Thursday 2 December 2021
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
We are almost one year into the agricultural transition. Farming in England is moving away from the arbitrary land-based subsidies and top-down bureaucracy that epitomised the EU era, towards schemes that recognise the work that farmers do as stewards of our natural environment. Our reforms will support productive and profitable farming and food production alongside environmental, climate and animal welfare outcomes.
Since January, we have increased the money going to countryside stewardship and seen a 40% increase in applications compared with the previous years, launched the farming in protected landscapes scheme, consulted on a voluntary exit scheme, launched the farming investment fund to boost farm profitability and started a pilot of our new sustainable farming incentive.
I would like to update the House on the progress that we have made, working with English farmers to co-design our new systems and support the choices that they make for their own holdings. By the end of the transition, we expect spending to be evenly split across farm-level, locally tailored, and landscape-scale investment.
Sustainable farming incentive
The sustainable farming incentive will fund sustainable farming activities alongside food production, and it will eventually be open to all farmers. It will open in 2022 with the first payments being made before the end of the year. Today I am publishing more detail on how it will operate in 2022 and how the offer will be expanded from 2023 to 2025.
Local nature recovery
Local nature recovery is the improved and more ambitious successor to the existing countryside stewardship scheme. Its focus will be on making space for nature in the farmed landscape and the wider countryside. As with countryside stewardship, it will comprise a menu of options. The options will be broader and more ambitious, focusing on biodiversity, climate, water quality and other co-benefits alongside food production. It will fairly pay farmers for using perhaps less productive areas of their farms for those purposes. We will support collaboration between farmers such as in the way that cluster farms currently operate.
Landscape recovery will create at least 20,000 hectares of wilder landscapes, habitats, rewetted peat and afforestation at a landscape scale, and we are ambitious in going even further in harnessing our landscapes for the natural environment. This option will reward landowners or managers who want to take a more radical and large-scale approach to producing environmental and climate outcomes on their land. Industry engagement has confirmed that there is demand for this scheme, and we will launch the application process—and further details of this and the local nature recovery scheme— in the new year.
While we roll out our new schemes, we are encouraging farmers to enter into countryside stewardship. Today I am also confirming that we will be updating countryside stewardship payment rates from January 2022, which will be published in the new year. We will help farmers in countryside stewardship and other schemes make the transition to our new schemes from 2024 onwards.
We are also investing in animal health and welfare. The animal health and welfare pathway will drive continual improvement in farm animal health and welfare across our national flocks and herds.
I also want to set out the high-level environmental priorities for our programme: climate change mitigation and adaptation; species abundance; water quality; and soil health. Farmers and land managers are central to delivering these priorities, to reach our commitments in the net zero strategy and the statutory targets that will be set under the Environment Act 2021, including to halt the decline in species abundance by 2030.
We will set out high-level priorities and design incentives for actions that will contribute to them. Within this overall framework, it will be for farmers to choose how they want to get involved, whether that is by sparing small areas of unproductive land, changing to a more regenerative approach, or pursuing more radical land use change.
We will pay farmers for the actions that they take in these areas, and activities that provide co-benefits in other areas, such as building the resilience of the environment to climate change, improving air quality, natural flood management and coastal erosion risk mitigation. We will also continue to pay for heritage, access and engagement through our existing schemes and we will consider how to maintain investment in these areas as part of future schemes.
Health and Social Care
Acquired Brain Injury
The Government are committed to supporting all people living with an acquired brain injury (ABI) and those living with other neurological conditions and seek to prevent acquired brain injuries wherever possible.
The Government recognise the strength of support for a more collaborative and cross-departmental approach to ensuring that people with ABI receive the support that they need from statutory services. I would like to express my gratitude to both my right hon. Friend the Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Sir John Hayes) and the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) for continuing to champion this important cause and recognise their significant contributions to improving services for people living with an ABI. As the Prime Minister announced on 24 November 2021, the Department of Health and Social Care will be leading work to develop a cross-Government strategy on ABI. I am pleased to confirm today some further details regarding the strategy.
The content of the strategy will be informed by a call for evidence which will be launched early in 2022, inviting stakeholders nationwide, including healthcare professionals, people living with an acquired brain injury, their families and carers, to put forward their views about what should be prioritised within the strategy. These priorities could include guidance on action to prevent acquired brain injury, including through concussion in sport; on research into the societal, congenital, medical and environmental causes of ABI; on the provision of relevant services for the purpose of diagnosing ABI, including in prisons, schools and the armed forces; on the identification of adults and children with ABI; on the assessment of their needs; and on the planning of relevant services. We will also ask for feedback on whether there are other related neurological conditions which should be considered for inclusion.
Development of the strategy will be overseen by a dedicated programme board, which, in my capacity as Minister for Care and Mental Health, I will co-chair with the hon. Member for Rhondda. Senior officials in all relevant Government Departments will be invited to join the board to ensure that the strategy addresses the wide range of issues that affect the day to day lives of those living with an ABI. This will include representatives from the Welsh Government and other devolved Administrations, as appropriate.
Following publication, the strategy will be kept under review and may be revised periodically to ensure that it continues to reflect the priority areas and actions needed to best support people living with ABI and their families.
Machinery of Government Change: Boycotts, Disinvestments and Sanctions
I am making this statement to bring to the House’s attention the following machinery of government change.
The Government have committed to legislation to ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries. Responsibility for this will transfer from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. This change will take effect on 8 December 2021.