Consultation on administration

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 20th November 2018.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:30 pm, 20th November 2018

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This is an important juncture in our consideration of the Bill, and it is probably going to be the most popular part, as we are giving the opportunity to those who wish to be consulted to get rid of the Rural Payments Agency.

It does not have to be that way. We could have a revitalised and reinvigorated payments agency, but a new agency this will have to be, because it will be doing fundamentally different things, and sadly the legacy that the RPA leaves is not necessarily a satisfactory one. That is nothing to do with this Government; previous Governments are responsible too. In my previous incarnation, we spent a lot of time on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee trying to sort out how the hell we got into such a mess over the area payments scheme involving Accenture and the computer system that was brought in. It was an unmitigated disaster, because it cost millions more and never did what it was supposed to do. We had to drag the chief executive, Johnston McNeill, back from Belfast, where he had managed to hide for a period of time, to get some clarity on why the agency got itself into such a mess. That is history. My dear late lamented friend David Taylor did an enormous amount of work on the computer system, and we were indebted to him for that work on the Select Committee. I just make the point that we are asking the new agency to do fundamentally different work.