Secretary of State’s powers to give financial assistance

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:45 pm on 30th October 2018.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East 4:45 pm, 30th October 2018

The Minister will be delighted to know that I am going to be very brief on this one. There is concern that it is not very clear in the Bill whether the public goods that are identified in clause 1(1) will be the primary focus for any payments, as we have already said that there is a limited pot of funding available. The Bill needs to reflect the fact that the Government have made a commitment that future policies will be underpinned by payment of public money for the provision of public goods.

The public goods are listed in the Bill, but it does not actually indicate whether they will be a funding priority—it just says that these are things that money can be spent on. It does not specify that any payments for productivity should contribute to the delivery of public goods. The two things could be entirely separate.

We have already discussed the fact that the Bill contains powers and not very much on duties, which means that it is vulnerable to change or being dropped entirely by a future Secretary of State. As I understand the Bill, there would be nothing to stop him or her from implementing payments for productivity only, without any reference to the public good. There is no indication as to how the pot of money would be divided up between the two, so there is concern, and Greener UK and the pesky environmentalists that people have talked about have been working on the amendment. They just want some assurance that a future scheme would not be weighted in favour of productivity payments, with no requirement to reduce environmental impact, and to make sure that the delivery of the public goods listed in clause 1 would not be undermined by the productivity clause.