Agriculture Bill

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

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text 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.