Producer and interbranch organisations etc: application for recognition

Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 13th November 2018.

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Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 57, in clause 22, page 17, line 5, leave out “to the Secretary of State”.

Amendment 58, in clause 22, page 17, line 13, leave out “to the Secretary of State”.

Amendment 59, in clause 22, page 17, line 31, at end insert—

‘( ) An application under subsection (1), (3) or (5) is to be made to and determined by—

(a) the appropriate authority for the part of the United Kingdom in which the applicant has its registered office or principal place of business, or

(b) where the applicant is made up of producers, producer organisations or, as the case may be, businesses operating in more than one part of the United Kingdom, the appropriate authority for any of those parts.”

This amendment would require organisations of agricultural producers, associations of recognised producer organisations, and organisations of agricultural businesses to apply for recognition to the appropriate authority in the country of the UK where the applicant is principally based.

Amendment 60, in clause 22, page 17, line 38, leave out “The Secretary of State” and insert

“The appropriate authority to which an application is made under this section”.

Amendment 61, in clause 22, page 18, line 5, at end insert—

““appropriate authority” means—

(a) in relation to England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the Secretary of State,

(b) in relation to Scotland, the Scottish Ministers;”.

Amendment 62, in clause 23, page 18, line 30, leave out “the Secretary of State” and insert “an appropriate authority (within the meaning given in section 22(11))”.

This amendment would require the delegation of functions to require permission from the appropriate authority (as set out in amendment 61).

Amendment 63, in clause 24, page 18, line 37, leave out “the Secretary of State” and insert “an appropriate authority (within the meaning given in section 22(11))”.

This amendment would allow regulations to give the power to delegate functions to an appropriate authority (as set out in amendment 61)

Amendment 64, in clause 24, page 19, line 5, at end insert—

‘( ) Regulations under section 22 or 23 containing provision that extends to Scotland may be made only with the consent of the Scottish Ministers.”

This amendment would ensure that regulations under section 22 or 23 containing provision that extend to Scotland may be made only with the consent of Scottish Ministers.

New clause 5—Quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs—

‘(1) Subsection (2) applies to any function of the Secretary of State under—

(a) Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs (“the EU Regulation”),

(b) the delegated and implementing Regulations,

(c) any regulations made by the Secretary of State under the EU Regulation, and

(d) any regulations made under section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972 relating to the enforcement of the EU Regulation or the delegated and implementing Regulations.

(2) The Secretary of State may exercise the function only with the consent of the Scottish Ministers.

(3) In subsection (1), the “delegated and implementing Regulations” means—

(a) Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 664/2014 supplementing the EU Regulation with regard to the establishment of Union symbols for protected designations of origin, protected geographical indications and traditional specialities guaranteed and with regard to certain rules on sourcing, certain procedural rules and certain additional transitional rules,

(b) Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) No 665/2014 supplementing the EU Regulation with regard to conditions of use of the quality term “mountain product”, and

(c) Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 668/2014 laying down rules for the application of the EU Regulation.

(4) The references in subsection (1) to the EU Regulation and the delegated and implementing Regulations are to those instruments—

(a) as they have effect in domestic law by virtue of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, and

(b) as amended from time to time whether by virtue of that Act or otherwise.”

This clause relates to the replacement of current EU Geographical Indicators in future UK legislation. It requires that the exercise of relevant functions conferred on the Secretary of State in this area including in relation to its enforcement, should be subject to the consent of Scottish Ministers.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

I still consider the lack of focus on food production a fundamental flaw of the Bill. It is a serious omission at a time when food security has become a major concern. Farmers already have a very clear interest in protecting the environment, and the sensible approach to supporting those endeavours would surely be along the lines of the work that the Soil Association is already doing in Scotland with the support of the Scottish Government: education and exampling to encourage more productive but environmentally friendly farming. I urge hon. Members to look at Future Farming Scotland, Farming with Nature and the Rural Innovation Support Service—three excellent programmes from the Soil Association to improve farming in Scotland that are far more effective than asking farmers to fill in more forms to show environmental progress.

It would be easier for larger enterprises to do that form-filling and comply with the rules for gaining that cash than it would be for small farms, and potentially easier for grouse moors and stalking estates to access funding than for small family-run farms producing foods for local markets. That offsets any possible benefits of so-called public goods. As food miles grow, the environmental benefits surely diminish, and, similarly, as the air miles and road miles of shooting enthusiasts grow, any environmental benefit from proper management of shooting estates and grouse moors vanishes, and perhaps even turns negative.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

I represent a very large moorland area on the north Yorkshire moors. Does the hon. Lady not agree that the management by keepers and shooting estates maintains the delicate environment for the benefit not only of the sheep and grouse that graze, but of the people who enjoy those areas?

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

Management is certainly an important aspect, but as the air and road miles of shooting enthusiasts increase, so the environmental benefit of the proper management of shooting estates and grouse moors vanishes and can even turn negative.

I would argue that smaller enterprises providing produce for local consumption start from a more environmentally friendly base, and it makes sense to encourage them rather than larger interests. With respect to the Bill and agriculture in general, we in the Scottish National party see farms and land management as vital to rural communities, as well as being primary producers—that is especially true of crofters. The community cohesion function becomes even more important as communities become more remote. Hon. Members from across some areas of England and Wales will of course have examples to offer, but Scotland is a very different place, particularly when one heads into the Highlands, into the far north, or on to the islands, where farming is by no means an easy living and where there is a different culture and calendar to farming, and markedly different outcomes. Scotland is different and requires a different framework in which to operate.

I quote the evidence given by the National Farmers Union Scotland to the Scottish Affairs Committee recently. It said that

“significant elements of the Agriculture Bill are clearly about policy and policy delivery in England, and they would give us significant cause for concern if they were to be applied in Scotland. Quite simply, Scotland’s agricultural landscape is very different from that of England and much of the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why we must have agricultural policy delivered in a devolved capacity. There is clearly a trajectory within DEFRA England’s policy thinking that it wants to phase out direct support payments over a seven-year period and replace them with a public support for public goods approach, and that is clear within the Bill. Now, if you took that very distinct and very clear ‘first and fast’ approach in Scotland….that would be extremely detrimental, in many senses, to huge tracts of Scottish agriculture.”

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

The unique beauty of Scotland is clear for everybody to see and a precious resource within the United Kingdom, but I fail to understand how the hon. Lady can argue that that uniqueness means that Scotland needs bespoke policies and devolution, while, at the same time, her party wishes to adhere to the common agricultural policy and the common fisheries policy by remaining a part of the European Union, given that there is no opportunity for bespoke policies within the EU.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

All four Administrations of the UK take very different approaches to CAP implementation, and there has been no impact on, say, the internal market as a result. I would have thought the hon. Member would be clear on the SNP’s policy regarding the CFP. It is not our proposal to continue with the CFP as it is. We have long called for its reform. That is on the record and has been the case for years. The damage to Scotland would be immense, because 85% of Scotland’s farmland is less favoured area land. Scotland needs a different framework from England.

The most sensible solution is to hand over the responsibility and cash to Holyrood and let it work it out. Powers in areas already devolved should not be re-reserved. As the influence of Brussels wanes—potentially—so Edinburgh’s should become more prominent.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian 3:30 pm, 13th November 2018

Just for clarity, NFU Scotland has indicated it feels there is a lot of politicking going on between the Scottish Government and the Westminster Government over the Bill.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

There are significant areas of dispute between the two Governments; it is not politicking. We are hearing from NFU Scotland that there are issues it would like to see pursued by both Governments—I am quite prepared to acknowledge that it is both Governments—and I will be raising some of those points later.

Photo of Chris Davies Chris Davies Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire

The hon. Lady’s description of Scotland could have been mistaken for a description of Wales—only Wales is a bit more beautiful perhaps. Is it not important for Scotland to align itself with Wales and support the Bill?

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

It has been said before that Wales has a different approach to the Bill. Of course, it is up to the Welsh Labour Government to choose to have a schedule inserted, but Wales voted to leave, and that puts a different spin on the Welsh Government’s approach.

Photo of Colin Clark Colin Clark Conservative, Gordon

The hon. Lady is making a powerful speech, but she spoke about evidence from NFU Scotland, and its evidence is that it wants to see Scotland involved in the Bill. It says the engine is running and that it wants to get on board. In its position statement the other day, it said it would like to see Scotland involved in new clause 3, which we have already debated. Does she not agree that NFU Scotland has been absolutely clear that it would appreciate the Scottish Government either getting on board with the Bill or legislating in Holyrood? It has clearly said the engine is running on the Bill. Does she agree that the Scottish Government should get on board?

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

No, I do not in this instance. The hon. Gentleman is one of those who tried to table an amendment to schedule 3 last week. That demonstrates the vulnerability of inserting a schedule into the Bill. It would potentially allow a Member who is not even a member of the Government to alter something and control the Welsh Government’s ability to make payments to whoever they wish under that schedule. It is quite amusing, therefore, that he makes that contribution.

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union)

I am trying to understand this. As I understand it, the Welsh Government put forward a schedule that one could call a power grab—they have helped themselves to some quite nice powers here—and the Government accepted it. I cannot see any attempt to amend the schedule getting anywhere, so I am not sure what lies behind the hon. Lady’s reluctance to submit a schedule.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

We do not need a schedule inserted into the Bill. We do not need anyone to legislate for us on devolved matters. We have been producing our own legislation in such areas since 1999, when there was devolution to the Scottish Parliament. In terms of rushing into making legislation, I would have thought the hon. Lady would share my concerns about the views expressed by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee in the House of Lords on the Bill. It clearly demonstrates what happens when we rush into making legislation. The Scottish Government knows that it does not legally have to do it. They would much rather take their time, consult all the necessary organisations within the sector and arrive at stability and simplicity, which is of course the name of our document.

Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion

My hon. Friend is making a very important point, which is perhaps best illustrated by the fact that the Welsh Government themselves have concerns about the schedule that they are trying to address, which they must do through this Committee, over which they have no direct control.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

That is a perfect point and well illustrates my point, so I thank the hon. Gentleman for his remarks.

I have already commented, in my reference to the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire, on the difficulties with thinking that a schedule to a Westminster Bill will protect devolved interests. The amendment I referred to came not from the Welsh Government or the UK Government, but from three Back-Bench MPs, so relying on a schedule for absolute protection is trusting to luck.

Although the Bill extends to Scotland in great part, it does little that would support Scottish agriculture. I will seek to amend and improve it where I can—much of it so far has been subject to the English votes for English laws process, meaning that I am unable to vote on it—but there is no amendment that will make it completely fit for purpose for Scotland. That will be a running issue in Scottish farming and for all the support mechanisms devolved to Holyrood. The flexibility of the EU support mechanisms gave some room for manoeuvre to allow support for Scotland’s farmers, but that is missing in the Bill, and I expect that Members representing parts of England are also a little concerned about that apparent rigidity. It will not come as any surprise that the Scottish National party would far rather all responsibility and power for managing Scottish agriculture rest in Scotland, but we are here and I will be looking to improve the Bill where I can. We will be back for the rest.

I turn to clause 22 and new clause 5 and amendments 56 to 64. The clause strays into devolved territory and could do with a bit of tidying up, just to save DEFRA Ministers having to deal with Scottish issues down the line, which would be tiresome for them. Amendments 56 to 64 would amend clause 22 to require that applications for recognition of producer organisations be made to the appropriate Administration. In other words, an organisation operating in Scotland would make its pitch to the Scottish Government, rather than leaving DEFRA to deal with it. That would save work for DEFRA officials and Ministers, but also has the virtue of respecting the devolution settlement.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Conservative, North Dorset

This is a slightly philosophical point, which I think all members of the Committee, with the exception of the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Ceredigion, will get. It would be a travesty to suggest that Ministers of the Crown or indeed this Westminster Parliament would find dealing with anything in Scotland tiresome or a nuisance. We are unionist parties that believe in the strength of the United Kingdom. The hon. Lady can make her point, but we will not be flippant with her nationalism, and she should not be flippant with our unionism.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. That is a debating point; it has nothing to do with the amendment before us.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

Thank you, Sir Roger.

Passing the amendments would kill two birds with one stone, relieving UK Ministers of a burden and going some way to show that the devolution settlement can be respected in legislation passed here, which I would argue is a fairly important point.

Under new clause 5, protected geographical indicators would continue to have the input of Scottish Ministers. There is currently no provision in the Bill for PGIs, but they are vital for Scottish goods. In the evidence sessions on the Bill and in evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee, on which I sit, we have heard time and again about the importance of PGIs, for a whole rack of goods, including those from various parts of England and Wales, and I think—I would have to double-check—Northern Ireland. A while back, a Minister suggested that PGIs could be bargained away to get a trade deal, which is a real worry for producers and exporters. The proposed new clause would ensure that Scottish Ministers get a say in any new scheme for PGIs, in order to protect Scotland’s unique place in the market.

While I am in full flow, I will address the Government’s amendments. I have concerns about amendments 9 and 11, in that they seem to dilute the purpose of a producer organisation and invite disparate entities to form one. That might also encroach on devolved areas, and I ask the Minister not to press it for those reasons.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian

On that point—before we leave the question of recognised producer organisations—the Government’s wording certainly seems loose. Does the hon. Lady envisage a producer organisation that could cross the boundaries of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

That is certainly possible, and my proposal would allow for that possibility. Amendment 10 is odd; it is not clear why there should be no legal form defined for an entity in legislation. I hope the Minister can clarify.

Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I will be brief because it is important to hear from the Minister. This is one of the real issues with the Bill. We have no schedule for Scotland; we do have a schedule for Northern Ireland, and I visited there last week to get some clarity on what they think it implies for Northern Ireland’s participation in the Act. Officials were clear that they see the schedule as a political decision-making requirement. As there is no Government in Belfast at the moment, they feel it inappropriate to support the Bill as it stands. They feel strongly that the current direct payment system will remain in place—they want their £300 million, by the way, Minister.

The Bill is very interesting, but, effectively, it is a Bill only for England and Wales. It is not a Bill for Scotland or Northern Ireland, yet these things are under the aegis of a Bill for the United Kingdom. It is a funny Bill, with two parts of the United Kingdom not participating in it.

Now, it might be a case of the officials misunderstanding. Clearly, we could move to direct rule, and the Government would then have to take decisions. I thought I had better check with the Democratic Unionist party spokesperson on agriculture. He reaffirmed that the DUP does not support the movement towards an environmental approach and it will, in due course, vote against it. The DUP believes that direct payment should stay in place as the only way for farmers in Northern Ireland to be secure. Having also visited the Republic, I am not sure that it will move, even though the CAP is up for redesign at the moment. There are indications that it will move towards environmental payments, but it is not there yet.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith’s point is interesting, to put it mildly. I am unclear where the Bill stands as a United Kingdom Bill. To me, it is very unclear. The devolution settlement means that, effectively, Scotland and Northern Ireland can do their own things, because agriculture is a devolved matter. If it were not a devolved matter, we would be discussing the agriculture policy of the United Kingdom. However, we cannot and we will not, and we might get a nasty shock when we come to final votes on the legislation.

There may be some interesting alliances, because I do not think we have understood the degree of the problem. I will make some more points on this when we reach schedule 4. I am laying down what I think is a very big dilemma. We have assumed that when this Bill becomes the Agriculture Act it will carry the four countries. I do not think it will. It will not carry Scotland, and it is increasingly evident that Northern Ireland will not be carried. I would welcome the Minister’s response to that. How does he intend to overcome that huge hurdle?

Photo of Jenny Chapman Jenny Chapman Shadow Minister (Exiting the European Union) 3:45 pm, 13th November 2018

I will not say very much; I just want to echo some of my hon. Friend’s points. I was involved with the withdrawal Act, and today I have been reading the latest common frameworks document, which was released earlier today. A lot of it is about agriculture and the progress that has been made on agreeing frameworks for the UK after we leave the EU. It says:

“Further detail on the specific arrangements that are subject to ongoing discussion in relation to agricultural support is available online.”

Unfortunately, the detail is not in that document, so I have not had a chance to look at it. It is important for the Minister to indicate where the Government are at with this to inform how we proceed on these issues.

I have a few more questions about that. Our deliberations about devolution issues took place on the Floor of the House, so many hon. Members here might have taken part in them. Devolution is very contentious and important, and every now and again it is used to make points not directly related to the issues under consideration. I have a few questions about how the amendments might work and what the Minister thinks of them, because I have some concerns about them.

The Labour party is fairly relaxed about the approach set out in amendment 59. We can see the logic behind it, but we would like to ask the Minister and the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith how they see it fitting with the ongoing negotiations about the establishment of common UK frameworks. That is the document that I have just referred to. Where are we? This is a moving thing, and the Minister is asking us to make decisions about a process that is still incomplete.

Amendment 60 works in conjunction with amendment 59, and seeks to remove the role of the Secretary of State and replace him with

“the appropriate authority to which an application is made under this section.”

I assume that it is consequential, given that amendment 59 seeks to redesign the process by which an application is made. Again, we are reasonably relaxed about that.

Amendments 60 and 61 seek to ensure that Scottish Ministers have the ability to grant consent to applications made to become a recognised producer organisation. What effect do the Minister and the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith see that having in practice? How would it actually work? The Labour party is not stuck on this; we do not mind it. In truth, and I hope the hon. Lady does not take this the wrong way—I say this as a neutral observer representing a town in the north-east—these amendments look a little like politicking, rather than serving a true purpose. Can she assure me about what impact the amendments would have on the capacity of Scottish Ministers to process applications?

Amendment 64 is unfortunately a bit problematic, as it goes further than the devolution settlement currently allows. I am not trying to be provocative. I do not want to get into somebody else’s fight. The sticking point, if I have understood the amendment correctly, is that it seeks to ensure that the consent of Scottish Ministers is required for all regulations under sections 22 and 23, which extend to Scotland. As I understand it currently, the devolution settlement from the Scotland Act 2016 says that Westminster will not normally legislate in areas where the Scottish Parliament has competence. Admittedly, the Government have not shown great respect for that principle with the passage of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and, as noted previously, this is not an area where the Scottish Parliament or Scottish Ministers currently exercise competence. If that is correct, the amendment would go further than the devolution settlement does at the moment.

The word “veto” has been overused in these debates in the past, but given the contentious relationship—if I can put it that way—between the UK Government and the Scottish Government at the moment, I am raising a concern and would be interested to hear what others feel about this. Were amendment 64 to be agreed, the Scottish Government could refuse to grant consent for provisions that relate to Scotland, which would be in the vast majority, given that the amendment covers the UK as a whole. Then we could be in a constitutional deadlock, which is not something that anybody wants to see. This process is all about avoiding that.

Officials in the Scottish Parliament are quite clear that they are committed to not diverging in ways that would cut across future frameworks and they agree that this is a necessary approach to take. I do not want to see anything that we might agree here interfering with other processes. The important people in all this are the Scottish farmers and producers, and I cannot help thinking that they would be looking at this and wondering where they stand.

I would like the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith to clarify whether this amendment is seen as consequential to the others that she has tabled, as this is not an area where the Scottish Parliament or the Scottish Government have jurisdiction, and therefore consent would not currently be required when regulations are made. I am not trying to be provocative or to insert myself in the middle of an argument between the Government and the Scottish Government, but we need to be mindful of the potential impact that any row might have on the lack of support for producers in Scotland, because they need to come first.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

Order. I will call the hon. Gentleman in a moment. Before we go too far down this road, I am wrestling with what is and is not in order in connection with this group of amendments. The hon. Gentleman leading for the Opposition indicated he wanted the Minister to illustrate whether this embraced the four corners of the United Kingdom. That is not strictly in the context of these amendments. The hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith went a bit further down the same route.

Clause 34 covers the extent of the Bill. That is probably the appropriate moment to raise this issue and for the Minister to respond. If the Minister could forget that he heard a lot of what was said in the last 10 minutes or so, that might facilitate the response. The last thing the Chair ever wants to do is curtail debate, particularly about important subjects. This is an important issue, and I understand that. However, I do not think this is the right place for this particular line of discussion. If we could stick to the amendments before us, we might all make a little more progress.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian

On a point of order, Sir Roger. I would like an indication from you, following your determination, about the references in the amendment to the removal of the Secretary of State and the insertion of Scottish Ministers. Part of what I struggle with is whether that would extend Scottish Ministers’ powers to have an effect on England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

That is a very fair point, and I have been struggling with that as well, trying to decide how far we allow the debate to go down that road. I ask colleagues to exercise a degree of restraint, because there will be an opportunity to discuss the extent of the Bill later, on clause 34.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Conservative, Scarborough and Whitby

During the comments by hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith at the start of this short debate, the point was quite rightly made that nobody here is representing Northern Ireland, so I rise to speak as a member of the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs. She asked if there were cases of protected geographical status in Northern Ireland, which indeed there are: Lough Neagh eels, Irish whisky, Comber early potatoes and Armagh Bramley apples. Indeed, there is also an all-Ireland protected status—there is no reason why that should not continue after we have left the European Union—for salmon.

My point is that, although we have no Government active in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs—DAERA, Northern Ireland’s equivalent of DEFRA—is engaged in a consultation on these issues. It is grappling with the challenges that need to be faced, whereas the Scottish Government seem to be pretending that this will not happen and are not engaging with it at the level they should be.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian

Aware of your earlier comments, Sir Roger, I shall be relatively brief. I rise merely by way of seeking an indication, or an answer to my question, from the Minister, or indeed the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith, who moved the amendment, if they find chance to do so. I reiterate what NFU Scotland asked for, which is that the Governments on both sides of the border should sit down, discuss this and sort it out. That is what should happen. It is not a case for politicking. As my hon. Friend the Member for Darlington said, stuck in the middle is a very important industry in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The agricultural industry is desperate for certainty and understanding, and needs it sooner rather than later.

On the amendments, will the Minister confirm the evidence that he gave to the Scottish Affairs Committee? Some elements clearly affect the devolved settlement. With the greatest respect, more attention should have been paid to the consequences of that earlier.

I am concerned about the question of recognised producer organisations that cross the borders of the four nations. Yes, the amendment takes account of that, but there is the question of what happens if there is an argument about certification. If one side says yes and the other says no, who will take precedence?

The other point I want to make is about Government amendment 10. What sort of legal entity does the Minister envisage? Is it, or might it be, a collection of simple individuals? In that case, the Government might it challenging to find a legal entity to pass down those rights.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Following your steer, Sir Roger, I will reserve wider discussion of the scope of the Bill, or parts of it, for a later debate.

Amendments 56 to 64 are all linked, and many are the same. In essence, they would all delete references to the Secretary of State and instead insert “relevant authority”. I appreciate that behind this whole group of amendments is a belief, put forward by the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith, that this is a devolved and not a reserved matter. I want to explain to her why we are very clear that that interpretation is incorrect and potentially based on a misunderstanding.

We have to look at the context of the clause, where we are recognising producer organisations. What are we recognising, and why are we recognising them? In this context, it is for one purpose only, which links to clause 23, which we will come to: we are recognising producer and inter-branch organisations in order to make them exempt from elements of competition law. It is incontrovertibly the fact that competition law is a reserved matter. That is absolutely the case. Clause 23 points to schedule 2 to the Bill, which amends schedule 3 to the Competition Act 1998 in a way that is advantageous to organisations that are recognised under the provisions of clause 22. Clauses 22 and 23 are fully reserved because they relate directly to competition law.

Some of the misunderstanding arises because of the possibility for joint ventures, or groups of farms or bodies coming together, to qualify for grant aid from the Scottish Government, if they put in the right legislation in future. Under clause 1(1), the UK Government for English farmers, or the Welsh Government for Welsh farmers, will be able to give a grant to a co-operative group of people who have come together. They have the power to do so. However, the power to recognise a producer organisation in this context for the purpose of exempting it from competition law must be done UK-wide because it is a reserved matter.

New clause 5 introduces a new area of debate around geographical indicators. Again, this is incontrovertibly a reserved area. Decisions about geographical indicator designations are reserved. Currently, under the existing system, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs already processes and assesses all applications, whether for Armagh Bramley apples or any of the Scottish designations, such as Scotch beef. DEFRA is responsible for processing those applications and assessing them. DEFRA currently makes a recommendation to the EU, which by and large will rubber-stamp the application, based on DEFRA’s judgment.

It is already the case that DEFRA, on behalf of the UK, leads in the GI process within our membership of the EU. As we leave the EU, it will be absolutely right that the UK Government should perform that function of recognising and designating a geographical indicator. None of this prevents the devolved Administrations from having a role in supporting and giving advice to companies that want to make an application for a GI. However, we believe beyond doubt that it is a UK Government responsibility.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian 4:00 pm, 13th November 2018

Could that work not be done within Wales or Scotland for the UK Government to rubber-stamp, much as the Minister has indicated the European Union do at the moment?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

That is broadly what would happen, and it is quite possible that the Scottish Government, Northern Ireland Administration and Welsh Government will already sometimes be involved in giving advice or supporting individuals who want to bring forward those designations. However, the assessment and designation of them has to be done by the UK.

I hope that, having been given this clear explanation as to why clauses 22 and 23 are reserved, the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith will accept that there has perhaps been a misunderstanding about the difference between the ability to award grants and the process of recognition for the purposes of an exemption from competition law, which is reserved, and will withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

I am sorry to disappoint the Minister but I will be calling for a vote. We believe part 6 and clauses 22 to 24 in particular require the Scottish Parliament’s consent as they are for a devolved purpose, namely the promotion of an effective agricultural market. The fact that in order to do this it is necessary to exempt producer organisations from the Competition Act 1998 regime does not mean that the provisions relate to competition law. Their purpose is not to regulate anti-competitive agreements, which is the precise element that is reserved. I am afraid we have to disagree with the Minister on that.

I understand that new clause 5 will be voted on later, but I want to tackle one thing. I did not realise that some of these things will be discussed when we look at new clause 34 later.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

Sorry, clause 34. I will leave the hon. Member for Darlington to speak to that. The hon. Member for East Lothian attempted to suggest, perhaps inadvertently, that the Scottish Government is relaxed about what happens to farmers in Scotland later on. The Scottish Government were the first in the UK to come out with a consultation paper “Stability and Simplicity” to provide some certainty for their farmers. We are very clear that things can continue as they are after 29 March and there is no need for the schedule in the Bill that some have called for.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian

That is not what I was suggesting. I was merely pointing out that NFU Scotland feels that both Governments are politicking on the Bill.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

Perhaps I misunderstood his intention, so I appreciate his correction. Sir Roger, I feel that the amendments in my name stand or fall together. If I pressed amendment 56 to a vote as the lead amendment, is it right that the rest of the amendments would follow that?

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

The system is fairly clear. We deal with the lead amendment, which is amendment 56. It is up to the hon. Lady, in discussion with the Chair, whether she moves any of the other amendments. I advise her that if amendment 56 falls, most of the others will fall. However, I noticed while she was speaking that the hon. Member for Darlington indicated an interest in amendment 59. I am unclear whether the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith or anyone else wishes to move that amendment, but that is separate from the other sequence. Let us take the amendment that has been moved first, and perhaps the hon. Lady can have a quick think about what she would like to do after that. Does she wish to press amendment 56 to a vote?

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 2, Noes 10.

Division number 12 Decision Time — Producer and interbranch organisations etc: application for recognition

Aye: 2 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

By virtue of the arcane process we follow there is a sequence and the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith is not in it at the moment, because we must move on to Government amendments 9, 10 and 11. After that, I will return to the hon. Lady if she decides she wants to move any of her other amendments.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I beg to move amendment 9, in clause 22, page 16, line 33, leave out “a single agricultural sector” and insert “one or more agricultural sectors”.

This amendment changes one of the conditions for applying to become a recognised producer organisation so that the condition is met if each member of the organisation is an agricultural producer operating in any one or more of the agricultural sectors listed in Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Bill (rather than each member being required to operate in the same sector).

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

With this it will be convenient to discuss Government amendments 10 and 11.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

All three amendments relate to trying to reduce some of the burdens that existing producer organisations have mentioned to us, and restrictions that they regard as unnecessary. Some of the EU rules on which we modelled the initial clauses, for instance, require all producers to be from a single agricultural sector, when actually we think there may be circumstances where groups of producers want to come together that span more than one sector. We think that is an unnecessary restriction that does not achieve anything.

In amendment 10, we propose to delete paragraph (d) from clause 22(2) in its entirety, so that a body corporate with legal personality is not necessary; we believe that to recognise a producer organisation there may be other models, including joint venture arrangements, that may stop short of being a body corporate. Again, we do not believe that that requirement is necessary; some might choose to do it but we think there should not be a requirement on them, and that they could convene themselves in other ways. Amendment 11 is linked to amendment 9 and also removes the reference to a “single agricultural sector” to allow there to be members from more than one sector.

On the EU fruit and veg regime in particular, we have had issues with Angus Growers in Scotland and with other producers in England too. Although fruit and veg producers welcome the grant support that they get through the fruit and veg producer organisation regime, many of them tell us that there are lots of problems with it. We frequently end up in litigation with the European Union because of poor or imprecise drafting or requirements that serve little purpose. The feedback from the people who have to deal with the schemes is that we should take the opportunity to sort it out, declutter it and make sure we have an equivalent scheme to offer them the support that they want, but with some of the frustrations removed. That is one part of what the Government amendments seek to achieve.

Photo of Martin Whitfield Martin Whitfield Labour, East Lothian

Referring to my earlier point, does the Minister envisage the recognised producer organisations being made up of people from different legal entities? If so, how will he ensure the appropriate payment with regard to some bodies that will not be pursuable and some that will?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

There are lots of other conditions. Subsection (2)(e) requires that the constitution of the organisation meets certain requirements. There are other such provisions as well, so we do not have to define them as a body corporate in law in order to have express conditions that mean they would all be jointly and severally liable were something to go wrong.

Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian has covered one of the points that I was going to raise. Can the Minister give us some examples of the actual changes that mean that he sees the amendment as necessary? I think I understood the original way in which it was placed in the clause, but what representations has he received, apart from the one he mentions? Are we changing the legislation because of one piece of representation or have others come up with cogent points for a necessary change?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I can tell the hon. Gentleman about that. I have had experience of the EU scheme in the past and there have been instances where, for instance, some growers have said to me that they would like to come together for a purpose other than just marketing, and they would like the freedom to be able to do that. That is quite restricted in the new scheme. On the amendments, the representations came from Co-operatives UK. After we published the Bill the co-ops told us that some of the provisions were unnecessarily restrictive and might stop some of their members from being able to have a recognised body for the purposes of clause 23, so we responded to those representations, which made salient points, and we were happy to acknowledge them and table the amendments.

Amendment 9 agreed to.

Amendment made: 10, in clause 22, page 16, line 39, leave out paragraph (d).—(George Eustice.)

This amendment removes the condition for applying to become a recognised producer organisation relating to the legal form of the organisation.

Photo of Roger Gale Roger Gale Conservative, North Thanet

In sequence, amendment 57 is effectively the same as 56, 58 and 60, so I am not minded to call those. However, once we have disposed of amendment 11, which will be the next item on the agenda, if the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith wishes to move either 59 or 61, which are different, I am prepared to allow that. So we will proceed on that basis.

Amendment made: 11, in clause 22, page 17, line 9, leave out “a single agricultural sector” and insert

“one or more agricultural sectors”.—(George Eustice.)

This amendment changes one of the conditions for applying to become a recognised association of producer organisations so that the condition is met if each member of the association is a recognised producer organisation operating in any one or more of the agricultural sectors listed in Part 2 of Schedule 1 to the Bill (rather than each member being required to operate in the same sector).

Amendment proposed: 59, in clause 22, page 17, line 31, at end insert—

“( ) An application under subsection (1), (3) or (5) is to be made to and determined by—

(a) the appropriate authority for the part of the United Kingdom in which the applicant has its registered office or principal place of business, or

(b) where the applicant is made up of producers, producer organisations or, as the case may be, businesses operating in more than one part of the United Kingdom, the appropriate authority for any of those parts.”—

This amendment would require organisations of agricultural producers, associations of recognised producer organisations, and organisations of agricultural businesses to apply for recognition to the appropriate authority in the country of the UK where the applicant is principally based.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

The Committee divided:

Ayes 2, Noes 10.

Division number 13 Decision Time — Producer and interbranch organisations etc: application for recognition

Aye: 2 MPs

No: 10 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 22, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 1