Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:30 pm, 12th October 2020

That is exactly what I am trying to do. I am seeking a balance between a laudable aim that we are all signed up to and not setting sector-specific targets, for which amendment 17 provides. I do not think that would be helpful. However, I agree with Caroline Lucas that we need to do everything we can in the agricultural sphere to work on this important issue.

I will now deal with the Government amendments. Amendment 2 requires all new multi-annual financial assistance plans introduced after the end of the agriculture transition period to be published 12 months before coming into effect. The first multi-annual financial assistance plan, which covers the seven-year agricultural transition, will be published by the end of this year. All subsequent plans will be published at least 12 months ahead of their coming into effect. Those in the other place felt strongly that building in time between the publication of multi-annual financial assistance plans and their coming into effect would allow farmers to prepare for them and adapt to any potential changes. The Government agree and are pleased to propose that amendment.

Amendments 5, 6, 7 and 8 change the frequency of reporting on food security—to which I spoke briefly earlier—by requiring reports to be published at least every three years. The first report will be published before Parliament rises for Christmas next year, 2021. This report will include an analysis of statistical data relating to the impact of coronavirus on food security in the United Kingdom.

Amendments 10, 13, 14 and 20 to 29 were requested by the devolved Administrations and reflect the positive working relationship that we have with our counterparts there. I am pleased that each of the devolved legislatures has given legislative consent to the Bill.

Amendments 10, 13 and 14 require the Secretary of State to seek the consent of the DAs before making regulations within their competence under clauses 32 or 37. Amendments 20 to 29 give the DAs the power to make supplementary and consequential provisions in all areas of the Bill for which a legislative consent motion was sought. Amendment 15 removes the provisions in clauses 42(4) and 42(5), as devolved Ministers have assured us that they are not required in law.

Amendments 3, 4, 19, 30, 31, 45 and 46 are technical amendments that ensure that clauses 14, 15 and 16, as well as their equivalent provisions in the schedules for Wales and Northern Ireland, will operate as intended. The clauses rely on a body of retained EU law being created at the end of the transition period. We have recently been advised that that may be necessary to allow us to continue to fund existing common agricultural policy legacy schemes.

Finally, amendments 32 to 44 enable legislative powers created by the Bill to be exercised on or after the day on which the Bill receives Royal Assent. This will enable us to act quickly to ensure that there is no gap in the powers required to operate existing schemes and to provide financial assistance to farmers.