Debates between Ruth Jones and Daniel Zeichner

There have been 6 exchanges between Ruth Jones and Daniel Zeichner

1 Thu 5th March 2020 Agriculture Bill (Eleventh sitting)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
3 interactions (595 words)
2 Thu 5th March 2020 Agriculture Bill (Twelfth sitting)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
8 interactions (908 words)
3 Tue 3rd March 2020 Agriculture Bill (Tenth sitting)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
2 interactions (301 words)
4 Thu 27th February 2020 Agriculture Bill (Eighth sitting)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
11 interactions (1,615 words)
5 Thu 27th February 2020 Agriculture Bill (Seventh sitting)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
3 interactions (930 words)
6 Tue 25th February 2020 Agriculture Bill (Fifth sitting)
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
5 interactions (1,846 words)

Agriculture Bill (Eleventh sitting)
Debate between Ruth Jones and Daniel Zeichner
Thursday 5th March 2020

(4 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
5 Mar 2020, 12:13 p.m.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman, but there is a subtle difference between witness evidence and the evidence that has been given in the important Dimbleby review on our future food policy. I think there is a difference, but, as always, I respect his observation.

Moving on from jousting about newspapers, it is important that to have a discussion about levels of food security, as I have mentioned. It is an intellectually plausible position to say that we do not have to produce our own food and that we could become like Singapore. That is an important political debate that should be had transparently, not in private emails between advisers. Without proper legal protection in place, many people will feel that whatever the Government say will just be warm words.

To go back to the point raised by the hon. Member for Rutland and Melton, at the last DEFRA questions the previous Secretary of State said pretty much what she just said. She said:

“Our high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards are already in law, including legislating to prevent the importation of chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef”.—[Official Report, 6 February 2020; Vol. 671, c. 438.]

We were interested by that statement. Can the Minister clarify further the statement that they are “already in law” by providing the details of the legislation where those standards can be found? Can she explain what mechanism would be used if the Government are required in a trade negotiation to amend or remove any of the standards and describe, in that scenario, the level of parliamentary scrutiny that would apply?

That should be good ground for the Minister as she is an esteemed lawyer. I am neither esteemed nor a lawyer, so I was grateful that, after the exchange at DEFRA questions, the shadow Secretary of State sought advice. We have advice from the House of Commons Library and—guess what?—it is complicated. Inevitably, trying to unravel the complexity of bringing EU law into domestic law and the overlaps is difficult. I suspect the law would need to be tested and, as ever, different lawyers would give different advice; that tends to happen. Some think that EU-derived domestic legislation covering these matters could, in some circumstances, be changed by the Government using delegated powers in the Food Safety Act 1990, without the need even to seek parliamentary approval, let alone primary legislation.

We are questioning the Government on this. My hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State queried it with the previous Secretary of State, and we await a response with interest, because it is an important point. However, the seeming lack of clarity hardly fills us with confidence, because this is such an issue. Clearly, in the interests of certainty and clarity—which, in fairness, we can agree we do not have—we should put this in the Bill. We should agree an amendment to create a proper legislative guarantee that future trade deals will not allow imports of agricultural goods used to lower environmental, public health, and animal welfare standards. This is that amendment.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab) - Hansard
5 Mar 2020, 12:19 p.m.

My hon. Friend is making a powerful speech. Does he agree that it is strange that the shadow Minister wrote to the now Minister on 19 February on the specific question of standards already in law and, as of today, we have still have had no response?

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
5 Mar 2020, 12:19 p.m.

It is, because it was made clear that there would be a clear response. I suspect that the issue is complicated and people are working on it, but I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s concern. This is something we need clarity on.

Agriculture Bill (Twelfth sitting)
Debate between Ruth Jones and Daniel Zeichner
Thursday 5th March 2020

(4 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones - Hansard
5 Mar 2020, 2:44 p.m.

I thank the Minister for her comments and her affirmation of what is already going on. However, if this is already in law, it could do no harm to enshrine and reaffirm it in the Bill, so we will not withdraw the new clause; we will push it to a vote.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
5 Mar 2020, 2:44 p.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Break in Debate

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
5 Mar 2020, 2:47 p.m.

I anticipated the question on the definition of highly intensive farming when I reread the new clause over lunchtime. I rather thought that it would be the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby who raised that query, but the Minister got in there first. I am pleased by her response. On that basis, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

New Clause 15

Grouse shooting and management: review and consultation

“(1) The Secretary of State must—

(a) commission an independent review of the economic, environmental and wildlife impacts of driven grouse shooting, and

(b) consult on regulation of grouse moor management.

(2) The Secretary of State must make available the services of any person or other resources to assist in the conduct of a review under subsection (1)(a).

(3) The Secretary of State must publish a summary of responses to the consultation under sub-section (1)(b).

(4) The Secretary of State must, no later than three months from the day on which—

(a) the review commissioned under subsection (1)(a) is received, or

(b) the consultation under subsection (2) closes,

whichever is the sooner, publish a statement of future policy on grouse shooting and grouse moor management.”—(Ruth Jones.)

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to commission a review of the economic, environmental and wildlife impacts of driven grouse shooting and publish proposals for regulation.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones - Hansard

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Break in Debate

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
5 Mar 2020, 3:36 p.m.

I listened closely to the Minister’s comments. I suspect we will come back to this issue. We have been discussing it for the past 10 or 20 years. I fully appreciate what a serious issue it is and how it directly affects both her family and many others. However, at the general election we stood on a clear pledge to end the badger cull. We stand by that and the new clause would put it into law. The direction of travel of the Godfray report today reflects that the Government, on the basis of scientific evidence, are beginning to move in that direction. I suspect it is still partly about costs, because culling is more expensive. The vaccination question that the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby mentioned is important, but it is important that we follow the science as it develops. We want to eradicate and defend and protect. The issue is of considerable public interest, so I will press the new clause to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones - Hansard
5 Mar 2020, 3:38 p.m.

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause would require the Secretary of State to hold a consultation on whether an existing agency, such as the Rural Payments Agency, or a new body should administer payments and other functions delivered under the Bill. This is an important juncture in our consideration of the Bill. This will probably be, in the words of our former colleague David Drew, “the most popular part”, as we are giving the opportunity to those who wish to be consulted to get rid of the Rural Payments Agency. But, as is always the case, things do not have to be that way. The Government could ensure that we have a strengthened and effective payments agency, but that agency will likely have to be a new body with a strong and effective mandate to do its work. We cannot rely on an existing agency that has a reputation for wrong payments, late payments and no payments at all.

The new clause is not meant to be confusing; it is very clearly about charting a realistic way forward that has the support of those who will be seeking support and funding from Her Majesty’s Government in the years ahead. We would welcome it if the Minister stood up and announced a strong and empowered agency, but if she cannot do that today, we want the new clause to stand part of the Bill. We are entering uncharted waters—as the shadow Minister with responsibility for water, I know all about that—and we have the chance to take stock, reflect and start anew.

Much has been made of the future and the new way of doing things. The Government have made a great many promises to our farmers and agricultural workers. If we take the Bill and the Government press lines as they stand, we are entering a new and glorious world, but I caution those on the Treasury Bench to make good on their pledges and promises to our farmers and all those working in the agricultural sector. The demands on those people and workers are great, and the potential to increase support is huge, so let us take it.

The new clause will ensure that things are done properly when it comes to the many financial provisions in the Bill and the passing on of vital payments, that the powers and resources are exercised effectively, and that we do our best for our farmers going forward. I hope that the Minister will listen carefully and respond accordingly.

Agriculture Bill (Tenth sitting)
Debate between Ruth Jones and Daniel Zeichner
Tuesday 3rd March 2020

(4 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones - Hansard
3 Mar 2020, 3:06 p.m.

I welcome the Minister’s commitment to a thriving tenancy sector—that is great news. I thank her for the explanation and for her commitment to have an ongoing dialogue with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge. I look forward to the outcome of those discussions. We still have reservations about this important area, but we will not press the amendment to a vote. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 35

Marketing standards

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
3 Mar 2020, 3:07 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 84, in clause 35, page 31, line 38, leave out “may” and insert “must”.

This amendment would make it a duty for the Secretary of State to make regulations as to labelling as to method of production.

We welcome the fact that subsection (2)(g) enables the Secretary of State to make regulations on marketing standards regarding farming methods. We believe that it opens the door to looking properly at the labelling of farmed products. Under the clause, however, the Secretary of State once again has a power rather than a duty and so has no actual obligation to take the matter forward. That bothers us.

We therefore believe that the Bill should be strengthened to require the Secretary of State to make labelling regulations requiring meat, milk and dairy products, including those produced intensively, to be labelled as to farming method. That would be an important development and helpful to consumers. A great step forward for consumers would be to know what they are purchasing across the board in terms of animal products. Consumers could then make decisions based on those higher animal welfare and environmental considerations.

I am reaching back to find my favourite document, or this week’s favourite document—never to hand when I want it, of course—[Interruption.] I am delighted—the Minister obviously loves the document too.

Agriculture Bill (Eighth sitting)
Debate between Ruth Jones and Daniel Zeichner
Thursday 27th February 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 2:52 p.m.

The Minister has given a welcome clarification. The obvious rejoinder is: where is the headroom in the DEFRA budget for these very ambitious plans? I suspect we will return to that question. I was just flicking through my favourite document, but unfortunately could not find the appropriate line. [Interruption.] I know; it is a shame. I am pretty sure that there is a suggestion somewhere in there that some of the money saved from basic payments could be used for some of this work. We can return to that point another day.

I am grateful for the Minister’s helpful response. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment made: 17, in clause 2, page 3, line 35, leave out

“or operated on behalf of”

and insert “by”.—(Victoria Prentis.)

This drafting amendment is intended to clarify the exclusion of financial assistance schemes made by the Secretary of State from the definition of a third party scheme and also to achieve consistency with other references in the Bill to things done by the Secretary of State. As a matter of legal interpretation a reference to something done by the Secretary of State will pick up things done by others acting in the name of or on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab) - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 2:53 p.m.

I beg to move amendment 49, in clause 2, page 3, line 35, at end insert—

“(5A) Financial assistance shall not be given for any act or activity in pursuit of a purpose under section 1 if the land on which that act or activity is to take place is to be used by the applicant, or by a person acting with the consent of the applicant, for hunting of a wild mammal with a dog, whether or not that hunting is exempt under section 2 of the Hunting Act 2004.”.

Amendments 49 and 50 would provide that no financial assistance can be given for land which is to be, or has been, used for hunting (including exempt hunting), or on which an offence has been committed under the Hunting Act.

Break in Debate

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 3:49 p.m.

I welcome much of what the Minister says, but our concern and our reason for tabling the amendments is that, positive though her comments are, this is such a big change that we think it right and proper that there is more regular analysis of it, informed by the OEP. I fully understand why she does not want to rehearse the OEP discussion.

As I have said, our view is that the Bills have been introduced in the wrong order, which puts us at something of a disadvantage. However, if the prime, driving purpose of this legislation is to tackle the environmental crisis, as we think it should be, we do not think that the proposed structure—welcome though it is, and it is an improvement—quite matches that sense of urgency. I perhaps should have said more on this earlier. Seven years is a long time for a transition. While we understand why that is beneficial from the industry’s point of view, from my constituents’ point of view, some want it next week, frankly. People are pushing very hard. At the general election, my party committed to a much earlier net zero date, and we know that the NFU is pushing for a much earlier date than the Government’s. However, there is not that sense of urgency, which our amendments would help to bring forward.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West said, it is not only us saying this; many conservation organisations share our concerns and worries. Their worry is partly that a considerable sum of public money is available and, as I have alluded to before, we want to know how the prioritisation will work. Will it be done at a local or national level? The document that we have been referring to throughout the sitting hints at an issue about prioritisation.

I somewhat mischievously suggested that the money could all go to one scheme, but that is not actually impossible, which is why we want a structure where the Office for Environmental Protection could say, “This is where your big gains are going to come from. This is where you’re going to get the difference.” There is a tension, however, between what would get the best environmental gain, what is most effective, and what will, out there in the world, be perceived as fair in a transition phase from the current system to a new one. That is why we think our amendments would provide a better structure.

We understand that there is tension because the Department wants flexibility; I am sure that if we were running the Department, we would want the same. It is our job as the Opposition, however, to remind the Government that they voted to acknowledge the climate crisis and to try to hit net zero in 2050. In every piece of legislation that is brought forward, we want to see a real commitment to making that happen. We think the amendment would contribute to that.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones - Hansard

I thank the Minister for her honesty about the current funding uncertainties and the issues. I appreciate that she has a massive job on. I am glad to be on this side of the room.

Break in Debate

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 4:01 p.m.

Obviously, the right hon. Gentleman has far more technical knowledge than I do on the subject. I will not give a figure for fear of its being wrong. I accept that he has a lot more information. All I would say is that we were actually at the table and were part of discussions. We were not excluded; we were very much included. Even Margaret Thatcher agreed that we were part of those discussions, so I accept that.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 4:01 p.m.

My hon. Friend is making a very good speech, but I cannot resist joining battle with the right hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, who refers to an old canard about the European Union. Of course we all wanted the auditing to work better, but are we so sure that it works so well here? If he is confident that it does, he would support the amendment, which is an opportunity for us to show that we can do it so much better. I invite him to join us today.

Break in Debate

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 4:03 p.m.

Thank you for your valuable advice, Mr Stringer. I intend to get back to the subject, without the sparring, which would be very interesting.

Our farmers deserve a funding and reporting system that they can understand and is fit for purpose. In fact, they deserve to have a system in place, full stop. Farmers across Wales, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland are very worried indeed. They have let us know in no uncertain terms exactly how concerned they are, and I share their worries. If a mechanism for reporting annually is not in place, a future Government of whatever colour or persuasion could in effect just say, “Well, there isn’t enough money, so we are making large cuts, including to all those wonderful schemes we talked about and told you we would keep.”

I say this to the Minister. This is a time not for empty words or—dare I say it?—hot air, but for common sense and for the Government to recognise that they have a responsibility to farmers and farm workers across our country. That is why new clause 2 should form part of the Bill, and I hope Members from across the House will reflect, consider and give their support to it.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard

My apologies, Mr Stringer, for straying slightly from the detail of the amendment. This is an important amendment, because it says that the public should be able to go through the list of extremely good aspirations in clause 1, on which there has been no disagreement, and see how much money has been allocated to each of those categories, including managing land or water in a way that protects or improves the environment—I will not go through the whole list. That begins to make it real for people. It is fair to say that it was pretty hard to see how the money that they were putting into the European Union was being spent.

This is a great opportunity for the Government. Imagine the Secretary of State or the Minister being able to stand up next year and say, “For each of these categories, this amount has been spent.” The Opposition will be able to do the opposite: we will be able to point to subsection (1)(f) and say, “Actually, it appears that no money at all has been allocated to protecting or improving the health or welfare of livestock.” The goal is to make it simpler and more immediate, like the excellent moves made some years ago by, I think, Lord Whitty to get some transparency about how the money was spent through the CAP in the first place. That transparency allows any of us to look through the statistics on the DEFRA website and see just how much money is being allocated locally and to which organisations, and I am sure some of us have done so.

David Cameron always said that sunshine was the way to throw light on something—to open it up and make it more transparent. I should have thought that the Government would be keen to do so and trumpet their achievements in that way. However, it appears that we are still lost in this slightly opaque, internal world of money effectively being allocated behind closed doors. This amendment opens that world up, gives people the opportunity to ask questions, and gives the Government the opportunity to trumpet their achievement. I cannot for the life of me understand why they do not want to do that—other than that, of course, it is never what Governments do.

Agriculture Bill (Seventh sitting)
Debate between Ruth Jones and Daniel Zeichner
Thursday 27th February 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 11:31 a.m.

It is a pleasure to continue under you in the Chair, Mr Stringer. I thank you and Sir David for exercising your discretion. I will make some points about that matter in a moment, but I shall start with amendment 63; amendment 64 is consequent to it.

The reason why we want to make this amendment and think it important is that we believe that the design and implementation of the environmental land management scheme that the Government have suggested should be subjected to proper scrutiny. Amendment 63, with amendment 64, would ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny by requiring the Secretary of State to make provision by regulations for establishing any financial assistance scheme and setting out how it will be designed and will operate. Under our amendment, those regulations must be considered and reported on by an appropriate Select Committee, of the Secretary of State’s choosing—we are very generous—before being brought to the House. Amendment 64 would ensure that a proper debate on the regulations could be held by subjecting them to the affirmative resolution procedure.

I apologise to you, Mr Stringer, and to the Committee for warning that I will speak at some length on this amendment to demonstrate why it matters. This goes back to our debate on Tuesday about the Government’s behaviour in relation to publication of the “Environmental Land Management: Policy discussion document”. I am sure that everyone has carefully read it and I advise everyone to have it to hand for the next hour or so, because I shall be referring in detail to various elements of it.

Just in case anyone thinks that this is somehow a diversion or distraction, the document itself says on page 7:

“The new ELM scheme, founded on the principle of ‘public money for public goods’, will be the cornerstone of our agricultural policy now we have left the EU.”

It would be very strange if the Committee were discussing that complicated new future and we did not have a chance to discuss what will be, in the Government’s own words, its cornerstone.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab) - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 11:34 a.m.

My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech. Does he agree that it is a shame that we got the ELM document—as he says, the cornerstone—too late to make meaningful progress on it on Tuesday? It is also a shame that the Prime Minister decided to take it to the National Farmers Union, rather than bringing it here first.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
27 Feb 2020, 11:35 a.m.

My hon. Friend is entirely right, and I will say more about that, as she can imagine.

This discussion is hugely important, and I hope that we will be able to give it the attention it deserves. As my hon. Friend said, the document was delayed until half an hour after the Committee had started our sitting, although I am grateful to Ministers for having the grace to look a little sheepish and to be apologetic—not their fault, I suspect. Frankly, however, it was a poor way to behave, although ironically the desired outcome was not achieved—for reasons that I am not entirely au fait with, the Secretary of State went to the NFU the day after anyway, and I understand that he had a fairly traditional welcome. It is not unusual for Ministers to go to industry events and get a bit of a roasting. I am opposed to all forms of cruelty—we will come to that later—but he clearly had a tough day.

More importantly, I fear that this has skewed the way in which we are discussing the Bill. Had we had the document in advance, we would have framed a different set of amendments to the key clause 1. I am grateful to you, Mr Stringer, and to Sir David for exercising discretion, which allowed us to table amendments to clause 2. That would not normally have been possible within the timescale. I put on record my thanks to the hard-working staff in our offices, who were up until late at night working on that, and to the Clerks, who were also up late working on potential amendments. People were under considerable pressure, and I hope to do justice to their work this morning.

I have to say that something made me cross and, when I came to read the environmental land management policy discussion document that we are talking about, at times it made me even crosser. It is a mixed bag. Some of it is excellent, and we will be supportive, but my overriding impression was that, despite detecting some extremely hard work and thought put in by officials, they had been hampered by some basic contradictions in the Government’s thinking. That is a political failing—not a policy failing—which I suspect partly reflects changes in personnel and thinking over time. The original architects—the unrepentant sinners to whom I referred on Tuesday—have moved on, and others have been left to figure out how to make a complicated set of ambitions work.

The thing that made me cross—we do not have to read far—is virtually in the opening line, although I understand that the prefaces to such documents are often bolted on at the end, possibly by eager-to-please special advisers. I will read the opening sentence:

“For more than forty years, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy…has dictated how we farm our land”.

“Dictated”—think about that sentence. We were members of the European Union of our own free will—[Interruption.] I do not want to go over old ground, but I invite people to think about how that reads to those who might not share in support for the current situation, which is possibly half the country. It is a poor way to start the document.

Agriculture Bill (Fifth sitting)
Debate between Ruth Jones and Daniel Zeichner
Tuesday 25th February 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Public Bill Committees
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Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Hansard
25 Feb 2020, 10:54 a.m.

I have listened closely to the Minister. In some ways, this goes to the heart of the problem in our discussion: the Opposition are raising a series of things that we think should have funding and support through the new system, and although £3 billion is small compared with the DWP budget, it is a considerable amount of public money, which in the past went directly to farmers. For many of them, the question is: how will the new system work? As I suggested—this point has been made not just by the Opposition but by senior Government Members—the idea is that the money will transfer over almost seamlessly, provided that farmers do a bit of this or that, but that is not necessarily how it cranks out.

While I absolutely trust what the Minister says about the Government’s abilities through the environmental land management schemes, I am sure she understands why there is concern. That is why we want this detail in the Bill. Again, the point has been made before by Government Members that, in future, there may be less rural-friendly Ministers, who may be tempted to look at the budget line and think, “Well, given that the local school is struggling and the local health service is struggling”—the Minister knows entirely what I am talking about. This needs to be nailed down in the Bill.

I appreciate the difficulty the Minister has, because I suspect she probably agrees, but that is why we think it is necessary to set out these various public goods to protect them. It has been said to me by farmers that, actually, farmers do quite well under Labour Governments, so I do not suggest that there will be any problem down the line. However, not everyone necessarily will always be as sympathetic, so it would be very much in the interests of communities—particularly those that many Government Members represent—to take a safety-first approach and tie down these public goods.

This is our opportunity to make it easier for farmers, as they go through this difficult transition, to access the money that the Government have promised will be available during this Parliament. My concern is that some of them will find that money not very easy to access, so why not widen the scope so that, where they can see things they could do with some help and support for—transferring production to pulses, fruit and vegetables, for example, or tackling some of the difficult issues around pesticide use—they are enabled to do them? This goes back to economics. Essentially, we want farmers to be able to survive, but if they are disadvantaged in any way, they will struggle. Why not use the resource that is available in a way that farmers can understand and that will help them?

We urge the Committee to support amendment 34 for that reason, but also because it would send the right message about these public health issues. I represent an area with a strong life sciences sector, and antimicrobial resistance has been brought to my attention constantly since the moment I was elected four and a half years ago. It is difficult. I lose track of Prime Ministers, but the Prime Minister before the one before the current one—David Cameron—had Jim O’Neill do a lot of work on this issue. I think there is cross-party agreement about it; it is not a party political issue. It is a real concern and a real worry, and I am in no doubt that farmers also worry about it. However, market pressures—I keep returning to the same point—dictate that people do certain things. We must therefore act to mitigate those pressures and to provide help and support. We are in the slightly unusual position of having a £3 billion budget. Normally, one has to make the argument, but the money is there; the question is how it will be accessed and used. What better use could there be than tackling some of these big public health issues?

I probably should have intervened on the Minister to ask about schools support, but I was still ruminating over what she was saying—I think I was stuck on Victoria plums. It is not entirely clear to me that the Bill will allow some of that money to be utilised in that way. I guess we will not know until we get down to the detail of the environmental land management schemes, but we would like to make it clearer, as we seek to do throughout this process, not least because that would give farmers the certainty that the Government rightly say they want to give them.

On that basis, I am afraid that I would like, yet again, to press the amendment to a Division. We think it is of considerable importance.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones (Newport West) (Lab) - Hansard
25 Feb 2020, 11:01 a.m.

I beg to move amendment 6, in clause 1, page 2, line 13, after “(d)” insert

“limiting greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture or horticulture or encouraging activities that reduce such emissions or remove greenhouse gas from the atmosphere, or otherwise”.

This amendment explicitly provides for limiting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to be one of the purposes for which financial assistance is given.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to move this amendment, which would make it explicit that the public goods for which farmers can receive financial assistance should be activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. The Opposition believe that the current wording in clause 1(1)(d), which refers to

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

is not strong enough. We must do more and go further. Mitigating is lessening the impact of something that is happening, not preventing it; adaptation is managing the impacts that we are already seeing. We think it is extremely important that the money that will go from direct payments into environmental support should explicitly target emissions reduction. The wording is important throughout the Bill, and not least in clause 1.

It is essential that climate change as a cause is front and centre of the Bill. It will be one of the most important measures introduced by the House in the coming decade to tackle the climate emergency genuinely and effectively. Through the support of the public goods, it will be a central mechanism by which we can reduce emissions from our land management and deliver the nature-based solutions to climate change that we know we need, such as peatland restoration and woodland creation.

Her Majesty’s Opposition believe that the Bill needs far more than one line on climate change, especially as we have established that the provision effectively states that the Secretary of State “may”—not even “must”—give financial assistance for the relevant climate mitigation or adaptation. There is no bite to that, and no certainty or urgency.

The Bill should set a target for agriculture to reach net zero carbon, and I have no doubt we will return to that later. The National Farmers Union is already committed to that. There is no reason not to have a sector-specific target for agriculture when we know how significant its contribution is to emissions and how much support the sector will need to reduce it.

The 2019 progress report by the Committee on Climate Change showed that agriculture in all parts of the United Kingdom is not on track to meet any of its indicators. There has been no progress in reducing emissions from agriculture since 2008. As only 30% of direct payments are currently secured through meeting greening requirements, we know that the lack of financial support for farmers to adapt their practices to focus on climate change has been a key part of that, which is why it is so important to get the financial provisions to support farmers right in the Bill.

A great deal of the Bill, as I am sure we will discuss in the coming weeks, places great trust in the hands of future Secretaries of State. That is particularly evident in relation to prioritising climate change. As the division of funding between the various clause 1 public goods is unknown, as has been alluded to already, we very much hope that clause 1(1)(d), in whatever form it goes forward, will have a greater focus on that funding.

The Committee on Climate Change’s progress report contained clear recommendations on agriculture and land use, and on the development of an effective post-CAP framework, and firm policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There is ample room for consolidation in the Bill. I hope that the Government will accept the amendment. I say to the Minister that there is no harm in accepting an amendment that allows the Government to make their intentions for emissions reductions in agriculture more explicit with a slight but important wording change.

Break in Debate

Ruth Jones Portrait Ruth Jones - Hansard
25 Feb 2020, 11:13 a.m.

I thank the Minister for her considered thoughts on the matter. Labour Members are united on this. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, this is crucial to how we move forward. We need to make sure that we give a clear message, and the Bill gives the perfect opportunity to send a clear message to the agricultural sector.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East talked about the road map for other areas and how we do not have one for agriculture. We have all heard about the good farmers and how they will be necessarily working with agronomists, but in terms of assistance and guidance, the Bill could be key to ensuring that everybody works together and does what is necessary for the greater good, of not only of the UK but of the planet as a whole.

We heard about the peatlands. Although there is some debate about this, we know that it is crucial that we maintain our existing peatlands. We need to make sure that tree planting continues apace. We know that the Government are missing their target on that by at least 70%. We need to plant millions and millions of trees, not the odd thousand here or there. That is not good enough. This is what we need to work towards.

Land managers need guidance and support, and the Bill should show the way, blazing a trail. The Minister quite rightly alludes to the climate change emergency declared last year by her Government, but it is important to make sure that we carry on. We cannot just declare and stop; we need to say, “Declare and so what?”. We need to move forward.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) - Hansard

On a point of order, Sir David. First, it is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair. My point of order is straightforward. We are happy with the Government’s response to our concerns about the publication this morning of the “Environmental Land Management” policy discussion document, which I am sure we all read over lunch. We were concerned that we would not have been able to table further amendments, but my understanding is that the Committee will adjourn once we finish debating clause 1 and we have been advised that it will be possible for us to table amendments for consideration on Thursday. I am grateful for that sensible solution to the delay.