Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion 4:04 pm, 10th October 2018

I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention, with which I wholeheartedly agree.

On that point, the UK Government have committed to guarantee current levels of funding until 2022, but it is unclear how future levels will be decided or how funding will be allocated across the four countries of the UK. The farming Minister may recall a discussion at a session of the Welsh Affairs Committee some months ago about the fact that these are questions of not only how the cake will be shared, but how big the cake will be in the first place.

Giving as much clarity and stability as possible to the industry must be a priority, and any future funding framework should be based on a seven-year cycle. Ministers have suggested that decisions about future funding will be taken by the UK Government, subject to the Treasury’s budgetary cycle and comprehensive spending review. That would not afford the industry the same certainty as under the present multi-annual financial framework. I appreciate that Ministers are hesitant to make unilateral funding decisions that would bind successive Governments, but if they were to make such a framework subject to the consent of all four countries of the UK—perhaps by means of a dedicated intergovernmental body—they would be at greater liberty to make such commitments to maintain funding for agriculture in the UK and to deliver the support and stability that the industry deserves.

Such an approach would also assist with the inevitable headaches that will emerge about how any funding is allocated across the UK. In fairness, both the Secretary of State and the farming Minister have confirmed that the Barnett formula will not be used to determine allocations. That is to be welcomed, particularly in Wales, but a question remains about how the allocations will be decided. The Secretary of State referred earlier to an imminent review of this process.