhancing cultural or natural heritage. For example, ELM could support farmers to manage moorlands using traditional grazing techniques and native breeds or provide funding for the creation of new woodlands or flood plains. Clause 1(1)(g) and 1(1)(i) could be used to incentivise farmers to rear rare and native breeds or support measures to utilise crop wild relatives, thereby safeguarding those genetic traits that may offer a way to sustainably increase food production or improve our capacity to adapt to the emergence of new animal or plant diseases. I say to the noble Baronesses, Lady Mallalieu and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and my noble friend Lord De Mauley that the Government are wedded to the current drafting of the Bill. I say to my noble friend Lord Lucas that the Bill already caters for support for the conservation of newly established crop species that contribute to the provision of public goods.

Amendment 45 touches on existing work taking place to support the development of the UK’s domestic animal feed production. We are already funding research in this area through the Pulse Crop Genetic Improvement Network, a project due to end in 2023. A key part of our programme looks at how to produce better-quality animal feed and potential alternatives to imported soya protein.

On Amendment 76, the Government’s current proposals for the ELM scheme already include a significant space for the direct involvement of local groups. Local nature partnerships would be ideally placed to apply their expertise and ensure that tiers 2 and 3 of ELM are designed to support land managers in the delivery of environmental outcomes by providing the right things in the right places. The Government are already working closely with many of the organisations involved with local nature partnerships.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I want to make sure I get this right. I referred to the 2018 regulations for England about environmental outcomes that land managers must take action to avoid. There is no suggestion of any diminution of standards—in fact, quite the reverse. I will have to write and will put a copy in the Library. I want to make sure that I get all the regulations and how they are interconnected right. There is no intention from the Government on soil quality other than to enhance it, because that is the route to vibrant agriculture. I am most grateful to the noble Earl and will provide full details of all the requirements that will remain.

Lord Bruce of Bennachie Portrait Lord Bruce of Bennachie [V]
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I thank the Minister for his very positive response to my amendment, which I never doubted he would provide. When he says that the scheme will be farmer-led, how will that come about and how soon? Is there any timetable for when the structure of direct support for farmers in the context of rural payments will be clarified? I am sure he appreciates that the hill farming sector is extremely vulnerable, fragile and anxious to get a clear steer. How and when will that be provided?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I did not have an opportunity to flesh out the tests and trials. The tests and trials on the ELM are designed to work with ranges of farmers in different topographies and tenures in all parts of the country. There are schemes that will be suitable. In this case, there are clearly tests and trials with hill farmers in the uplands so that we can ensure that those schemes are in place. Some are under way already and farmers are receiving financial assistance for participating in them.

When we roll out the entire ELM in 2024, we want to follow the success in the recording and improving of those tests and trials so that we can ensure that, in the case of the noble Lord’s concern about hill farmers, these schemes will automatically work for them. Hill farmers are key to ensuring that the environmental enhancements we all want are available. I am confident that, working with those hill farmers, we will get the sorts of schemes that will be of benefit and that the farmers will actively wish to be engaged in.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson
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I thank the Minister for his extensive reply. I was particularly pleased that he mentioned the shared prosperity fund. I realise that it is not a Defra issue, but it is an important structural issue and there has been very little information about when this fund, which is a Conservative Party manifesto pledge, will actually start. While I would like to ask him that question, I am sure he does not know the answer to it as it is not a Defra issue. However, will he really press his colleagues in Government to get this fund going? The EU structural funding is going to end very soon. There will be an end there, and it is very important that the rural parts of that funding start. Will he press his colleagues to get announcements here so that people can prepare and not have this gap?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I am most grateful to the noble Lord. Clearly, rural-proofing means that anything we do across Whitehall should be considered in terms of the impact on rural communities, and UK shared prosperity means rural communities. I am also grateful because I can assure him that the whole of Defra takes this approach and, as Minister for Rural Affairs, I get my teeth into this regularly because clearly we need to work with MHCLG so that this goes across all communities and will benefit rural communities, which, after all, have so much to offer the country.

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As I said at Second Reading, the Bill must encourage wholesome food production alongside environmental enhancements. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, for her remarks on public access for wheelchairs, under Amendment 111, on public rights of way under the Highways Act, also endorsed by my noble friend Lord Rooker. The Minister may respond that this and other amendments are unnecessary and already included in other legislation or the various clauses and requirements of the Bill on payment schemes, administration and good agricultural practice. It is important that a good picture of the framework of the Bill is made explicit. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for what again has been an interesting debate which has taken us into a range of issues. I shall begin with Amendment 2 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, Amendments 3, 10, 15, 20, 23, 30, 64 and 85 from the noble Earl, Lord Devon, Amendment 65 from my noble friend Lady McIntosh and Amendment 94 from the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, all of which deal with eligibility for financial assistance.

This is of course the Agriculture Bill, and the powers it contains have been designed with agriculture in mind. Schemes are overwhelmingly designed to work for farmers and land managers, and we intend that they will reap the benefits of providing public goods across agriculture, forestry and horticulture. Farmers will, and indeed must, be at the very heart of future schemes, as I have said before.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that, yes, we want to avoid bureaucracy, but one of the reasons to have these tests and trials across the nation is so that almost all the ranges of what is in Clause 1 are tested, so that we can come forward with a national rollout which we think will be dynamic and work for farmers.

The ELM scheme will pay farmers, foresters and other land managers to deliver environmental public goods identified in the Government’s 25-year environment plan. About 70% of land in England is farmed so, as stewards of our land, farmers will play an essential role in this. That is why tier 1 of the ELM scheme will focus on supporting farmers to farm their land in an environmentally sustainable way. Other schemes, such as those aiming to improve animal health and welfare, will focus on supporting livestock farmers. The noble Lord, Lord Empey, used a word which is important in all of what we have to do: “balance”.

One of the areas where a number of noble Lords have taken contrary views is on assigning this just for, say, agricultural land. My noble friend the Duke of Montrose was right to highlight some of the issues and complexities, as did my noble friends Lord Randall of Uxbridge and Lord Trenchard and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. Woodland, rivers and wetlands, among many others, may well be able to deliver important public goods. This is an issue that we need to think through. When we try to be so precise, we might end up missing out if we were to accept some of these amendments. I am very glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, mentioned the restoration of peatland. Many of these features will be managed by farmers on their land, but if we define it as just agricultural land, are we in difficulties about woodland, rivers and wetlands, all of which make a major contribution on one’s farm to how one can enhance the environment? Restricting eligibility to those managing land for agriculture, horticulture or forestry would mean that we risk missing out the important benefits that can be gained when land managers work together. For example, we would not wish for all those managing land in a particular river catchment to lose out on the possibility of joining a scheme just because one parcel of land in the catchment was not agricultural.

I am very mindful of what the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and my noble friend Lord De Mauley said about native breeds. The Government are currently developing the details of the ELM scheme with stakeholders, including eligibility criteria. The ELM discussion document was reopened on 24 June. The Government’s view is that the Bill as drafted strikes the right balance between affirming the Government’s support to fund farmers, foresters and land managers under future schemes and providing a helpful degree of flexibility in designing future schemes.

There was a very interesting discussion about well-being. We had important contributions. Clause 1 could be used to contribute to the delivery of societal benefits, including engagement with the environment. The ELM could fund the creation of new paths, such as footpaths and bridleways, and could support access to water and waterways, such as lakes and rivers, which allow for—yes—enjoyment of the countryside. I have a bit to do with this very important area, particularly in relation to loneliness: I represent Defra on the ministerial task force on that. The noble Lord, Lord Empey, also mentioned social prescribing, health and well-being. Defra and the DHSC, working jointly, are bidding, through the shared outcomes fund, to develop a mental health project to support scaling up nature-based preventive and therapeutic interventions, working with PHE, NHS England, the MHCLG and Natural England. I am genuinely interested in how we craft the Bill. We think that “enjoyment” covers all that would be required. If a farmer was going to engage with something like social prescribing or health and well-being, then that is part of environmental enhancement. I am not promising anything, but I am interested in a conversation on how we encompass all this. With what the nation is going through with this crisis, the Government place great importance on this area for health, well-being, mental health and social prescribing.

I turn to Amendment 106, in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh. It was great to see the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, even if it was only on the screen. The Government recognise that schemes should, of course, be available to tenant farmers. It is the Government’s intention that the ELM scheme will provide funding to those carrying out the management of the land or water to deliver the environmental public goods. My noble friend Lord Inglewood, an experienced land manager, spoke wise words when he referred to the range of issues. The Government are engaging with a wide range of different types of farmer and land manager, including tenant farmers, to inform the development of ELM and to understand and address any particular issues, including in relation to tenant farmers, to which my noble friend Lady McIntosh’s amendment refers.

In response to the noble Earl, Lord Devon, I say that the Government are designing future financial schemes to be accessible to as many farmers and land managers as possible, including those who work on common land.

I turn to amendments which deal with conditions placed on recipients of financial assistance. I reassure my noble friend Lady McIntosh that the Government recognise the importance of the issues listed in her Amendment 103 and are committed to supporting their delivery, both through schemes that will be delivered under Clause 1—I will not go through the list of what they are—and wider government initiatives. On the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, I say that we already have robust domestic regulatory protections in place that require all farmers and land managers, irrespective of whether they receive financial assistance or not, to meet stringent standards. I was interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, said. These rules include the farming rules for water, which protect against water pollution, and the welfare of farmed animals regulations, which protect farm livestock, a point that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to. These protections will continue.

The Government are reviewing, in partnership with industry, where we can make improvements to our regulatory regime. There will be some areas where the Government will raise standards. As announced in the clean air strategy, the Government will require and support farmers to take more action to reduce ammonia emissions, for example. Where appropriate, we will look to provide greater scope to remedy underperformance before sanctions are applied. The Government agree with Dame Glenys Stacey that advice has an important role in an effective regulatory system.

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
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I rise merely to press the Minister on his statements around the different levels of tiers and how payments may differ as the higher tiers are approached. I wondered whether this was going to become clear in the regulations or whether there is a bit of experience of how many people will be applying under the different tiers. Will it be defined in regulations?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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Clearly, we know that there are 80,000-plus claimants under the BPS at the moment. Obviously, the range of opportunities, with regard to numbers, will depend on clusters and how many farmers will want to group together—as we have had with farm clusters in other schemes—and those that wish to have individual, predominantly tier 1 consideration. Again, clearly this is why the trials are going on; they will show how that is going to work with the varying tiers and indeed how they all interrelate.

I do not think I would feel comfortable taking it any further than that at this stage, only because this is work in progress. I should think it will go on beyond enactment, but what I will do is make sure that—obviously, there will be continuing work on this and regulations will be coming forward—when we get to further stages of how ELM is coming forward, noble Lords are kept informed.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his usual courteous and informed reply. However, the point that I was trying to raise seems to have got slightly lost: namely, where do we find out who is going to be eligible? If the answer is “We do not know”, I think we might have to come back and dig again to find out exactly where that is placed, but at the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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As we have all said, there is a limited budget. We will be fighting over that limited budget and we have to be responsible about how we do it. In the meantime, I beg to hear the response from the Minister.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords. This has been an important debate. When preparing for today, I never realised that we might hear references to Leviticus—but it is an interesting way forward. I will begin by replying to the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and I will also take in Amendment 100, tabled by my noble friend Lady Hodgson.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. Public access to the countryside provides a huge range of benefits, including improving physical and mental health, and supporting local communities and economies. Spending time in the natural environment, as a resident or a visitor, can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. It can help boost the immune system and encourage physical activity, and it may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as asthma. It can combat loneliness and bind communities together.

Here, the word “balance” comes up again. In my experience, the countryside is about balance. It is overwhelmingly not in the interests of any farmer to fall out with their neighbours, because, in the end, we all have to find a way through. My noble friend Lord Cormack, the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and the two noble Baronesses from the Front Benches spoke of this.

The noble Earl, Lord Devon, said that these things need to be handled well. Well, we all need to try to handle things well, but this is an area where inflammatory language is extremely unwise. I do not think that we are going to get anywhere unless we work collaboratively. That is why we have this power. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that we have a power in the Bill to provide financial assistance to support public access to, and enjoyment of, the countryside, farmland and woodland. That is a good basis from which we should be working.

The Government are supporting and enhancing access to the countryside in a number of different ways. I am very pleased that tourism was raised. The completion of the England coastal path—the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, knows I have written to him—was delayed, unfortunately, because of coronavirus, but we are working on this. Not only domestic but overseas visitors thoroughly enjoy walking in this country, so we are supporting our network of national trails and ensuring that rights of way are recorded and protected, as well as developing ways to support access through the environmental land management scheme. One of the most rewarding elements of my responsibility for the England coastal path has been to join many people of a range of abilities and disabilities at openings of some of the England coastal path. For instance, there are platforms that settle well into some of the dunes to enable people in wheelchairs to get out into the dunes while keeping away from tern nests. Again, it is all about balance in how we organise these things.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, that there are three ELM tests and trials looking at issues concerning access, and these will help us understand how the scheme could work in a real-life environment. For example, the ELM scheme could fund the creation of new paths, such as footpaths and bridleways, which provide access for cyclists, riders and pedestrians where appropriate. It could support access to water and waterways on someone’s land. In particular, the Mendip Hills trials will work with farmers and land managers in the Mendip Hills to explore a range of issues relating to creating access infrastructure—another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. The tests will conclude in 2021 and will be very helpful. I say also to the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, that funding may be given under Clause 1(1)(b) to support access to water bodies and waterways in the countryside, farmland and woodland, which could provide access to those locations. Our ELM scheme will reward land managers for the public goods that they deliver, which could include granting of public access to water.

My noble friend Lord Trenchard asked about trials. We need to have these trials and that is why I do not think the discussion we are having is immensely valuable. We should not try to ring-fence the detail at this stage in this primary legislation; we need to be pragmatic to get the right results, because it is by getting those right results that we will encourage more farmers to feel that this is their scheme and access is not a forbidding element of the financial assistance package. Defra continues to liaise regularly with other key stakeholders, including the NFU, of which I declare my membership, Ramblers, with which I have a lot of good relationships, and the British Horse Society, of which I declare my membership, among others, to discuss access and Covid-19 recovery opportunities.

I say to my noble friend Lord Caithness and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, that one of the ways we are going to get this right is by getting people around the table. That is why Defra has a stakeholder group advising on rights of way reform that brings together landowners, users and local authorities to develop a consensus on areas for change and the necessary implementation. I am anxious to get this as far forward as possible, and my noble friend Lord Caithness keeps me on my toes. He ought to recognise, and I am sure he does, that we are dealing with a number of issues in terms of legislation and it has not been possible to bring forward the deregulation package on rights of way reform that we all desire, but I cannot engage in a mission impossible when we have many other demands on the Government’s legislative plate and the delays because of coronavirus.

On the conditions land managers must meet in order to take part in the scheme, the current wording enables a range of different conditions to be set and, again, we will work with stakeholders to develop these. Of course, land managers’ legal responsibilities in relation to access over their land will still be applicable.

The noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Greaves, and my noble friend Lord Moynihan raised points about meeting baseline regulatory standards. We expect farmers and managers to meet regulatory standards, regardless of whether they are claiming an ELM payment. This is voluntary; I would resist entirely if noble Lords thought this was an opportunity to start instructing people what they should do on their land, beyond their legal responsibilities and requirements. In the ELM discussion document published on 25 February, the Government explained that they are also exploring whether establishing compliance with relevant regulatory requirements should be an entry requirement for tier 1 of the ELM scheme. The Government are committed to maintaining a strong regulatory baseline, with proportionate and effective enforcement mechanisms. All farmers and land managers must continue to comply with regulatory standards and obligations, including those on public access.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Earl, Lord Devon, the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, raised the Countryside Code. The messages in the Countryside Code are being promoted widely, via Natural England’s local and national partner organisations, as well as landowners and managers. Defra and Natural England have recently released some targeted communications to tackle specific issues such as wildfire and littering. In response to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, there was a discussion in Defra about this. Local authorities already have the powers to make bylaws to prohibit barbecues in public spaces. That is the way it should be done, because that is the way that local communities and local authorities can work together. There is legal provision for that, so it can be placed in the local context.

Footpaths, bridle paths, byways, and open-access land are all important in making sure that as many people as possible can enjoy our natural environment. However, it is important to ensure that the Bill enables public support for all types of access, including access to water, and access on other legally designated types of path.

I turn to Amendment 88. Clause 1(5) clarifies that

“‘better understanding of the environment’ includes better understanding of agroecology”.

The clause, as drafted, already allows the Secretary of State to give financial assistance to support farmers, foresters and other land managers so that they can improve public understanding of the environment, for example through educational visits.

On Amendment 34, in the name of my noble friend Lord Lucas, Clause 1(1)(b) states that the Secretary of State may give financial assistance for or in connection with

“supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland and better understanding of the environment”.

This will allow us to pay for matters such as educational infrastructure, to ensure that our farmers have the right facilities to host farm visits, including school visits.

In response to my noble friend Lord Blencathra and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, last year was the Year of Green Action, a year-long drive to get more people from all backgrounds involved in projects to improve the natural world. Due to the positive reception from all audiences, young people will continue to be able to take up these opportunities and provide a crucial viewpoint on these important matters.

There was mention of young people and littering. My experience, I am afraid, is that people of all generations are culpable on this. We have to engage young people in the quest to improve our environment. Candidly, dropping litter should be an anti-social behaviour. We should all lead on this as best we can.

I am chided by my noble friend Lord Caithness. I might get tetchy with him if he starts saying that I do not answer questions. I endeavour to do so as often as possible. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Clark, my legal advice is that Clause 1(1)(b) allows support for access to forestry land equalling woodland. I hope that is helpful to my noble friend Lord Caithness.

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 9th July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-III Third marshalled list for Committee - (9 Jul 2020)
It has been an interesting debate. I echo the calls to the Minister to confirm that these pursuits are possible within the Bill and that the Secretary of State has powers to encourage them. Before I give away to the Minister, I wonder whether he will answer the inquiry today from my noble friend Lord Clark, who asked a similar question yesterday concerning the status of the right of access to land where forestry may increase and change the character of that land. He is right to draw attention to the suitability of forestry as a way to increase access. Has the Minister’s department undertaken any assessment in this respect? I also commend the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, and the good work he undertook at the Countryside Agency. I remember implementing rural market towns regeneration and other initiatives under the northwest regional development agency after the devastation of foot and mouth; his experiences are very instructive in continuing these activities.
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 another very interesting and, indeed, thought-provoking debate. I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to it. I declare my farming interests as set out in the register.

I have to say that, in opening the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Curry, and my noble friend Lord Caithness demonstrated textbook brevity: they got absolutely to the point of their amendment, and I should remember that brevity myself. Clause 1(1)(b) allows us to pay for educational infrastructure to ensure our farmers have the right facilities to host farm visits and increase wider awareness among the public, and especially school pupils, about the crucial role our farmers play in maintaining our countryside and producing the food we eat.

On the word “forestry”, I agree with my noble friend Lord Caithness; as I said on Tuesday, I see “forestry” and “woodland” as coterminous. I expect that for many farmers who have woodland, part of the educational visit offered is to go from the wheat field to the barley field, to the sugar beet and to the woods—a complete package, showing what happens on so many farms. As outlined on Tuesday, Defra has a significant programme of public engagement, which incorporates the voices of young people in particular. Defra has used this input to make environmental policy more accessible to young people; as I said before, the year of green action is extremely important.

I have noted a number of points which I may not be able to answer, partly because of time but also because of the detail involved. I say to my noble friend Lady McIntosh that I very much agree with the point she made. I will speak to the DfE about the importance, as part of looking after the interests of young people, of making clear that connection with the natural world and the environment.

I am very conscious of the work that goes on in forestry. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and my noble friend Lord Caithness that Clause 1(1)(b) allows the Government to provide funding for

“supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland”

and “woodland”. Just as educational visits on farms are covered, so would be visits that take place partly or fully on forestry land. The noble Lord, Lord Mann, spoke of many parts of the country where woodland would be a very important feature—I agree. The National Forest is a prime example of where land that went through industrialisation has been restored and become a great educational resource and source of much broader enjoyment. Government can do only so much, but an important aspect of what happens in the countryside is the way agricultural associations, the NFU and all the farming organisations, the CLA, the agricultural colleges, Kew, the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, the Forestry Commission and all such bodies, private and public, are engaged in public awareness and providing educational resource, as I know from personal experience.

I will get back to the noble Lord, Lord Clark, particularly on commercial transactions of Forestry Commission parcels of land. My understanding, from way back in my memory, is that very little Forestry Commission land is sold and any proceeds of sale go back into further forestry. As to any commercial arrangements that involve access issues, I do not think that it would be reasonable for me to reply to him or the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, without a full legal analysis of the arrangements. I hope that will be acceptable to the two noble Lords.

On forestry graduates, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs—I know it is also of particular interest to my noble friend Lord Caithness—that Forestry Commission England supports the industry-led Forestry Skills Forum, which is dedicated to promoting education, skills, learning and development across the forestry sector in England and Wales. Nearly 30 forestry employers, associations and educational providers have pledged to work together to attract the very best of young and new talent into the sector. As for the number of forestry graduates, the detail I have is, I am afraid, for 2016-17, when there were about 150 graduate students in forestry. However, the headline number disguises the fact that forestry employers recruit from other disciplines that offer supplementary training.

I was very pleased that my noble friend Lord Shrewsbury highlighted that an important element of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, is the importance of an appropriately skilled workforce. Agricultural and forestry technologies are transforming farming and creating new types of jobs and requirements for new kinds of skills. It is important that the industry is supported in its ability to respond to these changes.

Clause 1 has been purposely broadly drafted to allow the Government to account for existing or emerging skills gaps. Activities “connected to” any of the purposes listed in Clause 1 can already be funded, which already covers protecting the environment, mitigating against climate change, conservation, forestry and measures to improve the productivity of agricultural and forestry activities, among many others.

From my personal experience of this, I remember going with a school from Lambeth with Kate Hoey to an agricultural college. We arrived and the children were asked to run through strips of oats, wheat and barley. I was horrified, but it was a very good idea. They were asked to pick the ears and, when they came back, the question was: “What food comes from those crops?” I have to say, quite a number of children were on to it and knew. We then went into the dairy, where there were shorthorns—we used to have shorthorns in the family; they are a very good breed to manage and look after—and the children held their brushes. They were not sure, as they did not like the smell, but afterwards they really got involved in it all. So, if anyone wants to ask me, “Do you know how inspirational these visits can be to children of all backgrounds, and particularly from inner city areas?”, I am absolutely with it.

The connections we can have from encouraging the countryside and urban areas to work together are profoundly important. That relates not only to the Bill, but to what so many charities and bodies are already doing. The noble Earl, Lord Devon, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and my noble friends Lord Marlesford and Lord Cormack all made those points. My noble friend Lord Cormack said that this is an important point. I absolutely get the point that it is not only important, but imperative that the next generation know more than perhaps this generation about the interconnection between farming, the environment, the production of food and everyone’s well-being.

I noted down that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, referred to “multitasking” but, in fact, with all the tasks that the noble Lord mentioned, I then put “magician”. There is no doubt in my mind, coming as I do from a farming background, about how versatile farmers have to be. They are versatile in the first place in dealing with every weather condition, but I also have some sympathy with the paperwork that is no doubt put before farmers. That is why the whole emphasis of what we want to do is to concentrate on making this practical by working with farmers to ensure that it works for them and that it is their project, so that they do not think what on earth have this Government done to them.

I acknowledge the instrumental work of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, in the Skills Leadership Group and I express my gratitude to him. Defra officials are engaging with the Skills Leadership Group as leaders in the industry to develop plans for a proposed new professional body, which is intended to be an independent and self-funded organisation, precisely to bring forward skills in all the sectors that I have mentioned. The Government believe that this kind of industry-led initiative can be instrumental in creating clear career development pathways and promoting the sector as a progressive, professional and attractive career choice. If we are looking at the recovery from what this country is going through—a green recovery as well—these are clearly areas where we must encourage the next generation to feel that there are worthwhile careers; it is very important for the national interest.

I turn to some of the other points. I agree that Amendments 32 and 33 raise some essential topics. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lucas for raising them, but they were also echoed by the noble Lords, Lord Krebs, Lord Campbell-Savours, Lord Cameron of Dillington and Lord Mann. I echo the points that my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Earl, Lord Devon, raised. This Bill will not be a way in which, suddenly, all the research demands of the natural world and agriculture will be found. I say that rather softly, in so far as we would look for other sources of funding across Whitehall for some of these really significant research projects. But it is important—indeed, essential—that robotics and genetics offer great potential for agriculture. Innovation and technology are key to boosting productivity while, I emphasise, enhancing the environment and feeding a growing world. I leave it to scientists such as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and others to ensure that the science is directed in a way that clearly enhances production of food in an environmentally important way. Existing legislation, such as the Science and Technology Act, already enables the Government to support research to enable the development of new technology and practices in food production.

The Government are planning to use these powers to launch an ambitious agricultural innovation research package, which will enable more farmers and agri-food businesses to become involved in agricultural research. Having been to the laboratory at Harper Adams University, it is extraordinary what is in prospect in terms of an agricultural revolution, so that we can improve the productivity, sustainability and resilience of farming. For example, people are developing remote sensors which use artificial intelligence for the early identification of pests and diseases, so that with integrated pest management we can be much more cautious with the use of those materials.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. Those are very important points, and I will be happy to provide answers to that further range of questions.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness [V]
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My Lords, I first thank my noble friends Lord Colgrain and Lord Shrewsbury for signing my amendment; that was very kind of them. I also thank all noble Lords who have spoken in favour. I think half the noble Lords who spoke specifically mentioned and approved of my amendment and nobody spoke against it, so that was good to hear.

I spoke only on my Amendment 13, but that does not mean I do not support a number of the other amendments; I do. I have one specific point on another amendment, that of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond. I ask my noble friend Lord Gardiner whether Defra will be able to support vertical farming, because that could be a great and very environmentally friendly source of vegetable production.

I very much like what my noble friend said in reply to my amendment. I was particularly pleased to hear his comment that he would like to see the educational groups that would go to farms go to the wheat, the barley and the sugar beet, and then into the woods. Does this indicate that Defra is now taking much more of a whole-farm approach? Will we see this in ELMS? One of the great drawbacks of the current system is that farming and forestry have been split. Does he now envisage a whole-farm approach in everything Defra will do? That would be a useful answer to get.

My noble friend did not explain particularly clearly to me why he thought the rather vague wording in the Bill was better than the more specific wording of the amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Curry, and me. I think he said that there might be other issues the Government would like to fund that are not covered by a more specific wording. Do I take it that more specific wording will come in regulations that we will debate in the House? Before I decide what to do, I would be grateful if he could give me an answer to that.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I am getting conflicting advice as to when there should be further questioning of a Minister, but I am happy to answer as best I can.

The tier 1 ELMS will be to the farmer across their farm. My understanding of most people’s farms is that they involve agricultural land and may involve copses, covers and other parts that would be involved in a whole-farm project. Tiers 2 and 3 are on a wider landscape level and may involve a range of either farms or other landowners. We discussed the different tiers before, so I am a little confused as to whether my noble friend thought that a farmer was going to apply for tier 1 for the arable land and work for environmental enhancement and Clause 1 objectives, and then have a separate application for what they might do with their woods and covers. No, this will be a farmer undertaking work on their farm.

My noble friend is right that, as I said—I thought I said this on Tuesday as well—the Government distinctly want to have a broad definition, not to curtail it, because we want to work with the farmers, foresters and growers to ensure that when we devise the scheme we do not find ourselves ring-fenced because noble Lords have decided that they have an important point that they must have in the Bill. That would start to make it more difficult. That is precisely why I have said that our definitions are deliberately broad in order to enable us to work with the farmers, the foresters and the growers to ensure that we get the right schemes for them.

I am not sure whether I was permitted to reply to my noble friend in this way, but I intervene now because it is important that he realises that a lot of what we are going to be discussing is best discussed with regard to the regulations, many of which will be made by the affirmative procedure. Then we will we have more flesh on the bone, having had the result of our work with the important people who are going to make all this happen for us.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness [V]
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I am grateful to my noble friend for what he has said, which has clarified the position. I think that I am perfectly entitled to ask such questions in Committee for elucidation of what he has said—as he will appreciate, I cannot ask him a question about what he has said until he has said it—and that is the great value of Committee stage. With that, I am happy not to move my amendment.

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 14th July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 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
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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 Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op) [V]
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My Lords, I warmly congratulate the Minister and thank him for the sympathetic way in which he is dealing with this Bill. Like all of us, he will have clocked in at 4 pm for a delayed start at 4.40 pm and has sat through all these extensive debates. He deserves not just a medal but a whole chestful of medals for the way he is dealing with it, but he has not dealt with one intervention: the one from the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs. He complained —I think he moaned a little—about the fact that on the third day we were still on Clause 1. He called for caution and self-restraint.

During his speech I was checking up. In fact, in this debate more than twice as many Tories as Labour Members—to take a random example—have contributed. We have enjoyed some of the speeches, including the wartime reminiscences. When we eventually get to the next group, we have 12 Tories and only two Labour Members. If the Minister agrees with the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs—I do not, by the way; I think we should scrutinise the Bill carefully both in Committee and on Report—I suggest to him that the person he needs to talk to is the Tory Chief Whip and no one else.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, it is very nice to hear the noble Lord; I enjoy having this dialogue. I am advised that your Lordships will have three times the amount of time, with the six days or more, to consider this Bill in Committee. We should use it wisely; we need to get through a lot of groups. The whole point calls for a bit of good old-fashioned common sense.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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I thank the Minister for his usual detailed responses, but I would like to probe him a little more on whether food security is a public good. He is quite correct in saying that there is a market for food. If that is the definition, clearly production of food is not a public good. However, many times in the past the market has not adequately rewarded me for the food I have produced as a farmer. If we want a nation fed on healthy, wholesome food and schoolchildren need healthy meals, one could argue that the need to intervene could occur at some stage in the future. We do not know what the market will be like when we leave the European Union.

The Minister is quite correct that we will discuss Clause 17. This is important and I very much welcome it, but it does not state what the Government will do if there is a food security crisis. I suggest to the Minister that it may be appropriate to reconsider whether food security should be included as a public good, should the Government need to intervene at some stage in future.

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
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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.

Lord Northbrook Portrait Lord Northbrook
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the Minister for his detailed response to the group. I think he has answered my question. Is what he has just said the reason why he does not approve of Amendment 60—because it does not directly support domestic production financially?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I will have to look again at Amendment 60. The construct is about where, following the Health and Harmony consultation we undertook, it was decided that we should recognise support for farmers in a post-CAP world. It was recognised that we needed to put food production and food security in the Bill, and we have put them in. This is the difficulty when you have improvements in iterations. They were valuable new iterations, but the point about rewarding food production is that, with better fair dealing, the farmer gets a reward from the market. They do not as yet for the purposes in Clause 1(1)(a) to (j), and we think that is where the reward should be.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to all who have contributed to this group of amendments. There were almost 40 contributors, including the Minister and me. It has been a vigorous debate and almost all noble Lords were united.

I am grateful for the response from the Minister. My remaining concern, as has been reflected in the questions, including those following his speech and his response to them, is that food production should be considered a public good. I am not quite sure that we have established that yet. Also, I remain deeply concerned —as, I believe, do other noble Lords—about the future of food security. We have not had and will not have sight of the Dimbleby report on food strategy, in which a lot of this will be dealt with, according to my noble friend said. That is regrettable. But the hour is late. For the moment, I will withdraw this amendment, but I reserve the right to return to it later. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 35.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, this has been very helpful debate. I am grateful to my noble friend for Amendments 58, 119 and 135, and to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for Amendment 122.

The Government agree that effective advice and guidance will play an essential role in ensuring that agreement conditions are met and that the outcomes we are looking to achieve through future agricultural policy are delivered. “In connection with” in Clause 1(1) includes advice and guidance given to recipients so that they can better understand how to deliver the purposes for which they are in receipt of assistance. The same is true of the two purposes in Clause 1(2).

My noble friend Lord Northbrook spoke of the environmental land management policy discussion document. My notes state that it is currently live, and my noble friend endorsed that by remarking about it. The Government make it clear that access to an adviser will be a crucial component of the success of ELM. I do not want to go into too many of the tiers at this stage, but tier 3 will be where we provide financial assistance on a much broader, landscape level. I can think of catchment areas and greater expanses of land where a number of land managers and farmers would be involved. Tier 1 would be for the farmer, but tiers 2 and 3 would most likely involve a wider number of farmers and land managers. Those policy documents set out a range of models for the provision of advice, including one-to-one advice, group training, telephone and online support, and facilitation of peer-to-peer learning.

I agree with what was said by my noble friends Lord Lucas and Lord Caithness and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. The ELM tests and trials team has established an advice and guidance thematic working group—that sounds pretty awful, but I am sure that it is a very good working group. This will gather evidence on how different types of expert advice could help farmers and land managers plan, and record, the public goods they choose to deliver across their land. There are currently 34 tests and trials on advice and guidance. I not only take but endorse the point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas on tone and what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said about the manner in which all these things are done.

In the policy and progress update published in February, the Government confirmed their intention to offer advice to applicants for productivity grants. This advice could help applicants decide how to target investments to achieve the greatest improvements in business performance. Advice and guidance are also an integral part of the Government’s future animal health schemes, with vets in particular having been identified as a key source of advice for farmers who wish to take pragmatic steps to improve animal health.

In the policy update, the Government also committed to a future system of agricultural regulation which, among other things, understands and implements better ways to provide advice and guidance to the sector. The Government will work closely with industry to consider the best way to deliver such advice. It is, however, imperative that that advice and guidance are delivered by the right people, in the right places, at the right time and—I emphasise—in the right way. A wealth of knowledge and expertise already exists across our farming and land management communities. However, it is also a priority for the Government to ensure that the farming industry is adequately supported by advice and guidance.

My noble friends Lord Caithness and Lord De Mauley spoke about agricultural shows. As a former president of the Bucks County Show and a current vice-president of the Buckinghamshire and Suffolk Agricultural Associations, and having made many visits to agricultural shows across the kingdom, I know that they are an extraordinary example of the great part of rural life and farming at its backbone. All of us obviously regret not having been able to go to our local county shows. The current advice on meeting people outside your household is available online and allows that events of more than 30 people can take place as long as they are planned by an organisation in compliance with the Covid-19-secure guidance, Working Safely During Coronavirus: the Visitor Economy. So I say to my noble friends and all noble Lords that planning for next year, which I know all of them are doing, will clearly depend on where we are in the containment of the virus. There is also industry-led guidance on keeping workers and audiences safe during Covid-19, which applies to those working in outdoor events.

I am well aware that many of these show societies are charities, and of the use of the furlough scheme. I will reflect on what noble Lords have said. Agricultural shows are an important part of the rural calendar and are a way for urban and rural schools to get involved and understand why agriculture and rural life are so important. They are a key part of showing the country what the countryside provides.

Lord Lucas Portrait Lord Lucas [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his comprehensive and optimistic reply. I urge on him again the importance of allowing failure; allowing people to get things wrong; to try things for the best reason and find the disaster and then have to put things right. We are going to find the right way to do some of these things only if we are adventurous and stick our necks out. That is the sort of support that I hope this Government will feel able to give. I am comforted by what my noble friend said and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 16th July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (16 Jul 2020)
Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, and to note that she is reflecting the support that is to be found on all sides of your Lordships’ House for the inclusion of the climate emergency in the Bill. I thank the Minister for her responses thus far. She brandished the “we have legally binding targets” stick that the Government very much like to bring out. I point out that we also have a Fixed-term Parliaments Act which supposedly sets the date of elections every five years—and we have had three elections in the past five years.

What we need is action. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, pointing to the report that has just come out from the independent Committee on Climate Change, we have not had, and do not have in mind, anything like the action that we need. The Minister quoted a 2019 report from the same committee pointing out the difficulties of making agriculture net-zero carbon. But the National Farmers’ Union, which is representative of many farmers in this country, particularly the larger ones, has set that target for itself. It is therefore surprising that the Government are lagging behind the farmers and are perhaps in conflict on yet another subject with what might traditionally have been seen as their natural constituency.

There are a number of amendments in this group, but it will not surprise your Lordships’ House to know that my favourite is Amendment 274, which was tabled by my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and is backed by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. This amendment goes furthest and says that we must ensure that we meet our legally binding target under Paris and that we need real action in six months’ time. I also commend the elements in Amendment 272 about working with the devolved Administrations. That is a very strong element that I hope the Government will also take forward.

When we were last in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, said that politics,

“is not the stuff of fundamental legislation but for the political hustings.”—[Official Report, 14/7/20; col. 1626.]

I am not sure whether the noble Lord would consider tackling the climate emergency—the existential threat that is facing us all—politics, but it is crucial to this Agriculture Bill and it has to be there.

I very much hope that we will hear in coming days and weeks a more conciliatory approach from the Government on this. They often talk about following the science; the science is that we need action. We have a special role as the chair of the—

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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Can I ask the noble Baroness to wait a moment? I think it would be a courtesy to the Committee if the noble Baroness could keep remarks to a short intervention. She is speaking after the Minister and I think it would be polite if she were to ask the noble Baroness the Minister a question, rather than making a speech.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Lord for his comment. I was coming to my last sentence, which is this: does the Minister acknowledge that there is support from all sides of your Lordships’ House for including a commitment to climate change action in the Bill? Will she and the Government at least go away and think again?

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
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I thank all noble Lords who have come forward with amendments and support; this is a daunting group of 44 amendments covering Part 3 of the Bill, Chapters 1 to 3, plus parts of Schedules 2, 5 and 6. It covers provisions on aspects of the agri-food supply chain; that is, the requirement to provide data and purposes for which data is provided, as well as enforcement of data requirements in Chapter 1. I have mentioned facets of fair dealing in Chapter 2, and Chapter 3 covers producer organisations and competition provisions.

Many amendments appear quite technical in effect; I applaud the assiduousness with which noble Lords have scrutinised these clauses. I welcome the provisions to make producer organisations more effective in legislation under the fair dealing provisions following their recognition under Clause 28. Regarding “competition exemptions” in Clause 29, can the Minister tell us whether the experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic caused any rethinking of the clause in the application of the Competition Act 1998? Given the opportunity to bring forward regulations in due course, with the consultations normally undertaken in that process, he may be able to confirm that the flexibilities around the framework are sufficient.

The importance of information and the collection of data in the supply chain has long been recognised. I thank the noble Lords who have pursued this in relation to how it is used with recognition of data protection legislation, to improve supply chain transparency and manage volatility. They have asked the Minister to clarify that the drafting of these powers will achieve this. I shall listen carefully to all the Minister’s responses to these amendments.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, this has been an interesting debate taking us through a range of issues. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for tabling amendments relating to fungi. I listened to what the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Boycott, said on the matter. I declare my farming interests as set out in the register.

Clause 1(5)(b) already includes the conservation of fungi as conserving can relate to the restoring or enhancement of a habitat. In instances where it may be desirable to conserve wild fungi, or a rare species of fungi, this is possible through the power to conserve the habitat in which they exist. In Clause 22(6) and under Schedules 5 and 6, the definition of “agriculture” already includes fungi. In relation to Amendment 183, I assure my noble friend Lord Lucas that the current drafting includes wild plants, as well as wider aspects of farm-to-fork activity to be collected.

I turn to Amendments 177, 179, 180, 187, 191 and 192 on data collection. Some of the issues have been quite technical in this part of the Bill. I will endeavour to answer as many questions as possible but some might, perhaps, involve a more detailed response; I shall reply in writing on any outstanding points. The Government have taken deliberate steps to ensure that only information which fulfils a clear purpose can be collected. I agree with my noble friend Lord Caithness that this needs to be focused and proportionate—a point also made by my noble friend Lord Trenchard.

An exhaustive list of purposes is contained under Clause 23; the requirements for information must fulfil one of those defined purposes. Clause 24 sets out that, before an information requirement can be issued, the Secretary of State must publish a draft requirement and invite views over a four-week period from anybody who will be affected by it. Any views, including those about difficulties in meeting the requirements, will be considered by the Government before final publication. Clause 25(9) already ensures that, in circumstances where a proposal is made to disclose information in an anonymised form, consideration must be taken of how such a disclosure would affect commercial interests, including intellectual property rights. As regards information provided under a duty of confidence, a blanket provision would be inappropriate given that a duty of confidence could easily be established via a discretionary agreement between any two parties simply for the purpose of avoiding information requirements.

At Clause 21(5), the Bill includes safeguards to protect information subject to legal privilege. Clause 46(2) sets out that these powers cannot be used in ways that would contravene existing data protection legislation. The Government therefore believe that these safeguards are sufficient.

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Baroness Scott of Needham Market Portrait Baroness Scott of Needham Market (LD) [V]
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My Lords, in 2016, I chaired an EU sub-committee inquiry into building a more resilient agricultural sector. We took evidence on the financial impact on farmers of a number of supermarket contractual practices. One was overzealous specification, which could result in the destruction of up to 20% of some crops. The other was that because of such swingeing penalties for under-provision, farmers had to grow far more than they needed. Noble Lords may come on to this issue when we debate food waste in later groups of amendments, but I wanted to raise it this evening with regard to the role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator, because no one else has. I hope the Minister will consider it in the list of items relating to fair dealing, to which I know he will be giving a lot of thought.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness. We are bringing forward these provisions in the Bill because we recognise that the current situation is far from satisfactory. We need to consult the sector on fair dealing provisions. We started with the dairy sector, but that is the beginning; we need to consult each and every sector so that we get the right response and find out how they are most directly affected by what I would call unfair arrangements. When we have reached a view with them, we can rectify any problems and find a way of enforcing the provisions. Regarding the consultation, it is a question of making this work for the farmer. Like everything else in this Bill, if this does not command the consent and support of the farmer, we will not have done a good job.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I want to take the Minister back to Amendment 90 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, and the important issue of fungi and the meaning of the word “plants”. I absolutely understand the noble Baroness’s wish for scientific accuracy, and I understand the points forcefully made in support of the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. But I wonder if the Minister agrees that, at the end of the day, it comes down to the ordinary meaning of words, as indeed it did in the case of Amendment 87 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trees, on the question of whether the word “processing” included slaughtering. The Minister said that it did, and I agree.

Perhaps the Minister will take comfort from the meaning of “fungus” in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. As a lawyer, when it comes to the ordinary meaning of words, I tend to look in the dictionary. It defines “fungus” as a

“mushroom, toadstool or allied plant, including moulds.”

It goes on to give a botanical definition: a

“cryptogamous plant without chlorophyll feeding on organic matter.”

So far as the dictionary is concerned, plants include fungi. With the benefit of that definition, I wonder whether the Minister would be prepared to say that wherever the word “plants” is used in the Bill, it includes fungi.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I wish that the noble and learned Lord had given me those definitions before I replied, because it would have helped the noble Baroness even further.

On our definition, I specifically mentioned Clause 22(6) and the schedules that contain “fungi”. As I said, I can confirm that in Clause 1, which is about wild fungi and habitat, “fungi” covers plants and fungi, as it does throughout the Bill. My lawyers’ interpretation is that fungi are included.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle [V]
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I thank the Minister for his usual comprehensive and precise response to what is, as noble Lords have reflected, a hugely diverse range of amendments.

I do not intend to attempt to sum them all up, but I want to respond specifically to the noble and learned Lord who just intervened. My academic background is as a scientist. If the law can be scientifically accurate, reflecting modern understanding, many people might think that that is a good thing. I hope that the Minister will go away and talk to his officials and perhaps reflect on how many scientists there are in the Bill drafting team.

As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said in his interesting intervention, this is an issue of accurate language. As a feminist, I might come back to the other issues he raised with regard to the House another time, but not today.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, for their support. Reflecting briefly on the animal welfare provisions, some of which were supported by my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, came up with an interesting proposal in suggesting that there could be an animal welfare oversight body—something like the Groceries Code Adjudicator. Perhaps we can take that away and look at it in future.

I welcome the Minister’s commitment to close consultation with groups concerned with animal welfare in the regulations. I am sure that we look forward to seeing that, but most of the amendments in this group relate in some way or another to fair dealing and the problem of our current distribution system. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, was hugely powerful when he talked about how the supermarkets making massive profits from the current tragic situation bore down on smaller suppliers and producers. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, stressed how we need joined-up thinking in ensuring fair dealing. I welcome what the Minister said about consulting the farming and growing sector in this area.

That sums up where we are. We have all done a great deal of work. Perhaps we will come back to some of this but, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 5th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-VI(Rev) Revised sixth marshalled list for Committee - (21 Jul 2020)
The Minister’s department has not published any further thinking beyond what was published in February this year. I hope and expect that the department has taken forward many aspects of all the measures that make up this framework. As we come to the Summer Recess, can the Minister give the House a clear commitment that there will be far more details against which to judge this stage’s amendments in good time for Report stage, which is expected in mid-September? Last week, the noble Baroness the Minister spoke of more information perhaps coming forward by mid-October. She will be aware that this will be too late. Details of other enhancements are promised to be forthcoming in September. Can the Minister map out the scheduling of information that will be necessary for our considerations on Report?
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 all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. It is always challenging when one noble Lord decides on one timeframe and another noble Lord chooses another. Sometimes the Government must make decisions on their position. Our position has been undertaken through a lot of consideration. I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, for his Amendment 130, which seeks to reduce the length of the first multiannual financial assistance plan.

We are all agreed that the nature of farming is a long-term affair. For that reason, we felt that having clarity of funding across multiple years was of paramount importance. As drafted, Clause 4 requires that the first planned period will run for seven years. This is designed to match the length of the agricultural transition period, which is a key time for the development of government policy. Schemes will be tested and piloted. As my noble friend Lord Inglewood said—I was not in a position to reply to my noble friend Lord Lucas—the purpose of tests, pilots and trials is to iron out what has not worked particularly well and find those schemes that come forward as the most dynamic and the best value for money for the taxpayer. The findings from these experiences will inform the development of future schemes and strategic objectives. We believe that shortening the period covered by the first plan would hinder our ability to assess schemes and take a considered view of what works and what does not.

The majority of the amendments in this group address the length of the agricultural transition period. I will address Amendments 142 to 146, on the subject of direct payment reductions. The planned agricultural transition period allows a gradual transition from the existing area-based payments to the future system, where public money will be paid for public goods. We deliberately made this time to avoid a cliff edge for farm businesses. Following an extensive consultation, we believe that seven years strikes the right balance between signalling the end of area-based payments and giving farmers time to adjust. Shortening the transition period would mean steeper rates of payment reductions, which we believe would put undue pressure on farmers who are currently reliant on direct payments at a time when they are adapting to a future without them.

I think that most of us agree that direct payments offer poor value for money. Appropriate reductions to these payments will free up funds that can be used to fund new countryside stewardship agreements, introduce the Environmental Land Management national pilot in 2021 and introduce schemes to boost industry productivity, through which grants will be available so that farmers can invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure. The reductions for 2021 will be modest. As I was reminded, there are within the margin of what would often be currency rate changes in previous regimes. They will be no more than 5% for around 80% of farmers, based on the 2018 scheme data. I will look at Hansard because I think that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke about a minimum; my understanding is that it will be no more than 5% but I would like to clarify that point.

A seven-year transition period gives enough time to ensure that ELM is fully up and running before direct payments end. The Government are undertaking a large stakeholder-led programme of tests and trials for certain elements of the scheme design. We plan to pilot our approach in 2021 ahead of the rollout of ELM in 2024. In their election manifesto, the Government guaranteed the current annual budget in every year of this Parliament. We have also published the maximum reductions that we intend to apply in the first year of transition. These were first announced in September 2018 to give farmers sufficient notice. The Government will set out further information on funding for the early years of the agricultural transition period, including direct payments, in the autumn.

Having declared my interests, I should say that I well understand that many of my neighbouring farmers—indeed, all the farmers I know—are very keen to know more on this. I appreciate that. I assure noble Lords that the point is hoisted and that I know why it is important. I look forward to that information coming forward in the autumn.

While direct payments currently form an important contribution to income on many farms in England, we believe that they can hamper productivity growth in the agricultural sector. That is why, within the sum that will be released, that money will be diverted into countryside stewardship and productivity grants so that farmers can start, through their business interests, to take advantage of the money that will move from direct payments into these other areas of support.

While I have been at the Dispatch Box, there have been varying years relating to the RPA. It is interesting, and I think my noble friend Lord Northbrook is correct. The payment profile of the RPA has very much improved since my first exercises on this in 2015. We have seen considerable advance in rates of payment; indeed, this has been a very strong priority of the ministerial team.

Defra’s ELM programme will lead and be accountable for the delivery of the national pilot, working with our delivery partners: the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission, Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the Rural Payments Agency. We are working with the RPA to ensure that it has capacity to deliver the pilot, and we are confident that it will be able to do so. This is on the relationship in this first stage of the pilot.

Another concern which the noble Lord, Lord Clark of Windermere, and my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond raised was computer programmes. Again, we have all been scarred by computer programme issues. Defra digital, data and technology specialists are currently working to ensure that the IT needs of the national pilot and ELM will be in place on time, and they are focusing on the ability to make accurate payments on time, on which I place enormous importance. We are confident in our ability to deliver these IT schemes.

The noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, tabled Amendment 149 relating to upland farmers, and I am struck by what my noble friend Lord Randall said about lowland farmers as well. The Government recognise that upland farmers play a vital role in looking after the countryside. We believe that they already provide many environmental benefits, and so will be very well placed to deliver environmental outcomes—and incomes—which will be rewarded under the ELMS.

Therefore, I say in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, that we are fully seized of the importance of small upland and lowland farmers who have contributed so much, not only to communities but to the landscape more widely. It is really important that they are part of the ELMS, and I believe that what they will provide for the nation will be very considerable. The Government will apply reductions to the payments in a fair way, and smaller farmers will initially experience lower reductions than larger farmers.

Turning to Amendments 150 to 152, we recognise in Part 2 of the Bill that in exceptional market conditions it is right for the Government to be able to intervene. Clause 8 allows for the extension of the agricultural transition period, should it be necessary. The Government believe that seven years is enough time for an agricultural transition, however we may need to act swiftly and robustly in unforeseen circumstances that warrant an extension.

I say particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, but also to my noble friend Lady Rock, that, regarding how delinked payments will work, the Government have made clear that they intend to delink direct payments during the transition period. When that happens, the recipient of delinked payments would not need to remain a farmer to receive them. When delinked payments are introduced, they will replace the current basic payment scheme entirely and for all farmers. The basic payment scheme and delinked payments cannot and will not coexist.

Eligibility for delinked payments will be based on a reference period. For example, it may be necessary to have claimed, or been eligible, under the direct payment scheme in a particular year or years. This is also important: we will consult with farmers before setting this reference period in regulations, and it will be subject to affirmative resolution procedure. I say particularly to my noble friend Lady Rock that timescales for basic payment scheme payments are already set out within the retained EU regulations.

With regard to Amendment 153, when we introduce delinked payments, we may wish to move away from the current approach of making a single payment per year and issue payments more frequently instead; Clause 12 gives this flexibility. We believe that more frequent payments would help farmers’ cash flow, and this has been mentioned by your Lordships.

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Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, in that full reply from the Minister I heard him justify the seven-year period and explain Clause 8 giving the Government power to extend the transition if necessary. However, I did not hear his response to Amendment 143 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, on why the transition is to start next year and not in 2022.

Some of us, going back to the last Labour Government, have a lot of experience with the problems of the RPA and getting new systems up and running. The Minister spoke with great confidence about these systems being viable and how the IT was going to work. All I can say to him is: good luck with that. I hope he is correct.

In the event that the RPA runs into problems, under the Bill as currently drafted—irrespective of the amendments from the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh —do the Government have the power to delay the start of the transition and the pilots? Despite the noble Lord’s confidence that everything will be okay, many of us will feel much more assured if we know that the legal powers are there and will prevent a headlong rush in the event of teething and administrative problems.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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There are a number of points there. I think I said that under Clause 8 the Government allow for an extension of the agricultural transition period, should that be necessary, so there is an important safeguard there; we can extend the agricultural transition period.

I think I did reply to my noble friend; it may not be satisfactory to the noble Lord or my noble friend. We believe that direct payments offer poor value for money, and that is why we want to start in 2021 with, as I say, a modest reduction. I have deliberately said that this will be no more than 5% for around 80% of farmers, so that we can redirect that money into an ELM national pilot, Countryside Stewardship agreements and productivity grants.

Yes, we are all scarred by computer systems. I am the first to say that I am not a computer expert; that is why we have people who are. I repeat that everyone working on these matters is experienced in them, because clearly—as I have said—we want payments on time and a successful outcome for farmers. We also want to make sure that the ELM and all we do hereon in is value for money for the taxpayer. In the end, it is the taxpayer who will reward the farmer for doing the things that we as a society know the farmer can do very well.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his response. I have two questions. He said the RPA would do the trial next year, then he came to a full stop. Does that mean his mind is open and that another body could be responsible for implementing the ELMS in future? Secondly, he referred to the autumn announcement. Can he be more specific on the timing of the autumn announcement and whether we will get that before Report?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I cannot give my noble friend the precise date. I know noble Lords would like that announcement to be as soon as possible—I will take that away—but I am afraid I cannot give your Lordships a precise date. In fact, I do not know the precise date, but it will be in autumn. I am fully seized of the importance of that.

As to whether the delivery body is the RPA in the long term, I believe it is well placed. I cannot give a direct answer as to whether the RPA will in fact do all the ELM. I suspect it may, but that is obviously a matter we will consider.

Earl of Devon Portrait The Earl of Devon [V]
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My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, beat me to it. I was going to ask for the date of the Autumn Statement and request that it occur before Report. I reiterate that there really is no point in us coming back to all these issues if the Government are about to issue a Statement that will add considerable clarity and amount to a multiannual financial assistance plan. Anything the Minister can do to get that Statement before Report would be appreciated.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I can say to the noble Earl and other noble Lords that I have the matter strongly in my mind.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
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I was not going to pursue this, but my noble friend’s answer has perplexed me. He said the Government wish to phase out direct payments as they provide poor value for money. The whole thrust of the debate on Amendment 143 this afternoon is that if whatever will replace direct payments is not in position, is it wise to start phasing out direct payments at that time? Can my noble friend not permit himself a degree of flexibility in this regard?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, the Government have sought that flexibility in how we reduce the payments, as I say. Although we will make announcements on funding for the early years of agricultural transition, we have also provided that flexibility for unforeseen circumstances in which, for instance, we would need to extend the agricultural transition period.

We want to start in 2021 because this is a journey—to pick up some of the points at the beginning—about how we work with health and harmony. How do we ensure, working with farmers, that we produce very good food and enhance the environment? Of course, I take the point that we must get the system working well, but the prize in all this—public money going to support farmers in enhancing the environment—is a very desirable thing.

Lord Teverson Portrait Lord Teverson [V]
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My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, for his support. We are not often on the same side of things and I very much appreciate his remarks and the considered remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, and even the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, who understand the biodiversity dimensions of this, even if they do not—[Inaudible.]

There is a real issue here. Funnily enough, I do not disagree with the view of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, about pushing back the start one year, just to make sure we get this incredibly important issue for the nation right before we start. But I cannot believe it can take seven years for a nation such as ours to implement a new system; five years is far more acceptable for what we have to do. In fact, it seems the seven years that many advocate is going back to the mentality of the common agricultural policy and the European Union—that slo-mo mindset that we are trying to escape with this new scheme. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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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
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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.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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My Lords, I have received requests to speak after the Minister from the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington. I call the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V]
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My Lords, I offer the Green group’s support for Amendments 155 to 157 and thank the noble Lords who tabled them and supported them. This debate and the questions have brought out the political impact of the relatively low number of votes in the countryside. We have seen just this morning, with the report on the distribution of the Government’s regeneration fund before the last election, how, since we do not have a rules-based system such as the EU’s whereby funds are distributed to the areas that are most disadvantaged and most in need, it very much depends on the Government’s view of where such money should go.

This debate has focused a lot on keeping what we have in the countryside: alternative businesses, non-farm businesses and alternative sources of revenue for farmers. But what is the Government’s vision for the countryside —where do they see money going, say, from the UK shared prosperity fund? Do the Government see the countryside as a place where there can be large numbers of new, growing, farming, food-producing businesses, and large numbers of good jobs—not simply pickers who are casual workers coming in for a couple of months and then going away again having lived in caravans, but people who can make their lives in the countryside? Is that the kind of vision of a horticulture-rich, healthy food-growing countryside—tying together many of our debates from last year—that the Government have?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, the vision is for a prosperous rural economy, which obviously includes food production and agriculture. However, a whole range of communities form the rural economy. We want to ensure that all rural dwellers have the same opportunities. I have to say that very few industries have been promised that they will retain the same annual contribution from the taxpayer for the whole of this Parliament; sometimes noble Lords forget that in some of their commentary. That is most exceptional, and it shows that the Government support farmers and rural communities. That is of course why there is a very significant investment in the broadband structure. Therefore, there is a considerable vision for a prosperous, skilled and innovative agricultural sector within a broader rural economy.

Lord Cameron of Dillington Portrait Lord Cameron of Dillington [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for his extensive response to this debate. When will he be able to tell us whether there will be a well-financed, ring-fenced rural fund as part of the shared prosperity fund? When will we know about that?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I am afraid that I cannot give a precise date other than what I said in my remarks, that the quantum and design of the fund will take place following the spending review; I cannot give any further detail. However, I can say that the efforts and the work of Defra with MHCLG are to ensure that there is a very strong rural component so that rural businesses are an intrinsic part of this fund.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees
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I have received one further request to speak after the Minister. I call the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond.

Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond [V]
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his response to my Amendment 157. He referred to the £5 billion which was set in principle as a response from the Government to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee report. Can he tell the House what the pathway is for that in-principle commitment to be rolled out and an on-the-ground practical reality?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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As I say, the purpose of trying to start with an outside-in approach is precisely to ensure that rural areas and farms are connected—very often the village is connected but the outlying farms are not. That is where we want to ensure, in working with this £5 billion and the £200 million rural gigabit connectivity programme, that these are absolutely geared to ensure that rural areas are not left behind. I am most grateful to my noble friend for raising the matter.

Earl of Devon Portrait The Earl of Devon [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his, as ever, courteous concluding remarks, and in particular his extensive comments on rural connectivity, which were enlightening. I am disappointed that we still lack detail on the UK shared prosperity fund and the Minister was unable to provide any enlightenment greater than what was given back in May. It has been a helpful debate and I am grateful to all noble Lords for their contribution on this key issue of rural development. I particularly acknowledge the tireless work of the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, on the subject of rural prosperity and the survival of farming households.

All noble Lords are well aware of the tremendous fragility of our rural economy and the many small rural businesses that are key local employers in areas of often desperate poverty and huge social deprivation. The noble Lords, Lord Holmes and Lord Clement-Jones, have done well to highlight the issues of rural connectivity as key issues that have been so graphically shown during the lockdown. Might the Government consider following the lead of Northern Ireland, which I understand has sought to implement rural connectivity by connecting the furthest and hardest-to-reach properties first and not last? I hope that we can revisit these issues on Report but until then, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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We welcome the initial steps being taken in this Bill but would like to see a much more central role for reform of smallholding and tenant farmers in the future of UK farming. I hope that in his response, the Minister can persuade us that he has heard this message and that the Government have a much broader reform agenda in mind, and I hope that he can bring back those proposals in the near future. I look forward to his response.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate. At its heart is our consideration about how we ensure that there is a vibrant farming sector in the future, with young people coming into a very important industry and way of life. I agree with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Curry, about new skills.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for Amendment 158, which I will address alongside Amendment 159. For a successful long-term future, agriculture relies on attracting new talent and bringing new skills and innovation into the sector. For many years, local authority smallholding estates and council farms have provided opportunities for entrant farmers. While Amendment 158 is aimed at preventing further disposal of smallholdings and council farms by local authorities, such intervention may conflict with the Local Government Act, which gives local authorities the power to manage and dispose of their land according to local priorities and the principle of delivering best value.

Rather than adding regulatory burdens, the Government want to work collaboratively with local authorities, supporting them to retain and invest in the rejuvenation—the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, may have used the word regeneration—and development of their smallholdings and council farms. As stated in Defra’s Farming for the Future: Policy and Progress Update, published in February, this Government intend to use the powers under Clause 1 to offer funding to councils, landowners and other organisations to invest in creating more opportunities for new entrants to access land, delivering the kinds of outcomes that my noble friend is seeking through Amendment 159.

Local authorities can take advantage of rural exception sites to help the delivery of affordable housing, and the revised National Planning Policy Framework includes new policies to support the building of homes in isolated locations where this supports farm businesses with succession. We will work with local authorities, community land organisations and other landowners as we develop this funding scheme, and further details will be set out in the Government’s multiannual financial assistance plan. Working collaboratively with local authorities in this way and supporting them to manage their estates to provide important fresh opportunities for new farmers will be more effective than adding regulatory burdens.

My noble friend Lord Marlesford may know—I am sure he does—that in April 2018 the Government amended a national permitted development right to support rural housing and agricultural productivity, meaning that up to five new homes can be created from existing agricultural buildings on a farm, rather than the previous maximum of three. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, regarding allotments, that these are matters for local authorities. The decision to increase local provision is taken at a local level.

On Amendment 222, the community infrastructure levy is a matter for local authorities and the MHCLG. It is an important tool to help them deliver the infrastructure needed to support development in their areas. In setting rates, local authorities must strike an appropriate balance between using CIL to fund the infrastructure required to support the development and the potential effects of imposing CIL on the economic viability of development across the area, including agricultural developments. Although it is a matter of education and therefore within another department’s remit, out of considerable interest I will take what was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and see what further I can make of it.

On tenancies, in relation to the stand part debate and Amendment 223, measures in Clause 34 and Schedule 3 are designed to make pragmatic modifications to tenancy legislation. This package of reforms received broad support from respondents to our public consultations in England and Wales last year, and they deliver on many of the recommendations from the Tenancy Reform Industry Group. The provisions have been carefully drafted to balance the interests of tenants and owners. I agree that agricultural tenancy legislation is complex. Any further changes impacting on landlord and tenant property rights must be very carefully considered in a timely way and not rushed.

Some of the proposals that we consulted on last year are not included in Schedule 3 because they did not have broad support, or because responses showed that they needed more detailed development work before the proposed changes could work effectively, and alternative ways of achieving the policy aim should be explored. The UK and Welsh Governments are very willing to engage in further discussions about those proposals and to review the need for further tenancy reform with members of the Tenancy Reform Industry Group, which includes representative of owners and tenants.

In Amendment 237 my noble friend Lady McIntosh is seeking assurance that the Government will make these regulations; I can give that assurance. The Government intend to start discussions with members of the Tenancy Reform Industry Group to develop the details of these regulations over the next few months, to ensure that the interests of tenants and owners are taken into account.

On Amendments 238 to 240, 245 and 246, many owners and tenants come to practical agreements on such issues without the need for dispute resolution. To encourage this approach further, the Tenancy Reform Industry Group is working on updated guidance to support tenants and owners in discussions about diversification and environmental schemes highlighting the benefits for both parties. This dispute provision has been carefully constructed, after consultation, to be used in limited circumstances, balancing the interests of both tenants and owners, so that market confidence in the benefits of agricultural tenancy agreements is not undermined. Broadening the provision to cover a much wider range of circumstances, such as for diversified activities, may result in lasting changes to land use and the value of the owner’s assets. As such, it is more appropriate that such requests are negotiated between the parties.

Regarding tiers 2 and 3, and landlord issues relating to public access, I say to my noble friend Lord Caithness that we are currently finalising eligibility requirements for ELMS, including whether landlord consent or consultation would be required for tenants to join ELMS, including for tier 2 and tier 3 projects. As I said, our tests and trials are designed to include tenant farmers in the schemes. We are actively considering this as part of the codesign with all stakeholders, and I do not want to pre-empt the process but, as I have said, we are very clear that the tests and trials will include tenant farmers.

Responses to our public consultation show that there is not the same need for dispute provisions for farm business tenancies as there is for Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies. Agricultural Holdings Act agreements were negotiated sometimes 30 or 40 years ago in a very different policy and commercial environment, and often contain outdated restrictions that have not been reviewed for many years. Farm business tenancies are more modern commercial agreements negotiated more recently in the context of environmental schemes being available. They are reviewed more regularly, giving tenants the opportunity to renegotiate the contract’s terms if they deem it necessary, for example, to enable diversifications or to enter future financial assistance schemes.

Respondents to the consultation also noted that there is a risk that providing tenants with opportunities to challenge the terms of recently negotiated agreements could undermine owner confidence in letting land through farm business tenancies, reducing opportunities for tenants in future. Because I have no interest to declare in this matter, I will respond to the point that my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe made. In all our desire to ensure that there is a vibrant farming sector with both owners and tenants—as well as other sectors—all of which make a great contribution, we need to be mindful of getting the right system in place, one that does not have the consequences of many owners of properties with a small amount of land deciding that this tenancy route may not be for them.

We have sometimes conceptualised this discussion as being about large landowners and small tenants. Very often, the modern arrangements are for owners with a small acreage deciding they might have a farm business tenancy. It is unfortunate that we sometimes characterise these matters in this way. It is often about someone with a smallish acreage wanting a farm business tenancy with an incoming tenant.

I agree that there can be benefits from tenants and owners entering into longer-term tenancy agreements. The Government consulted widely on this last year. The feedback gathered indicates that introducing shorter notices to quit in certain circumstances is unlikely significantly to affect owners’ decisions about the length of tenancy to offer. Other factors, such as the size, quality and location of the land and personal motivations for owning land have a much greater influence on decisions about the length of the tenancy term to offer.

It is also important to recognise that, while there are benefits to longer-term tenancy agreements, shorter-term tenancies can be more suitable for different business models. For example, short-term lets can be more appropriate for new entrants looking to rent land on a flexible basis to gain experience. Short-term lets can also be more suitable for some seasonal horticulture businesses.

I turn to Amendments 243 and 244. The Government consulted on proposals to expand the list of relatives eligible to succeed a tenancy agreement. Concerns were raised that doing so could disproportionately affect owners’ rights to their property because the changes could extend a tenant’s occupation of the holding for many years beyond the timescale an owner has been expecting, particularly in the case of succession by the grandchildren of current tenants.

There are examples of owners being willing to negotiate solutions to family succession, such as offering long-term tenancy agreements to grandchildren of the tenant where they are the most suitable future tenant with the best knowledge and skills to continue the farm successfully. We believe that this is the sensible way forward. The Government will continue to engage in discussions with the Tenancy Reform Industry Group —which represents both tenants and owners—to encourage this process.

My noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach referred to cropping licences—they are not tenancies and they are part of the farming scene now. ELMS will provide funding to those who are carrying out the management of the land or water to deliver the environmental public goods being funded.

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Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB) [V]
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My Lords, this has been a fantastically interesting debate and I very much support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and many others to do with county farms and the length of tenancies, especially what the Minister was just saying about the variety of agriculture.

However, there is a gap here: urban agriculture. When I ran the London Food Board, which I began in 2008, we started a scheme called Capital Growth to create community gardens in London. The plan was to create 2,012 by 2012, which we did and, in fact, today —I have just checked on the website, where you can type in your postcode to find your nearest garden—we have 2,553 community gardens covering about 250 acres of London and producing £288,000 worth of produce every year.

The thing about urban agriculture is that, for a kid growing up in an urban school on an estate in a poor area, the idea of ever being a farmer is as remote as me thinking I could go to the moon. It is not just that they would not be a farmer; there would be nobody who had a father who was a farmer. Therefore, the introduction of community gardening is vital, not only in educating people but in helping them take the first step on the way to becoming growers and custodians of the land and setting up small businesses. Because I visited so many, I know that many supply restaurants and supermarkets. There are wonderful places where they grow hops and make their own beer, which becomes an industry. Even in these tiny spaces, you can do this.

The social benefits are dramatic—the police, doctors and community leaders all favour this—but it is also extremely cheap, and it means that people get an education about growing. I have listened to almost all of this debate and, all the way through, we have talked about agriculture as though it can happen only in the country. That is not so; it is a fact that it can happen in cities. You see it towns such as Incredible Edible Todmorden, and in schools. I have a proposal in with the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, who is very enthusiastic. I would very much like the Minister’s support for us to take this project countrywide. It is good for your health, it teaches you to grow food and it is fantastic for the environment.

I will share one small detail. There are hives all over London. At one point, we had more hives than we could supply with flowers, but then we balanced that up. A study was done in Paris about the honey that is produced there—96 different flowers went into the taste of that honey. We held annual honey competitions, and we had honey that went from almost clear, or almost white, through to something that looked like treacle. You could tell the honey that had come from the lime trees in particular parks. It gave people an enormous sense of belonging, and put people on the first step to agriculture. My noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb said that councils should have allotments. We realised a year and a half in that an allotment was an impossibility because, when you get an allotment, you are saying that the land must be there in perpetuity. We had “meanwhile leases”, which means they can be taken back; that would be a great way forward.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I believe that the noble Baroness made a speech rather than asking a question but I have noted it all. I approve of gardening, community gardening and the production of food.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty [V]
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My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Curry and Lord Judd, and my noble friend Lady Jones, and others, who supported the general approach of Amendment 158. I thought that I would fall out with the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, but I essentially agree with him that, if we are to have a revival of county farms, we will have to redefine the mission. What is clear from all speakers is that, in this brave new world of post-CAP agricultural policy, we will need people to come into farming who have not traditionally been there and who are unlikely to be able to buy their way into it. We need their talents, their skills, their entrepreneurship, their enthusiasm and their recognition that the provision of public goods, which this Bill is all about, is an important part of farming. Regrettably, when it comes to county farms, neither the structure of ownership of agricultural land in this country, nor, in some respects, the provisions of tenancy law, nor the withdrawal of the local state from this area—none of these things—are particularly conducive to bringing new talent, new blood and new ideas into farming; we need to make a new start.

My amendment is quite limited. It asks the counties involved to review their estates, not to sell any for the moment, and then to define a new strategy along with Defra and the farming organisations. That is an important part of the rejuvenation of agriculture. It must be recognised that this Bill should be paralleled with a means of more people coming in with new skills and new backgrounds. I understand the issue of urban agriculture and community gardens and so on as one potential way in, but the traditional way in through county farms is rapidly disappearing. We need to continue to make positive use of what is there, and to ask the counties, effectively, to look at the situation again and do so in this new strategic sense.

The schemes coming through ELMs and through the other provisions of this Bill will need the next generation to seize the opportunities that they present. That means that we need new ways in. I hope that county farms will be a significant provider of those ways in. I will not press my amendment for the moment, but I hope that the Minister will recognise that even the present level of county farms may well deserve some special recognition within this Bill in respect of government support for the public good. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Scott of Needham Market Portrait Baroness Scott of Needham Market (LD) [V]
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My Lords, this has been a fascinating and wide-ranging debate. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, that this is probably the most important set of amendments to the Bill.

Certainly from the public’s point of view, whether it is national food security or household security, there is nothing more important to people than keeping food on the table. We have always left the provision of food to the private sector to manage and it has ensured a supply of food very well, even during the early days of the pandemic when things were challenging, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said. However, we are also all aware that its efficiency has come at a price —a price to the environment and to the viability of farms.

Household food insecurity is clearly a growing problem. For many of us it really is a stain on any claim to be a civilised country when a growing number of people are simply unable to eat. Many noble Lords have raised that point.

When the Minister summed up at Second Reading, he said:

“However, in our view food is a private good; it is bought and sold”.—[Official Report, 10/6/20; col. 1830.]


I am sure he has got the message clearly from the last couple of hours that many in your Lordships’ House would challenge that view, and clearly believe that the Government should have an overall food plan in the same way that they have strategies and plans for energy and transport, for example. As drafted, the clause nods in that direction but for many of us it does not go far enough. These amendments begin to move the Government in that direction.

I fear that what is proposed in the Bill is essentially an historic, backward-looking document. A five-yearly report has some uses but there is a real missed opportunity to do much more. More regular reporting would help to spot trends and potential problems sooner, as the noble Lord, Lord Curry, pointed out, so whether the parliamentary scrutiny is on a three-year or an annual basis, as set out, there are merits in thinking about doing this more often.

The value of the good co-operation between central and devolved Administrations was a theme picked out by many noble Lords, and is of course very sensible. I was particularly struck by the strategic context put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, about the potential dislocations between the devolved Administrations and England.

The key amendments are Amendment 163 and Amendments 171 to 173. They would begin to turn this document into a genuine strategic plan, which can ensure for us a secure supply of affordable food that does not trash the planet. These points were made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs.

Amendment 169 raises the important question of food waste, which is a significant environmental issue as well as a social wrong and a financial burden. Food waste on farms is largely driven by supermarket contracts and, as I proposed in earlier amendments, it should be dealt with under the groceries code. My noble friend Lady Parminter was quite right to emphasise the importance of good data. The 2014 EU sub-committee inquiry into food waste, which I chaired, found unequivocally that organisations which start to measure food waste start to do something about it. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, made that point about hunger: if you measure it, you act on it.

Several amendments in this group all seek to turn this historic document into something of real value to the public, to farmers and growers, to the food production sector and to retailers. This would require thinking right across government, whether about the health of the nation, trade policy, migration levels or levels of benefits and the national living wage. I have a lot of sympathy with this idea of the need for an independent body on the lines of the Committee on Climate Change, and I hope we can consider that further on Report.

I would urge the Government to consider very carefully what has been said by noble Lords today. I am sure that the Minister has understood the strength of feeling on this issue expressed in the Committee, and I look forward to his reply.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for what in many respects has been a heartfelt debate. References to words like “important” set the tone in which your Lordships have spoken. I am very mindful of your Lordships’ recent report Hungry for Change. In that context, I understand all the sentiments that have been expressed.

In thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for her amendment and for speaking to Amendments 161 and 162, I should say that it is this Government who have brought forward the food security provision. I am grateful to my noble friend the Duke of Montrose and others for at least saying that the Government have brought this forward. Having heard some of the commentary of noble Lords, I could wonder if that had ever been the case.

As I have previously stated, the food security report will be a significant body of work that will use a set of core measurements and indicators for each of the key topic areas. It will go beyond what food security data we currently publish. This will allow consideration of the trends, many of which are slow-moving and do not change significantly year on year over a longer period. Taking a holistic approach, we will consider food security in its complete form, from the global availability of food to UK availability and access. We will use data drawn from a blend of national and international data sources, including UK national statistics as well as data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The requirement to report within at least a five-year period allows time to observe key trends from a variety of sources. This would not be possible over a significantly shorter period. While we are committing to reporting within at least a five-year frequency, we consider this a maximum period. When we are able to publish the first report will depend upon a range of factors, including the availability of statistical data. Of course, we certainly will not wait for the end of the five-year period to publish the first report, which will include analysis of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the datasets that will be considered in the food security report are published and made publicly available annually; certain noble Lords know very well that all this data is reported annually. Defra officials routinely track these reports to spot any unexpected or significant changes. For example, the excellent Agriculture in the United Kingdom statistics that Defra publishes alongside departments in the devolved Administrations come out annually, as do the world food production and calorie statistics produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Government intend that the report will consider these and less frequently produced data to provide deeper analysis to help us identify longer-term trends to support the development of policy for the future—a point remarked upon by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, with her unparalleled experience of the food industry, and indeed by my noble friend Lady Chisholm in her important contribution.

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Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport [V]
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I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in yet another detailed debate this evening, with expertise and enthusiasm equally displayed. The identification and traceability of animals is hugely important for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to food safety and consumer confidence.

Amendment 208 envisages the establishment of a dedicated public authority to carry out a variety of duties in relation to the identification, the movement and the health of animals, with a particular emphasis on enforcing marketing standards. Given the importance of how food is marketed, and the potential implications for public health should something go wrong, there is merit in having a body responsible for this. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours for bringing the House’s attention to the work he completed in another place many years ago on the movement and traceability of animals. He rightly asks what the purpose and construct of the new data collection service is, as well as several other important questions, seeking assurance that the current high-quality service already established in Workington is retained.

The power to establish such a body and confer functions exists in the current drafting, but it would help the Committee if the Minister could outline how it is envisaged this process would unfold, including indicative timings. Will the body be created from scratch, or will functions simply conferred on an existing organisation? Is there potential for different responsibilities to reside in different places—perhaps not Yorkshire—and, if so, how will day-to-day operations be co-ordinated?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for Amendment 208. Clause 32 enables the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board to run the new livestock information service, which will provide a multi-species traceability system in England. As animals can and do move across borders, Clause 32 also provides for the AHDB to exercise functions, such as handling data on animal movements, voluntarily shared by the devolved Administrations, to provide a complete picture of livestock movements across the whole UK.

The new service will replace separate species-specific systems and allow faster, more accurate livestock traceability, benefiting disease control and trade. This is a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, but I emphasise, as the Minister for Biosecurity, that I place the highest importance on having as accurate as possible a livestock traceability system as we can provide. The service is not designed to cover food products or govern labelling and marketing of animal products. Powers relating to the labelling and marketing of animal food products are set out in Clause 35.

On Amendment 210, Clause 32(1) inserts new Section 89A into the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 to assign functions to a body established under that Act that are necessary to run the new livestock information service. There is an existing duty under Section 97(5) of the NERC Act to consult organisations representative of affected interests. In 2017, Defra set up the livestock information traceability design user group, a partnership of interested industry and government bodies, which have been involved throughout the design and development of the livestock information service. Having attended some of those meetings, I know that the active endorsement and engagement is strong and clear indeed. Defra is consulting organisations representative of affected interests on its plans to make an order under subsection (1).

I am also well aware of the important work of the BCMS at Workington, and am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for referring to its important and productive work. It is our intention to carry on using the valued staff there, who have a good reputation with farmers, as part of the new service, subject to arriving at an agreement between the RPA and Livestock Information Limited. It is worth noting that some of the work of the BCMS will transition to Scotland and Wales at the same time, as the BCMS currently serves England, Scotland and Wales.

I have tabled a government amendment requiring that the Secretary of State should secure approval from the devolved Administrations for functions of the livestock information service, such as the handling of movement data shared with AHDB by those Administrations. This amendment would enable colleagues in devolved Administrations to recommend legislative consent to their respective legislatures. These UK-wide functions are vital for purposes such as disease control.

I am very much available to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for further discussions about this new system, if there are any outstanding points. I actively endorse it and think it will be of great benefit. With those assurances and confirmations, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and especially at such a late hour—it is certainly late for me anyway. I thank the Minister for his assurances. I am afraid it is too late for me to be coherent on anything; I will pore over Hansard tomorrow to see exactly what his assurances were. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
209: Clause 32, page 29, line 44, at end insert—
“(1A) An order of the Secretary of State assigning functions under section 87(1)(b) by virtue of subsection (1) may only be made with the approval of— (a) the Welsh Ministers, if the functions are exercisable in relation to Wales,(b) the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland, if the functions are exercisable in relation to Northern Ireland, and(c) the Scottish Ministers, if the functions are exercisable in relation to Scotland.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment secures that before making an order which assigns functions to a body that are exercisable in relation to Wales, Northern Ireland or Scotland, the Secretary of State must obtain the approval of the Welsh Ministers, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland or the Scottish Ministers (as the case may be).
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 209, I shall speak also to Amendments 261, 262 and 268 in my name. Amendments 209, 261 and 262 provide that the Secretary of State shall seek consent from the devolved Administrations for orders made relating to functions of the livestock information service which are exercisable in those Administrations or when exercising the powers in the Bill relating to organics, where these regulations will also apply in those Administrations.

We have always said that we would engage intensively with the devolved Administrations prior to making any regulations that will apply to the devolved Administrations. However, the preference of colleagues in the devolved Administrations is for a consent requirement to be added. This would enable them to recommend legislative consent to their respective legislatures for those provisions in scope of the Sewel convention. We remain wholly committed to seeking legislative consent for all provisions that engage the convention in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and I am pleased to table these amendments. An LCM has now been recommended by the Northern Ireland Assembly; Welsh and Scottish Ministers are intending to seek legislative consent from their respective legislatures for these clauses.

Amendment 268 removes Clauses 42(4) and (5), which make provision for regulations requiring devolved Administrations to provide the Secretary of State with information on their classification and use of domestic support. While we consider that Part 6 is reserved to the UK Parliament, the UK Government are content with the assurances made that these subsections are not required in law, and have reached agreement with the devolved Administrations to remove them from the Bill. The UK Government maintains that this amendment now removes any Part 6 provisions in scope of the Sewel convention. It is our intention to enshrine this commitment in a concordat to be developed between the UK Government and all the devolved Administrations, which will sit alongside the regulations made under Part 6. I beg to move.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB) [V]
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My Lords, the government amendments to Clauses 32 and 37 are welcome. I am aware that they meet a request from the Welsh Government. Removing Clauses 42(4) and (5) is very important because it is deeply unsatisfactory that the Government could, in effect, seek to strong-arm the devolved Governments into giving up elements of their executive competence by inserting such clauses in Bills in the first place.

However, other provisions in this Bill appear to undermine the devolved Governments’ competence, and it has been notable that many noble Lords have spoken powerfully on issues affecting Wales. The process of leaving the EU and resuming international trade negotiations and our independent membership of bodies such as the World Trade Organization is placing a huge—possibly intolerable—strain on our constitution.

As the noble Lord recognised in his recent letter on Second Reading, the power to conduct international negotiations is reserved. However, the rights and responsibilities for implementing international agreements within devolved competence rest with the devolved institutions. I am aware that the Welsh Government, although strongly in favour of preserving the union, albeit on the basis of reform, have taken the view that they cannot be bound to implement agreements which require changes to legislation made by the Senedd unless they have been fully involved with the process of negotiating those agreements. That is surely only reasonable and logical.

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 23rd July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-VII Seventh marshalled list for Committee - (23 Jul 2020)
Finally, we are grateful to your Lordships’ Constitution Committee for its consideration of these complex matters in its most recent report.
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, what an interesting debate we have had. I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed.

On Amendment 263A, Defra Ministers meet on an almost monthly basis with counterparts from the devolved Administrations as part of the inter-ministerial group for EFRA. Any potential changes to food standards would be discussed here first. I am also pleased with the progress officials have made in developing the food information to consumers, fish labelling and food compositional standards common UK framework. The framework will focus on consensus-based decision-making but will also include dispute prevention and resolution mechanisms.

On Amendment 267, the powers in Part 6 allow for regulations to be made to ensure compliance with the United Kingdom’s obligations under the WTO agreement on agriculture. The regulations therefore set out procedures and arrangements to ensure that the UK as a whole complies with existing obligations under an international treaty. We have a bilateral agreement with the Welsh Government on the making and operation of regulations under Part 6 of the Bill. We have offered to extend this agreement to the Scottish Government and DAERA Ministers in Northern Ireland.

In addition, my honourable friend the Minister for Farming, Victoria Prentis, committed in the other place to consult with the devolved Administrations on the making of regulations under Part 6. I say in particular to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering that draft regulations have already been shared with devolved Administrations and strong and productive discussions are continuing. Defra officials have been working closely with them; this is another important and positive point.

On Amendment 284, the powers taken by Welsh Ministers through the Bill are intended as a temporary measure while the Welsh Government continue to develop their own legislation. Financial assistance under Clause 1 may be given by the Secretary of State only in relation to England. Welsh Ministers are not taking similar powers in this Bill to operate or introduce new financial assistance schemes. It is the Welsh Government’s intention that these powers will be provided for by a future Senedd Bill.

On Amendment 283, Schedule 5 contains powers requested by the Welsh Government to simplify the existing schemes and improve them for farmers, not to change or reduce standards. The underlying animal welfare standards to which all farmers must adhere are not found in this domestic payments scheme legislation; rather, they are found in underlying domestic and retained EU legislation. Therefore, these underlying protections will continue for all.

I found Amendment 289 an interesting element of our discussions. The Northern Ireland Assembly debated and agreed the legislative consent Motion on 31 March 2020. The DAERA Minister made it clear to the Northern Ireland Assembly in that debate that he did not support a sunset clause at this stage with respect to Northern Ireland provisions in the UK Agriculture Bill. It is the Government’s very strong view—I must say, we have been reminded by all noble Lords who contributed of the importance of this—that we must respect the devolution settlement. I find it difficult to construe how the Government could accept the amendment proposed and respect the desire and wish of the DAERA Minister and, by that token, the Assembly. Therefore, we do not believe that Parliament should seek to override the constitutional view already agreed by the Assembly on 31 March 2020. If we are to be consistent in our respect for the devolution settlement, it is difficult to believe that your Lordships or the Government should seek to impose something on a devolved Administration when they have given their legislative consent Motion to legislation. To be very clear, my noble friend and I are honest brokers for both the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly in the schedules before us.

On Amendments 290 and 291, the UK Government have created IMG EFRA, as I have said, and a series of specialist official-level working groups to deliver effective joint working with the devolved Administrations. This has proven a highly successful governance mechanism. The UK Government have collaborated closely with each devolved Administration on a UK-wide framework for agricultural support based on the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations principles agreed in 2017. The framework is planned to cover policy areas such as agricultural support spending, crisis measures, public intervention and private storage aid, marketing standards, cross-border farms and data collection and sharing. I think the point about cross-border farms was raised in particular.

Good progress is being made on the framework. The UK Government shared their first draft with officials from the devolved Administrations this February. Since then, there have been continuing discussions with officials in the devolved Administrations on a common framework for agricultural support. In our view, placing additional statutory requirements in this area risks disrupting an ongoing process of what has been described as excellent collaborative working, which is working extremely well. It would also create inconsistency with wider framework discussions.

I think the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, first used the word “sensitivity”. We are all of a view that we must deal with these matters with sensitivity. When I meet fellow Ministers from all parts of the United Kingdom, I see this as an endeavour of equal partnership. We believe that it is inappropriate for the UK Government to seek to legislate on frameworks, certainly without prior discussion and consideration with the devolved Administrations.

I also say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd—and I repeat this from my opening remarks on Tuesday—that we remain wholly committed to seeking legislative consent for all provisions that engage the convention in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That is why I was pleased to make those amendments.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, and other noble Lords raised the budgets for the devolved Administrations. Intra-UK funding is being discussed as part of current Treasury settlement discussions with Defra. Her Majesty’s Treasury will discuss this directly with the devolved Administrations. I absolutely understand the importance of certainty on funding for all parts of the United Kingdom and, from the visits I have had, am well aware of the importance of farming to all parts of the United Kingdom, and its importance in terms of UK internal markets.

To answer my noble friend Lord Empey on the Northern Ireland border, the Government are working very closely with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure unfettered market access between Northern Ireland and Great Britain while meeting our obligations under the Northern Ireland protocol. I also say this to my noble friend, because of my biosecurity interest: as an epidemiological unit in itself, the island of Ireland has some advantages. Also, we already have requirements, as does Northern Ireland, as part of that unit. Obviously, we want to make sure that the biosecurity arrangements for the island of Ireland are as strong as they can be, but our working with Northern Ireland will be absolutely imperative for the frameworks. The success of that is where I believe we will find a satisfactory resolution for all parts of the United Kingdom. I say that as a unionist.

The UK Government believe in close collaboration in the coming months to agree and implement administrative frameworks to set out future working and co-ordination on agriculture. The noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, asked when that will happen; the answer is, by the end of the transition period. We think that close collaboration is, to pick up on a word used earlier, the respectful way to work. I am conscious that the relationship between all four parts of the United Kingdom needs to be strong and positive. If it is not, it makes things much more difficult.

I want to bring forward the fact that the relationship that all of us as Ministers in Defra have with our colleagues in the devolved Administrations is strong and positive. There is a common endeavour to ensure that we have vibrant agriculture and strong food production, and that we make a success of it all and make a success of the United Kingdom.

Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (The Earl of Kinnoull) (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I have received three requests to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, and the noble and learned Lords, Lord Wallace of Tankerness and Lord Hope of Craighead.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister mentioned his meetings with his counterparts in the devolved Administrations. Does he or any of his colleagues have any such meetings planned between now and Report to discuss and get their views on these amendments, and others, before we come to discuss them on Report? If not, would he consider arranging some meetings? It would be very helpful for the House to get the results of these sorts of discussions.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, the noble Lord makes a fair point. I am not the Minister having these discussions, but I will make sure that the noble Lord’s point is put to my ministerial colleagues. Again, consideration and discussion of all these matters is the healthy way forward. I will certainly ensure that a record of Hansard is passed on to my ministerial colleagues. It is a good point.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness Portrait Lord Wallace of Tankerness [V]
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My Lords, in his response to the debate, the Minister indicated that, in another place, Victoria Prentis had committed to consulting on regulations arising from Clauses 40 and 41. If that is the Government’s position, what cogent reason is there for not including this amendment in the Bill?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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The noble and learned Lord makes an interesting point. I am just repeating the commitment that my honourable friend made. Perhaps I might take that one back.

Lord Hope of Craighead Portrait Lord Hope of Craighead (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I wanted to make exactly the same point as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness. I listened very carefully to what the Minister had to say. I am afraid that I did not understand why a requirement for consultation should not be in the Bill. I would be grateful if the Minister could take this matter away and reconsider it so that we can possibly come back to it on Report.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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Two noble and learned Lords making those remarks that makes it doubly important that I take their points back to the department.

Amendment 209 agreed.
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This is a short group of amendments, which could ensure the success of agriculture into the future. So far, the Minister has not been persuaded to accept any of the reasonable and well-argued amendments put forward by noble Lords; I hope that this group will be the exception.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for a thought-provoking debate. In thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and all noble Lords who have participated, I can say that the Government take all that has been said extremely seriously. I shall spend a little time, but not too long, explaining the work that is going on. As this is the first of these debates, I should start by declaring my farming interests as set out in the register.

The noble Baroness is right to highlight so many of the significant issues to which the agricultural sector is currently responding. This year, more than any in recent memory, has shown how important those who work across agriculture and horticulture are, and the need to ensure that this workforce is robust and resilient.

On seasonal labour, the importance for the sector of securing the labour it needs is well understood. In 2019, around 300,000 people were employed permanently in the agriculture sector, of whom around 18,000 were EEA nationals. Horticulture relies heavily on seasonal labour and, while the number of workers needed varies throughout and between years, Defra estimates that around 30,000 to 40,000 seasonal workers harvest fruit and vegetables at peak periods.

We have heard about innovation, and my visit to Harper Adams, among other places and institutions, of which there are a number, shows the direction of travel, and the fact that this is increasingly going to be a skilled area of advance and innovation.

As I know from my own experience, agriculture, horticulture and fisheries involve long hours. I can tell the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, that we will remain out there harvesting if we think there is a storm coming the next day. As long as the moisture level does not go too high, we—the owner, the worker, all of us—will carry on through the night, because we have a common endeavour to get the crops in. And I have to say also that for the livestock farmer, it is not 12 hours a day but 24 hours a day—so let us get a bit more realistic about the demands on all of us, particularly on the workers who work so hard in the agricultural sector. There is also a sense of purpose for so many who work on the land.

This year has been exceptional in terms of the collaboration there has had to be between industry and government, through the highly successful Pick for Britain campaign, to raise awareness of the roles available on fruit and vegetable farms and to link jobseekers with farms looking for seasonal workers. The expanded seasonal worker pilot in 2020 will enable us to carry out a more extensive evaluation ahead of any decisions being taken on how the future needs of the sector will be addressed. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, asked how many workers have come in. The Home Office reports that 4,488 visas have been granted this year. Some workers have yet to travel to the UK, and we estimate that approximately 3,000 seasonal pilot workers are currently in the UK.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and my noble friends Lord Trenchard and Lady McIntosh that the importance of this pilot is that it will enable us to carry on that more extensive evaluation of the systems and processes in place to access labour from non-EEA countries ahead of any decisions being taken on the future needs of the sector and how that would best be addressed. At the same time, the Government are continuing to implement that pilot this year and to support migrant workers who wish to travel to work.

The noble Baroness raised the really important issue of training and qualifications. Under the auspices of the Food and Drink Sector Council, the Agricultural Productivity Working Group, headed by Sir Peter Kendall, produced a report in February this year. It included recommendations to enhance access to and recognition of training and formal qualifications in the agriculture and horticulture sector. The Government are heavily involved in developing that work and are working with industry, via the skills leadership group, of which the noble Lord, Lord Curry, is an ambassador, to progress these recommendations. I think we are all extremely fortunate that the noble Lord, with his immense experience across the rural world and agriculture, is an ambassador of this group.

We are also very supportive of the work undertaken by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board —AHDB—to create a new range of training materials to help growers recruit, train and motivate new seasonal workers. They will receive tailored training for their particular workplace, which will, of course, vary depending on the crop and activity involved at each farm. The Government recognise the importance of business advice and, indeed, mental health support. We recently awarded £1 million to nine projects as part of the initial phase of the future farming resilience funding. This will go towards projects that provide support for farmers, including through information sessions, workshops, one-to-one advice and on-farm and business reviews. This initial phase will be thoroughly evaluated to inform future decisions about expanding the future farming resilience funding so that more farmers have access to advice and guidance about future changes in the sector.

Amendment 218 refers to fair terms and conditions. It is a key priority of this Government to ensure that not only is there a successful and effective agricultural sector but one in which workers are treated fairly. All workers, permanent and seasonal, come under the auspices of the National Minimum Wage Act, the Employment Rights Act and the Equality Act. I think my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering referred to that, and I emphasise that the Government place great importance on ensuring that farmers and producers understand that they have responsibilities to their workforce. I am very conscious in my discussions with the NFU, for instance, and its deputy president, Stuart Roberts, of safety on farms. The farming industry is very well aware that the need to improve safety is imperative.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned vets. I therefore have to say that two members of my family are veterinary surgeons. Defra is working closely with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, the British Veterinary Association and other key stakeholders to develop a flexible and skilled workforce which meets the UK’s long-term future veterinary needs. For instance, we have legislated to recognise a new veterinary degree from the University of Surrey, with the first 40 students graduating last July, and a new joint vet school at Harper Adams University and Keele University is due to accept its first entry this year. I have experience of the importance of vets in both in the private and state sectors. Many in the state sector come from the European Union, and I have said many times at this Dispatch Box that I very much hope that they will feel at home here and will stay. They are very much respected and needed. I work very closely with many of them, and it is a great privilege to do so.

Turning to Amendment 219, I am very aware of rural housing issues. I should perhaps say that I facilitated a rural housing scheme at Kimble many years ago because I am very conscious of the need to ensure that families can remain in their villages. I have no interest to declare, but I endorse the work of the Hastoe Housing Association and many other rural housing associations. It is really important that we have multigenerational villages across rural Britain. In referring to affordable housing, seasonal workers often live on the farms on which they work. If they choose to do so, they must be charged reasonable rents in line with the national accommodation offset rates. More than 165,000 affordable homes have been provided in rural local authorities in England between April 2010 and March 2019. I place great importance on this. It is an area in which I have been working hard with Ministers in MHCLG to ensure that there is a very strong rural housing chapter in our national housing proposals.

I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for raising this matter because we clearly need to advance the matters raised in the amendment. The Government are already working on them, as I have outlined. This is a continuing piece of work, rather than a one-off strategy. Defra is working closely with the Home Office, MHCLG, BEIS and others to address these issues, as well as with the devolved Administrations, of course. I emphasise that I am grateful to the noble Baroness for raising these issues, and I have spent a little longer than perhaps I might explaining the work the Government are undertaking on all these matters. If she or other noble Lords felt it would be helpful, we could have discussions so that they can see that this is an area of work on which the Government wish to make advances in the ways I have outlined. With that, I very much hope that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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I have received a request to speak after the Minister, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Adonis.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I did not say that they are absolutely correct; I said that the Home Office reports that 4,488 visas have been granted. Some workers are yet to travel to the UK, and we estimate—this is an approximate figure—that 3,000 seasonal pilot workers are currently in the UK. I think it is the case that, due to the coronavirus situation, the route was closed for some time for Ukraine and Belarus, and therefore the numbers are lower than what would have been in the pilot.

I am constantly asking farmers about this situation, and my understanding is that farmers and growers, through many of their local contacts, have been getting support and help from local people, coming forward either through Pick For Britain or through the contacts and tentacles that many farmers have across their communities. However, those are the figures I have been given. If the noble Lord would like any further assistance outside the Chamber, I am very happy to have a further discussion with him.

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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.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Faulkner of Worcester) (Lab)
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My Lords, I have received no requests from noble Lords to speak after the Minister, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes.

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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
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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.

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These are very specific amendments, but we agree that they should be considered in a wider regulatory review, as proposed by my noble friend Lady Young. I therefore hope that noble Lords will support them.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, for another thought-provoking debate. Agriculture has a key role to play in the protection of the environment and helping us achieve the targets set out in the 25-year environment plan. The noble Baroness’s amendment raises some important aspects of an effective regulatory regime. We agree on the importance of consultation. The Government will increase their engagement with interested parties on agricultural regulation in the autumn. We will be seeking evidence and views to help develop plans and policies, to ensure that we have the best possible regulatory system for the agricultural sector in the future.

Existing regulations and regulatory bodies will continue to protect the environment. Having listened to their comments, is seems that some noble Lords are forgetting —or choosing to airbrush—all the domestic regulation that protects our air, water and land. For example, the Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations include important protections that mandate action to reduce soil loss. The regulations on nitrates and on slurry, silage and agricultural fuel oil are designed to protect our watercourses. The Government will also raise standards, where needed, to protect our environment. As announced in the clean air strategy, the Government will require and support farmers to take more action to reduce ammonia emissions. We will work with farmers and land managers to uphold our standards.

While our current regulatory regimes will continue to work to ensure that the environment is protected, leaving the CAP is an important moment. The Government intend to seize this opportunity, engage with industry and work in partnership to strengthen how we regulate in the future. In establishing a new regulatory model, we want to work with the sector to get it right while ensuring that we always have a robust system of inspection and enforcement in place to uphold our important standards.

The Government envisage a future regulatory system designed with a focus on outcomes, both environmental and related to animal, health and welfare, with the core principles of partnership, adaptability, proportionality, transparency and efficiency at its heart. The Government will work across the Defra group to develop a shared strategy for farming and land-management regulation. This shared strategy will set out a clear vision for agricultural regulation and allow co-ordinated action and improvement across agencies aligned to Defra’s priorities, including those in the 25-year environment plan.

I am glad that my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge tabled Amendment 230. Hedgerows and field boundaries are the very essence of our countryside; they provide vital resources for mammals, birds and insect species. As well as being an important habitat in their own right, they act as wildlife corridors, allowing dispersal between isolated habitats. Many are also important historical and cultural landscape features. The Government recognise the crucial role hedgerows play in providing habitat in the 25-year environment plan and are committed to protecting them.

I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, who is probably involved with this matter, that we already have domestic legislation, as he must be well aware, in the form of the Hedgerows Regulations 1997, which prohibit the removal of important hedgerows and have played a role in helping to stop the net loss of hedgerows that was observed before their introduction. Since the Hedgerows Regulations came into effect, evidence shows that the decline in the length of hedges reported in the 1980s has been halted and rates of removal have fallen markedly.

The role of hedgerows as important habitats for birds and their nesting sites is protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Specifically, hedges may not be cut during bird-nesting season as this would harm birds or destroy their nests. Existing regulatory regimes protect hedgerows from removal and protect their function as important habitats. We want to support farmers, as custodians of the countryside, including through the creation, maintenance and protection of our hedgerows and other field boundaries.

My noble friend’s amendment would bring the rules on hedgerows, stone walls and stone and earth banks, which are contained in cross compliance, into domestic legislation. Cross compliance will continue for all BPS recipients for the time being. We will not start making delinked payments until 2022 at the earliest and not before consultation. In place of automatically replicating cross compliance rules in regulation, the Government intend to review the most effective mechanism to deliver against their environmental goals. A number of noble Lords have raised the fact that, under Clause 1, ELMS can provide financial assistance for hedgerow planting and maintenance where this helps to deliver environmental public goods.

The Government want to work with their partners to ensure that their regulatory response is effective and proportionate. We are committed to maintaining and improving environmental standards, working with and listening to industry to help us do so. To my noble friend I say that the Government are absolutely seized of the importance of hedgerows and boundaries, and we will be working in all respects to safeguard their future. They are really important.

To the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, I say that I am reminded of the Year of Green Action last year and the importance of encouraging—well beyond the farming community—those of us who garden, have allotments or can make a difference in some way. I certainly use this opportunity to suggest that, unless it is for safety reasons, we should not cut our hedges too early. I am also mowing a lot less and it is interesting to see so many more pollinators on my very scrappy grass.

Amendment 231 would amend the farming rules for water, and with it I shall also address Amendments 296 and 297. The Government understand the urgent importance of protecting our soils and have committed in the 25-year environment plan to having sustainably managed soils by 2030. Clause 1(1)(j) provides for financial assistance to manage land or water in a way that protects and improves the environment and for the protection and improvement of soil. The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations, known as the farming rules for water, already cover the management of buffer strips. It is expected that all farmers will continue to implement these as a reasonable precaution to prevent diffuse pollution. If farmers fail adequately to utilise such measures where necessary, they will be considered to be non-compliant.

The Government agree that records can be important for demonstrating compliance and also understand the value of buffer strips in mitigating pollution. The Government will conduct and publish a review of the farming rules for water early next year, where the effectiveness of these regulations will be fully assessed and stakeholders consulted. During the review, the Government will ensure that watercourse buffer strips and the inclusion of inland water sources are duly considered. The clean air strategy commits to extend environmental permitting to the dairy and intensive beef sectors by 2025, and the powers to extend the legislation to these sectors are already in place. As part of this work, we will consider whether other sectors need further regulation.

On pig production, I say to my noble friend that the largest intensive pig sector installations are already regulated through the environmental permitting regulations. Installations with more than 2,000 places for production pigs over 30 kg and 750 places for sows currently require a permit. I have taken some advice on pig density: it is considered that a proposed pig density limit of 20 pigs per hectare is particularly low.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about policing and advisers. Existing bodies will continue to protect the environment. The Environment Agency and Natural England will use advice-led enforcement.

I turn to Amendment 233. The Government are conducting a comprehensive post-implementation review of the slurry, silage and agricultural fuel oil and related nitrate regulations. This review will consider all the provisions in the regulations holistically and look at how we regulate more modern practices, such as the use of slurry bags. The Government are committed to the environment and have set ourselves challenging goals in the 25-year environment plan. To meet these, we need to consider the best way to manage environmental pressures, including slurry and silage. This review is already under way and we should not pre-empt its outcome. We should take a broad view of the changes, if any, needed to ensure we can meet those 25-year environment plan goals.

I shall repeat what I said on the previous group to the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. I am very happy to discuss her thoughts on these matters, particularly since the Government are well-seized of the importance of a proportionate and proper regulatory regime. We already have our domestic regulations and requirements, and we will continue with cross-compliance until there has been consultation. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, should not worry; they will not be lost until we are working on replacements. It is very important that we work together on this, so I say to the noble Baroness that I am sure the experts will be happy to discuss this with her, and I would be delighted to be part of that if she would like. I hope she is reassured of the importance that the Government place on ensuring that we have contemporary regulations that are couched to improve the environment and to work with farmers. On that basis, I hope she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
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I thank all noble Lords for their amendments in this group on marketing standards. The large number of amendments reflects many thoughtful contributions around the scope of the provisions in Part 5, Clauses 35 to 37. As previously, I declare my agricultural interests as recorded on the register. I congratulate my previous colleague and noble friend Lady Worthington on leading the group with her late amendment, Amendment 236A, on a consultation regarding the climate change impacts of agriculture. It is forward-looking and under proposed subsection (a), agriculture needs to be aware of its emissions if it is to become subject to a carbon levy on greenhouse gas emissions. However, a lot of analysis needs to be provided beforehand.

Agriculture takes its responsibilities seriously. As a member of the Tesco supply group, my carbon footprint of business operations is measured and assessed annually. I was happy to encourage and explore how accurate measurements from the initial development of the Dairy Roadmap many years ago could tackle this challenge. However, it will take many years of analysis to fully understand what is happening behind the statistics and how robust they may be. It is easy to overemphasise the role of agriculture in climate change, but that does not lessen the recognition of the need for agriculture to play its part in reaching net zero by 2050, mitigate its carbon footprint in its energy use and mitigate GHG emissions from the livestock sector with innovative schemes to redirect them to more positive outcomes.

Similarly importantly, agriculture can fulfil the desire to mitigate climate change through payments for schemes to reduce other industries’ and general impacts, as well as providing carbon sinks and upland water storage to reduce flood risk. The noble Baroness also makes a good point in the last aspect of her amendment, concerning drawing attention to the effect of food purchases from overseas and the need to recognise the impacts of their agricultural systems and production methods.

The noble Baroness’s amendment is echoed by Amendment 253A in the names of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. This amendment and Amendments 248, 250, 254 and 258 concern labelling and providing information to the consumer. Matching on a label the food contained within with an accurate description that does not mislead the consumer is heavily prescribed in legislation. Consumers are arguably the most well informed about food that they have ever been.

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, on their Amendment 250, which suggested the use of quick-response QR codes as a way of supplementing physical labelling with additional digital content. This is perhaps something that Defra could look at as a way of bringing in the extra subject matter these amendments would provide to the consumer, be that carbon footprints, welfare standards, transportation methods, or methods of production and slaughter.

Traceability is already part of the food chain operations concerning livestock products. Labels are already challenged for space. On the regulatory side, it is important that we have clear rules that can continue to evolve as the information required becomes more sophisticated. To answer these demands fundamentally, altering existing requirements should proceed only on the basis of proper and widespread consultation with producers, the supply chain and the consumer to ensure an appropriate balance.

Consultations form the basis of Amendment 236A, as discussed, as well as Amendments 263A—in the name the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay—and 255, to which my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch has added her name. The latter two are concerned with proper consultation with the devolved Administrations. I appreciate and thank the Minister for constantly reminding the House that his department has developed the Bill’s proposals in full consultation with the nations of the UK. However, we remain concerned about the quality of that dialogue. The areas of devolved competence also remain the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and were expressed by my noble friend Lady Wilcox of Newport in the debate on an earlier grouping of amendments concerning provisions with regard to Wales.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked questions about the operation of the internal market in food across the UK. Amendment 256 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, my noble friend Lady Henig and others is concerned that regulations and provisions may have the effect of lowering production standards below those already established in the EU and UK. We agree with this, and this is why we will be introducing amendments later to enshrine production standards in law around Amendment 271. The immediate priority is to ensure that the Government do not use their suite of delegated powers to water down the EU-derived provisions that consumers have demanded over so many years.

Amendment 247, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, seeks to enshrine the wording of the CMO regulation—EU Regulation 1308/2013—into the legislation. The Explanatory Note to the Bill signifies that the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 does that. The pertinent EU Council regulations are listed. But may I ask the Minister whether food information to consumers directives—FICs—notably Regulation 1169/2011, on labelling, are included in the list provided, and therefore also covered by the withdrawal Act?

The list of EU Commission-delegated acts covers the various product sectors, including wine, the subject of Amendment 253, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. I thank him for highlighting the importance of the wine trade. These Commission-delegated regulations under the withdrawal Act also include country of origin, protection of designation of origin, geographical indicators and traditional terms—the subject matter of Amendment 263, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler. He and I had independently tabled similar amendments to the Trade Bill last year, when the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, confirmed the Government’s commitment to continue implementation of these PDO and PGI schemes.

Can the Minister reconfirm that, and also confirm that this will be a key part of the future trading relationship that the UK seeks with the EU? Producers in this country will be keen to understand whether this will be an agreement with the EU covering mutual recognition of brandings that will require only one application to apply in both the UK and the EU. The adding of value to local specialisms is a crucial element in encouraging niche products to be protected by branding IP. This encourages skills, pride and prestige in rural entrepreneurship.

Finally, I commend the diligence of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, in her examination of Clause 32, inserting traceability of animal produce into the context of the devolved Administrations in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, in her Amendment 248. Cross-referencing to other pieces of legislation can be very confusing. I thank her also for Amendment 266, which returns us again to the key concern of animal welfare standards, this time under the WTO provisions of the Bill. Under WTO rules, this will be very difficult.

The noble Baroness’s Amendment 248 seems potentially to contradict the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in his Amendment 249, concerning poultry. I await the Minister’s resolution of this, and his many responses to all the issues that have been mentioned under this group. I wish him good luck.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, what an interesting discussion we have had. I will start with Amendment 236A. We have already debated the topic of climate change extensively. Robust measures to address climate change are already in place through other legislation. The Government recognise the importance of reducing emissions. The clean growth strategy and the 25-year environment plan set out a range of specific commitments further to reduce emissions from agriculture, including through environmental land management, strengthening biosecurity, controlling endemic diseases in livestock and encouraging the use of low-emissions fertilisers. Defra is exploring a number of policy mechanisms to contribute to achieving net zero by 2050 from its sectors, including by reducing emissions from farming practices.

Clause 21 of the Environment Bill will also establish the Office for Environmental Protection, which will be responsible for matters relating to climate change where these are included in the environmental improvement plan—currently the 25-year environment plan—and in environmental law. The Government agree whole- heartedly with the aim of implementing a payment scheme for farmers and land managers, with an objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon.

Turning to Amendment 247, Clause 35(1) has been drafted to provide more flexibility to update the marketing standards than the existing EU rules, which allow for amendments to be made only in prescribed circumstances, such as improving the economic conditions for the production, marketing and quality of agricultural products, taking into account the expectations of consumers.

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Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond [V]
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My Lords, I have two quick points for clarification, if I may. First, could the Minister confirm from the Dispatch Box that GI schemes have not already been wittingly or unwittingly traded away in the EU deal? Secondly, on the VI-1 forms, it seemed to me that he was saying that we will not be looking to impose a VI-1 paper-based regime come 31 December. Is it right that we will not be seeking to have such a scheme when we leave?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I have been very clear that the Government are determined to work in support of all the 88 geographical indications from the UK, which will remain protected after the end of the transition period. I will have to let my noble friend know about VI-1 forms, but there is scope to replace them and that is covered under retained EU law. I am afraid I do not know the timing of that matter.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his characteristically thorough and detailed response, and for his patience despite the late hour. This has been a fantastically varied and wonderful debate from which I have learned a huge amount. I echo the words of the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh of Pickering and Lady Mallalieu, that ultimately, although labelling is hugely important, consumers tend to purchase on price. When we think about how to tackle environmental standards and the huge risk of climate change, internalising a carbon price into this sector will unleash investment and help consumers to make the right choices. However, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport [V]
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My Lords, we know that the vast majority of marketing regulations have been set by the EU in recent decades. As part of that process, there has been a healthy level of engagement with producers and consumers. The expertise on the subject demonstrated by noble Lords this evening is extremely incisive, as evidenced in the opening proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe.

In future, when we are outside the European Community, although the rules will be retained immediately after the end of the transition period, there will be scope for the United Kingdom to depart from that way of working either incrementally or wholesale. Whatever the scale of that change may be, it will be most important to understand what information consumers will want from producers and what the cost and bureaucracy of such requirements will be in the short, medium and longer term.

A Government would not change any other major areas of regulation without first consulting and before laying a summary report on responses before Parliament, so it is curious and somewhat remiss that no requirement to consult is built into the Bill as drafted. We therefore support Amendment 257.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for her amendment. Before any changes are made to the marketing standards, stakeholder engagement and public consultation will need to take place. Any organisation which represents the interests of the UK agriculture industry will be given the opportunity to put forward their views.

I say in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, that marketing standards are covered by food law and a duty to consult is contained in Article 9 of Regulation 178/2002. This regulation will become retained EU law via the powers in the EU withdrawal Act. The regulation states:

“There shall be open and transparent public consultation, directly or through representative bodies, during the preparation, evaluation and revision of food law, except where the urgency of the matter does not allow it.”


It is the procedure that a summary of the responses to the consultation will be published on GOV.UK within 12 weeks of the consultation closing.

Any statutory instruments made using the power will also be accompanied by an Explanatory Memorandum and a proportionate analysis or full regulatory impact assessment where net direct cost to business is above £5 million. The impact assessment will provide the rationale for government intervention, details of all the options considered and the expected costs and benefits, particularly for businesses. With that reassurance, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe Portrait Baroness Neville-Rolfe [V]
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I thank noble Lords for their support in this short debate. I think that there is a general feeling that consultation on new rules and regulations is extremely important. The Minister has helpfully acknowledged that and pointed out that some provisions already exist that may give us most of what we want. I would like to study this, because the wording that he gave us suggested that it was consultation either generally or with representative bodies, and that where there was urgency there would not be consultation. Given the breadth and scale of the powers that we are talking about in this Bill—I focused on marketing standards, but it may go more broadly—we should return to the issue of what the right consultation provisions are. However, in view of the helpful comments that have been made and the lateness of the hour, I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

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Moved by
261: Clause 37, page 35, line 20, leave out “, in any case”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the other amendment to clause 37 in Lord Gardiner’s name.

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 7th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 28th July 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-VII Seventh marshalled list for Committee - (23 Jul 2020)
Finally, the WTO Agreement on Agriculture has long been seen as disadvantageous for developing countries, even though there are slightly different rules for such countries. There are strong arguments for being more sensitive to this and for other features of trade to be more beneficial towards development. Does the Minister see the inclusion of these powers in this Bill as being able to contribute to that goal in some way? How would the future role of the Government be made effective in reconciling their interests, as well as reconciling different ambitions of agriculture among the big trading blocs and developing countries?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for contributing to this interesting debate, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, for his amendment. I declare my farming interests, as set out in the register.

Part 6 of the Bill allows regulations to be made to ensure compliance with the United Kingdom’s obligations under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. I should say immediately to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that Defra and the Defra Secretary of State will be responsible for the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. To be clear, the Agreement on Agriculture is an international treaty that sets out a number of general rules and commitments on agriculture trade practices, as agreed by WTO members. These measures fall under three pillars, the domestic support pillar being the focus of Part 6. The regulations will set out procedures and arrangements to ensure that the UK as a whole complies with existing obligations under this international treaty.

We have a bilateral agreement in place with the Welsh Government on the making and operation of regulations under Part 6, and we have offered to extend this agreement to the Scottish Government and DAERA Ministers in Northern Ireland. In practice, we are already working very closely with officials from all Administrations on drafting regulations under these powers. As the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, raised it, I can report that good progress has been made and that officials from all four Administrations are working together to finalise a draft of the regulations. A concordat will shortly set out the detail of administrative arrangements and other routine matters, in order for these regulations to be in place for the end of the year.

Furthermore, my honourable friend the Farming Minister, Victoria Prentis, placed on record in the other place a commitment to consult with the devolved Administrations on the making of the regulations under Part 6. We have therefore already given strong assurances of our commitment to consult with the devolved Administrations on the making of regulations under these powers.

In reply to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, I reiterate that the Government fully recognise the devolved status of agriculture. That is why Clause 40(1) makes it clear that regulations can be made only for the narrow purpose of ensuring WTO compliance, a function that is reserved to the UK Parliament. Consultation with the devolved Administrations in cases such as this is a matter of good practice, and is done regularly on many matters. While it is usual practice to place commitments to consult on the record, as we have done in this case, we certainly do not wish to signal that consultation with the devolved Administrations will be carried out only where there is a legislative requirement. Indeed—and I hope noble Lords will understand this and will have seen this—Defra has a strong record of consulting the devolved Administrations where appropriate.

Amendment 265 seeks to remove the part of the clause which will allow functions to be conferred or delegated by the Secretary of State, or provide for a person to exercise discretion in dealing with matters relating to Part 6. Again, this was a point that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, raised. This amendment would prevent the Secretary of State delegating routine matters, such as the collection and collation of information related to support schemes for agriculture. It is quite proper that routine matters such as data gathering can be delegated to independent bodies. For example, certain data on farm subsidy payments is currently collected for all four Administrations by the UK Co-ordinating Body—an arrangement that works well for all parties. The intention of Clause 40(3) is to mirror existing arrangements as far as possible, to ensure a smooth and efficient process for all Administrations.

In our debate on these amendments on Thursday, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, asked about the policy framework for limits on the regulations. I can confirm that discussions have been held with the devolved Administrations outlining our intention to put in place limits which will enable them to maintain existing levels of agricultural support spending, if they wish to do so. Any impact on the design and implementation of schemes will therefore be limited to measures to ensure that schemes do not breach WTO obligations. The opening subsection makes it clear that the power can be used only for ensuring compliance with WTO rules.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, also asked about the future classification of agricultural support. As an independent WTO member, the UK will continue to have the same rights and obligations as the EU under the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, and will retain the same avenues for challenging disputes raised by other WTO members. It is of course important that we get classifications right to avoid any risk of challenge. That is why Clause 42(3) allows for provision to be made for a process for the appropriate authorities to decide how different types of domestic support should be classified.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, also asked about the status of the LCM in the Scottish Parliament. In May, the Scottish Government recommended legislative consent for all provisions that apply to Scotland and that those we maintain are in scope of the Sewel convention, except subsections (4) and (5) of Clause 42, which have now been removed by Amendment 268, in my name. Defra Ministers have written to their counterparts to inform them of the changes. We await the view of the Scottish Parliament, which is currently in recess.

On Amendments 266 and 269, and in response to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, during Thursday’s consideration, Part 6 deals exclusively with ensuring UK compliance with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture, as laid out in Clause 40(1). None of the areas cited in Amendments 266 and 269, or raised by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed—including animal welfare, food labelling, animal health, hygiene standards, plant health standards, food safety and traceability for agricultural products, and environmental standards—are within scope of the Agreement on Agriculture. As such, it would not be possible for regulations on these amendments to be made under Part 6. In reply to my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, my understanding is that the amendments are compatible with WTO matters. However, I hope that the pragmatic points I have raised on the amendments in this group assure her that the Government seek to ensure the very important compliance with the WTO rules.

I hope that, with the reassurances I have given, the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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I have received one request to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed.

Lord Purvis of Tweed Portrait Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s fulsome response, which is characteristic of him, as well as for the good news that the talks are progressing well. No doubt we will have an opportunity during the remaining stages of the Bill after the Recess to see how well they have gone.

I wanted to come back after the Minister. I hear what he said and we have heard, not only on this piece of legislation but previously on the Trade Bill—which we will come back to—Ministers saying from the Dispatch Box that they have good intentions of consultation with devolved Ministers. However, we have seen that they have had to apologise for not carrying out consultation, including on the continuity agreement on the Faroe Islands, which was so obviously an issue which linked with Scottish Ministers, and which was not carried out. That is why this House is right to continue to press this case.

I have two questions, which arise from the Minister’s full response. The first relates to the fact that the determination for these regulations will still be made by a UK department, which means, in effect, an English department. Are the Government closed to there being a distinct process, separate from a UK government department, which would look at WTO and state aid compliance? The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, was correct to say that these issues are linked with state aid issues. I know there is an ongoing question as to whether this should be dealt with by a UK government department or a separate body that looks at compliance. Is the Government’s mind closed on that?

The second question relates to the WTO. As Clause 40(5) states, this is about compliance with

“’the Agreement on Agriculture’ … (as modified from time to time).”

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, indicated that there are live discussions at the moment, especially with those developing countries that seek both changes to the Agreement on Agriculture and potentially a new agriculture agreement. With regard to the Trade and Agriculture Commission which is launching today, can the Minister indicate whether, as part of its remit to report to the Government, it will consider the ongoing discussions at the WTO about either a successor to the Agreement on Agriculture part of the WTO agreement or significant modifications to it? If there are modifications to it, there will have to be a new set of regulations to ensure that the UK is also compliant.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I hope I have been very clear that we are dealing with a situation where ensuring WTO compliance is a function reserved not to the English Parliament but to the UK Parliament. I have also said, and demonstrated by the active discussions already ongoing within the four nations, that this is a matter on which we place great importance and on which we are working together. However, I emphasise that this is a function reserved to the UK Parliament. That will continue to be the case as we collaborate with the devolved Administrations. We have come to a bilateral agreement with the Welsh Government, and we await the Scottish Government and DAERA Ministers—our work has been successful and collaborative.

On any future development of the Agreement on Agriculture and the WTO agreement, we would all of course have to be mindful of what any such changes would be. At the moment, there are three distinct pillars of the Agreement on Agriculture, and I cannot crystal-ball-gaze as to what may happen in the future. The bottom line always is that the UK Government would have to be compliant and have to work to ensure compliance, as is their responsibility. The point that I have always made is that this is done, and should be done, working with all parts of the United Kingdom, so that this is of benefit to all parts of the United Kingdom. That is of course one of the strengths of having a United Kingdom.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op) [V]
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My Lords, a great deal has happened since I moved this amendment at twenty minutes to midnight, last Thursday. I must say I am particularly glad that I did not try to spend the weekend in Spain, so here I am in Edinburgh, able to respond to the points that have been made during the debate.

There has been one very encouraging development over the weekend. I have been approached by the special adviser to the rural affairs Cabinet Secretary in the Scottish Government, seeking to work closely with us in considering amendments in Committee and on Report. This is a very good development. I pointed out that the Minister earlier on Thursday did say that he would talk with his colleagues about further meetings with the various Governments between Committee and Report. I also pointed out that a number of Scottish Peers are interested in this Bill—my noble friend Lord McConnell, the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and many others. If we as Back-Benchers co-operate and discuss things with the Scottish Government, that can only be of assistance in opening up agreements between the United Kingdom Government and the devolved Governments. I am certainly willing to be very helpful and as co-operative as I can.

Since this is the last time I am speaking, I thank the Minister for his usual courtesy—he is unfailingly courteous to us all in these debates—and the Minister and shadow Ministers for their diligence. They have been really diligent during the course of this Committee. I also add my thanks to the Public Bill Office and the Government Whips’ Office, which have been really helpful to those of us who have moved amendments. In what is a new and difficult procedure for us all, they have really helped. I am sure other Members who have moved amendments will agree with me on that.

Having said all that, I look forward to returning on Report to the points I have raised during the discussion on this amendment. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
268: Clause 42, page 38, line 28, leave out subsections (4) and (5)
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment removes the specific power in clause 42(4) for the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers or a Northern Ireland Department to provide information to the Secretary of State in connection with the Agreement on Agriculture. Clause 42(5), which relates to that power, is also omitted.
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We are still where we have always been on our cross- party amendment to enshrine standards in legislation. Over the short summer weeks until we return to these matters on Report, I would welcome further dialogue with the noble Lord, Lord Curry, the NFU and others. It is imperative that we achieve demonstrable progress across the House, especially regarding the food service sector—that is, food produced for consumption out of the home. Will the Minister continue to want to be seen to vote down amendments upholding the clear commitment to maintain the UK’s food standards on animal welfare, environmental protection and nutritious plant health?
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, this debate has taken four and a quarter hours. I have taken careful note of the range of views, but I well understand that there is a considered view across the Committee about certain points. My noble friend Lady Bloomfield and I are touched by the generous comments made by so many noble Lords. If we sit late tonight, we will have had about 54 hours in Committee, compared with 16 hours in the other place. Before any noble Lord starts to say that that shows what important work we do, when I referred this to my honourable friend the Minister for Farming, she said, “We gave it very thorough consideration; perhaps some noble Lords might have taken it to extreme levels.” I pass on that one, however.

Given the time, I want to spend a little time setting out the legislative context in which all these matters should be considered. As I said at Second Reading, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 retains our standards on environmental protections, animal welfare, animal and plant health, and food safety at the end of the transition. This provides a firm basis for maintaining the same high level of protection for both domestic and imported products. I feel like repeating that. Because of the time, I will not, but I emphasise those points.

We already have the rules and robust processes in place to protect UK standards. The independent work of our food regulators, the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland, and rigorous processes will continue to ensure that all food imports into the UK are safe and meet the relevant UK product rules and regulations. This will include imports under new free trade agreements. For example, regulated food products need to pass the FSA’s risk analysis process before being placed on the UK market. This process is rigorous, independent and based on robust scientific evidence. The process will bring a substantial weight of expertise to bear. The FSA has doubled the number of risk assessors since 2017. It can draw on the expertise of 100 scientific experts and support staff and has recruited 35 additional members to its advisory committees. It has also taken wider consumer interest into account, such as the impact on the environment, animal welfare and food security, drawing on appropriate expertise and stakeholders to do so. Moreover, the expertise of other government departments and agencies will be brought to bear in the risk assessment process, as required, including the Animal and Plant Health Agency and Defra officials.

The noble Lord, Lord Empey, asked about equivalence and who will determine it. Equivalence will be considered by experts in the Animal and Plant Health Agency and the Food Standards Agency. The expert advice and evidence on regulated products will then be presented to Ministers in the UK and devolved Administrations for a decision on whether these products should be placed on the UK market. Secondary legislation would need to be laid before Parliament to authorise new regulated products to be placed on the market and the usual scrutiny processes would apply.

We will repatriate the functions of audit and inspection, currently carried out by the European Commission, to ensure that trading partners continue to meet our import conditions for food and feed safety, animal and plant health and animal welfare. This will include UK officials auditing the food production systems and rules of other countries and carrying out inspection visits to facilities in the countries themselves. I did not hear any of that during the debate. We will also verify that requirements are carried out as stipulated through checks at the border. This will provide a robust system to maintain our high standards going forward. Our audits will ensure that trading partners have the necessary infrastructure and regulation in place to export safe food and animal products to the UK, which either meet or exceed UK import conditions, and will then ensure that these standards are maintained. Again, I did not hear much about any of that during the debate.

Given the protections outlined, the Government believe that sufficient measures are already in place. We are committed to ensuring that trade agreements do not compromise our high standards and will continue to take into consideration the views of relevant stakeholders across the food supply chain on the impact of trade deals. A range of established stakeholder groups is already in place to advise the development of government policy on trade. These include the Strategic Trade Advisory Group and the agri-food chain business group, as well as various supply chain advisory groups such as the arable group, the livestock group and the food and drink panel. These groups already provide valuable expert advice to help government develop trade policy.

The Government listened closely to valuable feedback from Parliament and stakeholders and, to strengthen these existing arrangements, recently established a Trade and Agriculture Commission—I say this to my noble friend Lord Caithness. It will operate under the auspices of the Department for International Trade. Defra is closely involved in its work. It will deal with policy areas that my department leads on and Defra officials are members of the commission secretariat. Earlier today, the Defra Secretary of State delivered a message alongside his counterpart in DIT at the official launch of the commission. If anyone studies the composition of this commission, they will see a wealth of authoritative expertise from across the four countries of the UK. The chair of the group, Tim Smith, has over 30 years’ experience in the sector and is a former chief executive of the FSA. I also worked closely with Nigel Gibbens during his time as Defra’s Chief Veterinary Officer; his expertise on animal health and welfare will be invaluable. These individuals, and the rest of the membership, will drive a strong and independent piece of work, which I am sure will stand up to scrutiny.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked about consumer and other bodies. Beyond the membership itself, there will be many ways to engage the commission’s members and other structures that will feed into the group to inform its advisory role. The exact shape and frequency of these will be formalised soon, subject to the chair. Members were approached to join the commission following a process of consultation. We believe that we have ensured that there is an appropriate range of views and expertise on the commission.

With reference to Amendment 279, the remit of the newly formed Trade and Agriculture Commission will cover many of the principles set out by the noble Lord, Lord Curry. It will bring together stakeholders across the industry and the four UK nations, using their expertise to advise on how best the UK can seize new export opportunities that our trade policy can deliver, in particular for small and medium-sized enterprises. The aim is to promote our high-quality agri-food produce internationally, while ensuring that animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined.

The Trade and Agriculture Commission will help to shape the future of trade and agricultural policy in our current negotiations and in those to come. It will also provide advice to help promote our agenda at the WTO and other international fora, including on international standards for animal welfare and environmental protections, and to advance and protect consumer interests and those of developing countries. This inclusive approach, along with the weighty expertise of members, ensures that the advice the commission produces at the end of its six-month term will be representative and robust. The commission’s report will also come before noble Lords, who will debate it when the Department for International Trade presents it to Parliament.

The Trade and Agriculture Commission’s recent establishment could not have come at a more opportune time, as our trade negotiations with the United States, Australia and New Zealand are live. While measures under the Bill will not come into effect until Royal Assent, the new commission has already started work and will have the opportunity to make recommendations at this crucial time. The Government are committed to building a transparent and inclusive trade policy. Parliament already has a role in scrutinising a finalised trade agreement before it is ratified, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.

My noble friends Lord Lilley and Lady Neville-Rolfe asked about WTO rules in relation to Amendments 270 and 271. I am advised that both these amendments would raise issues under WTO rules.

The noble Lord, Lord Krebs, asked about food. High standards and high quality are what our domestic and global customers demand, and that is what we should provide. Our standards should and will ensure that consumers are able to have confidence in choosing products that conform to UK values, whatever their budgets.

My noble friend Lord Trenchard asked about the UK and EU standards. The UK Government will take a science-based approach to SPS measures and take their own sovereign decisions on standards and regulations, in line with the principles of the WTO SPS agreement and other relevant internationally recognised guidance. We will ensure that our high standards of food safety and animal welfare are not compromised.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, asked about environmental protections. WTO rules allow for the adoption of measures on public policy grounds, such as protecting human, animal and plant life or health. This is subject to discipline in the relevant agreements, including that these measures do not arbitrarily discriminate between WTO members and are not disguised restrictions on international trade.

My noble friend Lord Caithness asked about labelling requirements on imported food. Food labelling rules apply to all food intended for supply to final consumers or to caterers. Imported food needs to be fully compliant before it is placed on the market in the UK. Furthermore, the name and address of a food business in, or importer into, the UK after the transition period will be required on the label. There are no exceptions to food labelling rules for imported food. My noble friend also asked about tariffs and the US deal. The third round of negotiations is taking place this week. We will always ensure that the UK FTAs are fair and reciprocal, and that any opening up does not cause an unwanted downturn for domestic producers.

On enforcing FTAs and offshore tribunals, the Government are clear that when negotiating FTAs we will continue to protect our right to regulate in the public interest, including in such areas as environmental standards. This right to regulate is recognised in international law.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, asked important questions about Northern Ireland. The withdrawal agreement joint committee met again on 16 July and the Northern Ireland Executive representative again attended, in line with the New Decade, New Approach deal. They exchanged updates on implementation of the protocol and discussed preparatory work for future decisions.

My noble friend Lord Dobbs rightly emphasised that exports and the promotion of trade are important elements in this. I thought that we had a very good discussion on these with so many noble Lords referring to, and being rightly proud of, many products from all parts of the kingdom. If I had longer, I would name-check not only the noble Lords but their produce. However, we can all be proud of the great products that our farmers create and produce with their great husbandry across the nation.

I turn to the final amendment in this group, Amendment 280. The political declaration sets an aim for tariff-free and quota-free trade between the UK and the EU. The Government are working hard to achieve that. There are currently no tariffs and no quotas for trade between the UK and EU. Talks with the EU suggest that we will maintain tariff and quota-free access; the best way to achieve this is through a free trade agreement. Reducing the cost pressures and processes associated with trade is in the interests of people and businesses across the UK, including the beef and lamb sectors.

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Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V]
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My Lords, speaking in this particular spot I feel I have to echo the thanks and compliments to the Minister from many noble Lords in this debate for his usual detailed answers that fully engaged with the issues, as we have seen throughout this debate and particularly in this marathon session.

I note what the Minister said about food standards and attempts to guarantee those in the UK, which—if we think back the horsemeat scandal—have not always been successful. In establishing the Trade and Agriculture Commission, the Government have acknowledged that there are issues here to be addressed, which the amendments in this group are seeking to get to grips with on perhaps a deeper and longer level.

I am sure the Minister knows that, just this month, the first shipment of Chinese-cooked chicken went into the United States market—unlabelled—and, were chicken to be shipped from the US to here, it could equally make its way here. It is planned that, by the end of the year, uncooked chicken will be going from China to the US, despite the issues of food adulteration that have occurred in that country, and also the issues of avian influenza, for example.

My question is not specifically about the Chinese chicken in the US potentially coming here; it is a broader question. How can the Trade and Agriculture Commission, operating for six months, deal with the situation of the continually changing global trade in food and issues that will keep arising after its six-month term?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that question. As I say, that is precisely why we have established stakeholder groups as well. I think the commission is going to be invaluable to the Government; it will set the parameters and the issues at large with an expert group, but we will always continue to work with stakeholders because we want to have successful trading partnerships around the world, particularly—as I say—promoting great British food and drink.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle [V]
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My Lords, I do not feel in the least embarrassed by my amendment, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. It is precisely because of concerns about the limited authority of the commission that was launched today that I have tabled Amendment 279. I reassure him that I did not collude with Defra in constructing the amendment; however, I did it with the full support of the NFU.

I will respond to the Minister’s usual very comprehensive response. I am very, very positive indeed about the future of agriculture after we leave the European Union. I have said a number of times that this is one of the most exciting points in history—in my lifetime—and we have a great opportunity to promote British agriculture, food and standards around the world. It is a really interesting and exciting opportunity.

However, I am disappointed that the Minister has not been willing to recognise the weight of opinion in the debate this afternoon. I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, will reinforce this. I ask the Minister to reflect on the comments made today before we return in September for Report. The importance of this issue will not diminish over the summer and it would be really helpful if the department were willing to table its own amendment on this subject on Report.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Curry, has answered the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, because I was mightily confused at the idea that the noble Lord, Lord Curry, had had a discussion with me or any Defra official.

I said I had made a very careful note of the points that were made. I do not think I can say any more than that at this stage, but I will certainly be ensuring that my ministerial colleagues know the strength of feeling across much of the House. However, it is also incumbent upon me to say to your Lordships that we are a revising and scrutinising House, and the other place—the elected House—also has a very strong constitutional function to fulfil.

Lord Bruce of Bennachie Portrait Lord Bruce of Bennachie [V]
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The Minister recognised the importance of having a deal; without one, it will be a disaster, especially for producers of cattle and for the whole of the lamb sector. However, even with a deal, there will be a requirement for veterinary health certificates and there will obviously be inspections. Is the Minister mindful of the fact that this in itself will create some friction and cost? Would the department be willing to look at that situation and determine whether support is required to maintain that flow of export, even in the circumstance that we have a deal, while acknowledging that with no deal there is very little we can do other than face disaster?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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I am most grateful to the noble Lord; that is an important point. The department is working on all those matters, because we recognise that we need a successful trading agreement, and we are mindful of the importance of the speedy passage of products, particularly in the food sector. The department is fully seized of and is working on these matters so that we have the resources and personnel in order to effect what the noble Lord is seeking.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for taking us to this point. I do not think he has satisfied the Committee; I will return to that. However, I thank him most fulsomely for his approachability, patience and ability to cover such a wide range of subjects, not just this evening but throughout the proceedings.

I add my thanks to the clerks, the Public Bill Office, the Government Whips’ Office, the broadcasting and digital services—without whom we would have struggled to even begin to discuss this—and, especially, the Bill team, who have been here at all hours of the day and night as we have discussed this.

I was delighted when I heard that a commission was being set up, having first secured a Question for Short Debate on 25 February this year asking what steps the Government were taking

“to establish a trade standards commission in advance of negotiating trade deals.”—[Official Report, 25/2/20; col. GC 67.]

I have found, both in the other place and in this House, that I have been advised to follow the advice of my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge. I urge my noble friend the Minister—as he regroups and as we leave once proceedings have concluded this evening—to consider that the best possible solution would be for him to use his very good offices and come forward with a compromise amendment, pulling out some of the key themes on which there has been a huge consensus. However, there have been one or two noble Lords we have not been able to persuade at this stage.

I would like to meet the Minister’s lawyers in the department to discuss whether or not this will be compatible with the World Trade Organization. My information is that, according to the WTO, exemptions are allowed for countries to set their own standards, based on the science, in limited circumstances, applying measures

“only to the extent necessary to protect animal, plant and human life or health”,

which we also discussed in the context of Amendment 256.

I regret that my noble friend the Minister missed the opportunity to put my mind, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, and others, to rest. Noble Lords asked what the relationship will be with the existing expert trading and agriculture commission—it has various titles. We did not get a reply to that, which was unfortunate. I believe that the Trade and Agriculture Commission is the body best suited to set out the detail and to consider what the criteria will be on reaching each of the trade agreements that come before the House.

I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, on everything, but we did have—as he reminded the House this evening—major success on the Trade Bill, with a number of amendments adopted which I now consider to be government policy. It is absolutely essential, whether we are discussing the Agriculture Bill, the Trade Bill, the immigration Bill or the Environment Bill, that we say the same thing on each Bill.

I am delighted that my noble friend the Minister has recognised the remit of the commission, but I am disappointed that it is going to last for only six months. I think the mood of the Committee this evening is that this is not long enough; it should be permanent and should look at the text of each individual agreement and give its views on those.

The noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, said that the time has to be now. I believe that this is the Bill and this is the occasion and, if not this evening, I beg leave to return to this group of amendments and to the themes that we have discussed. However, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment 270.

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I hope that all noble Lords can agree that we need a separate, structured consultation that will enable us to reach an informed outcome, in which the science, its potential and its limitations are fully and widely understood. Perhaps, on that basis, we can avoid culture wars and get closer to some degree of consensus on this very controversial issue. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, this has been another thought-provoking debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, for tabling an amendment that seeks to address an issue with current regulations affecting the use of gene editing and other precision breeding techniques in agriculture. Until 2018, there was uncertainty within the EU as to whether the living products of this technology should be subject to the same regulatory framework as genetically modified organisms, because the legal definition of a GMO was open to interpretation.

In 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled very clearly that these products must be treated in the same way as GMOs, even if the changes to their genetic material could have been produced by traditional methods, such as crossing varieties of the same species and selecting only the improved individuals. The UK Government intervened in the case to argue for a more scientific outcome. Our position was, and is still, that if the products of gene editing could have been produced naturally or by using traditional breeding methods, they should not be regulated as GMOs.

The Government are committed to taking a more scientific approach to regulation. Many scientific institutes, along with the breeding industry and some EU member states, such as Sweden, share our view that the current rules are unscientific and a solution is needed soon if we are to reap the economic and environmental benefits these technologies have to offer, such as more resilient crop varieties, reduced use of synthetic pesticides and more disease-resistant animals. The Government are committed to this task and to following due process, so that any necessary changes are properly informed and there is confidence in them.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, for his examples of gene-editing research from around the world. The UK is at the forefront of genetic research and the Government are keen to build on this excellence. We want farmers to have access to crop varieties that are more resilient and require fewer synthetic pesticides.

I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Trees, said. He is one of the most respected veterinary surgeons in the country and, of course, our veterinary surgeon in this House. I was struck by the potential and the opportunities he outlined for breeding disease-resistant farmed animals. Again, I cannot believe that he would promote something that in any way compromised the welfare or interests of animals. I have to be careful, because two members of my family are in the veterinary profession, but I think it is one of the remaining very well-respected professions. Eminent scientific bodies in the EU and UK have advised that it is the characteristics of an organism and how it is used that determines whether it is a risk to human health and environment, not how it was produced.

It is important to highlight that gene-edited organisms resulting from changes to genetic material that would not arise naturally or from traditional breeding methods will need to be regulated as genetically modified organisms. They should not come under the gene-editing exception. It is important that the Government address this matter, both by making any necessary legislative changes and by ensuring public confidence and trust. It is important that these issues are heard and addressed transparently. To this end, I place on record that the Government will consult publicly on this issue. Defra is working on the details so that a consultation can be launched in the autumn. I have given firm assurances that the Government will consult on the issues raised by this amendment and I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, will feel able to withdraw it.

Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lexden) (Con)
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My Lords, I have received no requests to speak after the Minister.

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
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I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Greaves, and others for tabling Amendment 295 to Clause 47, “Regulations”, under Part 8, “General and Final Provisions”, and Amendment 298 to Clause 50, “Power to make consequential etc provision”. They are correct to look at every opportunity the Government may feel they need to extend their powers on what is essentially a framework Bill without a lot of detail.

The amendments made me check the 13th report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of your Lordships’ House. The committee’s oversight of each piece of primary legislation is always cogent and thoughtful. In consequence, any criticism is always considered and answered carefully by the Government. On rereading the report, I am slightly surprised that the Delegated Powers Committee did not flag up these clauses’ ability to make amendments to primary legislation by secondary orders. The House has usually argued that unless there are very good reasons for doing so, changes to primary legislation should come only from a new Bill.

I have now reread the clauses very carefully and wonder whether this provision was not flagged because the relevant subsections do not actually confer a delegated power to modify primary legislation but contain a provision that already modifies primary legislation, retained EU legislation or subordinate legislation; that is, something that is already delegated and clarifies how other powers may be used. I would welcome the Minister’s explanation.

I do not wish to prolong proceedings but, together with my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch, I echo the remarks of other noble Lords in appreciating the uniformly consistent and fulsome answers that the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, and the whole Bill team have provided to all our inquiries. All responses have been comprehensive and expressed constructively in all our deliberations. The praise given by your Lordships is well deserved for the patience shown towards us. I have always found the ministerial answers most helpful.

After a very long Committee stage, I just add that I have not found the Committee essentially negative towards the Bill; rather, my impression is that as the Committee has proceeded with its inquiries, the ambitions contained in the Bill have become better appreciated.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, this has been a very helpful debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, for his amendments and for the opportunity to explain why the Government are seeking the delegated powers in Clauses 47(3) and 50(1) for themselves and, I should add, the devolved Administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The Government’s request for delegated powers in this area is reasonable and proportionate. I am reminded of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, and the discussions I have had with him on other Bills, so I understand—not only as a Minister but as someone who believes in proper scrutiny—the points that have been made. But here we are seeking provision to make technical changes for which securing further primary legislation would be cumbersome and far too slow. There would be paralysis if every change to primary legislation had to be made by further primary legislation, particularly during this period of change.

As Sections 7, 8 and 9 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 demonstrate, delegated powers to amend primary legislation are an indispensable tool in ensuring that the law is updated in a timely and efficient manner.

It is certainly not our intention to compromise or circumvent appropriate parliamentary scrutiny. That is why Clause 47(5) ensures that any use of these powers to amend primary legislation would be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. The flexibility provided by these delegated powers is needed, as it is not possible to anticipate every consequential, supplemental, transitional, transitory and saving provision that may be required at the end of the transition period.

At the moment, we do not know what the UK’s future relationship with the EU will look like. As soon as this becomes clear, the UK and devolved Governments will have to make quick operability amendments to ensure the body of legislation that governs the agricultural sector is updated where necessary. As I have said, we are also taking these powers on behalf of the Welsh Government and DAERA so that they can make appropriate operability changes as necessary.

I should perhaps declare my membership of the NFU—it is always interesting to hear “the NFU says this and the NFU says that”. I am a member of the NFU, and the inability to amend legislation where needed could cause considerable uncertainty; we believe it could disadvantage farmers, the agricultural sector and consumers.

I emphasise that the powers to amend primary legislation could be used only where the legislation relates to a specific provision of this Bill. One example of their use is to make savings provisions for the agri-promotion scheme to ensure that existing programmes are able to continue to their conclusion after CAP regulations cease to apply. We are unable to put the savings provisions on the face of the Bill as we do not currently know which schemes will be live at the end of the transition period and therefore which savings provisions would be required.

To my noble friend Lord Marlesford, I say that I absolutely understand the point he has championed about powers of entry without a warrant. Indeed, I have had discussions in the past with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, about this as well. The Government have limited the powers of entry to make a distinction between the property that is occupied as a house—“dwelling”—and the property as a whole. I absolutely understand and appreciate that it is intrinsic to our arrangements that there is respect for a private dwelling place.

I emphasise that this is a measure that we think is proportionate and necessary given the circumstances. I understand what noble Lords have said about Henry VIII powers and, of course, the reason behind the nervousness or dislike, shall we say, of this sort of provision. However, I hope I have demonstrated adequately that this is no ruse or some back way of abusing Parliament; it is actually to serve those we serve better by enabling us to deal with such matters as I have outlined in an appropriate manner. With those assurances, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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Moved by
299: Clause 53, page 43, line 35, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
“(1) The following provisions come into force on the day on which this Act is passed— (a) any provision of Parts 1 to 7 which—(i) confers a power to make regulations, or(ii) modifies legislation so as to confer a power to make regulations or a power to make an order by statutory instrument; (b) any other provision of those Parts so far as it, or a modification of legislation it makes, affects the exercise of such a power (for example by defining an expression used in the provision conferring it);(c) this Part, apart from section 49 and Schedule 7.”Member’s explanatory statement
The Amendment enables legislative powers created by the Bill to be exercised on or after the day on which the Bill receives Royal Assent.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 299 I shall also speak to Amendments 300 to 311 in my name. Amendments 299 to 311 enable legislative powers created by the Bill to be exercised on or after the day on which the Bill receives Royal Assent. The consequences of coronavirus have placed great pressure on parliamentary timetables. The Bill has therefore not progressed at the pace we originally anticipated, creating a need to act quickly after the Bill receives Royal Assent. These amendments will allow the Government to introduce the Bill’s provisions smoothly and, in particular, to ensure there is no gap in powers to continue to operate our existing schemes and provide financial assistance to farmers and land managers.

For example, we will need to lay and bring into force a statutory instrument under Clause 10, before the end of this year, to enable the basic payment scheme to continue in 2021. Similarly, we also need a statutory instrument to be in place for the 2021 scheme year to simplify the scheme and cross-compliance rules in 2021. We will need further regulations in place in early 2021, under Clauses 2 and 3, to launch the ELM, tree health pilot and new productivity grant schemes, and to run Countryside Stewardship 2022. There are also vital provisions, under Clauses 40 to 42, for compliance with WTO rules, for which the UK Government become directly responsible from day one following the end of the transition period.

Further important provisions are made by Clause 32 of the Agriculture Bill, which inserts new Section 89A into the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, providing an ability to trace livestock and so control disease outbreaks. It is currently scheduled for laying later in 2020 and, ideally, could come into force before the end of the year. The regulations will be made using the affirmative procedure and your Lordships will need appropriate time to scrutinise them before the end of the transition period, so that they may be made ahead of 2021. In our view, farmers and land managers deserve the certainty that they will get the financial assistance they need next year. These amendments will give them that, as well as allowing the agricultural sector to move forward.

I say to all your Lordships who have participated and listened to the Agriculture Bill in Committee that perhaps it has been more extensive than was imagined at the beginning, but I am grateful to all noble Lords. The passion on many of the subjects on which they have spoken comes through a deep-rooted love of the land and all that it represents, the produce of this country and a desire for high standards. I identify with and share all of that. I am embarrassed by some of the generous comments; I rather felt as if I were reading my obituary. All I can say is that it has been a privilege to work with your Lordships. I know that there will be some battles ahead on Report. It is an honest adventure, and we all seek to do our right and best. On this occasion, I wish all noble Lords that rest from which I suspect we will all benefit. These proceedings would not be possible without the Bill team, the people who work with me at Defra and particularly all those in your Lordships’ House, who have worked tirelessly to enable us all to perform to the best of our abilities. I beg to move.

Lord Bhatia Portrait Lord Bhatia (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.

The Agriculture Bill establishes a legislative framework and will create a new system to support farmers in the farming industry. As we transition in our departure from the EU, the WTO and the wider world, I hope that we will be able to negotiate a trade deal with the EU, which is our biggest market. The food chain of the farming industry is long and important, supporting tens of thousands of workers. The most important aspect of the Bill is how to maintain financial support for farmers. They provide food security for the nation and, at the same time, ensure the quality standards of farm providers.

The farming industry provides vegetables, grains, wheat and meat products for the nation and for exports. It maintains very high standards of quality for food products, which is well known in this country and across the world. It is important that we do not compromise on quality in our imports from any nation. I suggest that we support some of the third-world and Commonwealth countries in their exports to the UK, while at the same time ensuring that imports from those countries maintain the quality of our standards. As we exit the EU, we have to find ways of reaching the EU, which is our biggest market. That is the biggest challenge for our farmers.

Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this group of amendments relating to changes in the commencement provisions are, as noble Lords have indicated in the debate, about switching when various clauses and delegated powers come into force. Some stakeholders appear to have expressed concern that Amendment 299, which brings certain powers into force as soon as the Bill receives Royal Assent, means that there will be less scrutiny of the regulations and policy changes that will be brought forward. This should not be the case in your Lordships’ House, as they should still be subject to the standard parliamentary processes.

However, I have the following questions for the Minister to help to clear up any uncertainties and to ensure that this is on the record, should future ambiguities arise. How many regulations do the Government expect to be brought forward? How quickly will this happen? Can the Minister confirm that any regulations will be regular SIs, rather than made SIs, which come into force immediately and get formally green-lighted only later in the process? I would be grateful for verbal answers or answers in written form if the details need to be checked further.

That brings the scrutiny and amendments to the Bill in Committee to a close before the Minister speaks again. What an extraordinary introduction this first Bill that I have taken through the House in my role as Opposition Whip has been. I must note the superb support I have received from my noble friends Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lord Grantchester and the guidance that our staff team has given me during this process. I thank all noble Lords for demonstrating knowledge and understanding of the issues in such detail throughout the seven days of debate on this significant Bill, and for clearly representing the value and importance of the forensic scrutiny evident in your Lordships’ House to the wider public realm. I must also add my thanks to the Minister and his Front-Bench team for the detailed and thoughtful answers given throughout the debates. I look forward to picking up on Report on the Bill with the Opposition Front-Bench team in September. I send every good wish.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for speaking on this, the last of the group of amendments, which is an important group because it will enable the Government to provide the opportunity that the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, hit on. We are absolutely doing this to ensure that there is proper scrutiny and so that we can bring forward those regulations, which will be via the affirmative route, so that noble Lords—I am looking particularly at the noble Baronesses, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester—will be meeting again in the latter part of this year. My intelligence on these matters is that we there will be two before December 2020 that we will need to attend to in particular, but I put on the record that the whole purpose of doing this and of my amendments is to ensure that the regulations have the proper scrutiny they deserve and so that we can ensure that the farmers who are at the root of the Bill have certainty about what we intend for 2021. We will deal with that before the end of the year so that we can begin these schemes and the payment will come forward in 2021. I wish everyone a most enjoyable August.

Lord Duncan of Springbank Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Duncan of Springbank) (Con)
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The Minister and all noble Lords will be pleased to know that no one has expressed a wish to speak after the Minister.

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Moved by
300: Clause 53, page 43, line 37, after “provisions” insert “, so far as not brought into force by subsection (1)(a) or (b),”
Member’s explanatory statement
The amendment excludes from the commencement power under subsection (2) any provision mentioned in Clause 53(2)(a) to (f) to the extent it is brought into force by the new subsection (1) substituted by Lord Gardiner’s first amendment to Clause 53.

Agriculture Bill

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Excerpts
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 130-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Report - (15 Sep 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 noble Lords for contributing to what has been a thoughtful debate. I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. I very much look forward to these days spent on Report, building on our consideration in Committee.

In addressing Amendment 1, I will also address Amendments 25, 3, 4 and 24. I am a great advocate of the benefits that access to the countryside and the natural world can bring. Clause 1(1)(b) will allow financial assistance to be given to support public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland and woodland.

The Government are supporting and enhancing access to the countryside in a number of different ways. We are working to complete the England Coast Path and to support our network of national trails, and we intend to create a new national trail across the north of England. We are ensuring that rights of way are recorded and protected, as well as developing ways to support access through the ELM scheme. I say to my noble friend Lady McIntosh that it is estimated that there is around 140,000 miles of rights of way in England and Wales. The ELM scheme will reward land managers for the public goods that they deliver, including beauty, heritage and engagement with the environment. Public access is a key way that people can engage with the environment. Supporting access is therefore an important aspect of achieving this goal.

In her point about balance, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, reminded us of the clear essence of this—in fact, it is the way in which the countryside is generally successful. How do we balance the many demands on the countryside? Her point was made well and succinctly.

We are looking at how the ELM scheme could fund the creation of new paths, such as footpaths and bridleways, which provide access for cyclists, riders and pedestrians where appropriate. This will be in addition to current local authorities’ rights of way arrangements. The scheme could also support wider access opportunities to, and on, water and waterways, such as lakes and rivers, for canoeists, anglers and swimmers where appropriate. Again, this is about balance. We all know—this is so often the case, in my view—that when this is done through interested parties meeting together, some of the hostility evaporates: they all get round what is perhaps in these times the proverbial table and work through the issues to everyone’s mutual interest.

We will determine in more detail what ELM will pay for as we develop further the scheme; importantly, we are engaging with stakeholders to inform this. The current wording of the Bill allows us to develop, in close collaboration with stakeholders, the best ways of making further enhancements to our exceptional access network, including waterways.

Turning to Amendment 2, I am absolutely seized of the health and well-being benefits that access can bring. All of us have experienced them—many of us throughout our lives—but I think that the nation has particularly found this during the current circumstances. I assure the noble Earl that these benefits can be supported by public access to the countryside. Access provides a huge range of benefits, including improving physical and mental health, but also supports local communities and economies.

I thank the noble Earl for highlighting the importance of access as a public good, which this scheme can support. As drafted, Clause 1(1)(b) will allow for a more permissive approach to meeting the aims of providing greater and more varied access. A broad range of access improvements will be aimed at promoting the benefits of enhancing health and well-being through enjoyment—in the fullest sense of the word, rather than that pertaining to property rights—and understanding of the countryside. I should say that the noble Earl and I discussed this issue with lawyers. The current scope of Clause 1(1)(b) is broader than that proposed by the noble Earl and provides options to develop the best ways of making further enhancements to our impressive access network, including waterways.

Turning to Amendments 19 and 27, rights of way are managed by local authorities and the rights of way improvement plans set out the needs at local levels. When developing schemes such as the ELM scheme, understanding and addressing local needs will be of paramount importance. This is why the Government have proposed that the design of tiers 2 and 3 of the ELM scheme may require spatial prioritisation; in other words, a targeting process to ensure that priority environmental outcomes are delivered in the right places. The Government are exploring the best approach to spatial prioritisation for ELM, including how to ensure that local stakeholders can be involved in determining local priorities. Rights of way improvement plans will already be considered as part of this process.

Clear arrangements are already in place through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 to allow for the establishment, recording and appeal of rights of way to agreed standards, and local authorities hold responsibility for their maintenance. Indeed, a national stakeholder group is being reconvened, enabling historic claims to be negotiated and resolved while the consideration of other initiatives, such as a coast-to-coast national trail, is also progressing. The ELM scheme is separate from these aspects of rights of way and thus may offer new and different opportunities, such as the creation of new access, easier physical access and clearer information to enable greater public access.

A number of noble Lords mentioned access. Having have had the privilege of seeing some of the new coastal paths and the opportunities for those of varying abilities and disabilities, I am absolutely seized of the importance of access. As we seek to enhance greater opportunities, wherever possible we should be in a position to help those who do not have the ability that noble Lords here have to enjoy access to the countryside.

Turning to Amendment 5, I again stress to all noble Lords that ELM is a voluntary scheme; I put that on record. Therefore, no farmer will be forced to sign up to the scheme, although they will of course be required to meet their obligations under the law. Ultimately, ELM is a policy delivered by land managers on the ground who know best what their land is capable of delivering. I agree with my noble friend Lord Caithness and the many noble Lords who raised this issue, but again, balance comes into it. There must be balance between food production, the environment, conservation, and the well-being and health of people who want access to the countryside; all these things are the essence of balance.

I understand that, at times, providing such public access can bring about some extra costs or risks for land managers. We will therefore work closely with stakeholders on the full costs of providing access, to make sure that the system works for and is attractive to land managers. My noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, made that point. We want this scheme to work because it is a positive for those who are custodians of the land. It will not work if it is an imposition. Permissive routes—that is, routes agreed for a certain period of time—cannot be claimed as permanent rights of way. Again, this is important in the climate in which we are seeking to do something of strong public benefit by seeking this element of financial assistance for land managers.

I will look at Hansard to see whether there are any further issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott of Needham Market, referred to tests and trials. All this—whether it is access or the range of financial assistance—is going to work only if we have the tests and trials with interested parties, so that there is confidence that when all of these financial assistance schemes are applied for, they will be attractive.

I hope I have answered noble Lords’ questions and concerns with the references I have made, through consideration of these matters between Committee and Report and by taking the advice of lawyers as to the drafting. I hope that this will sufficiently reassure the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in particular, and I ask him whether he would feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for what he said. He elucidated the point on which I wanted to question him but, by that stage, I had already sent in my request to speak. He also mentioned consultation on the ELMS. How many farmers are involved in this? Is he convinced that it covers enough respondents to give an overall picture for the country? It is crucial that we get this right.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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I am grateful to my noble friend. I can confirm that the tests and trials will be across all sorts of land tenure in all parts of the country. This is a venture between Government with responsibility to the taxpayer and land managers who are doing—and will continue to do—a considerable amount of work for which, currently, they are not rewarded. I can confirm to my noble friend that we will be working very strongly across the country on access and other matters, so that when the design of the scheme is rolled out, we know that it will be attractive to land managers.

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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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My Lords, at the start of my remarks on Report on amendments to the Agriculture Bill, I declare my interests as recorded on the register, including as being in receipt of funds from the CAP under the present system. As with the first group of amendments, I thank noble Lords for tabling their further thoughts after Committee with these amendments today. Once again, they highlight the very broad nature of agriculture, which, in many ways, interacts with economic activity from many sectors and interests in the rural economy. This in turn has a bearing on many government departments.

Several of the amendments focus on matters related to food security and, indeed, insecurity. We agree that these are important matters that we will come to later in the Bill. In relation to the Minister’s concessions—which are very much welcomed—and to Amendment 58 on the national food strategy commissioned by the Government, I can add that I too was very impressed with the initial report recently published by Henry Dimbleby.

We consider that the Government have a very clear focus on the issue without requiring the specific Amendment 12 so eloquently spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Northbrook, which we are unable to support from the Labour Benches. However, we have regard to Amendment 11 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, and others, which overlaps with Amendment 70 in the name of my colleague and noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch on the Front Bench. Ensuring opportunities for young farmers and new entrants is incredibly important and underlines the future prosperity of the sector.

In outlining the purposes for which financial assistance can be given, we consider that Clause 1 gives a fair balance and appreciation of the many options that may be developed over time. It provides a good way forward, rewarding the production of food while protecting the environment. I am sure that the Minister will be able to provide the extra information and assurances that we are all looking for, and that he has taken due note of all the important points raised for sustainable agriculture into the future.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for contributing to what I think has been an extensive and very interesting debate. I turn to Amendment 6, which I shall address along with Amendments 9, 10, 12, 17,13 and 20. I will say—particularly to my noble friend Lord Northbrook and as a fellow member of the NFU, but to all noble Lords—that the Government agree absolutely that the production of food is of critical importance and that this will not be overlooked in the designing of our future schemes. Indeed, this is precisely why the Bill includes a duty for the Secretary of State to have regard to the need to encourage food production and for food to be produced in an environmentally sustainable way. So I say, in particular to my noble friends Lady McIntosh of Pickering and Lord Northbrook, that Clause 1(4) as drafted recognises the strong interdependence of farming and the environment.

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Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we welcome the tabling of these amendments, which will allow Ministers to go into more detail on the balance between direct support for agriculture, and other related purposes, and the emphasis that the noble Earl, Lord Devon, puts on the word “agriculture”. We understand that the National Farmers’ Union supports this amendment as a means of ensuring that the Agriculture Bill is truly agricultural in nature.

Following the first two groups, where there were amendments focusing on areas such as countryside access and public health, we understand the concerns of some that, with a limited pot available to Defra, it is important to ensure that the lion’s share delivers for farmers. We certainly want farmers to get the support they need, and to ensure the Government follow through with the many promises they have made to rural communities in recent years. However, as my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone so clearly noted, there will have to be a wider purpose for land, as it will have to work several times over to deliver its multiple objectives.

However, as we have all said during the Bill’s progress, our departure from the CAP is an opportunity to do things differently. Two of the biggest criticisms of the CAP are about its rigidity and the fact that it has not kept pace with real-world developments. Many concerns stem from the lack of detail and certainty regarding the new schemes that are due to come on stream in 2021. In this respect, my noble friend Lord Grantchester’s Amendment 41, which would require the Government to demonstrate the readiness of year 1 schemes before commencing the seven-year transition, may be of interest.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have contributed to this debate. Wearing my farming hat, as I have declared my interests, I very much hope in promoting this Agriculture Bill that its essence is how we work with farmers and land managers on the quests that we have for food production and enhancing the environment. I repeat that it is about enhancing the environment and providing the ingredients for future agricultural production.

I take this opportunity to reiterate that this Government are committed to supporting the agricultural sector, not only with the promise that the budget for agriculture will remain the same during this Parliament but in supporting that sector through Clause 1 and many other elements of the Bill, which I started to outline in earlier debates today. Interestingly, my figures are that 69% of land in the United Kingdom is farmed and 10% of land is in woodland. As such, we will be relying on our farmers and land managers for the public goods which, in our view, they are so well placed to deliver.

As currently drafted, Clause 1 enables the Government to provide financial assistance to land managers—and I encourage noble Lords to look at the way it is crafted—in return for their delivery of public goods. Indeed, the new ELM scheme is a vehicle to provide such funding to those who manage land and water to deliver these environmental goods. I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of participants in ELM will be farmers. It is proposed that tier 1 of the scheme will be aimed specifically at farmers and will pay for actions that the majority of farmers can take across their land, such as nutrient, pest and soil management.

However, the Government recognise that environmental benefits can be provided across a large variety of land or water types, including farms, rural properties and estates, woodland and other open or green spaces. Many landholdings and farms will embrace not only land that is farmed but wetlands and woodlands—all of which the farmer will, in the contribution of their own ELM scheme, bring forward in terms of land, woodland and water.

For the ELM scheme to be successful, it needs to work for a wide range of farmers, foresters and other land managers, as it will help us to maximise the environmental benefits that can be delivered. This will ensure that the ELM scheme acts as a powerful vehicle for the delivery of the 25-year environment plan goals and the Government’s commitment to net zero. The noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, mentioned that specific point.

It is also the case that the challenges we face will require landscape-scale change. That is why we have proposed that tier 3 of the ELM scheme could fund projects such as woodland creation, peatland restoration and flood mitigation. My view is that it will be overwhelmingly on land which is farmed by owners or tenants, and be a vital part of that landscape change that we all very much need. These are all examples of large collaborative projects which would allow us to improve the health of our environment, as set out in the 25-year environment plan, while helping us to deliver our commitment to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

I say to my noble friend Lord Caithness that existing agri-environment schemes—such as special areas of conservation, sites of special scientific interest and land that supports priority species—are open to those not involved in agricultural production. We feel that accepting this amendment would significantly narrow the scope of future schemes and the benefits they deliver. I emphasise that I have no doubt that the catchment areas and landscape ranges in tier 3 will embrace many farmers. It may be that, as part of that, there is a woodland owner or land managers other than farmers. It is important that we look particularly at those in tier 3, which is why I emphasise it. I raised this specific point in discussion with the noble Earl, again emphasising my farming interests and understanding of the concerns that farmers have about change. In my view, we should not narrowly restrict the ability for financial assistance to go to those other than farmers, although obviously the overwhelming majority of the funding from the Bill will go to farmers and land managers.

On Amendment 26, in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh, it is intended that the ELM scheme will provide funding to those who carry out the management of the land or water to deliver environmental public goods being funded. This might be the tenant or landowner, depending on the specific activity carried out and the arrangements in place. I emphasise this important point to my noble friend: engagement is ongoing with a wide range of farmers and land managers, including landowners and tenants, to ensure that ELM is designed in a way that works for all to maximise the delivery of environmental outcomes, while ensuring effective use of public money.

Representatives of landowners and tenants sit on our core stakeholder group on ELM design. We recently ran a number of sessions looking at ELM for different sectors, including those with tenancy arrangements, common land and uplands. We have six tests and trials that are working with farmers to assess how ELM can work best on tenanted land. In the national pilot, we also plan to have participants from a range of tenancies to ensure that we test the scheme from different land tenure perspectives.

We will discuss this on other amendments, but we clearly see a very strong future for the tenancy sector of agriculture. We think it is often a way in which land can be successfully farmed, sometimes by new entrants. I emphasise the importance that the Government place, through the tests and trials, on finding the right way to have an ELM which is successful for tenants and landowners. That is how we will have more and more land coming forward for contemporary and modern tenancy arrangements.

The Government would find it very difficult to restrict the eligibility for financial assistance in the way that the noble Earl has outlined. This is specifically not because I am suggesting that the funding is going to move from farmers to many other resources but because, by tier 3, we are going to need to work with people beyond farmers: for instance, woodland owners. There needs to be that ability to work with those beyond what I would call “the farming community”, who are four-square at the core of this.

The construction of the Bill, in Clause 1(2), is also designed absolutely to ensure that those starting and improving agricultural, forestry and horticultural activity are supported. I have looked through the Bill, and at every turn its clauses are about how we best look after and improve the situation for farmers. Yes, it is in a period of change, and that is why there is a seven-year transition.

But with those points in mind—I am mindful that I have to work quite hard, as there is a suggestion that this may be a matter for consideration by the House—I hope that the noble Earl and my noble friend will understand why the Government wish to have that flexibility, being mindful of the importance of the farmers of this country. I hope that the noble Earl will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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I shall, of course. I shall start with Amendment 28, as it was moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I will then discuss much about the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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What a wonderful thing flexibility is. I am grateful to the Minister for replying this way. That gets us out of the hole.

I support the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe. There should be an impact assessment. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

I thank the Minister for his Amendment 35. As said by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, it is a sensible compromise. The Minister has moved some way. I congratulate the Government on having moved on at least one amendment. They refused to move on anything in the Fisheries Bill, but on the Agriculture Bill, we have a slight shift. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is as pleased as I am that we are making a little progress.

I must pick up on the little discussion between the noble Lords, Lord Teverson and Lord Carrington, about biodiversity. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, is right: the species that have thrived over the last 10 years have been the grey squirrel and the muntjac, as a result of which we are hardly able to grow any decent commercial deciduous woodland in this country. Until that problem is solved, we will be able to plant a lot of trees and take away a lot of empty tubes in 20 years’ time when the trees have all failed because they have been attacked by deer or grey squirrels.

I cannot support the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, on reducing the period from seven years to five in his Amendment 32. It will be difficult enough for farmers in the timescale they already have. That is for lots of reasons—we have talked about the age profile. Agriculture is a long-term business that needs a lot of careful planning. We need to know what ELMS will be. There will be such a learning curve for farmers, who will need a great deal of help—we will come to that when discussing the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. By the time ELMS comes in, there will be little time for farmers to get acquainted with the system, particularly those of the older generation and those still suffering from lack of broadband connection. Without social media and broadband, they will not be able to operate the latest modern machinery, which is all digital and high-tech. This will cause them a lot of problems.

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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.

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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I ask my noble friend where the business plan that he says will be published in the autumn will be published. I am slightly concerned that “in the autumn” could be interpreted as 21 December, and that the plan could come out after both Houses have risen. Having served on the EFRA Committee for a number of years and looked very closely at the budgets, I am not quite sure which particular spending would be interrupted by Amendment 30.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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I would love to give your Lordships a precise date. The Government understand the need to bring forward this information as soon as possible; I said autumn. We in Defra are seized of that importance. I will look at Amendment 30. All I can say is that our lawyers looked at it and advised me that that was the case but, if my noble friend would permit, it might help to have some legal expertise on why there was that interpretation.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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I thank the Minister for his summing up. The noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, have summed up extremely well, but there are a few points that I will add. First, I tried to move Amendment 18 on behalf of the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, because I supported it, but unfortunately I was too slow; that is not something you can often say about me. I was entranced by the argument between five and seven years. Honestly, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, swayed me with his wartime analogies; they were worthy of the ERG. I was lost slightly by the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and Moses. I thank all Peers who have spoken. It was a slightly mixed group.

The Minister asks your Lordships to trust him and almost every Peer in this House does but, when he asks the House to trust the Government, it is a completely different matter. If it is not in the Bill, it does not exist. It is all very well to talk about what the Government will do later but, if they are not bound by the Bill, I do not trust them to do it. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Moved by
35: Clause 4, page 5, line 22, leave out “before the beginning of the plan period” and insert—
“(a) in the case of the first plan, as soon as practicable before the beginning of the plan period for the plan, and(b) in the case of a subsequent plan, at least 12 months before the beginning of the plan period for the plan.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides that the first multiannual financial assistance plan under Clause 4 must be published as soon as practicable before the beginning of the applicable plan period, and that any subsequent plan must be published at least 12 months before such time.
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Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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My Lords, the lead amendment in this group, Amendment 36, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and others was subject to much debate in Committee. There were many alternative proposals for the transition period between the present system and the full implementation of ELMS being separated from landholdings. This amendment would delay its start for one year. I thank her for her amendment, as she has foreshadowed many of my remarks.

I will speak to my Amendment 41 in this group. However, before I do so I thank the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Curry of Kirkharle, for their Amendment 37. Further amendments to it have been tabled, in Amendments 38 and 39 by the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, and Amendment 40 by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

I understand the approach of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, and his anxieties concerning cuts in direct payments. I appreciate the emphasis given by the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, to the organic sector by doubling conversion payments, and to the hill-farming sector in the less favoured areas by freezing their reductions below £30,000 per hill farm.

Amendment 40 specifies that the regulations in this amended clause are subject to the affirmative procedure. However, we could not consider supporting these amendments without extensive further information being available to apprise us of their merits.

I would also like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Rock, for her amendment concerning the importance of cash flow and grants to the viability of farming businesses in today’s increasingly volatile business circumstances.

However, I propose an alternative approach to these amendments. Amendment 41 disapplies Clause 8. In Committee, amendments around a transition period and the multiannual plans were spread between groupings. This has been reflected today with the consideration of Amendment 32 from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and Amendment 33 from the noble Earl, Lord Devon, being in a previous group. This has meant that the debate has been at cross-purposes with Amendment 41, as these other amendments concern the length of multiannual plans only. However, I recognise that multiannual plans were subject to extensive consultation in the 2018 Bill and set for seven years in conclusion then. This has possibly overshadowed the merits of my Amendment 41. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for adding his name to this amendment and for his recent remarks. I also thank my noble friend Lord Judd for his remarks in support.

How the changes to the ELM system and the nature of each seven-year period between plans and a transition period interact can indeed be very confusing. This is why I have tabled my Committee amendment with a few changes. Having reflected on the debate, as well as on evidence both formal and anecdotal from recent trials and pilot schemes, we have revised our approach in a fair, common-sense way that is also flexible to circumstances. This is because so much is unknown and the results of any trials have yet to be considered. This appears to be recognised to some extent by the Government’s own Amendment 35.

Amendment 41 removes from the Bill the previous start date of the transition period and gives the Government a degree of flexibility by having a start date set in regulations. There is no need for the Government to define a start date in primary legislation which they could later regret, and which would set the legislation off into a period of uncertainty should ELMS not be adequately ready for implementation—as their Amendment 35 partially recognises. The amendment states that the start date would be set once the Government have confirmed that any scheme to operate in the first year of the transition was fully operable.

Everyone can agree that it is important to get started on the transition phase, but so much preparatory work is yet to be done. There is anxiety already that countryside stewardship schemes starting in 2021 can be withdrawn, yet schemes started this year, in 2020, cannot be withdrawn without penalty. There are also very considerable concerns being highlighted and heightened in relation to Covid-19 and the potential onset of any phase 2 consequences this winter.

I highlight that Defra’s plans are themselves being reconsidered in relation to the transition period. I understand that the department is now planning a new interim or stepping-stone scheme to bridge the gap that may appear between the BPS and the ELM scheme. The sustainable farming incentive, or SFI, will bring in limited elements of ELM tier 1, while avoiding the funding gap that will arise from the Government’s ill-considered cutbacks before full schemes are available. This is some- thing we drew attention to as early as Second Reading.

I understand that claimants are expected by Defra to have lost half of their payments by 2024, when full pilot schemes are expected to be rolled out. Can the Minister be transparent on this new scheme and the amount of cutbacks being envisaged? It is important to the credibility of the Government’s plans, so forcibly expressed by the Minister.

Is this SFI scheme under serious consideration, and where will the funding come from if funding cuts to BPS are to finance ELMS, as repeatedly expressed? Will the Countryside Stewardship entrants be excluded once again, as already mentioned? Surely Amendment 41 is preferable to the uncertainty, complexity and confusion that will arise if these reports are confirmed. I understand that the announcement is held up with the Treasury’s comprehensive spending review. It would be more than unfortunate if the Minister could not be forthcoming tonight when the House is considering this Bill.

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 this debate. I will be the first to say, coming from a farming background and being a farmer myself, that I know that change can present these great concerns, and that is why the Government are clear that they want to work with farmers to ensure we get the schemes right. I think we are doing that properly, and I would like to explain why.

On Amendment 36, with which I will also address Amendments 37, 39, 40 and 41, the Government are committed to introducing new schemes that will reward farmers for producing goods that are valued by the public. Our planned reductions for 2021 are intended to send a clear signal of reform. It is important that farmers have certainty about when the agricultural transition will begin. There may be some in this House who do not agree with this. But many people, including those in the farming community, will feel that direct payments are poorly targeted and offer poor value for money. This is something that I have been very seized of, as have many of us farmers who seek to farm well and look after our land. This is a conclusion we all have to draw from the current regime. Therefore, applying appropriate progressive reductions to these payments will free up money that can be used to support farmers better—I repeat, “to support farmers better”—and deliver public goods.

We believe it is important that this process is not delayed. The Government are on track to introduce new schemes from 2021 while continuing to fund new and existing Countryside Stewardship agreements which farmers can apply for until 2023. Signing a Countryside Stewardship agreement gives a viable, long-term source of income for providing environmental benefits. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and other noble Lords that no one in a Countryside Stewardship agreement will be unfairly disadvantaged when they move to new arrangements under ELM. I should also say to the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, that the Countryside Stewardship scheme includes a specific uplands wildlife offer.

We will also provide productivity grants to farmers for investments in equipment, technology and infrastructure, which will help their businesses to prosper while improving their productivity and enhancing the environment. These grants will be available from 2021. In addition, the national pilot of the future ELM scheme will also begin in 2021 and will be funded from the reductions in direct payments. The national pilot will be informed by the engagement with farmers, land managers and other stakeholders which is already well under way, including tests and trials.

I have to say again that I think we may sometimes be attending different webinars or whatever, because the impression I have been given is that many farmers have found it stimulating, particularly the younger ones, who have found talking about such matters, and the innovation of the new way forward, refreshing. As I have said before, they will be able to look the taxpayer in the eye and show that we are producing better for the public and better for farmers.

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Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I am disappointed, unless I have misunderstood, that my noble friend did not reply to the basic question of why we cannot have a 12-month notification of the first plan. I am no farmer myself—the closest I got was having two fields on which we claimed a tiny amount, which I have now left my brother to get on with.

I understand that, according to the Companion, I can take this opportunity to put another question to the Minister. The Government have spoken about easing access: how do they imagine easing access to the existing countryside stewardship scheme and new measures to assist improvements in productivity through the transition period? That would go some way to allaying the fears. I have to say that this is a key concern of both the Tenant Farmers Association and the NFU in the briefings I have had from them. Obviously, they represent the lion’s share of farmers.

The Government have talked about a new interim scheme, called the sustainable farming initiative, but surely this would just add to the complexity of an already busy policy space, particularly when existing schemes are available and just need to be improved. Might not such a sustainable farming initiative take Defra’s eye off the ball in properly developing what we all want to see—a good ELM scheme? Will my noble friend reply to that and to my original question as to why we are not having 12 months’ notice of the original business plan?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I think I have been very clear that we will be announcing the funding for the early years of the agricultural transition period, including direct payments, later in the autumn—I hope as soon as possible. I cannot say any more than that. As I said, that announcement will provide much of the reassurance that I suspect noble Lords and farmers are looking for about those early years. I have set out the maximum reductions for 2021. Those are all designed, as I said, to enable the Government, at the beginning of the transition and the reforms, to provide extra countryside stewardship agreements and productivity grants to farmers, which I think will be very desirable to start next year, and the national pilot for the future ELM schemes.

All this is designed to combine all that we want to do in enhancing food production and the environment. It is sensible to start these schemes next year, and the resources, through the reductions, will be there to work on this. It is a seven-year transition and the Government are very mindful of the manifesto pledges about the resources that will be available to this agricultural budget. We intend to support and work with farmers to make a better scheme, with a public return for it. I do not think there is much more I can say to my noble friend, other than that this Government have shown by our commitments to funding that we are four-square behind the farmer, but I say candidly that the current system is poor value for money.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Finlay of Llandaff) (CB)
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I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, wishes to ask a short question for elucidation.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
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My Lords, I apologise to the House for asking the Minister a follow-up question. I listened carefully to his remarks but, by the time the communication channels had reached the Deputy Speaker, she had already intimated to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, that she could have her consideration of the amendments. I had not heard any reference in the Minister’s remarks to the sustainable farming incentive, but the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, repeated that question to him. I understand now and am very grateful to him for the fullness of the reply that he can give tonight.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I have been very clear that the Government are bringing forward schemes of a countryside and environmental aspect, which will be funded through reductions in the direct payments. This is what we want: to start sustainable environmental and countryside stewardship schemes. This is all about what we want to do with farmers, as part of a major plank of this legislation. I am beginning to wonder whether it is me or whether noble Lords do not want to press the receive button for what I am seeking to say.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I have to express disappointment that I have not received the assurances I sought, but I do not wish to test the opinion of the House. I wish to withdraw my amendment.

Agriculture Bill

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

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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