Amendment 130

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:15 pm on 21st July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green 2:15 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, there are two strands of amendments in this group: those that probe the Government on the agricultural transition period, such as Amendment 143 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh; and others, such as my Amendments 147, 148 and 154, that would prevent secondary legislation that would undermine animal welfare.

As other noble Lords have said, the agricultural transition period needs probing to understand what the Government’s current position is. The Bill has been floating around for a long time, but there is still no real detail in it, which is very frustrating for us who have to comment on it. On the one hand, I am very swayed by the argument from the noble Lord, Lord Teverson. The transition period should probably be as short as possible, simply because we can then move rapidly to a new system of public money for public good. I also do not particularly want to give the Government a lot of time to delay the big, tough decisions they will have to make, but they of course have to give farmers and land managers the time to adapt and improve. Overall, we need the certainty that comes from the Government setting out their plans very clearly. I hope the Minister can set out a timetable for that happening.

The second strand of this group is my amendments which, like so many of my amendments, seek to protect animal welfare. Clauses 9 and 14 grant very broad power to the Secretary of State in what might be termed cost cutting and corner cutting. The clauses should be scrutinised on their own and the Government should make it clear what they plan to use them for to justify their existence. My amendments would prevent the Government cutting these corners for animal welfare so that the Secretary of State cannot simply say, “That’s rather expensive for animals. Let’s see if we can improve on that and cut the cost.” There are probably a dozen other issues that should be added to the list of things that these clauses should not be allowed to tamper with, but for me, animal welfare stands out as a priority.

I hope other noble Lords will join me in their concern about Clauses 9 and 14. We might work together in bringing amendments on Report to curtail these cost-cutting and corner-cutting powers.