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 David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 4:45 pm, 30th October 2018

I have very little to add to what my hon. Friend has said. Basically, the amendment seeks to clarify what is meant by “productivity”. We believe the Government have quite a narrow definition of productivity that undermines the environmental sustainability that the Bill is based upon. We hope the Minister will say how he would interpret productivity and that he will take a wider view since we are looking at different aspects of productivity besides the purely agricultural and limiting definition that could be implied. For us, the issue is about improving quality and efficiency, but also about how we go about doing that. Again, that is the weakness of the Bill. It says a lot about what it might want to do, but not much about how it will do it, so we want that clearly defined. Reducing dependence on pesticides, weedkiller and fertilisers is implied in the way in which the Bill is being promoted, but exactly how that will be attained is not in the measure.

Sustainability, a primary feature of the Bill, needs to be spelt out more clearly in terms of how the legislation is entailed, otherwise there will be a misuse of public money. For example, we are not really spelling out how we want to minimise the carbon impact of agriculture. We know that agriculture could achieve carbon sequestration much more fully than it currently does.

On climate change, we are looking at issues to do with restocking levels and how they would impact on emissions levels, and at the antibiotic issues that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East identified. Amendment 53 would require a proper consultation on the meaning of “productivity” and a much broader understanding of sustainable productivity.