Power to provide for phasing out direct payments and delinked payments

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 1st November 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:00 pm, 1st November 2018

Any regulations will be under the affirmative resolution procedure. We will work with industry and others on the precise scheme designs. We will not do it in a hurry. We think there is a great logic to de-linking payments towards the end of the scheme. We also think that having a scheme that supports retirement with dignity and voluntary exit is useful. That is why we have provided for that to be done under subsection 7(7).

I turn to the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow, who also asked about the timing of de-linking. The Bill provides for us to de-link at any point during the transition period. As I have said, my expectation is that it would be run under subsection 1(a) in a phasing down of the basic payment scheme in the early years, but we would probably deploy de-linking in the closing stages once we were confident that all the successor policies were in place and we were ready to go for the try line, as it were, and reach the end of that transition. We have the option and the flexibility to do both—to go early or to go late—and that will be determined in future regulations.

My hon. Friend also asked who would be eligible for the new scheme. Again, that could be defined in the regulations. To answer the shadow Minister’s point, if we were worried that every single farmer in the country was going to retire, we could impose some conditionality to ensure that we targeted that option to people over retirement age for whom it made most sense, in order to keep a dynamic flow of new entrants coming into the land.

My hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby raised a concern, which the NFU and the Tenant Farmers Association have also raised, about tenants. There are sometimes agreements—somewhat extraordinarily—that require the tenant to pay their BPS payment direct to the landlord as a condition of their tenancy. One concern is this: if somebody were to take either a lump sum payment or a de-linked payment, would it have to go to the landlord? Under subsection 3(c), we will be able to specify who is entitled to the de-linked payment, and we can specify that it would be a tenant. In so far as there are some tenancy agreements that require the BPS payment to go to the landlord, they would not apply in these situations, since the payments would be in lieu of the BPS payment; they would not be the BPS payment. Therefore, we can design the regulations in such a way as to ensure that the payment goes to the intended recipient.