Secretary of State’s powers to give financial assistance

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 30th October 2018.

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Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 3:45 pm, 30th October 2018

I am not surprised by any of the Minister’s comments. His attempt to reassure the Committee on EU retained law and SIs was not particularly effective. As we said at great length during the passage of the withdrawal Act, the ability to amend the Act is of deep concern to us. We think it is far better that the provisions should be in the Bill now, so that everyone can see exactly where we are. We are not happy with the approach that the Government have taken, and not just in these areas but in many others.

The Minister invited me to look to clause 3 for reassurance. Again, we come back to the powers that have been given to the Secretary of State, which are so wide-ranging. Although there are suggestions in the Bill about what those powers may be used for, the lack of precision is astonishing. Clause 3(2) states that “under subsection (1)” the Secretary of State

“may (among other things) include provision”.

It is extraordinary that the Government are attempting to proceed in this manner and expect the Opposition to go along with it. We are just not going to do that.

I might not be minded to press the amendment to a Division today, but I do not want the Committee to interpret that as demonstrating any kind of satisfaction on our part; it absolutely does not. We intend to return to these issues, which is one of the reasons why we will not press the amendment today. That might increase our chances of being able to return to the issues, which are fundamental to why we think the Bill is so flawed. I take the point about linking the issues to financial assistance. There might be something in that, although taxpayers want to know the principles by which their hard-earned cash will be spent in this area. I do not think that the Minister has responded adequately to our concerns. I expect that in the other place, and on Report, we will go over those issues again.

As for amendment 74 and the promised new Bill, we want and need to see the Bill, not just assurances that it is on its way. The Secretary of State said, “I want this to happen because I too am a sentient being.”