Amendment 227

Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 23rd July 2020.

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Baroness Young of Old Scone:

Moved by Baroness Young of Old Scone

227: After Clause 34, insert the following new Clause—“Land use strategy for England(1) The Secretary of State must, no later than 31 March 2022, lay an agricultural land use strategy for England before Parliament.(2) The strategy must set out—(a) the Secretary of State’s objectives in relation to sustainable agricultural land use within an integrated land use framework;(b) proposals and policies for meeting those objectives;(c) the timescales over which those proposals and policies are expected to take effect.(3) The objectives, proposals and policies referred to in subsection (2) must contribute to—(a) achievement of the purposes for financial assistance under section 1(1) and 1(2);(b) achievement of objectives in relation to mitigation and adaptation to climate change, including achieving carbon budgets under Part 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008;(c) sustainable development including the use of previously agricultural land for development and infrastructure;(d) the achievement of objectives of the 25 Year Environment Plan for halting the decline of biodiversity.(4) Before laying the strategy before Parliament, the Secretary of State must publish a draft strategy and consult with—(a) such bodies as he or she considers appropriate, and(b) the general public.(5) The Secretary of State must, no later than—(a) 5 years after laying a strategy before Parliament under subsection (1), and(b) the end of every subsequent period of 5 years,lay a revised strategy before Parliament under the terms set out in subsections (2) to (4).(6) The Secretary of State must, no later than 3 years after the laying of a strategy before Parliament under this section, lay before Parliament a report on the implementation of the strategy and progress in achieving the objectives, proposals and policies under subsection (2).”Member’s explanatory statementThis new Clause would provide a land use context to enable the Secretary of State to make optimal decisions about the balance of financial assistance to the various purposes in Clause 1.

Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Deputy Chairman of Committees

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 227. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or any other amendment in this group to a Division should make that clear in the debate.

Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour

My Lords, I declare my interest as chairman of the Woodland Trust.

This amendment would require the Government to put in place a land use framework for England to provide a structure for resolving competing land uses, including agricultural land use. I thank the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, for their support for my amendment. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, who had hoped to voice his support today before events intervened.

There are multiple pressures on our finite amount of land, and they are all growing. We need more land for increased food security, for storing carbon, for biodiversity, for managing floods, for trees and increased timber self-sufficiency, for recreation and health, and for built development, housing and infrastructure. There are probably more pressures that I have not added to the list. The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership recently conducted a demand/supply analysis and found that,

“to meet a growing UK population’s food, space and energy needs while increasing the area needed to protect and enhance the nation’s natural capital”,

the UK would have to have a third more land than it currently has—so the future competition for land will be huge. As we tackle these multiple pressures for land, we are hampered by the lack of a common framework within which to reconcile these competing needs.

It is interesting that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each have a land use framework and are using it to greater or lesser effect to guide policy on these competing areas of land need. As we build the new future post Covid, it is overdue that England should develop and use such a framework. This has been called for by many people, including the Select Committee on the Rural Economy of your Lordships’ House a couple of years ago and the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission. That commission will be commencing some real-life, county-level pilots on land use frameworks in the next few months. So I urge the Government to agree that a land use framework for England should be put in place. Otherwise, the competition for land will be a free-for-all and will fail to optimise the choices made to ensure that the most important land uses are given priority in the places that are best suited to them.

I assure noble Lords, landowners and land managers that I am not talking about lines on maps and precise delineations of what goes where. I am talking about a high-level framework within which negotiations, probably at county level, can take place. Let me give an example from Wales, which has the most promising land use framework in the UK. There was considerable concern among Welsh sheep farmers that some of these competing land uses would simply mean that there were no sheep left in the uplands. Discussions on the best places to put additional trees and woodland and convert land to agroecological farming have shown that only about 0.2% of the current agricultural land in Wales would have to change its use. It will be a huge reassurance for sheep farmers in Wales that woodland and agroecology schemes are not the Antichrist, banishing sheep from the uplands for ever, but can be integrated with comparative ease. That land use framework was extremely valuable in that respect.

The Minister will tell me that this amendment would not achieve what I have described. I am pretty clear about that. I had rather hoped to lay an amendment that mirrored very closely the statutory provisions for the Scottish land use framework, drawn from its climate change Act. However, quite rightly, the Public Bill Office advised me that if I wanted to place this in an agriculture Bill, it needed to talk more about agricultural land use. So it talks about an agricultural land use strategy within an integrated land use framework, which would take account of all the pressures on land to ensure both that our scarce land delivers several public benefits at the same time and that our future land use needs are met without having to find 30% more land. After all, land is a finite resource; we are not making any more. I beg to move.