Agriculture Bill: call for written evidence by the Public Bill Committee by November 20

Call for written evidence: Agriculture Bill

This about the Public Bill Committee scrutiny of the Bill.
“The Committee is expected to meet for the first time on Tuesday 23 October 2018; it will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage, which is expected to be not later than 5.00pm on Tuesday 20 November 2018. However, please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Tuesday 20 November 2018.[1]

Aims of the Bill
The Agriculture Bill provides for a range of enabling powers to ensure “stability” for farmers as the UK exits from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and compliance with the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture. It also introduces new measures to change the way in which farmers and land managers are supported in the longer term.

It is the first substantial Brexit Bill in a domestic policy area which covers both devolved and reserved matters.

Leaving the CAP

The UK will have to leave the EU Common Agricultural Policy under any Brexit scenario. The body of EU regulation which forms the CAP will become ‘retained EU law’ on Exit Day.

Currently CAP allows for direct payments to farmers (subsidies), rural development payments (including agri-environment schemes) and certain market interventions.

As the UK has been a part of the CAP since 1973 the UK Government and stakeholders have described the Bill as a historic opportunity to radically reshape domestic agricultural policy. The scale of potential change has been compared to the Agriculture Act 1947 which sought to increase food production after the Second World War and introduced higher farming standards.

This 2018 Bill sets out to provide the architecture for most parts of the UK to start to develop their approaches to supporting farm businesses whilst meeting international trading obligations.

Funding

The UK Government has pledged to continue to commit the same cash total in funds (some €4bn per year) for farm support across the UK until the end of this parliament, expected in 2022. It has pledged that “any changes made to agricultural funding would reflect the Government’s aim of securing a better future for UK agriculture and for the environment”.[1]

An enabling Bill

The Bill is an ‘enabling’ Bill containing 25 delegated powers with five of these allowing Ministers to modify primary legislation (Henry VIIIth powers). A Delegated Powers Memorandum and a Defra Policy Statement provide more detail on the powers being sought.

The UK Government has said that the Bill is “a deliberate departure” from the CAP approach. These delegated powers are designed to allow government policy to “evolve” in response to “changing environmental priorities and changing social and economic circumstances”, reduce the bureaucracy of farm support and regulation and to enable the government to respond to the outcomes of EU withdrawal negotiations. This includes a ‘no deal’ scenario.

A UK-wide Bill?

The main body of the Bill applies to England. However, Schedule 3 (Wales) and Schedule 4 (Northern Ireland) extend similar powers to Welsh Ministers and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) so that they can start preparing replacement schemes.

These powers were extended at the request of the Welsh Government and DAERA. However, the Scottish Government has not currently taken up the offer of powers in the Bill as it is in disagreement with the UK Government about its overall approach to repatriating EU powers in devolved areas of competence.

There are no specific Scottish provisions in the Bill. Scotland is however covered by the UK provisions relating to the World Trade Organisation.

What does the Bill do?

‘Public payments for public goods’

·         Part 1 (Clauses 1-3) gives the Secretary of State new powers to provide financial assistance to those managing the land and delivering public benefits such as air and water quality, public access and productivity. (Schedule 3 provides similiar powers for Wales but with more emphasis on rural communities)
Phasing out of Direct Payments

·         To make way for this system, Part 2, Chapter 1 (Clauses 4-8) allows for the phasing out of direct payments (as currently provided for under the Common Agricultural Policy). Schedule 3 provides similiar powers for Wales but there are no phase-out powers for Northern Ireland.
·         Clause 5 determines that, for farmers in England and Wales (Schedule 3) this phase-out is over a 7-year agricultural transition period from 2021 and that no direct payments will be made after 2027.
Potential to ‘delink’ payments from farming requirements

·         Clause 7 sets out powers to phase out Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments and/or terminate them and instead ‘de-link’ them from the requirement to farm during the transition. Clause 7(7) allows for these ‘de-linked’ payments to be made in a lump sum allowing farmers to invest in their business, diversify or retire from farming.
Data Collection

·         Part 3 (Clauses 12-16) includes wide powers, extending to Wales and Northern Ireland, to collect and share data from those involved with/having an impact on, matters linked to certain activities in, the agri-food supply chain. Household consumers are excluded from the requirement.
Market intervention

·         Part 4 of the Bill provides powers to reshape the future interventions that can be made in the market ‘in exceptional circumstances’.
Marketing Standards

·         Part 5 provides powers to tailor and modernise existing marketing standards regarding the quality of agricultural products and product information to customers in England. (This power is extended to Wales and Northern Ireland in Schedules 3 and 4 respectively).
Producer Organisations and Fairness in the Supply Chain

·         Part 6 (Clauses 22-25) aim to strengthen the position of food producers in the supply chain. Measures are included to allow UK Producer Organisation (PO) rules to be introduced in place of EU rules. Clause 25 provides for powers to introduce sector-specific codes. E.g. in areas where voluntary codes have not worked.
World Trade Organisation obligations

·         Part 7 includes provisions to secure compliance with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture. Clause 26 supports UK membership of the WTO and the Agreement on Agriculture by allowing the UK Government to set financial ceilings on the devolved administrations in relation to agricultural support that is considered as trade distorting.
Follow the progress of the Agriculture Bill

The Agriculture Bill 2017-19 (HC Bill 266) was published on 12 September 2018. The Second reading of the Bill in the House of Commons was held on Wednesday 10 October 2018.

Catch up on Parliament News: MPs debate the Agriculture Bill
This Bill has now been committed to a Public Bill Committee and is expected to hold its oral evidence sessions on Tuesday 23 and Thursday 25 October 2018. The Public Bill Committee must conclude by Tuesday 20 November 2018.

Guidance on submitting written evidence

Deadline for written evidence submissions

The Public Bill Committee is now able to receive written evidence. The sooner you send in your submission, the more time the Committee will have to take it into consideration and possibly reflect it in an amendment. The order in which amendments are taken in Committee will be available in due course under Selection of Amendments on the Bill documents pages. Once the Committee has dealt with an amendment it will not revisit it.

The Committee is expected to meet for the first time on Tuesday 23 October 2018; it will stop receiving written evidence at the end of the Committee stage on Tuesday 20 November 2018. Please note that when the Committee concludes its consideration of the Bill it is no longer able to receive written evidence and it can conclude earlier than the expected deadline of 5.00pm on Tuesday 20 November 2018.

What should written evidence cover?

Your submission should address matters contained within the Bill and concentrate on issues where you have a special interest or expertise, and factual information of which you would like the Committee to be aware.

Your submission could most usefully:

- suggest amendments to the Bill, with supporting explanation; and
(when amendments are published) support or oppose amendments tabled to the Bill by Members of Parliament, with supporting explanation.

It is helpful if the submission includes a brief introduction about you or your organisation. The submission should not have been previously published or circulated elsewhere.

If you have any concerns about your submission, please contact the Scrutiny Unit (details below).

How should written evidence be submitted?

Your submission should be emailed to scrutiny@parliament.uk. Please note that submissions sent to the Government department in charge of the Bill will not be treated as evidence to the Public Bill Committee.

Submissions should be in the form of a Word document. A summary should be provided. Paragraphs should be numbered, but there should be no page numbering. Essential statistics or further details can be added as annexes, which should also be numbered.

As a guideline, submissions should not exceed 3,000 words.

Please include in the covering email the name, address, telephone number and email address of the person responsible for the submission. The submission should be dated.

What will happen to my evidence?

The written evidence will be circulated to all Committee Members to inform their consideration of the Bill.

Most submissions will also be published on the internet as soon as possible after the Committee has started sitting.

Those making a submission to a Committee inquiry should note the following:

Committees publish most of the written evidence they receive on the internet (where it will be accessible to search engines).If you do not wish your submission to be published, you must clearly say so and explain your reasons for not wishing its disclosure. The Committee will take this into account in deciding whether to publish. If you wish to include private or confidential information in your submission to the Committee, please contact the Clerk of the Committee to discuss this. The Scrutiny Unit (details below) will be able to provide you with contact details for the clerk.

A Committee is not obliged to accept your submission as evidence, nor to publish any or all of the submission even if it has been accepted as evidence. This may occur where a submission is very long or contains material to which it is inappropriate to give parliamentary privilege (see Guide for Witnesses for further information on parliamentary privilege).
Material already published elsewhere should not form the basis of a submission, but may be referred to within a submission, in which case it should be clearly referenced, preferably with a hyperlink.
You should be careful not to comment on matters currently before a court of law, or matters in respect of which court proceedings are imminent. If you anticipate such issues arising, you should discuss with the Clerk of the Committee how this might affect your submission.
Once submitted, no public use should be made of any submission prepared specifically for the Committee unless you have first obtained permission from the Clerk of the Committee. If you are given permission by the Committee to publish your evidence separately, you should be aware that you will be legally responsible for its content.
Evidence which is accepted by the Committee may be published online at any stage; when it is so published it becomes subject to parliamentary copyright and is protected by parliamentary privilege.
Once you have received acknowledgement that the evidence has been published you may publicise or publish your evidence yourself. In doing so you must indicate that it was prepared for the Committee, and you should be aware that your publication or re-publication of your evidence may not be protected by parliamentary privilege.
Public Bill Committees do not investigate individual cases of complaint or allegations of maladministration.
Data protection

The personal information you supply will be processed in accordance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 for the purposes of attributing the evidence you submit and contacting you as necessary in connection with its processing.
The Clerk of the House of Commons is the data controller for the purposes of the Act.
If you have any queries or concerns about the collection and use of this information please advise the committee team providing your full contact details.
Scrutiny Unit contact details

Email: scrutiny@parliament.uk
Telephone: 020 7219 8387
Address: Ian Hook
Senior Executive Officer
Scrutiny Unit
House of Commons
London SW1A OAA

[1] In the last Parliamentary Session, the following Public Bill Committees concluded their consideration of the Bill earlier than scheduled: Criminal Finances, Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts), Health Service Medical Supplies (Costs), Neighbourhood Planning, Savings (Government Contributions), Technical and Further Education, Commonwealth Development Corporation, Children & Social Work, National Citizen Service, and Bus Services.

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