Agriculture Bill will complete on time – Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom says she is confident Brexit legislation will be completed on time – despite dozens of amendments tabled to the government’s Agriculture Bill.

The House of Commons leader was responding to a question by Labour’s shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz on Thursday (31 January).

See also: NFU outlines top 10 key amendments to Agriculture Bill

Ms Vaz said six important pieces of legislation needed to be debated and passed by MPs before the UK leaves the European Union on 29 March.

This included legislation on fisheries, immigration, trade, financial services and healthcare – as well as the government’s Agriculture Bill.

Ms Leadsom told Ms Vaz she was confident this would all be done in time.

“I can absolutely assure her that my day job is to make sure, on a daily basis, that both the primary legislation and the secondary legislation are progressing through the house,” she said.

“That is the case and will continue to be the case.”

Grant schemes

MPs have tabled some 59 amendments to the Agriculture Bill, which sets out the government’s post-Brexit plans for UK agriculture.

They include amendments MPs say would protect food security, ensure imported food is produced to UK standards and ensure tenant farmers can access new grant schemes.

The Tenant Farmers Association said it was concerned that clauses within tenancy agreements may preclude some tenant farmers from taking advantage of new environmental grants.

TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “It is really important that all farmers have fair access to the new schemes being developed in both England and Wales.”

Shadow farm minister David Drew has tabled an amendment enabling tenants to pursue any objection from a landlord to arbitration or expert determination.

‘No reassurance’

But Mr Dunn warned: “We have yet to receive any assurance that the amendment will be accepted or if the government will come forward with its own amendment.”

Other amendments tabled by Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman seek to ensure that any payments available through new schemes are only made to active farmers.

Mr Dunn said: “Individuals farming land often lose out to those who own the land when schemes are available to support agri-environment objectives, diversification and productivity.

“We want the assurance that payments can only be made to individuals who are in occupation of the land being used for the scheme, taking the entrepreneurial risk of the activities on that land and in day-to-day management control.”