Amendment 68

Part of Agriculture Bill - Report (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 17th September 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 8:00 pm, 17th September 2020

My Lords, we are, again, addressing how matters might be properly devolved. The noble Lord, Lord Wigley, has identified some key challenges in his amendment, and the amendment in the name of the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, is complementary to it. It seems to me that these amendments need to be taken very seriously by the Government, who need to assess the implications laid out by noble Lords.

We are addressing the important issue of the identification and traceability of animals. We have a UK single market, so we will expect animals to be moved around, across the boundaries of our nations and regions. But animal traceability must be clear. Most years, my father would head for the Welsh borders, to Builth Wells, to buy his Welsh mountain ewes, and they arrived by lorry on our farm on the South Downs. That was a common pattern. The noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, outlined the same pattern for England and Scotland. It is the way that market works in the UK and, within it, animals must be traceable.

The system needs to involve each of the devolved Administrations, which must also be able to be held to account on this. As the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, indicated, traceability is exceedingly important in terms of disease control—for example, as we saw so clearly with foot and mouth or, more recently, blue tongue.

My noble friends Lord Bruce, Lord Alderdice, Lord Thomas and Lady Humphreys spelled out earlier how important it is that all parts of the United Kingdom work closely together, with proper devolution and consent. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is surely right that the Government do not do devolution, and this has to improve. My noble friend Lord Alderdice mentioned earlier that agriculture is, for example, the major industry in Northern Ireland, and traceability must be done in conjunction with the EU, given that Northern Ireland is in the EU internal market. Can the noble Baroness comment on this aspect?

I am very glad that these amendments have come forward. Both noble Lords are right to seek clarification here on the record, and we support their propositions. I look forward to the Minister’s response. It will need to be very specific.