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 George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:30 pm, 1st November 2018

Broadly speaking, although, as I said, one of our key thoughts behind the concept of de-linking is that it will be a tool to assist people with retirement. Because we do not want multiple systems—a new system emerging, a legacy system and a de-linked system—we have drafted this in such a way that, once someone takes the decision to de-link, it will apply to everyone and we will not have that problem. It will be a bold policy to help to support structural change and give farmers the freedom to invest that money as they deem right.

Government amendment 91 is another technical amendment that simply reflects the way the current direct payment regulations operate. There has been no change to our policy of trying to de-link payments, but the current direct payment regulation only contains financial provisions known as “ceilings” until the end of the 2020 scheme year. Introducing de-linking in 2021 means that ceilings under the direct payments will not be set for 2021. The existing basic payments will therefore automatically end in 2020 and we will not need to terminate such payments. The amendment reflects that. Other than that, the intent is exactly the same as originally drafted, but the amendment makes it clear, crucially, that de-linked payments cannot be made alongside the direct payments under the basic payment scheme, in line with clause 7(3)(b).

This is a technical amendment simply to deal with a similar point to the one I addressed with respect to one of the new clauses, which is that the ceilings expire and we might want to be able to make those de-linked payments based on a direct payment and not necessarily on the old BPS payment. Again, this is a technical issue that has its genesis in the way that EU payment ceilings and budgets are wired. I hope I have given the Committee a good explanation of what we seek to achieve through the amendment.