Agriculture Bill

– in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 am on 23rd October 2018.

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[Phil Wilson in the Chair]

Photo of Phil Wilson Phil Wilson Labour, Sedgefield 9:25 am, 23rd October 2018

Before we begin, I have a few preliminary points to make. Please switch electronic devices to silent. Tea and coffee are not allowed during the sittings.

We will first consider the programme motion on the amendment paper. We will then consider a motion to enable the reporting of written evidence for publication and then a motion to allow us to deliberate in private about our questions before the oral evidence sessions. In view of the limited time available, I hope that we can take those matters without too much debate. I call the Minister to move the programme motion, which the programming sub-committee agreed yesterday.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I beg to move,

That—

1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 23 October) meet—

(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 23 October;

(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 25 October;

(c) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 30 October;

(d) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 1 November;

(e) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 13 November;

(f) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 15 November; and

(g) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 20 November;

(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence in accordance with the following Table:

TABLE

Date

Time

Witness

Tuesday 23 October

Until no later than 10.55 am

Nature Friendly Farming Network;

National Trust;

RSPB;

Gilles Deprez

Tuesday 23 October

Until no later than 11.25 am

Farmwel;

RSPCA;

British Veterinary Association

Tuesday 23 October

Until no later than 2.30 pm

NFU;

National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs

Tuesday 23 October

Until no later than 3.00 pm

Country Land and Business

Association;

Tenant Farmers Association

Tuesday 23 October

Until no later than 3.30 pm

Food Standards Agency;

Food and Drink Federation;

Groceries Code Adjudicator

Tuesday 23 October

Until no later than 5.00 pm

National Farmers’ Union Cymru;

Farmers’ Union of Wales

Thursday 25 October

Until no later than 12.15 pm

Traceability Design User Group;

Environment Agency;

Rural Payments Agency

Thursday 25 October

Until no later than 1.00 pm

British Growers Association;

Soil Association

Thursday 25 October

Until no later than 2.45 pm

Professor Erik Millstone, Professor of Science Policy, University of Sussex;

David Baldick, Senior Research

Fellow, Institute of European

Environmental Policy;

Vicky Hird, Sustain;

Professor Terry Marsden, Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning, University of Cardiff

Thursday 25 October

Until no later than 3.15 pm

Unite;

The Landworkers’ Alliance

(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 22; Schedule 1; Clause 23; Schedule 2; Clause 24 to 27; Schedule 3; Clause 28; Schedule 4; Clauses 29 to 31; Schedule 5; Clauses 32 to 36; new Clauses; new Schedules; and remaining proceedings on the Bill; and

(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Tuesday 20 November.

First, may I record our thanks to the Clerk who has attempted, at very short notice, to add some witnesses at the request of the Opposition? I should add that the National Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs, the Food and Drink Federation and the Groceries Code Adjudicator have said that they are unable to make it.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

I would like to make a point to the Minister about this. Regarding the witnesses, I was very disappointed to see that the National Farmers Union, Scotland had not been called in to give evidence. Given that the Bill is the subject of some dispute between the UK and Scottish Governments, it would have been appropriate at least to have Scottish Government officials down to explain some of the finer points of that.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Scottish Government have not yet signalled that they wish to be part of the Bill. Indeed, our understanding is that they intend to pass their own Bill, which is why it was decided at the time that this Bill would not apply to Scotland. We now have a list of witnesses and a programme motion for the evidence sessions.

Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

It would perhaps have been a good idea to have representatives from the devolved Administrations, given that the Bill will inevitably have an effect on each of the industries in turn.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

Does that mean, Chair, that when Scotland produces its Bill it will ask for evidence from English farming organisations? Is that the logic of what is proposed?

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

The point is that elements of the Bill affect devolved legislation and competencies, so it is appropriate that at least Scottish Government officials should be allowed to put those points across to us. As MPs, surely we want to get the full picture. The Bill is the subject of some dispute between the two Governments, so surely it is appropriate that we hear about that.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I do not really have anything further to add. The Bill is predominantly for English farmers and there is a schedule for Welsh farmers as well. There is a more limited schedule for Northern Irish farmers because the Northern Ireland Administration asked for a minimalist addition to enable them to continue to make payments.

As the Scottish Government have been clear that they do not intend, as things stand, to invite or ask us to add a schedule on their behalf, we have agreed the set of witnesses that we have. I have nothing further to add.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(George Eustice.)

Resolved,

That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(George Eustice.)

Photo of Phil Wilson Phil Wilson Labour, Sedgefield

Copies of written evidence that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.

The Committee deliberated in private.