Power to provide for phasing out direct payments and delinked payments

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 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 4:15 pm, 1st November 2018

I would almost say the opposite. If the market is such that a number of people choose to retire and there is no longer the inflationary pressure of a BPS payment driving up rents, rents might decline in some areas. That is not necessarily a bad thing. If rents go down, it is not great for landlords, but it creates opportunities for new entrants to come in with lower overheads and produce food for the country. There is a problem with the BPS scheme, which has inflated rents and made it difficult for entrepreneurs to get on to the land and make a sensible living.

Amendment 108, which was also tabled by the shadow Minister, puts explicit timescales on payments. I understand the frustration of many hon. Members who have had farmers coming to them in recent years and complaining that they have been unable to get the payment. We address the issue in a number of ways. First, under retained EU law, the existing timescales already set out in EU law would come across. I know that farmers will generally take the view that unless they are paid in December their BPS payment is late. In fact, the payment window opens at the beginning of December and closes in June, so there is quite a wide payment window under EU law. That will come across through retained EU law, but we have made some improvements in recent years in terms of getting money to farmers as quickly as possible. Last year more than 90% got to farmers by the end of December.