All 1 Lord German contributions to the Agriculture Act 2020

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Wed 10th Jun 2020
Agriculture Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading

Agriculture Bill

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

(4 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Consideration of Bill Amendments as at 13 May 2020 - large font accessible version - (13 May 2020)
Lord German Portrait Lord German (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I echo the views of many speakers in this Second Reading debate: we need to ensure that imported foodstuffs do not undercut the high standards of UK food production. Perhaps the Minister will say whether he supports the view of Liam Fox, who said that putting such matters in the Bill would mean that

“the USA would walk away”

from a trade deal with the UK. Having had responsibility for constructing a trade deal with the USA, he may well know how the Americans were thinking so, like the noble Lord, Lord Hain, I think Liam Fox gave the game away: support chlorinated chicken and the like, otherwise no deal with the USA is possible. Does the Minister agree?

I wish to address the devolution aspects of the Bill, particularly as they concern Wales. In Wales, direct payments to farmers account for a much higher proportion of farm profits than in the rest of the United Kingdom. Direct payments account for an average of 81% of Welsh farm profits. This is very understandable, given the small family farm and upland nature of the farming industry in Wales: 40% of all Welsh lamb produced is exported to the European Union, so Welsh agriculture needs a trade deal with the EU more than anything else, and the Welsh Government should be part of that negotiation.

The changes envisaged in the Bill to direct payments in England are clearly not wholly appropriate to Wales. There are some welcome signs that the Bill recognises this fundamental difference, but there are equally some areas where the current level of independent action accorded to the Welsh Government is not clearly carried forward. Like the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, and my noble friend Lord Thomas, fundamentally I wait for a framework agreement between all parts of the United Kingdom that encompasses the wide areas of the Bill. For example, a framework agreement is needed to provide a replacement for the state aid regime. It is important that the Bill is able to accommodate any agreements reached in due course by the UK and the devolved Governments in respect of the common frameworks, which are to replace the areas where EU law intercepted with devolved matters. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain what progress has been made on the proposed framework agreement.

There remain outstanding matters of difference between the Welsh and UK Governments, which require resolution if the legislative consent Motion in the Welsh Assembly is to be passed. In particular, what is the UK Government’s view on the disagreement surrounding Clauses 40 to 42, on the World Trade Organization? I understand that some bilateral agreements have been made regarding those clauses. Will the Minister provide me with a copy of that bilateral agreement and place a copy in the Library? I am concerned that written intergovernmental agreements sitting behind powers in the Bill will undermine the ability to change in the future. Governments change, and written agreements, which are not recognised in the Bill, cannot provide the certainty that the legislation requires.

Concerns also arise on powers between the UK and Welsh Governments in the areas of the identification and traceability of animals, agricultural tenancies and the regulation of organic products. Will the Minister, in his response or in writing, outline what progress has made in each of these areas?

Most powers over agriculture are currently devolved, and I hope that the Bill will respect that level of devolution in this important agricultural field.