Amendment 1

Part of Agriculture Bill - Third Reading – in the House of Lords at 2:01 pm on 1st October 2020.

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Photo of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Labour 2:01 pm, 1st October 2020

My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to say a few words. First, I repeat what I said at Report: I am particularly grateful to the Minister for the way he has conducted this Bill, for his kindness and for the way he explained it and answered questions in such a helpful manner. I thank him and all the Front Benches for their hard work on this marathon Bill. They will be more pleased than anyone that we are now at Third Reading.

I want to ask a question or two about Amendment 1, on providing financial assistance for continuing EU programmes as far as Scotland is concerned. The Minister said this was a technical amendment—if I have got this right—because the Scottish Parliament did not have the opportunity to legislate. I was mystified, however, about why it was not included earlier and why we had to wait until Third Reading—at the 59th minute of the 11th hour—to include it, because the original draft included powers for the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly, but Scotland was not included at all. Why has it been delayed? Are there changed circumstances? Will the Minister expand on that? Was it an oversight or have the circumstances changed?

I am a bit worried that sometimes in Whitehall—not through any malevolence, but just through oversight—we provide fuel for the fires of nationalism that are currently burning and that, on all sides of the House, we do not want to encourage. Therefore, it is very important that we get these things right and get them right early on in the process, so that we are not seen to be putting Scotland in as an afterthought.

Agricultural activities are carried out on two-thirds of the land area of Scotland. It is very important and right that the decisions about funding these continuing EU programmes be made as near as possible to the area in which they are taking place. The Scottish Parliament and Government clearly fulfil that objective. I hope that the Minister will reassure us that it was not an afterthought, that it is a technical amendment and that the interests of Scottish farmers, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government were not overlooked, because it is a very important issue. I would be grateful for that reassurance from the Minister.