Secretary of State’s powers to give financial assistance

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 30th October 2018.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2:00 pm, 30th October 2018

I discussed that with parliamentary counsel. The issue is the subject of a later clause and no doubt we will debate it in more detail then: this is not a narrow economist’s definition of productivity—it is not part of the so-called “productivity puzzle” that people are trying to solve. We are using productivity in its rounder sense, which could include reducing costs, reducing inputs, adding value and increasing the price of things. It could also include—it is very explicit about this—setting up a new business, which could be a retail business allied to a farm business.

The second point that I want to make links to an issue that the hon. Member for East Lothian raised: the importance of education. Subsection (1)(b) obviously has a clear purpose, which is

“supporting public access to and enjoyment of the countryside”.

We absolutely envisage that it would be possible to reward farmers for the work that they do educationally to help our schools and to take groups of children from schools on educational visits, so that they can learn where food comes from. We already have projects such as Open Farm Sunday. They have been a tremendous success and are growing every year, and we would like the opportunity to build on them.