I beg to move,
That on Thursday 25 October, after hearing oral evidence in accordance with the motion agreed to by the Committee on Tuesday 23 October, the Committee shall hear oral evidence from the following until not later than 4.30pm—
(1) Ulster Farmers’ Union;
(2) NFU Scotland;
(3) Scottish Government;
(4) Quality Meat Scotland.
I wish to record my thanks and that of the Committee to the patient Clerks, who have made accommodations following late requests for additional witnesses.
On a point of order, Sir Roger. Simply put, we need to hear from the Rural Payments Agency and the Groceries Code Adjudicator. The one thing that came out of our earlier sittings was that no one quite knows how what is in the Bill will work, so we need to know from the extant organisations—they might be replaced, but that is something for the Government to decide—exactly how they think they will operate. I ask for another sitting to hear witnesses from those organisations. They might not be able to come, because of the short notice, but they should be called to account. I hope that would be agreed unanimously.
In answer to the point of order, my understanding is that the organisations to which you refer were invited to participate but to date have failed to say that they want to attend. I am not sure, but I suppose we have similar powers to a Select Committee to compel them, but the fact is that they have not responded.
Furthermore, those organisations have the right to submit written evidence if they wish to do so at any time. I strongly advise and encourage those with an interest in the Bill—I of course am strictly impartial—to do so, if that is what the Committee wishes. I, however, have no power to alter an agreed programme, so I must now proceed.
I shall add one caveat: if by consensus—it has to be by consensus—the Committee decides to take further evidence later, my understanding is that that is probably practicably possible, but the Programming Sub-Committee would have to reconvene. I suggest that the most practical way forward, given that we are where we are and that those organisations have not responded, is that they are encouraged to provide written evidence, which will of course be made available to all the Committee. It goes without saying that, outside this Committee Room, neither the Chair nor anyone else has any power to restrict conversations between any Member and any organisation, so if Members wish to seek input and advice, they are at liberty to do so, as always.