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 Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative 2:45 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I declare my interests as stated in the register. The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, suggests in Amendment 130 that the period of the first plan should be five years rather than seven years. In Amendment 142, he seeks to reduce the seven-year transition period, during which the direct payments scheme will be phased out, to five years. Farmers are already anxious about how their business models will have to change, and would not welcome the shortening of the transition period. Particularly because they do not have enough information on the new scheme, the noble Lord’s amendment is unwarranted and would be damaging.

However, there is considerable merit in Amendment 143 in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, in that the seven-year transition period should start 18 months from now, rather than six, which would give more time for the Government to work out the details of the scheme, and would be neutral in terms of costs to the Exchequer.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, in Amendment 144, is right to seek to ensure that payments under the new schemes compensate for the reduction in and ultimate removal of payments under the direct payments scheme. But I think his intention to limit the reduction in total support to 25% is rather modest. I believe direct payments for larger farms are set to be reduced by 25% in 2021, and the noble Lord’s amendment would still permit this to happen, even if such a farm receives zero under the countryside stewardship scheme and other current schemes. As I said previously, the larger farming businesses employ the majority of agricultural workers.

I would not support Amendment 146 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, except in so far as it equates to Amendment 143 to delay the changes by one year. The seven-year transition period is not too long, given the extent of the changes farmers will need to carry out.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, seeks to use this Bill to advance her concerns regarding animal welfare, but I cannot agree with her Amendment 147, which assumes that animal welfare standards are higher or lower, whereas different standards may produce different outcomes, and it is a fine balance. I regret that I do not see the justification for supporting her Amendments 147, 148 or 154.

My noble friend Lady Rock has eloquently explained the reasons behind her Amendments 150 and 151. I can see that where moneys are unspent, the amount provided in a subsequent year might increase if the Government accept carryover procedures. As for her Amendments 152 and 153 on delinked payments, they seem to provide an improvement to the Bill.