Amendment 1

Part of Agriculture Bill - Third Reading – in the House of Lords at 2:15 pm on 1st October 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:15 pm, 1st October 2020

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation of these amendments. As I know he is aware, it is clearly very frustrating that they have been tabled at such a late stage. As he has explained, several of the changes come as a result of late requests from the devolved nations. It is a worrying sign of the complexity of legislation across the four nations that decisions are being made on different timeframes and with different consequences for the agricultural community. It underlines our view that we need a robust framework agreement within which we can anticipate and plan legislative changes affecting the four nations in an orderly way in future.

It is understandable that Scotland might want the same powers as other devolved nations to provide financial assistance for rural development initiatives, but I share the concerns of my noble friend Lord Foulkes on this. When were the Scottish Government made aware that the powers applied to everybody apart from Scotland, and when did they put in their request to add these powers into the Bill? If future requests are made by the devolved nations, would it be possible to deal with them via secondary legislation, since, had this Bill passed, where or how else could these matters have been pursued?

The Minister also explained that there had been a drafting error on the management of apiculture. It needs a resolution procedure for changes, which has now been included in the Bill as a negative resolution. Have these late changes been sent to the Delegated Powers Committee for review? What provisions are available if other drafting errors of this kind come to light once the Bill has been passed? It goes without saying that we hope no other errors appear, but sadly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, reminded us, the department has not been exempt from similar errors in secondary legislation in our recent past. Unfortunately, we have form on this.

Finally, the Minister explained that a small number of changes arise from a change in advice from the lawyers about how sections of the withdrawal agreement should be interpreted. Were the lawyers made aware that this Bill was reaching its final stages of consideration and were they given a deadline for their advice which would have allowed the consequences of it to be introduced into the Bill in a timely way? I know the Minister shares our frustration that these issues have arisen at such a late stage. If nothing else, I hope there can be a resolution from the department to learn from these errors so that the same mistakes do not occur in the next piece of legislation and that we can deal with all these matters in a timely manner.