Amendment 130

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 2:45 pm on 21st July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Blencathra Lord Blencathra Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee 2:45 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I declare my interests as on the register. It is a pleasure to the follow the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, and in relation to his comments on Hansard, I tell him, and indeed the whole Committee, that I once asked the late Lord Armstrong, who I rate as one of our greatest ever Cabinet Secretaries, “Robert, when you wrote up the Cabinet minutes, did you write what the Minister said or what he thought he had said?” He told me, “Oh, no, David. I wrote what the Minister would have said if he had thought of saying it.” I sometimes wish Hansard would do the same with my speeches.

I oppose the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, in that the seven-year period should not be reduced to five. However, he is right to draw attention to the importance of CBD15 next year. It is every bit as important as COP26. Indeed, in a sensible world, there would not be two conventions but one, since they are inextricably linked. Habitat loss leads to more carbon and more zoonotic diseases as animals are forced closer to humans. However, that is not for this Bill. I think Defra has got the seven-year period right, and so has my noble friend Lord Randall; moving the deadline does not necessarily buy us more time.

This is the greatest and most exciting change in British agriculture since 1970. I am old enough to remember those UK White Papers produced by the ministry of ag, fish and food—MAFF, an excellent department, if I may say so—such as Food from Our Own Resources, which exhorted us to “produce, produce, produce”. One of the many excellent things about leaving the EU is that we will once again be able to design plans to produce food from our own resources and protect the environment at the same time. But let us not pretend it will be a simple change. Studies on ELMS are being undertaken, and the three tiers are being designed, but it will be a mega change for UK agriculture.

The EU system of giving every farm money based on acreage is simple, but utterly wrong, yet giving farmers payments for undertaking environmental land management schemes is infinitely more complicated; farmers need time to adjust, and Defra needs time to tweak the schemes. Of course, we want rid of the perverse EU payments system as soon as possible, but I prefer to take seven years and get it right than five years and get it wrong.