Secretary of State’s powers to give financial assistance

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 30th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:30 pm, 30th October 2018

No, not at all, and I will return to that point. We have an alternative plan for rural support and support for rural communities.

Paragraph (c) of amendment 52 states that financial assistance can be used for

“supporting persons who are involved in the production, processing, marketing or distribution of products deriving from an agricultural, horticultural or forestry activity.”

That could open the door to Unilever being paid grants for its manufacturing or a haulier with a chill chain operation being paid to take food to Tesco. It would even enable money to be paid to Tesco itself. I am not sure that the amendment would achieve what those who suggested and promoted it hope to achieve. In fact, it would open the door to a severe dilution of the Bill’s intention.

That said, we understand from our discussions with the Welsh Government that they are a little uncertain how they will use the power. They wanted it as a fall-back provision and envisaged using it for a short time until they could replace it with something else. It may be a provision in the Welsh schedule that is used in a very limited way, if at all, depending on the development of Welsh policy.

I turn to our plan for delivering for these areas, which is the shared prosperity fund. It will have a rural strand. The shared prosperity fund will replace the plethora of EU structural funds. We are working very closely with the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government and other Government colleagues to ensure that there is a rural programme within that shared prosperity fund and to ensure, for example, that LEADER and other grants have some kind of successor scheme.