Amendment 130

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 21st July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 3:15 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Teverson has tabled Amendments 130 and 142, which would reduce the transition period between farmers receiving direct payments under the CAP and moving on to the ELM scheme. He is concerned about the length of time that will elapse before the farming community has become fully environmentally aware and responds to the Bill’s ethos of public money for public goods. Both COPs 26 and 15 have been postponed. The number of species facing extinction is growing, and biodiversity, which includes pollination and soil quality, is very important. The current financial systems work against biodiversity. This is not satisfactory.

Most Peers are concerned that the period before ELMS becomes fully operational should be further away, giving farmers more time to adjust to the change. The noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh of Pickering and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Earls, Lord Devon and Lord Caithness, support this view. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, spoke about the gap between phasing out direct payments and introducing ELMS, and said that no farmer should have more than a 25% cut in their direct payments until ELMS is introduced.

The funding of less favoured areas has again been raised by the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, and I fully support him in in his concerns. I ask the Minister to give a categoric undertaking that the so-called less favoured areas will receive funding. Unless he does, noble Lords on all sides of the House will continue to raise this important subject.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rock, has tabled a number of important amendments related to timescales, cash flows and delinked payments—all extremely important in reassuring the farming community of just how and when they will receive financial assistance—which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans has supported. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, again raises the issue of animal welfare, supported by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. We have debated animal welfare on previous amendments, and it is essential that that theme be a thread that runs through the Bill and thus be included in a number of clauses.

The noble Earl, Lord Devon, believes that Defra will not be ready in 2021 to move to ELMS, and so wishes to put this off until 2022, and he is supported by other Peers. I share his concern about Defra’s preparedness. However, giving it more time is unlikely to assist. Moving deadlines does not always produce results, as the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, said. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, lets Defra off the hook for not having met the deadlines; I am afraid I am not quite so generous.

Finally, farmers are left in the dark on what is approaching, despite its being trailed well in advance. I fully support the move to ELMS, but I am very concerned that insufficient information is available to give your Lordships and farmers confidence that their future will be secured. The Minister needs to provide reassurance that Defra and the RPA can cope, because from what I have heard this afternoon, I do not believe they can.