Power to make consequential etc provision

Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 15th November 2018.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Phil Wilson Phil Wilson Labour, Sedgefield

Did you want to speak, Dr Drew? If you stood up I would be able to see you.

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

I am tired, Mr Wilson, but I will not make a habit of it. I want to make a brief point that will no doubt be picked up in the other place. The clause contains a Henry VIII power, of which there are a number in the Bill, as the Lords Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee clearly pointed out.

We will not oppose the clause, but it puts the onus on and gives enormous opportunities to whichever Government choose to use it to make subsequent changes to the legislation. Given that we are coming to the end of the part of the Bill that lays down that legislation, we have concerns about the number of Henry VIII clauses that the Government could bring into play. That will not necessarily be this Government; it could be a subsequent Government.

The Lords, which I am sure will look at this in great detail, might cast some aspersions about the degree to which the Government have tried to get away with giving future Administrations a real opportunity to make dramatic changes using secondary legislation. Those changes should really require primary legislation, which is what we are here to administer, encourage and scrutinise. It should be clear that primary legislation in areas as important as agriculture should be the dominant driver for whatever changes we make. The Minister may care to defend the number of Henry VIII clauses in the Bill.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:45 pm, 15th November 2018

I want to give the hon. Gentleman some reassurance about clause 32. It is a fairly standard inclusion in many Bills, and it is clear from subsection (1) that it is about consequential changes. In particular, that subsection talks about

“provision or savings in connection with any provision of this Act.”

If a change were made to the administration of a pillar 2 countryside stewardship scheme, and that affected a scheme that had been entered into under a previous body of law, the Government might want to be able to make consequential amendments as a result—to be able to pay the final year of a countryside stewardship agreement, for instance. Those are the kinds of changes we are talking about. It is difficult to predict when the Government might need to use that power, but it is to be used in a very narrow set of circumstances—for those savings provisions, effectively—just to ensure that we can tidy up loose ends. It is not to be used to make, or change, policy. It is very clear that these amendments are consequential to other provisions that have already been debated.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 32 accordingly ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 33