Debates between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Adonis during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 16th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Agriculture Bill

Debate between Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale and Lord Adonis
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 16th July 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (16 Jul 2020)
Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Portrait Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab)
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My Lords, I support the general thrust of these amendments and I hope that the Government will listen carefully to this debate and perhaps come back with the best of each amendment in future stages. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, made a very powerful contribution in support of his Amendment 73.

Obviously, there are some differences between Amendments 272 and 274, but I will address in particular the point that my noble friend Lord Foulkes made about the fact that Amendment 272 mentions specifically the need to work with the devolved Governments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. At each level of government in the United Kingdom, there is a responsibility to tackle climate change and each of these devolved Governments have specific legislative responsibilities for agriculture. If we are to make the case in this debate, and perhaps beyond, for a tighter connection in the Bill to the climate change targets, it makes sense that engaging with the devolved Governments would be a key component of that. There needs to be, in my view, far better co-ordination and agreement at all levels of government—local, national and UK—if we are to meet these targets by 2050.

The idea of including the climate change targets in this Agriculture Bill is inspired. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, made that case very powerfully when she talked about the leadership that the United Kingdom could show in what may end up being the largest Bill to come before your Lordships’ Chamber—and maybe our longest debates—this year. This Bill, taking back powers from the European Union and setting out a new strategy for British agriculture to be so closely aligned with the climate change targets, would be a very powerful signal not only inside but outwith the United Kingdom in the run-up to the summit in Glasgow, now in 2021. For reasons of the opportunities that the noble Baroness outlined and the leadership that we could show, I think these amendments are on the right lines.

If I may be allowed to digress slightly for a second, I tried to intervene last Thursday in Committee but had connection problems and was not able to make one very small specific point that in fact relates to this topic today. Amendment 12, which was debated last Thursday, used the phrase:

“the impact of climate change on agriculture”.

The amendment proposed this as one of the additional purposes to which the Government could provide finance. I felt at the time that this was the wrong way round and that it should have been about the impact of agriculture on climate change. That would be more in keeping with the amendments in front of us today, which are about the impact of agriculture on climate change. Perhaps those who were involved in moving Amendment 12 last week might think about that before we reach Report. I look forward to hearing what the noble Baroness the Minister has to say in response.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I know that the Government are frustrated at the very slow progress of the Bill and, although we are very grateful for the extremely assiduous responses we have received from both Ministers—the noble Baroness and the noble Lord—I know there is concern at the slow progress.

In my experience of legislation passing through the House, a pattern establishes itself and, once you see the pattern, you understand the underlying issue of the approach that the House is taking to a Bill. It is very clear to me what the issue is in respect of this Bill. The Bill—which is of huge significance for the future of one of our major national industries as we leave the European Union—is, essentially, a framework Bill. It contains very little policy. It sets out a whole range of permissive provisions that enable the Government to do X, Y and Z but only one or two broad-brush policy statements, such as the noble Lord’s statement in our earlier debates that the Government will not subsidise food because that should be left to the market; in fact, is it clear to me that, even in our debates on that, when it comes to issues of shortage, scarcity and crisis, the Government not only have, but are proposing to take, significant new powers in that regard. Leaving aside very broad-brush statements of that kind, we do not know what the Government’s policy will be hereafter.