‘Blank cheque’ Ag Bill will cut out formal consultation on public goods scheme

Farmers Guardian: News 08 May 2019 Abi Kay

Farm bodies will not be formally consulted on the detail of Defra’s public money for public goods scheme and the policy will receive less scrutiny than other major legislative changes, Farmers Guardian can confirm.

In an interview with FG last week, Farming Minister Robert Goodwill admitted the ‘flesh’ on the skeleton Agriculture Bill, which will include payment rates under the new scheme, would be introduced through secondary legislation which cannot be amended by Parliament. He suggested doing things this way gives the Government more ‘flexibility’.

“In some ways, this gives us the opportunity to duck and dive a bit,” Mr Goodwill said.

“If something is working, we need to build on it, and if something is not working, we need to change it.”

But Conservative peer Anne McIntosh, who is building a cross-party team to amend the ‘unconstitutional’ Bill in the House of Lords, told FG Mr Goodwill had completely ‘missed the point’.  Baroness McIntosh said: “Two separate House of Lords committees have pointed out the Agriculture Bill is unique in that there is no detailed policy on the face of the Bill.

“The Minister has also ignored the fact that not only are secondary legislation and implementing regulations not subject to the same line-by-line scrutiny in the House of Commons and House of Lords, as well as individual committees, they are also not put out to proper consultation with the public or interested parties in the same way as Bills. “The procedure Defra is adopting here is effectively writing itself a blank cheque, which has never been allowed to happen before.

“It is also not clear who will police the Bill should any provisions be breached and whether there might be a body which could advise farmers how to meet the policy objectives.

“Drawing comparisons with consultations and events on the removal of licences to shoot pests, this does not bode well for farmers and food production.”

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