Power to provide for phasing out direct payments and delinked payments

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 1st November 2018.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 3:30 pm, 1st November 2018

Again, this is fairly technical stuff, but there will be some genuine repercussions if we do not get it right. I spoke previously, and I might say more about it when we get to the next group, about this relationship between the current system and what we are moving towards. It makes eminent sense that the de-linking happens pretty speedily through the transition process. Again, it has to happen in an ordered manner, with the regulations that the Secretary of State may make—we want that to be as clear as possible—fully understood by those upon whom the new system will be imposed.

Our amendment, which would clarify things by leaving out “either or both of”, is probing. The Minister has his own amendment, which will rephrase paragraph (b), but will he explain clearly how he understands the de-linked payments will be introduced in place of the direct payments? How will things operate over time?

The worry is that the new scheme will not necessarily be as accessible as the basic payments scheme. There will understandably be some losers, and the earlier they know that they will have to try to save some of the money, the better. The Government have made a big play of the advice that will be made available, but we still question who that advice will come from and who will pay for it. The more the situation is clarified at this stage, the better it will be for those who are being asked to pay an enormous amount.

The Minister has made a point about lots of people already having environmental schemes, but many do not. Those who have not got those schemes will have to quickly get someone to advise them on how they can fundamentally change their business operation. That is going to test smaller and tenant farmers.