|Jenny Rathbone AC|
|Joyce Watson AC|
|Llyr Gruffydd AC|
|Mike Hedges AC|
|Neil Hamilton AC|
|Dr Nick Fenwick||Undeb Amaethwyr Cymru|
|Farmers' Union of Wales|
|George Dunn||Tenant Farmers Association|
|Tenant Farmers Association|
|Huw Thomas||Undeb Cenedlaethol yr Amaethwyr Cymru|
|Nigel Hollett||Cymdeithas y Tir a Busnesau Gefn Gwlad|
|Country Land and Business Association|
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Katie Wyatt||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol mewn perthynas â Bil Amaethyddiaeth y DU - sesiwn dystiolaeth 2||2. Legislative Consent Memorandum in relation to the UK Agriculture Bill - evidence session 2|
|3. Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol mewn perthynas â Bil Amaethyddiaeth y DU - sesiwn dystiolaeth 3||3. Legislative Consent Memorandum in relation to the UK Agriculture Bill - evidence session 3|
|4. Papurau i'w nodi||4. Paper(s) to note|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlig 17.42(vi) i benderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod heddiw||5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Bore da. Good morning. Can I welcome everybody to the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee? We've got apologies from Andrew R.T. Davies, and Jenny Rathbone is not here at the moment but she hopes to be here by 10 o'clock. Have Members got any further interests they wish to declare?
Well, can I welcome Nick Fenwick, head of policy, Farmers Union of Wales, Nigel Hollett, CLA Cymru director, Country Land and Business Association, and Huw Thomas, political adviser, National Farmers Union? Welcome. We've seen all of you several times in the past, so you're well aware of the procedure we tend to go through. So, are you happy with us going straight to questions? Thank you very much.
A lot has been said about the World Trade Organization as the way forward, and you've heard that talked about for the last three and a bit years now, that the World Trade Organization is the way. Some people have expressed concern previously about it, believing that bilateral agreements don't necessarily safeguard Welsh farmers' interests. The World Trade Organization provisions have been redrafted but appear to have the same effect. Are you concerned about going straight to WTO—? I'll put it simply: are you concerned about going straight to WTO means of trading with people you currently trade with under agreements that exist at the moment?
Thank you, Chairman. I'm happy to kick off on that particular point. I don't claim to be an expert on the World Trade Organization arrangements, but we do have a team that, obviously, is, in London. I think, from our perspective, we want to see this year, obviously, the transition, where we are moving away from the EU regulations, as effective as possible. So, what we want to see is that, I think, for all of our members, there's a good relationship between the UK and Europe. So, it's very hard to say whether that's exactly—whether the WTO will be better or not, but we want to see that there's good dialogue between the Welsh Government, the UK Government and Europe to ensure that there's a positive perspective for all of our particular members.
Thank you. I think the clauses you were referencing are 40 and 42 and obviously—yes, they've been carried forward from the previous Agriculture Bill. I think we recognise the UK Government has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that we are compliant with WTO obligations, but I think these clauses do vest quite significant powers in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary of State in terms of setting overall UK limits on support, for example.
We know that there is quite a lot of headroom within the WTO structures for support, which we aren't in danger of exceeding on our current budget. So, the prospect that the DEFRA Secretary of State could introduce his own artificial ceilings or limits below that I think is a little bit concerning, and also the power that gives the DEFRA Secretary of State to act as final arbiter on these things. We don't want to see Welsh policy choices necessarily constrained or artificial limits imposed from DEFRA on what we might want to do as regards support here. So, we're aware of the memo, the agreement, between the administrations previously; we understand that that will be respected and carried forward, but we do have some reservations, yes.
Yes, I would absolutely share those concerns. In terms of the issue of trade, obviously we continue, we will continue, to operate within the framework of the WTO. And, indeed, the trade deal we have as part of Europe falls also within the WTO framework. It's critical that we keep that type of trading arrangement with our nearest neighbours, and also critical that we comply with WTO rules, obviously. Countries can use the slightest excuse to raise barriers—spuriously, sometimes—so, we do need to be very careful. But it must be appreciated that, while this falls under the heading of WTO, actually, a lot of it is to do with domestic control, which is unrelated to anything like—. We're nowhere near coming close to those ceilings. The real concern is about domestic ceilings, and one concern we do have is there are no minimums. There are maximums that can be set, but there are no provisions to set minimums, so we could have huge variation, where spending in one nation of the four nations is zero and spending in another nation is at a certain ceiling. That introduces divergence.
Under the EU regs, there are ceilings for specific policy areas and there are also minimums for specific policy areas, whereas these are just generic ceilings for agriculture, generic to—it could be rural communities, it could be direct intervention in markets. We favour a more prescriptive, but nevertheless flexible, range of ceilings and minimums for different spending areas to reduce the risk that we will diverge in terms of our policies and our spending and therefore cause market imbalances.
I was just going to say very quickly I think the issue for us, really, is that there is no internal market across the UK. You mentioned the Barnett formula, and if that changes—that's not in our gift, clearly. But I think the main issue for us is that the UK is considered as a whole, so there's no intra-market issues between different parts of the UK, which I don't think any of us would want.
Okay. Sorry, Chair. Thank you. Well, we touched on the WTO stuff there now, clearly, and that was one of the issues, I think, that is carried over from the previous Bill that have been flagged up as being of concern. Can you just give us a flavour of some other areas that were in the old Schedule 3 that were of concern to you that maybe are still appearing again in Schedule 5 to the new Bill? I don't want you to be half an hour telling us, but clearly we—
I'll be perfectly honest, Chair, I have not looked at our previous evidence other than on the section that is completely removed, which was the section that was effectively cut and pasted with regard to public goods payments, which was a great concern to us. So, I—.
I think the issue about food security as well—it's really good to see that that is now included, that there will be a report on food security. We've got some points on that that we've made, but I think that's welcome.
Yes, I will, yes, if that's okay. As you say, it's a duty on the Secretary of State, isn't it, to report or to table a report, lay a report, before the UK Government every five years, and I'm just wondering, looking at the five areas that are outlined in relation to what the report may include, if you think that's sufficient or whether there are any other areas that maybe should be encapsulated or captured in that kind of report.
I think, from our perspective, as I mentioned earlier, we welcome the fact that there is a clause around food security. Food is a huge issue, as we all know, as we move towards more public goods. That's a really good thing, but, if we are losing land towards public goods, then how does that fit in with food security? There will continue to be that balance between how we generate energy through biofuels or we produce public goods or we produce food. So, I think the fact that that could be taken in the round is really, really helpful.
I think, from our perspective, we want to make sure that Welsh Government is actively involved in that report from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary of State, which is fine, because that's UK, but, in terms of Welsh Government's involvement, we would clearly want Welsh Government to be involved very closely, and the broader stakeholders, in that whole perspective.
Diolch. Thank you. Well, I think, like Nigel, we very much welcome the provision around food security. It's the first time in 40 years that we are in charge of our own food security. It's of strategic national interest. It's vitally important that we do have a secure supply of food. I think having shorter supply chains and more direct oversight of all the actors in the supply chain is really important.
The five areas you've pointed to—. I mean, that's not an exhaustive list. I think it is just suggestions. I think that we'd broadly concur with those, but, obviously, there are supervening events happening all the time that we don't know of. Coronavirus, for instance, is something that nobody could—well, nobody foresaw, anyway, and it will potentially impact on global supply chains as well. So, we welcome the provision.
I would say five years is not frequent enough. We'd say—
—you'd need to do that every year, certainly in the early days of Brexit. We're unmooring ourselves from our largest export/import market, and also we are moving away from the common agricultural policy, so, in the home nations, food production is going to be differently structured, quite possibly, so we need to—. I think that duty to report needs to be done more frequently as well.
I would absolutely agree and, as we've said in our evidence, we know that, in 2007 and 2008, we very rapidly faced global food shortages to the extent that there was rationing in American supermarkets, and there were civil wars in parts of Africa as a result of food shortages, with food shortages being the catalyst for those disturbances. That happened very, very rapidly—it didn't happen over a five-year period, and, as Huw has said, the coronavirus highlights precisely what can happen very rapidly. We know that that virus is already hitting industry, heavier industries or technical industries, because of our reliance on the supply chain with China, but it could potentially be affecting agricultural production in another circumstance or a different type of virus, and that would happen very, very rapidly. We also know the sort of thing that happened during the fuel protests, or when we have very heavy snow showers or flooding, or whatever it might be—extreme weather—that supermarkets shelves very quickly empty. So, we have very little time in which to act, and, when we're talking about global food shortages and domestic food shortages, potentially, we need a far earlier warning system. I also agree with Huw that this list shouldn't be treated as exhaustive, and I think it's pertinent for the committee to ask whether the word 'may' is appropriate. I think—
Well, I was wanting to probe that, really, because 'may' means 'may', doesn't it— you don't have to. So, it could be totally different to what's suggested here. So, I'm just wondering whether the Government should—you know, some of this should be mandatory.
It absolutely should; some of it definitely should be mandatory. In terms of it not being exhaustive, I think there are a number of questions that need answering as regards current requirements to report on other things to do with the supply chain—for example, data on different types of land area and the number of holdings and agricultural incomes. Some of that data may be only collected and reported on as a result of EU regulations, but, if those regulations are ultimately dissolved rather than being carried over, we may find ourselves in a situation where we have no way of assessing the financial stability or viability of our food producers across the UK.
Just very quickly, in terms of that, I think there's an opportunity for Welsh Government, no matter what the Secretary of State does for DEFRA. If it is going to be five years, there's a clear opportunity for Welsh Government to do something more regularly, and, in terms of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, there's a huge public interest in food now and where it comes from. So, there's a real opportunity, I think, for broader public awareness campaigns as part of that.
I just want to pick up on what Nick just said. Wales is a Fairtrade Nation, and fair trade has to be the farming industry as well. I think, when we think of fair trade, we tend to think about international trade, and I think we need to also look at fair trade within our own country. So, I wanted to pick up that point. But I also want to pick up another point. There has been quite a lot in the news about food lately, particularly the environment Secretary, George Eustace, actually being criticised because he refused to rule out chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef being imported into the UK, and what that might do to your markets. So, I just wondered, because we're talking about food security, about your observations on those things that have been featuring in the headlines just this last week, really, and what that—if you have any other further comments to say what that might mean here for you as producers.
I would highlight the fact that we've raised this concern consistently over the last three years or three and a half years—however long Brexit has been this focus. And that's not about whether you support or oppose Brexit, it's about what happens after Brexit. Clearly, lowering our standards for imported food while maintaining domestic standards is obviously a big concern, but I think our members would feel strongly that, actually, we like the standards that we have. We are proud of the standards that we have. Our main concern is about how people are punished when they inadvertently break those rules, not about the rules per se. Therefore, we need to maintain those standards. I can understand why those involved in trade negotiations might be vague about sticking by them. I do understand that, because the implication that it is on the table is a big concern. The standards in America would not be morally acceptable to British citizens. That's the truth of the matter, whether they're environmental, welfare, or indeed health standards.
I would concur with most of that. The only thing that I would add is that, certainly, we are very supportive of the fair trade work that you've been involved in. In my previous roles, I've been actively involved in the whole fair trade issue, so that's fabulous. I think we're going to probably see a lot of this kind of activity over the next year in terms of the trade negotiations, but I think, from our perspective, we absolutely do not want to see standards lowered just to get a trade deal. That just seems, from our perspective, to be a really negative step.
I agree entirely with the observations of my colleagues here, really. We've been pressing for some time for a provision in the Agriculture Bill around future standards in trade deals, unsuccessfully. We've sort of had a lot of warm words from Government, but nothing actually has translated into writing. We are proud of the standards that we observe and uphold in this country. We can't see them undermined by food produced to lower standards being allowed in and being allowed to compete with us in the same marketplace. So, when Governments go away and develop their future agricultural support policies, which is what they'll do over the next few years, that could be fatally undermined if we have products admitted to the country that are produced to lower standards. It could all be for nothing.
If I may add, Chairman, as well: it's notable that the Bill does include provisions to prevent or control the importation of food produced to organic standards. So, it does cater for that trade barrier, if you could describe it as such, but not for other types of barriers or other schedules that prevent food produced to sub-standards being imported. Also, it's not just about what arrives on our market, it's also about the impacts that allowing food produced to lower standards to arrive on our market will have on our trade negotiations with our nearest neighbours. Their concern is not that it comes to our market, but that it then ends up on their market.
I understand the point that you're making about standards, but the United States is one of the most litigious countries in the world. If food safety is the key issue here, I don't think that there's any real evidence to show that food safety standards are lower in the United States than they are in this country. And, given that we are about to embark upon comprehensive trade deals with countries all around the world, we'll be doing deals with countries that have manifestly lower standards than us.
The EU did a deal with the Mercosur countries, for example. I think that it would be a brave man who could say that the meat produced in South America is produced to the same standards everywhere as it is here, and in the United States, similarly. So, isn't it ultimately the point that the consumer should be the ultimate arbiter of what they want to buy, not us as legislators telling them what they can buy, so long as acceptable minimum standards are met? These are then technical, detailed issues that need to be hammered out, obviously.
Labelling is a key element of this as well. You mentioned organic food a moment ago. The reason why we've got these provisions is that the definition of what is organic differs all around the place. Therefore, it is perhaps difficult for consumer to know what he's actually buying—if something is labelled 'organic' and yet the definition in the United States is very different from what it is here, and wouldn't be regarded as organic here. So, that's really what we're talking about: a public information element that's involved in this. Then, ultimately, it's for the consumer to decide whether he or she wants to purchase the product, so long as it isn't actually a danger to public health.
I think that it's a fair argument in terms of where that balance sits between Government and the individual's rights to freedom. It's almost an academic argument, and I tend to favour the freedom side. But then, in terms of this type of area, we have to look at—. The Mercosur example is a good one, actually. Yes, the EU has a deal with the Mercosur countries, but under that deal, every two or three years, farms are inspected to ensure they're compliant with EU standards or equivalent standards. So, the FVO—the Food and Veterinary Office—goes out there and it goes around the farms and it licenses them. So, any farmers that aren't licensed in the Mercosur countries are not allowed to export to the EU.
There was a time when there was a problem with illegal drugs being used, and there was a very damning report produced in relation to those farms, and the number of farms that were allowed to import to the EU was reduced to—I think it was single figures. And all of a sudden we saw a massive collapse in Brazilian beef imports. One of the big reasons for that happening is that foot and mouth disease is endemic in places like Brazil. So, it's not just about human health, it's also about animal health. The danger is that we throw caution to the wind and say, 'Well, it's up to the individual to choose what they want, and they'll choose Brazilian if they want it', but that's no good when suddenly you've got a massive foot and mouth epidemic and you're killing millions and millions of animals, because you've let your guard fall.
I just want to respond to some of the points you were making as well. The chlorination of poultry: the reason it's done, of course, is to cover up for methods of production that cause very high bacterial counts on chicken carcasses. It's going back to that method of production. It's a welfare issue as much as anything. I think the incidence of salmonella in North America, in the US, is an order of magnitude higher than it is in this country. It is very high there. So, accepting it is a litigious jurisdiction, there is a much higher incidence of food poisoning in the US.
I think I'd make the point as well, letting the consumer choose—obviously, that would be predicated on very clear labelling—it says nothing of the food service sector as well. So, what goes into schools and hospitals, in retail and hospitality as well? That's where, even if consumers were rejecting a product, it would probably still find its way into catering contracts in the public sector, which are all too often done on cost as well. So, those are the points I would make.
Chairman, very quickly, we'd agree with colleagues. I think we stand by our position that we would not want to see standards lowered if at all possible. And, in terms of consumer protection, it's clearly a big issue, and I understand where you're coming from, but I think consumers deserve the right to be protected. And so often, they just don't know, so they expect food to be produced by a supermarket or by somebody—they just assume it's okay. So, yes, they can make their own choice, but often they don't have the information that they require.
The only thing I would say back is that you say 'in the public sector', I'm quite sure that a lot of the private sector would buy on price as well.
Yes, absolutely. It's private sector operators working in the public sector as well.
No, I was talking about the private sector in terms of restaurants and—
Retail and hospitality.
Retail and hospitality, especially some of the hospitality at the lower-cost end.
I think that, generally, the labelling issue is a really important one, because of course it's dealt with in a number of ways in this legislation. I think, once again, while we are a body that fully supports devolution and supported devolution, we also recognise that neighbouring nations in a single market—that's what we now have in the UK—need to respect each other's devolved powers, but work together to ensure that they don't implement different forms of labelling that confuses consumers, especially given that we have food moving back and forwards over our very long border with England as a normal part of our supply chain.
So, just to conclude on the food security stuff there, just one last aspect that I just want to unpick a little bit: you mentioned it's important that Wales is reflected in this five-yearly report, or however often it's published, how would you envisage Wales being part of that report? Would it be a devolved nations and UK Parliament report? Or would you expect a discrete report for Wales? And would you expect the Welsh Government to need to respond to that report? How do you see that playing out? Or how would you wish to see it play out?
I think, from our perspective as an England and Wales organisaton that thinks across the whole of the UK, we fully respect where we are going on Brexit, whatever that's going to look like. Clearly, we completely respect devolution and the fact that we do have four nations. So, we completely understand that. I think, really, it's for Welsh Government to probably understand how best to do that. We would want, clearly, politicians and officials to work really closely with their counterparts across the border.
We really need the UK to be quite joined up, I think, on food and agriculture. Of all the issues that are devolved, agriculture and rural affairs don't respect boundaries in many ways, So, I think the Welsh Government will want to cherry-pick the best bits of that, and that's fine, we understand that. But I think it would be about good working and looking at what the opportunities are in line, maybe, with what Welsh Government is doing anyway around the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. It could be a good opportunity to do that. But I think five years does seem too long, a closer period would be better.
I think, as well, obviously, in the UK context, agriculture isn't homogenous. You've got livestock and dairying further to the west, and then cropping and horticulture further to the east. So, it's not a homogenous picture; you've got quite discrete areas and different practices as well.
I would certainly not want to see the excellent work that has been done in Wales annually in terms of 'Farming Facts and Figures' and that sort of data that is released—which we rely upon just to monitor what's going on in terms of animal numbers, farm numbers, farm incomes, et cetera, and also, the ability to create—. I think it was 'Agriculture in Wales'; there was an excellent report produced in June last year by the Welsh Government, which has a plethora of information that is really, really valuable. I think there's a danger if that is subsumed into and taken over by Reading university or whoever would deal with it over the border. But it does absolutely make sense for it to be comparable with data produced in other countries of the United Kingdom, and ultimately compiled into one report. There's nothing stopping anyone doing that. But we do need that data to be looked at regularly.
Thank you. Apologies for not being here for your earlier remarks; so if you have already said this to the committee, I apologise. Just looking at clause 27, which is intended to provide transparency and fairness in the supply chains and gives regulation-making powers to the Secretary of State to impose obligations on what they call 'business purchasers...from qualifying sellers'. Some of you have indicated already that you think this is a good idea, but others are somewhat silent on this. So, I just wondered if you'd like the opportunity to tell us what you think of this widening of the scope of this second version of the Bill.
I think it is welcome that it is in there and it's being carried forward. I think one of the issues that we had with the groceries code adjudicator in the past was that it only covered the relationship between the supermarket and the immediate supplier, it didn't cover the rest of the supply chain. So, now that you've got the qualifying seller and business purchaser provisions, it does broaden the scope of that. So, I think it's certainly very welcome.
They confer quite a lot of flexibility on the Secretary of State as well, in terms of regulating around contracts, and there are enforcement provisions in there as well. But I think, because this is obviously just primary legislation setting out what the Secretary of State may do, so much will depend on the secondary legislation that underpins that, the drafting operation and enforcement of the rules created under clause 27.
Do you think it could be adjusted to address some of the concerns that have been spoken about in relation to future trading agreements: unfair practices and poor welfare conditions from competitors abroad?
From what I can make out, this clause just looks at the domestic situation. It's not looking to create extra territorial—
That's right, but do you think it might be amended to address any of those challenges?
I suppose things like that would probably be covered in the trade deals themselves. They would be—
Yes, certainly, you would hope so. But I would have thought that would be part of the trade negotiation process.
I would agree. It would presumably come down to this issue of equivalence, which, we would hope that the UK would stick to this principle of equivalence. It's not necessary, actually, but we would hope that they would stick to that. I think it does raise an interesting question, though, about where that transparency stops. So, superficially, we could have it stop at the England-Wales border. So, we have transparency up until food is produced, the point at which we're importing food from England. So, we're potentially imposing auditing measures on our Welsh factories or food producers while food that's coming over the border isn't subject to such costs and bureaucracy. That doesn't mean to say we don't support it. We absolutely have been arguing for this sort of thing for a long time, but that issue of crossing borders needs to be considered and also considered in the context of trade deals. So, we need that transparency, where possible, to go beyond the UK.
The European Union's equivalent provisions for transparency do actually state that that transparency has to be there for food that's imported from outside the EU as well, from third countries or countries with which it has trade deals. So, it's certainly possible, but you can imagine a situation where we are lumbered with some costly and bureaucratic auditing systems where it's a lot cheaper to just import something from somebody who's not subject to such constraints.
The only other point I was going to make—. Before I call you back in, the other point I was going to make was we have farms on the border, don't we, which are partly in England, partly in Wales? I mean, there would be cows crossing the border several times a day.
Yes, absolutely. I think, just quickly, from our perspective, we welcome the inclusion of this clause. Most Welsh rural businesses, as you know, are small and medium-sized with limited scope to dictate price to the businesses they supply. So, at their discretion, at the moment, we think they should be mandatory because that would be far more helpful going forward.
Okay. Are there any—? What do you think the impact is going to be on any of your members who might be qualifying sellers? Are they likely to be positive? Any negative issues?
I think it's a fair point to raise in that this potentially could be applied to anyone, and while we want transparency in a fair way, so that we just have a fair understanding of where margins are ending up—. Because it doesn't matter who you talk to in the supply chain, they'll tell you that they're down on their luck and they're hardly making any money, and yet they still seem to have multibillion pound profit margins—some of them; others don't. So, that transparency will help that for politicians, for individuals, for consumers et cetera. But of course, at the farm level, if transparency was applied at the very lowest level, then it becomes very problematic because it can allow a buyer to pick off different producers to say, 'Well, actually, we're going to buy from that guy, not that guy, because, as it happens, that farm is south-facing and therefore more productive, and we can see that because of the transparency figures.' I don't think it would ever come to that, but we do need to be careful because there have been voluntary schemes in the past where smaller farms were allowed to opt out of a price reporting or cost production-type requirement as part of contracts, and, in our view, all that did was actually allow those who were more constrained to change the way in which the overall figures looked. So, they made production costs actually artificially low in the figures.
In principle, do you think that this might encourage a more productive relationship between local producers and local buyers, local shops who want to buy locally—that this might give local farmers a better deal?
One would hope so, but I would be very careful about the threshold below which this is implemented. So, if you look at it in the context of the supermarket ombudsman, you've got the big four supermarkets that are subject to that legislation. Now, we've argued that that should be extended to other major players in the supply chain, including the service sector, and I think others have argued the same, for good reason. But if you extend that argument about those powers down to the corner shop or the small cheese producer who's not even employing anyone, you end up hitting some very big problems. So, there is a threshold, I think, where turnover must dictate whether or not you subject people to that sort of transparency.
I think we would see it as sort of dealing or remedying some of the asymmetries in power. The small retailers, or some small outlet like a village shop and a farmer, are in a different league as compared to a farm supplying Tesco with carrots or whatever. It's an entirely different sort of scale, and an asymmetry of that relationship.
Okay. But potentially, do you think it would enable us to have better transparency on provenance?
I think anything that helps with transparency has got to be a good thing, hasn't it?
Okay. I don't know whether any of your members are potentially business purchasers, but if they are, what do you think would be the impact of the new requirements on them, both positive and negative? Because, obviously, we all think supermarkets, but I don't know whether there are other businesses at different stages of the supply chain who might be deemed to be—you know, those who purchase milk in bulk in order to make it into cheese, for example.
Sorry, can you repeat the question?
Well, I was just thinking at the other end of the equation, so you've got qualifying sellers, and then you've got business purchasers. So, my question was: what are the impacts, positive and negative, on business purchasers, if any of your members are potentially in that category?
The way I read the legislation, I would treat them both as the same, because they are part of the food supply chain. But maybe I'm misunderstanding the question—
Well, I think, obviously, we're trying to have a fairer deal. That's what we hope is going to be the outcome of this: a fairer deal for people who are producing food. But there will be requirements on business purchases, obviously, to not rip off their suppliers. That's what we hope this is going to do.
I think that's critical. I don't claim to be an expert on this particular part of the legislation, but I think that's critical, and that point about a good relationship between both parties is really essential, isn't it, so that the producers are able to get what they deserve to get? But there's not an unfair—. We have often, haven't we, seen it with supermarkets, where producers have been struggling because of the demands from supermarkets in particular cases? So, I think anything that's fair for both parties has to be a good thing, so we would hope that that would go forward.
Okay. But as Huw's pointed out, what's in the secondary legislation and the explanatory memorandum is going to be key.
Just moving on to fertilisers, clause 31: the Bill amends the Agriculture Act 1970. Do you agree with the principle of regulating fertilisers, on the basis of their function as well as their composition and content?
If I can just make a fairly quick point on this, and, again, I don't claim to be an expert on fertiliser, but I think from our perspective, from the CLA's perspective, we don't have any specific concerns with this clause. I think anything that respects the UK as a whole, as opposed to having individual nations having their own particular clauses, which I think would be not so good—so that UK perspective I think is great, around ensuring there's no market distortion. So—.
Supposing we, Wales, were to be a bit more rigorous in limiting the use of fertilisers, for environmental reasons—.
I think the aspirations of that would clearly be a good thing, that you are trying to—whether it's to move towards a more organic system, but then that's got issues as well; I understand that. But I think this point about if you're on the border, and many of our large members and indeed smaller members are on the border, how does it affect individual producers who are sitting with farms across two nations? How does that work for their business? So, we would want the UK as a whole to move forward in a joined-up way if at all possible.
But obviously we want the whole of the UK to have due regard to the impact of fertilisers on the environment, but hopefully this will give us the power to lead the way on this issue, if required.
I would absolutely agree with Nigel. We need a single market for that type of commodity, and any interventions that Wales—the Welsh Assembly or the Welsh Government—see fit should be done in terms of restrictions at a farm level. I think there are great opportunities for us to reduce pollution, be it pollution caused by fertilisers or other types of pollution, and I would take this opportunity to highlight the fact that, unfortunately, I think the Welsh Government is in danger of actually increasing pollution, because of its plans to introduce an all-Wales nitrate vulnerable zone, but that's the type—. We think that there are huge opportunities to do things far better, and we've submitted our recommendations on that. And that's the level at which you stop that sort of pollution. I don't know whether it makes sense to stop it at the fertiliser level. It's more about who's allowed to use fertiliser and when they're allowed to, and in what area they live, and whether it's appropriate to place restrictions on them based on the quality of the water in that area, so that it's evidence-based on the ground rather than some sort of blanket legislation at a higher level.
I think fertiliser use has been declining as well; since the 1990 baseline it's declined quite a bit—I can't remember the exact figure. But, obviously, bringing further technology into agriculture, more precision agriculture as well, will chip away at that. Fertiliser is expensive, farmers do not want to be applying it wastefully, so there is an incentive to minimise your fertiliser use and get the best results from it.
Okay, thank you for that. What are your views on the regulation-making powers set out for assessing, monitoring and enforcing the regulations? Are they appropriate and proportionate?
I think that they are—. We view this section as merely something that we expect to happen and continue to happen. It has happened and we don't see any problems with it. We don't see any loopholes, and we think it's simply—. You might describe it as a desktop-tidying exercise—it's getting everything in order and using the opportunity of the Agriculture Bill to do that. I haven't seen anything that I would worry about as being sinister in there.
Again, I would come back to the fact that any change in what we do with chemicals, or fertiliser, or whatever it might be, is going to come through land-use policy not through some high-level controls.
I'd agree with Nick entirely there.
I am, yes. I think in terms of where we are with sustainable farming and a land consultation, it would be nice to know where that's going because that should set in this broader perspective around sustainable land management.
I'd like to talk about identification and traceability of animals—this is clause 32 of the Bill. As you know, the Animal Health Act 1981 provides a power to make orders, and I quote,
'for prescribing and regulating the marking of animals'.
And clause 32 proposes to amend that by changing the reference to 'marking of animals' with 'the means of identifying animals'. But this clause applies only in England, and the justification for this is that technology has moved on and that there are other means of identifying animals than simply physical marking on the carcass, as it were. Do you think that this provision ought to be extended to Wales as well?
I'll go first. Yes, I think the key worry with this clause is that it actually relates to the body that the clause seeks to give data collection powers to, and also policy-making powers, in many respects, in that it gives powers to a body created under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. It's clearly designed—I think it's fairly openly admitted that it's designed to give power to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, which is, effectively, an English board, to not only collect data, but decide what you might call policy on certain things to do with animal health and traceability and the way in which you identify animals. I think that's wrong.
Of course it makes sense to have a central database that collates data of a format that is agreed between the different devolved nations. This, effectively, gives powers to people who may not necessarily understand the issues in Wales, or that we may have different priorities because we have a very, very different profile of farming here. There is no answerability then, under this clause, to Welsh farmers.
In terms of those changes that relate to excluding England from the EU regulations that are carried over, it is very confusing to see what's being got at there, I'll be honest, and I've had some people—. A number of people have asked me what I make of it, and it's difficult to understand what precisely it's getting at, but I see the biggest concern as being this handing powers over to, basically, an outside Government body.
Yes. Well, the AHDB is developing a new multi-species livestock information system. The question is whether we should have some equivalent for Wales. I fully accept the point you make about the difference in the structure of agriculture in Wales from England taken as a single unit, and any structure that is created or, therefore, to be fit for the purpose that we would require in Wales. So, the simple question that I was asking was in relation to clause 32(2) of the Bill, just about updating the language of the legislation. Is that, in itself, objectionable in your view?
I think, from our perspective—Nick is closer to the detail than we are—but from our perspective, livestock diseases don't respect national borders, as we mentioned earlier, and therefore we need a system that works across the whole of the UK. So, I think that's the main point we would make. And secondly, from a UK trade perspective, we do need to be joined up across the UK if we're going to get a better deal overseas.
Yes. We are currently looking at building—collectively, if you like, certainly led by Welsh Government—looking at developing precisely that type of multispecies database. So, that work is already under way through using what's called the EIDCymru, currently our sheep identification database. Now, that will, ultimately, be extended to include cattle. And there are a number of ideas around what data should be collected and what rules should associate that data collection, and there is some debate there. So, that work is under way.
I think the real concern about this clause is that we could, potentially, for the sake of argument, arrive—and having agreed on what data is collected and policies and everything—and all of a sudden, under this clause, be told by AHDB that, actually, 'We're going to change your rules and your reporting dates or time frames, et cetera', without any consultation, because that power's been granted to them with no obligation to consult or work alongside EIDCymru.
Sorry. Just to say, I very much concur with what Nick and Nigel have said, really. I think we've got to respect devolution, but also we recognise that any international agreements in terms of trade that we may enter into may require something to be operable at a UK level. But it's better to be talking together, mutual consent around that. Our members, as far as they're concerned, they just want seamless working between databases in different countries. A lot of animals do move across the England-Wales border frequently. They don't want impediments to that trade.
Just to ask, then, so, how do we deal with this anomaly in that AHDB have been given these powers but they're not in any way accountable to democratic structures in Wales? Do we therefore give equivalent powers to the Welsh Government or some other organisation in Wales, or do we introduce an element of Welsh accountability? Because I'm just thinking, the Food Standards Agency is accountable to both the UK and Welsh Governments in different ways. Any thoughts around how we maybe address some of this anomaly?
There are some areas where we've proposed making an obligation for, in most cases, the Secretary of State to consult with the devolved administrations about some policy decision. So, that's what we've suggested in there. But this is almost a step removed from that because it's a sort of an independent body that you're obliging to respect other independent bodies, or pseudo-independent bodies such as Hybu Cig Cymru, for the sake of argument, and it's quite difficult to see how you easily do that while ensuring that it's fully respected.
How it's dealt with, our preference has always been that the collection of data—so, if you just focus on that for now—be maintained by the Government rather than private bodies, and managed by the Government. And it may be an old-fashioned way to look at things, but over the last 10 or 15 years, we have repeatedly seen the Welsh Government opting to keep things in-house, and DEFRA opting to farm stuff out to private companies, and farming stuff out to private companies has been invariably disastrous. It has resulted in all sorts of problems—delayed payments, inappropriate databases, et cetera. So, this is information that's in the public interest and therefore should be held by the public.
So, the livestock information system that is being mooted on an England or a UK-wide basis, clearly EID Cymru needs to be compatible with that, otherwise one or the other isn't going to be used.
Yes, and I would emphasise there is no problem with this body holding the data and making options available to farmers to provide different types of information. So, it's not an attack on this body holding the data; it's where this body or any such body starts to develop its own policy and dictate it not only to the people within the geographical area for which it is responsible, but to people in other geographical areas.
Clearly, there is a lacuna in the Bill in this respect, given that devolution is a fact, and the Welsh Government ultimately bears the responsibility in policy terms for this. To have these functions contracted out to a body that isn't responsible to the Welsh Government, still less Welsh farmers, seems to me very much an inadequate structure to have an effective system, and certainly the integrity of the data is the key point here. If you can't actually, ultimately, take the relevant decisions to establish that integrity, you can hardly be held publicly responsible for it. So, there is something that needs to be done in order to address that difficulty.
The Bill amends two EU regulations, as well, which, of course, will become, or are, indeed, part of UK law now as retained EU legislation. These are going to be disapplied in England, the regulations of 1760/2000 and 21/2004, and this is all to do with sheep and goat identification. So, should this provision in the Bill also be extended to Wales? I presume the arguments are exactly the same as in relation to section 32(2), which we were discussing a moment ago.
I think, broadly speaking, yes.
Yes, I have to say I have found this very, very confusing, what exactly, why it is there, why there is that difference, why England is singled out as being exempt from this. Is it a tidying-up exercise, just a weird anomaly because England is governed by the same body that governs the UK for high-level policy, or is there something more designed in there?
So, what's your understanding of the Welsh Government's approach to this issue, then, in the interaction between EID and the proposed livestock information system?
I think there's always—
In your discussions with them, have they been sympathetic to the points that you've been making today? Are we marching in step here or—?
They certainly share our concern. We were with Tim Render a few weeks ago, and I think he stated that he expressed similar concerns as regards what this clause did, yes. But you're right, at the lower level, in terms of those people who are running the existing databases, of course, they're constantly talking to each other and making sure their data is compatible. I would, once again, emphasise the difference between collecting data and forming policy.
I'm going to move on now to agricultural tenancies and Schedule 3, and I'm sure that should be an interesting debate with three panellists here. So, first of all, I'm going to ask for any comments on the provisions within the Bill to reform the agricultural tenancies.
I think, broadly speaking, we welcome the provisions in the Bill to reform agricultural tenancies. There was a consultation not that long ago, of course, on this issue. I think what's unknown is how these reforms might integrate with any future support scheme in Wales. We recognise the precarious position of tenant farmers. They are often the most precarious of all farmers. Ensuring that they are able to access support—it's often difficult for them to get landlord's consent, for example, for undertaking certain works, activities on farm, which causes them problems. There is security of tenure—all sorts of problems, really, for the tenants. So, I think it's difficult to say, at the moment, not knowing what the future support arrangements might be, exactly how these provisions might integrate with that. It may be that DEFRA have got a conception of where they are heading with future policy, and they've engineered this around that, possibly, but we're not quite in that position in Wales as yet.
I think from our perspective, clearly you've seen our submission, but I think we're generally not particularly concerned about what this is trying to do. I think what we welcome is the provisions relating to landlord investments, which provides—. Clearly, if the landlord is unable to maintain their property or to maintain their overall investment, that's going to have real issues for both the landlord and of course the tenant, which is important. We welcome the removal of the minimum retirement age and the widening pool of potential arbitrators.
I think in terms of concerns, for us really it's about the potential for the variations to be under the 1986 Act, the three generations Act, which could cause some issues. I think we're not sure that should be included in the Bill. We think that, in the majority of cases, an agreement should be found between the landlord and the tenant anyway. It's all about negotiation. Clearly, I think that's critical for us. For instance, if a tenant is trying to do something on a longer term basis, tree planting is a fantastic thing to do, we all understand that, but that's clearly going to affect the land quite significantly, so we will want to make sure that there are formal discussions between the landlord and the tenant, so if there are long-term changes to the land, that's clearly picked up at an early stage. So I think that's our perspective.
Two very quick technical points: succession on death or retirement, there needs to be an enhanced suitability test and a commercial unit test, so they cannot take on the tenancy if they're farming another holding, but that's quite technical and we've covered that in our submission, anyway.
Okay. Can I just explore—? You talked about the 1986 Act, I think, and I just want to explore that, because what I understand that does is move to give some protection and arbitration, and you said—I'm sure I heard you say—that the settlement should be between the landlord and the tenant, and I agree with that, but that's not always going to happen, and it doesn’t always happen, in any form of life whatsoever. So allowing arbitration, therefore, surely is a good thing, as a last resort—it would always be a last resort, wouldn't it—to give fairness on both sides. Because arbitration doesn't work in one direction; it would work for both parties and take the heat out of that dispute, hopefully. So are you saying—because I'm not sure I understood what you were saying—that you don't want that?
No, we absolutely would want there to be arbitration so that both parties can find a solution going forward. That's essential, and you just covered that very well. I think, from our perspective, you've got the 1986 Act, which in some ways gives a lot of protection to tenants, but there are issues with the landlord's property rights and their ability to do things. So I think, from our perspective, we see that as quite favourable to the tenant. Often, they have a lower market rate on a home or similar, so there are a number of issues in connection with that, which is why I think a lot of tenancies have moved forward to the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995, which is a better arrangement, a much more flexible arrangement, between the landlord and the tenant. So, I think it just varies on what the relationship is. Certainly, we absolutely agree with arbitration, but it's quite inflexible. I think the first Act, the 1986 Act, is much more rigid than perhaps the later Act would be going forward. And there are fewer of those going forward anyway, as sadly people die or move on or change their farming practices. We are moving more towards the 1995 Act. But, yes, arbitration has to be a good thing.
We would probably see the 1995 Act as having gone too far during that process, and while we recognise the problems with the 1986 Act, I think somewhere in between would probably be our preference on that, if you're talking about a high policy level. In terms of the exceptions, they're fairly minor compared with what was consulted upon, to be honest, in Wales and in England. That's certainly our perspective, and obviously increasing the list of arbitrators is welcome. We'd support that. But I think there really is scope for a tenancy Bill in future, both in England and in Wales.
I think work needs to be done on other issues relating to tenancies. These are very uncertain times, so it's difficult to judge what income will come from agriculture in future, but when you look at the changes that have happened in the Republic of Ireland as a result of changes to the taxation system to help younger farmers, younger tenant farmers, it's actually seen huge, huge benefits, because it's made farms more productive, more efficient, more profitable because of simply having younger people in there through providing tax breaks to the landlord or certain arrangements that favour passing the land on. I think we need to look at it at that level as well as the nitty-gritty of tenancy agreements.
And 25 per cent of them are entering into business-related—well, farming is a business, but specific business-related clauses, if you like, that sometimes would need the consent of the landlord for them to move forward. I think this is what the arbitration is trying to address.
Sorry, can I just quickly add in terms of that that many of our members are concerned about—? We're all very supportive of the Agriculture Bill, but a lot of our members are concerned that, if you're trying to add a really in-depth discussion around tenancies to the Act as well, it just feels like the Bill is almost too large and too big, so I welcome what Nick was saying about possibly having a separate Act to do that. I think our perspective is really that there's the tenancy reform industry group chaired by DEFRA, which is a good vehicle for looking at this. That's already in existence. We welcome that. I think allowing, perhaps, younger farmers, young farmers' clubs and some of their members to have more access to land has to be a good thing and some of the proposals around this, as long as it's profitable, should help with that kind of activity.
I would take the opportunity as well to highlight that the obstacles that can potentially be thrown up by an extreme public good scheme, as was previously proposed—and we welcome the bit of movement by Welsh Government or more open-mindedness by Welsh Government on that issue. A public good scheme in its purest form is going to create huge, huge problems for the tenanted sector and for commoners on common land as well. And, of course, we have the highest proportion of common land in the UK.
That's where I was going to go, actually, because we had evidence—was it last week—from the Wales organic forum. Was it last week or the week before? Time flies when you're having fun. He was saying there's an inherent conflict between some of the criteria that they use to look at the expectations in terms of keeping the farm in good condition et cetera and some of the requirements in relation to public good. There's a direct conflict, so clearly there's a missed opportunity, potentially, here to address some of that, albeit a Wales Bill will give an opportunity, maybe, to do some of it. But, of course, more broadly in terms of tenancies, the Government has had a consultation. Not all of it is captured in this legislation—[Interruption.] Far from it, exactly. So, are we expecting some further legislation, or is there a danger that the Government thinks that they've ticked enough boxes here?
We certainly made them well aware of our concerns around the tenanted sector. That's something we emphasised quite strongly in our consultation response. The Government have said previously that they intend to ensure free access to future schemes and not to set contracts for prohibitively long periods of time, which are difficult for tenant farmers. So, I think we've got to hold them to account on that undertaking in particular. I'm not sure what the Welsh Government's thinking is, but we've made it abundantly clear that we've got concerns about the tenanted sector accessing future support.
The Government hasn't published any response to the consultation yet.
Not that we're aware of. I think it's always dangerous to try to bolt too much on to a piece of legislation.
That's why, as Huw emphasised here, this creates the opening for statutory instruments that fall underneath these Schedules. So, it would be really problematic to try to do everything in this Bill, but I fully support them moving on with changes.
It's interesting your saying about the evidence that you heard last week, because it's something that comes up consistently and has done for 20 years at least, because, obviously, once a piece of land has been managed in a certain way for a certain period of time, it becomes subject to environmental impact assessments, you're not allowed to plough it and that sort of restriction, and that's devalued the landlord's land. At the end of the day, while it may look nice, it's a little bit like letting the rain come through your roof. The landlord is not happy when you just let a house fall down around you. You're devaluing the property.
Just one final point. The obvious landholdings that are then turned into tenancies are by local authorities. They have quite a number in different places, and how they're perhaps currently managed and how they might be managed—. Do you have—and I don't know your membership, but you do—any views from your members about this Act on those particular landholdings?
On council farms?
The council farms issue is a difficult one. They're dwindling in number all the time because local authorities see them as a means of raising cash, I suppose, by disposing of them. I think that's very regrettable because the capital requirements for getting into farming are very, very high, and for many young people, the new entrants into the sector, taking on a council holding is a means of getting a foothold in the industry and demonstrating your competence to farm. With fewer and fewer of them, it's becoming more of a problem. It's something that gets raised by our members periodically, yes, this issue of the availability of council holdings. It does get raised. I'm not sure how many of our members would be on local authority farms. I don't know, sorry.
We would have lots of members who are. I know both the unions will have lots of members who are on those holdings where they still exist in those counties that have retained them. They're hugely, hugely valuable as a stepping stone. They're not without their problems and those vary from county to county. The views of those individuals on this part of the Act will be the same as those of other tenants, given what it consists of. But again, like Huw, I think far more needs to be done. It's being spoken about endlessly. I've given evidence, maybe 10 years ago, to a committee down here on this issue. They continue to dwindle because of the pressure that's on county councils. And we have long argued that they should be somehow put under an umbrella or taken in-house by a body, maybe governed by the Welsh Government, in order to somehow allow the councils to release money for their own purposes without losing those holdings, so that they become part of some sort of trust, for the sake of argument, but still allow cash-strapped local authorities, who have seen massive cuts to their budgets, to access money through those holdings. Some sort of creative thinking needs to be undertaken because, ultimately, they're never going to increase in number, and then at some point somebody will turn around and say, 'Oh, there goes the last one, what have we done?'
There's a subset of those, isn't there? There's the Welsh Church Act 1914 fund that held farms. The money from there can only be used for charitable purposes. There were a lot of those; I don't know how many there are. My knowledge of some of these things is 20 years out of date, so apologies for that. But west Glamorgan, for example, before it was reorganised, owned substantial numbers and they then passed them on to the subsequent authority. I assume that some, if not all of them, are still there.
I'd imagine they are. We've got a number of members that aren't councils but are semi-public bodies that own large areas of land, and even the National Trust is a charity, as such. So, there is a variety of different options, and I agree it would be a real shame if that kind of land was lost because it does provide opportunities for new entrants.
Would it be useful if we asked Welsh Government or somebody to actually get a handle, if somebody has got a handle, on these different bits of land that are being used. We all bring our own knowledge of these things. Llyr.
This was exactly the subject of my short debate about three weeks ago, and I would very much support anything that the committee would want to do in this respect. Trecadwgan Farm has been sold this week and lost to community ownership as well, which was an option. So, it is something that we should be looking at.
There are also very small examples like the Swansea city farm, which you'll know very well about; I think it's on a public authority-land basis. There are fantastic examples of very small cases where—
Swansea city farm. It's a very small project.
Yes, it's a fantastic example of a good project. That is very, very small but it has this public benefit.
I think there is an obligation on the Welsh Government to publish intermittently the figures—
Is it annually? I know that there have been maybe some annuallies that didn't happen, or maybe it was a very short report, but—
We used some of those stats for the short debate a couple of weeks ago, yes.
So, there are figures but, certainly, I think that a deeper dive, which I think is probably what they say now, isn't it, into those figures would be worth—
If only to subdivide the local authority ones to which are Welsh Church Act ones and which are local authority ones, because the Welsh Church Act ones can't be used to build schools. They came in in 1920, with the disestablishment of the Church of England in Wales. If we perhaps get to the bottom of that, we might be able to make some progress.
I think that an important issue that you have referred to, Chairman, is the fact that, where money is being ring-fenced for a certain purpose, some councils have ring-fenced their money, their rent income, effectively, for renovating those holdings—whereas others are just milking it. Therefore, those holdings go downhill, and then you have a vicious circle developing.
If there are no other questions, can I thank you very much for coming along? It's been very interesting and informative. It's the same thing that I'm supposed to say every time, but sometimes I forget: you'll get a copy of the transcript. Can you check it for accuracy? The accuracy is almost certainly going to be there but, occasionally, if we do turn around and face in a different direction when we're talking, sometimes some of the words get missed. So, I would urge you to check for the missing words. Okay, thank you very much.
To colleagues, shall we meet back here at 10.55 a.m.?
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:41 a 10:55.
The meeting adjourned between 10:41 and 10:55.
Good morning. Can I welcome George Dunn, director of the Tenant Farmers Association? I'm very pleased you've been prepared to come along to talk to us, thank you.
I did hear some of it, yes.
To what extent do the provisions in the Bill reflect the proposals in the Welsh Government's 2019 agricultural tenancy consultation? And are there any differences and any significant omissions?
Okay. So, we still await the Welsh Government's collation of the responses and their response to the consultation exercise, so that has yet to be published. It's a bit odd to have the latest set of provisions in the Bill without having the response to the consultation document issued in advance. So, we are at a bit of a disadvantage in that respect.
What we understand, from our discussions with Welsh Government, is that they have picked up what they consider to be the most urgent and least contentious issues of the consultation exercise, but there have been some significant omissions from the Bill. We haven't yet had a formal commitment from Welsh Government as to what they're going to do about those omissions, but we have had some discussion about their aspiration to do more for farm tenants, as they bring forward their own legislation after the Assembly elections.
So, the major omissions from the Bill, as were contained within the consultation, were a proposal to allow tenants on Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 agreements, who have generally got lifetime or three-generation security, where they didn't have a successor and were economically stuck to the holding, to be given a provision to assign their leases for a period of 25 years, in return for a capital sum in the marketplace—that idea wasn't taken forward in the legislation; extending the franchise of succession to include nephews, nieces and grandchildren, which was a proposal within the consultation, has not been taken forward in this Bill. Interestingly, there was an intervention in the Second Reading debate in Parliament by Sir Edward Leigh on that particular point and the Secretary of State, at the time, provided, what I would call, 'an oblique answer', because the provisions aren't in the Bill, as were asked.
And an unusual omission, given that it is Welsh Government's policy to try and extend the length of term on farm business tenancies, which are incredibly short, as I know the committee is aware, but there was a provision that was intended to give confidence to landlords to let for a longer period of time, and in our discussions with landlords, particularly the National Trust, they said, 'Well, what happens if we get a tenant who breaches their agreement or doesn't pay the rent or does something against our interests in the holding if we've let for a long period of time and we can't get the tenancy back?' Well, we were quite happy in the consultation to discuss having easier to use provisions to allow landlords to break tenancies early, where tenants were in breach, and we thought that was a reasonably uncontroversial issue, and we were, therefore, quite surprised not to find that in the Bill. So, those are the major omissions, Mr Chairman.
Yes. The First Minister said that we're going to have a Welsh agriculture Bill in the sixth Senedd, to be elected a year in May, and that this will apply to the rights of tenant farmers in particular. It's also going to be preceded by a White Paper, so there'll be a proper consultation about it. Do you have any indication, at the minute, from your discussions with Welsh Government what might be included, which might directly affect the interests of tenant farmers?
Yes, we have had some quite detailed discussions with Welsh Government officials, and obviously, at this stage, they are discussions and not necessarily commitments from Welsh Government to do anything. The general commitment that we have received from Welsh Government and from the Minister is an understanding of the importance of the tenanted sector to Wales and wanting to ensure that there is a resilient tenanted sector, a thriving tenanted sector and an expanding tenanted sector. So, that's what the Government has committed to in the round, if you like.
But, as far as our discussions are concerned, I know that there's an aspiration to see if it's possible to extend the ability for tenant farmers to do more than just agriculture on their holdings, and as we move into the space, in the parlance of public payments for public goods, many tenants are excluded from a lot of that. So how do we ensure that tenants have a greater degree of access to different things? Diversification opportunities, renewable energy, helping with flood-risk management, all those sorts of things. Perhaps a look at the definition of agriculture within the agricultural tenancy legislation to see whether that needs to be adjusted. Perhaps a look back to the rules of good husbandry, which were developed back in the 1940s, to see whether they need to be upgraded. So, I think there is a significant desire to see if there is some more flexibility that could be given there.
Secondly, in terms of meeting statutory standards for things like slurry stores, et cetera, sometimes tenants come up against difficulties if they need a landlord's consent for that, or if it's the landlord's responsibility to put in good order the equipment that is required for statutory standards, and they're looking at how it might be possible to give an easier mechanism for tenants to effect the change that's required by the legislation.
And we've also had discussions about the extent to which Welsh Government might be prepared to use their tax powers to extend the length of tenancies, by encouraging landlords to let longer. We've seen some good evidence in Ireland, that they've basically built a landlord-tenant system from a standing start, using some income tax incentives. So, as Welsh Government has and attains further tax powers, how that might be used to the advantage of the tenanted sector.
So, some very big concepts, which we're very, very pleased to see.
Good. Thank you. That's seems a very comprehensive answer. Agriculture has changed very significantly in the last 30, 40 years in particular, and there are very few farmers that are now entirely dependent simply upon growing crops or food in its various manifestations. We're often talking about farm businesses in the widest sense, so the legislative background, obviously, has to be adapted to these rapid changes. So, that's very interesting.
As regards the agriculture Bill, which we're currently examining, is there anything in this Bill that would be better placed in the Welsh Bill in the next Assembly, in your opinion? And vice versa, is there stuff that we should have in this Bill rather than wait until next year, the year after or whenever?
Of course, and I think we are in an interesting twilight zone in relation to this legislation, because we have the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 and we have the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995, and they are both England and Wales pieces of legislation. Now, we know that the Welsh Government has got devolved responsibilities for agriculture tenancies. To date, there has been a reticence to not keep in pace with the English situation, and we saw that quite recently with the way in which the Welsh Government decided to change the model repairing clauses for agricultural tenancies under the 1986 Act. So, my question is: why bother having that consultation if all you're going to do is to copy what England had done in that instance? So, I think there is a need to make sure that, whilst having the responsibility, there is an understanding of their duty to ensure that this policy area is properly resourced and thought about within the context of Wales.
So, we're quite comfortable to see the changes that have been introduced thus far within the agriculture Bill being applied across England and Wales. But I think as we move forward in terms of devolution, and we see the White Paper, I think we'll be saying to Wales and to Welsh Government, 'Let’s think about your aspirations for the tenanted sector of agriculture in Wales going forward within the context of Wales.' There are one or two cross-border holdings that have a tenancy that straddles the border. So, there's no need, necessarily, to just follow what England is doing all the time. So, we think this is fine as far it goes, but if we're going to go any further, then Welsh Government needs to properly consider what their aspirations are for in that respect.
What, on the model clauses?
No, no—the consultation that we're awaiting a response to now. Because I'm just trying to get it clear in my mind, are we expecting—consequentially after that consultation process—bespoke agricultural tenancy legislation here in Wales, or are we envisaging the Wales agriculture Bill encapsulating some of these aspects that need to be addressed, notwithstanding the wider questions that you're saying we should be asking ourselves?
Indeed, and as I said at the beginning, we haven't yet seen the Welsh Government response to the consultation exercise to understand exactly what the thinking is on this space. Our discussions have been around what they might do against that general strategy of wanting to—
Sure. Okay. So, you haven't got the inside track, then, I was looking for, in that way.
They haven't given us whether they're going to do it under agriculture tenancy legislation in Wales or whether it's going to be under the Welsh agriculture Bill. I would assume, given the legislative pressure on the Assembly, that they will try and do as much as they possibly can through a single Bill after the election.
No. After the election. But, obviously, as time moves on, we will want to see specific statutory legislation for tenancies within Wales coming through this Parliament.
But there is this—. They need to be concurrent, don't they, really? Because you need specific areas to be addressed in order to put into effect what the Government are looking to achieve through the Wales agriculture Bill. So, they need to be running together or—
Yes. So, within the UK Bill, the provisions that allow a tenant to object to a landlord's refusal to allow them into a financial assistance scheme is absent for Wales because Wales hasn't held the powers under clause 1 one of the Bill. So, we're expecting that within a Welsh agriculture Bill, and therefore there will need to be the consequent amendments for tenants to have that access to arbitration, if necessary.
And on to me now. Okay. There we are. Fine. Well, you mentioned arbitration, so we'll go there, I think, and I'm just wondering what your views are on the provisions relating to arbitration and third-party determination. Are they appropriate, are they proportionate? There are some specific elements, one of which, of course, is replacing the demand for arbitration with a notice of determination in relation to rent review and other disputes.
Yes. So, are you wanting me to focus specifically on matters relating to rent reviews or do you want me to widen that to look at the new provision within the Schedule on disputes on—?
Well, let's do both, and I'm happy for you to share what you feel is most pressing, really.
Okay. So, on the issue of rent reviews, we are very happy to see the amendment in the Bill to provide the mechanism to allow for expert determination on rent reviews. There was a massive error made in the deregulation Act of the previous Government when it basically put in a provision that was unworkable for rent reviews on tenancies. It worked for every other aspect of agricultural tenancies, but not rent reviews. So, this corrects a previous error of a previous Government, and we very much welcome the ability for expert determination to be included.
We also welcome the widening of the franchise of organisations that can appoint arbitrators. So, we welcome the inclusion of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers and the Agricultural Law Association. We feel that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors' system has become a little bit tired and a little bit of life in that system could be quite helpful. As far as the arbitration provisions of the first bit of Schedule 3 are concerned, our principal concern is that they don't extend to 1995 Act tenants, and they are a growing proportion—25 per cent currently and growing—of tenancies of land in Wales. So, we'd want to see some extension of that. Now, there was a discussion in the Bill committee earlier in the week about extending those provisions with a Labour Party amendment, which was voted down in committee, but we will be returning to that at Report Stage.
Okay. You mentioned widening the franchise of the organisations that you mentioned, really, and I'm just wondering whether you have a comment about the appropriateness of power for Welsh Ministers to make regulations to further amend the list of professional authorities. It's described as a—it's one of the Henry VIII powers, really, isn't it, and we don't really know what they'll—?
I think it's difficult to consider what other organisations out there would be worthy enough to be in a position to supply the public good that the arbitration process is. But, obviously, having the flexibility to bring other organisations in, as and when required, is not a stupid idea. But we think that having extended it to CAAV and the ALA, that's sufficient, because we are actually talking about a relatively low number of cases. So, you want people to have expertise in this area, and the more people you bring into the game, the less expertise they will gain if it's spread more thinly.
And you're pretty comfortable with it being a negative procedure for extending that list.
Yes, absolutely. So long as there's reasonable scrutiny in terms of concentration in advance.
Good morning. What are your views on the provisions relating to requests for landlords' consent to access new schemes or a variation of the terms of the tenancy, because I know this is often raised by tenants?
So, this arose out of the consultation question about whether there should be a provision that allowed tenants to have a much wider opportunity to question a landlord's refusal, where the restrictive clauses of the tenancy agreement either restricted the profitable and productive use of the holding, or to do something for the benefit of the environment more generally. So, that was the point within which the consultation document looked at this particular issue.
Obviously, a particular cause of concern for us is if Government policy is moving towards a more public-goods-type approach, and tenants are excluded from that unless they get their landlords' consent, then we need to ensure that landlords cannot unreasonably withhold consent for them to go into schemes. So, this part, in part, answers the question, but we would like to see a greater degree of flexibility for tenants to question the unreasonable refusal of their landlords to allow them to do things that are for the benefit of the holding. Quite often, we find that landlords use restrictions in agreements to get other things out of the tenant. So, the tenant might have a cottage, or the tenant might have land that the landlord wants back for doing other things with. So, the landlord might say, 'I'm refusing consent unless you give me back that cottage,' or 'I'm refusing consent unless you do something else for me,' or 'I'm refusing consent unless you change your tenancy to a farm business tenancy.' There's nothing the tenant can currently do about that. So, we're quite pleased to see at least the first step in terms of access to schemes.
We are worried that the Bill doesn't provide for Welsh Ministers to do this when they bring forward their own legislation, so we will be looking to ensure that the provision applies in whatever legislation Wales brings forward, eventually. We are also, as I said to Llyr, very concerned about the fact that this is limited only to 1986 Act tenants, and that farm business tenants do not have recourse to the arbitration provisions that the Bill identifies.
So, you seem to have been quite busy in helping propose amendments. Are there ones proposed by you that you hope somebody in the House of Commons is going to pick up?
Yes. We have bothered to try and draft some amendments that could be picked up by the House of Commons. The Bill committee itself has picked up very few of the amendments that we have drafted. We have got some traction with other MPs as we head towards Report Stage on the Bill, which we expect before recess, and, obviously, we've got the whole of the House of Lords proceedings to go yet, and we know that there is a great deal of interest in looking at how some of these elements can be brought into the Bill from the House of Lord's perspective. It will then be very interesting to see what happens to those when they come back to the Commons.
But what I think's really interesting is that, when we had the Second Reading on the Bill, and when we had the evidence sessions before the public Bill committee, there was a lot of cross-party support for the sorts of issues that we have raised in our evidence. But when push comes to shove and the amendments are laid, voting along party lines votes down the amendments. So, we're a bit concerned that there seems to be an understanding that these issues need to be taken forward, but the whips haven't yet understood that, actually, to get some traction here, they need to accept some of these amendments.
So, what discussions have you had with the governing party, because they obviously have a large majority?
I've had a discussion with the new farming Minister, Victoria Prentis. I've had discussions with officials, even yesterday, on this issue, and they are reluctant to see major change in the legislation to any extent, and they are indicating to us that they would wish to try and fix some of the issues that we are raising through the regulatory process as it comes forward. We don't think that's necessarily sufficient. We think this should be stuff on the face of the Bill that lays down the principles that we are seeking to try and endorse.
So, of all these clauses, which do you think is the most essential in terms of preventing landlords cherry-picking deal breaking? Were a tenant to apply to do some sort of public goods scheme proposed by Welsh Government, and they then are being told, 'You're going to have to give up something that's material to the profitability of the operation', clearly, that's going to be an impenetrable barrier.
We would see the need for the amendment that we've proposed, Tenant Farmers Association 9—TFA 9—which extends the provisions of the Bill to 1995 Act tenants. We would also like to see amendment TFA 10 taken forward, which makes sure that we are covering all of the instances where landlords' consent is required, and we also think that there need to be some changes for the Welsh situation, and we have said that our amendment TFA 12, which widens the scope of the provision to include the financial provisions for Wales when they eventually come forward through the new legislation, is also important for the Bill.
Okay. I think within the clauses you've suggested—TFA 9 and 10—do they give due regard to the fact that, having listened to the earlier evidence we heard this morning from the farming representatives, if there's a proposal to put a large-scale wood on a piece of land, it clearly isn't something that can be changed the following year? So, the landlord does have an interest in that point, in something that's going to be a 25-year commitment.
Yes, but I think the key here is that this is about reasonableness. So what we're not arguing for is a provision for a tenant to be able to plant Sitka spruce right across their precious landscape; that's not what this provision is about. It's about: has the landlord unreasonably withheld consent for the tenant to go into the scheme? So if the tenant has got a tree-planting scheme that is about the field margins, the scrubby areas, the cloughs, et cetera, which makes sense within the landscape, why should the tenant be unable to take that forward? But the landlord should absolutely have the right, on a reasonable basis, to say the type of planting and the nature of the planting and the impact on the landscape and the landlord's interest is so large in this respect that we say 'no'.
So, that's about how you write the regulations to ensure that you're looking at reasonable objections. So, we're not looking for carte blanche for tenants to be able to do what they like, because that would work perversely, because landlords would then run away from the let sector if they felt that they had no control over what tenants were doing. We're just looking for opportunities to ensure that tenants have the access to unreasonable refusals.
I suppose it moves on quite nicely. I'd like your views on the provision relating to tenancy succession, and you sort of mentioned it, but in terms of the commercial unit test and the suitability test, so, those specifically.
Okay. This was one of the aspects of the Welsh Government consultation upon which we commented. There are four tests, effectively, that a potential successor to a 1986 Act tenancy has to pass. One of them is that they are not allowed to be in occupation of another commercial unit of agriculture, which is defined as a holding when farms, according to reasonable standards, are capable of deriving an income for two hired individuals. We have seen that test to be a capricious test, because it effectively hits the ill-advised, because most people can restructure the way they are holding land in order not to be in occupation of another commercial unit of agriculture prior to making a succession application. But if they're ill-advised, obviously that's a problem.
It also hits those who have a death in the family out of time. So, when they've been trying to plan for succession and suddenly, somebody dies at a very early age and they're caught with another commercial unit of agriculture. And it also, perversely, works against those who are the most progressive farmers within the sector—the people who have bothered to go and get an additional opportunity, because they haven't been certain about the succession opportunity. So why should they be the ones who are not able to succeed, just because they have been the most progressive? So, we think it's absolutely right that the commercial unit test should be removed from the statute books. We'd be very pleased to see that.
As the quid pro quo, if you like, we're also not against the raising of the bar on suitability, and we want to make sure that we have the most suitable individuals coming into farm tenancies. At the moment, the suitability test is quite a low bar. Now, the way in which the discussions have been progressing is to say the business competence of an individual should be assessed if they're going to be taking a succession. The question that has been posed is: would this individual, had they been in the marketplace for a tenancy in the open market—would it be reasonable to assume that they would find themselves on a shortlist of candidates who would be interviewed for this farm? So, they don't need to be the best out of the bunch, but they need to be reasonably accessible on the shortlist. We think that's a good standard to take. We think we need to be looking at some savings for widows and widowers if a spouse dies, but in the main we think that this provision in the round is a really good one.
And do you think that those will help achieve what we're hoping for, or the Welsh Government's hoping for, in terms of raising productivity?
Indeed. As I said, these are the most progressive farmers anyway, because they have bothered to go and get other opportunities. Actually, from our perspective, apart from those cases that I've just described, those ill-advised and those who have had a death in the family at that time, all this does, I would venture to suggest, is put money into the pockets of land agents and solicitors who have to create the circumstances within which the commercial unit test can be satisfied.
So, moving on, we've got people who are really productive, so can I have your views on the provision clarifying that payments by a tenant to a landlord for productivity improvements should be disregarded by any arbitrator or third party when it comes to a rent review dispute? Will they help unlock landlord investment as DEFRA's tenancy reform consultation suggests?
It might be helpful to the committee if I give you a little bit of background on this particular provision. The background is that, within the discussions within the tenancy reform industry group, there was a suggestion made that AHA rent levels were not providing the incentive for landlords to invest in AHA tenancies—Agriculture Holdings Act 1986 tenancies—and that therefore, rents on AHA tenancies should migrate to open-market rents under farm business tenancies so that it gave landlords a greater incentive to invest in those holdings and get a return for their investment. My argument back, or the TFA Cymru's argument back, was, 'Show me the evidence that landlords are routinely investing more heavily in holdings let under the farm business tenancy legislation in comparison with the 1986 Act legislation.' No evidence was forthcoming. But I said it is absolutely right that tenants should not be able to undo deals that they have done if a landlord says they want to invest in a holding and there is an agreed rate of return for that.
The problem is that the current mechanisms allow the tenant to mitigate that cost by arguing for a lower rent at the next rent review, because they have to pay a 5 per cent, 6 per cent, or an 8 per cent charge on the landlord's investment in a building. So it's absolutely right that, if you've done a deal, that deal should stick. If the landlord wants to invest £100,000 and you've agreed to pay 6 per cent over 20 years, you should pay 6 per cent over 20 years without trying to mitigate that, as long as the tenant is also protected by not having the benefit of that investment counted against him in an increasing rent, going forward. And that's what the provision applies for. So if this delivers a greater degree of landlord investment into agricultural tenancy holdings, I will be really pleased, but I remain to be convinced that it will happen. But certainly, it's something that needs to ensure that there is fairness in the system for both landlords and tenants.
Thank you very much. Finally from me—or I think finally from me—. Not finally from me, as Jenny Rathbone wants to come back in. Please.
I'm happy to follow your first question. I want to come in on this area.
My question is obviously the last one, because I'm going to ask about any other provisions in the Bill, so for anything on this, please come in.
Okay. Thank you very much, Chair. I wanted to ask you about food security. The NFU in its evidence points out that
'we are now only 61% self-sufficient in temperate foodstuffs'.
I have a particular interest in horticulture, where we really are deficient and, if all these trade negotiations go badly, it could all end in tears. So I just wondered if there's anything you're able to tell us about small tenancies. How small is your smallest tenant member?
Probably less than an acre.
But it's the smallest. Obviously, we've got tenants of 10,000 acres as well, so we've got a spread.
Sure, okay. So, clearly, you don't need as much land to do horticulture as you do to have animals on pasture. So, I just wondered if you think that this Bill is sufficiently clear about the importance of food security, and how we can use it to ensure that we are able to access fresh food going forward.
I think what I would say to begin with on that point is: who would have thought, given the debate that we've had over the past 20-odd years, that a modern Government would consider putting food security on the statute books in the way that it has? We've fought and fought and fought to get successive Governments to consider the importance of food security, and here we have a situation now where the Government has eventually woken up to the fact that food security is an important issue. Has the Government gone far enough? Obviously not, because all that they have done is two important things, but not far enough. One is to require there to be a report to Parliament every five years on the nature of food security, and, secondly, in relation to England at least, to ensure that the Government uses its financial assistance powers by taking into consideration the impact on food production produced in an environmentally sustainable way.
Now, we think, firstly, we need to see food security in the first part of the Bill, and we need to borrow some of the language from Welsh Government in terms of the future well-being legislation for that. And we also think that the reporting on food security needs to be annual, not every five years, and that there needs to be a requirement upon the Government to ensure that they are indicating what measures they think they need to take if they consider food security is not being adhered to. We don't know whether 61 per cent is good or bad or whether it should be 75 per cent, or whether we get concerned if it dropped to 50 per cent. So, we need some numbers around the Government's aspiration in terms of food self-sufficiency and, certainly, horticulture is one of those areas where we think we need to be considerably ramping up our ability to produce food from our own resources. And I think it was Minette Batters at the NFU conference just recently who said we had a moral obligation, given that we are importing stuff from parts of the world that are water stressed already. We've got plenty of water and good conditions to grow it here—why don't we do that?
And I think we need to look more widely at some of the other Government thoughts and aspirations for policies. So, we've seen, for example, the speculation that the Chancellor may remove the subsidy on red diesel. That will have a massive impact on the ability for farmers to be able to grow crops and to establish crops. So, we think there needs to be a systems approach to this, not just a few words in the Bill, but it is really good to see the importance of food security being placed in the Bill.
Okay. I think, obviously, we've heard quite a lot of evidence earlier about how the food security requirement—. You know, they must report annually. I think it's something that there seems to quite a lot of coherence about.
I just wondered if you could tell us a bit more about whether the Bill is sufficient to enable new people to come in to this business under 5 hectares, because, obviously, plots of under 5 hectares haven't been eligible for European money. We are leaving the European Union now, so do you think that it's sufficient—? Is there anything that we need to add to the Bill to ensure that we get that increase in production in small plots that are perfectly adequate for horticulture businesses?
So, I think there is a need to be a little bit smarter about this rather than just saying it's a size issue. When we had the changes to introduce the single payment scheme, we suddenly found that across England and Wales, something like 40,000 or 50,000 new applicants who happened to be running pony paddocks who thought they could get into the single payment scheme system. So, they weren't actually doing horticulture or involved in the food sector; they were just small landowners who happened to have a few acres that they were grazing a couple of horses on that they managed to get into the scheme. What we have suggested the Bill needs, and also any future legislation in Wales needs, is a real focus on active farmers and to be targeting support on those who are actively farming land, whatever size of holding that they are operating. We've defined those individuals as people who are in occupation of land or with rights of common, where they have the day-to-day management control of the business activities on that ground, and are taking the entrepreneurial risk for the business activities on that ground. So, it would exclude recreational use of that land; so, it would be a business use and an active farmer use. So, then you can do away with a clunky, size-oriented provision and make sure that you are actually properly targeting those active individuals.
One of the issues that was raised recently in another meeting was the fact that, under 5 hectares holdings, you have to actually specifically apply to erect a building relating to the business, whereas if you are a farmer on a larger business, you can just put it up if you need it for your business. I note that, in Scotland, you've been able to build new structures on anything as small as 0.4 of a hectare. So, I just wondered if that's something that you have thought about advocating should be adopted in England and Wales.
I've got no knowledge of what's going on in Scotland, I'm afraid. We have a sister organisation in Scotland—called the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, surprisingly. But in respect of the impact of other pieces of legislation, we need to look at the planning framework. We need to look at permitted development rights. We need to look at housing provision. We need to look at taxation. All of these things are important here. So, whilst the Bill can do some things to bring forward change as we need it, we also need it to be cross-Government.
I know the Chairman might go on to all areas, but one area where there clearly hasn't been some cross-Government thinking is in relation to the supply chain management. So, absolutely, it should be the groceries code adjudicator who's responsible for this wider area of concern, not another body that has no expertise in this space. So, despite the fact that we hear the mantra of cross-Government thinking all of the time, it doesn't always appear in practice. This is one area, between the planning system and encouraging food security with buildings, for example, that needs to be explored.
My final question, which I'm sure you will tell me that you've just answered part of it there—
No, that's fine. No problem—it doesn't matter when questions get answered as long as they're answered. Do you have any further comments regarding any other provisions within the Bill?
So, I think that we've covered the food security issue. On the multifinancial assistance plans, I think that it's great that the Government has committed to bringing these forward, and the first one is going to be a seven-year plan. But we need to see a lot more detail than is set out within the Bill. So, we need to look at how the devolution settlement plays through and actually put some numbers into the objectives, rather than just saying how they think they're going to proceed. We've dealt with food security.
On exceptional market conditions, we're concerned that the Bill is deficient in two respects. One is environmental factors. So, it refers to 'price' and 'markets', but what happens, for example, with the desperate flooding and issues that we've had just recently? How do we see that playing through in terms of Government being able to come forward with financial assistance? Or for chronic things—. Look at TB, for example, as a chronic disease issue. Surely, there should be some powers within this for the Government to intervene when there's a chronic issue that is affecting the incomes of farmers.
I've referred to fair dealing and the need for the groceries code adjudicator on that. So, I think that those would be our main concerns with the Bill, Mr Chairman.
Can I thank you very much for coming along and giving your evidence? Could I also give you a reminder that you will get a copy of the transcript of this? Again, I will say to you what I say to everybody else: check it. It will be accurate, but if you do what I do occasionally, which is to turn away while I'm talking, sometimes the odd word gets missed out. So, please check it to make sure that none of those words are missing and, if they are, let the people people who sent you the transcript know. Thank you very much.
No worries. Thank you very much indeed.
We've got five papers to note: written evidence from Meat Promotion Wales on the legislative consent motion in relation to the UK Agriculture Bill; written evidence from the RSPB on the LCM in relation to the UK Agriculture Bill; written evidence from the National Trust on the LCM in relation to the UK Agriculture Bill; the Welsh Government's response to the committee's report on the Welsh Government's draft budget 2020-1; and follow-up information relating to the fuel poverty inquiry from Energy UK, outlining the relationship and partnership that its members have with stakeholders in Wales. Are we happy to note?
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Can I move a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from item 6 of today's meeting? Thank you.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:35.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:35.