Examination of Witnesses

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

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George Dunn:

We agree on the issue of trade standards. We think we need to nail that wholly into the Bill to ensure that we are not undercutting our high standards here and offshoring our issues abroad.

While there have been some helpful statements from the Government, we are concerned about some of the rhetoric that appears to be emerging, particularly from the Prime Minister’s Greenwich speech, where there was an indication that we would not necessarily insist on our laws being protected in trade deals, which is rather worrying. Of course we were also promised free and frictionless trade with the EU on leaving the European Union, but we hear the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster saying today that we need to prepare for issues at the border when we end our implementation period.

On the fair dealing section of the Bill, we should nail down the fact that that should be regulated by the Groceries Code Adjudicator. The Bill leaves it hanging as to who should be the regulator. There is a suggestion that the Rural Payments Agency has a role to play; I would disagree. As the CLA has said, we need a delay in the transition period by one year, which will give us sufficient time to think about these things more deeply.

The access for tenants to schemes needs to be addressed, because schedule 3 to the Bill provides a provision only on a “may” basis. We want it to be a “must” basis that the authorities come forward with regulations. Currently, that applies only to the 1986 Act tenants, not the 1995 Act tenants. As that is half the tenanted sector in agriculture in England, we think that should be changed.

On the food security section, we want the report to be annual, not five yearly. Finally, in the financial assistance plans, the missing thing is the word “financial”. There is no commitment to say what the finances are going to be in any one year over the five-year period. That needs to be nailed into those plans as well.