Examination of Witnesses

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:13 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Judicaelle Hammond:

The main one, as I said—I will not labour the point—is the delay in the start of the transition. It also seems to us that a couple of other things would be improved if they were done differently. For example, the multi-annual framework for financial assistance is five years. I can see why it has been done like that, but that means that it is at risk of being entangled with the political and election cycles. As far as I know, farmers in the EU—which is going to be our closest competitor—will still have seven years to plan. That is closer to the business cycle in agriculture, so we would favour lengthening the period covered by the multi-annual financial assistance framework.

The other thing that could be added to the Bill is a provision on rural development and, in particular, socioeconomic funding schemes. In the new world, that is going to be done via the UK shared prosperity fund, but that is not due to arrive until 2022 at the earliest. What would happen if that got delayed, or got into other difficulties? We would like to see some provision to make sure that it is possible for Government to continue socioeconomic schemes.

Those are two important improvements. We would also want to make sure that any moneys that are recouped from direct payment, particularly in the early part of the transitions, are used for productivity and ELMS pilots and do not go back to the Treasury.