Considered in Grand Committee
That the Grand Committee do consider the Rural Development (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
Relevant document: 18th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee (Sub-Committee B)
My Lords, it is appropriate that I declare my farming interests, as set out in the register. The matters in the four instruments are closely interrelated; I hope it will be helpful to your Lordships if I speak to all four together. These instruments amend retained EU law and domestic legislation to ensure that rural development payments and maritime and fisheries payments can still be made after exit day. These amendments will maintain the effectiveness and continuity of EU and domestic legislation that would otherwise be deficient following our exit.
These changes are necessary to enable rural development programmes, partially funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and the maritime and fisheries operational programme, partially funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, to continue operating effectively in the United Kingdom following exit, until their closure at the end of the 2014-2020 programming period. There will be an opportunity to consider the scheme-specific regulations for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund at a later date, as these are made operable in the Common Fisheries Policy (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019.
There are currently four rural development programmes operating in the UK, one in each Administration, providing funding for rural businesses, farmers, land managers and applicants living in a rural community with the intention of growing the rural economy, increasing productivity and improving the environment. The maritime and fisheries programme is UK-wide and promotes growth in the sector by providing funding for sustainable fisheries, marketing and processing and sustainable aquaculture, among other matters.
There are two European funds relevant to these instruments: the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The former supports the delivery of rural development in the UK and is worth some £430 million per year over the programming period. The latter promotes a competitive, environmentally sustainable, economically viable and socially responsible fisheries and aquaculture sector, which is worth some £32 million per year. The UK Government have guaranteed that any projects funded from the 2014-2020 allocations from these funds will be funded for their full lifetime.
The changes made by these instruments are necessary to ensure that the Government guarantee can be honoured and payments can continue to be made to agreement holders using domestic funding in place of funding from the EU. They provide certainty to individuals and businesses currently receiving rural development and maritime and fisheries funding or considering applying for funding during the current 2014-2020 programming period.
The Rural Development (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 amend the EU regulation that provides the general rules and structures governing support for rural development, providing payments to be made to agreement holders and laying down rules on programming, networking, management, monitoring and evaluation.
The Rural Development (Rules and Decisions) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 amend the implementing and delegated provisions made under the main rural development EU regulation and four implementing decisions approving the rural development programmes for each of the devolved authorities.
The European Structural and Investment Funds Common Provisions (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 amend the EU regulation that sets out the shared framework for all the European structural and investment funds, but only as far as applies to rural development and maritime and fisheries.
Finally, the European Structural and Investment Funds Common Provisions Rules etc. (Amendment etc.) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 amend the supplementary provisions for European structural and investment funds for rural development and maritime and fisheries that are not dealt with elsewhere.
I emphasise that all these instruments remedy the deficiencies in the regulations to ensure that they continue to operate effectively when we leave. They do not introduce new policy, are technical in nature and preserve the current regime for supporting rural businesses, environmental land management and sustainable fisheries, among other matters. The amendments include omitting deficient references to the European Commission and member states and replacing them with references to either the UK or the relevant authority, as appropriate. The instruments also amend references to “Union law” throughout, so that the relevant EU regulations continue to operate effectively as part of national law. Provisions that are deficient because they are time-limited and under which the relevant actions have occurred have also been omitted, such as provisions relating to ex ante evaluations that have already been completed and provisions relating to prefinancing paid out when the programmes were initially set up. In addition, references to European institutions such as the European Investment Bank are also omitted.
One purpose of these modifications is to ensure continuity and clarity as to which public bodies have responsibilities towards the programmes. The obligations and discretions placed on member states will continue to be exercised after exit by relevant authorities in the UK. In this context, “relevant authority” means: the current managing authority of the maritime and fisheries operational programme, the Marine Management Organisation; the Secretary of State in relation to the Rural Development Programme for England; Scottish Ministers in relation to the Scottish Rural Development Programme; Welsh Ministers in relation to the Rural Development Programme for Wales; and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in relation to the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme.
As noble Lords are well aware, agriculture and fisheries are devolved policy areas and are of special importance for all parts of the kingdom. We have worked closely with the devolved Administrations to produce these instruments; they place great importance on them and have given them their full support. I repeat that these statutory instruments are required for the continued operation of the rural development programmes and the maritime and fisheries programme. Without them, there would be no legal powers to make payments to fulfil the promises that these important programmes will continue. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for bringing forward this little group of statutory instruments. I shall pursue what was raised in Sub-Committee B’s report—the 18th report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee. The Sub-Committee has invited this Committee to probe for more financial information. I have a series of questions and I shall try not to repeat myself.
There will be schemes that have finished, and new schemes that will commence but end after a key date—that could be 2021-22. What advice are my noble friend and his department giving to those who may be in a position to enter a new scheme but are reluctant to do so, since they are not sure whether it will complete and what the funding will be for it? My understanding is that there are schemes that fall into that category, and concern has been raised.
Paragraph 7.5 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the rural development regulations says:
“On EU exit, the UK will seek reimbursement from the EU for all CAP payments made to beneficiaries up to 29 March 2019”.
On what basis? We are still members of the European Union, so I would just like to know what the legal basis is for that. It seems very odd, because we are committed to the EU schemes between 2014 and 2019. It says “up to”, so I just ask for clarification, because I do not understand what the legal basis is. It goes on to say:
“Thereafter, such funding will be provided by HM Treasury”.
I know this is of great interest to the farming press and the farming community generally. What is the budget from which those funds will be provided, going forward?
The paragraph goes on:
“The UK Government has guaranteed that any EAFRD projects, where funding has been agreed before the end of 2020, will be funded for their full lifetime”.
Again, it would be helpful to know where these funds are coming from. It continues:
“The guarantee also means that Defra and the devolved administrations can continue to sign new projects this year and during 2020”.
What will be the duration of those schemes? Again, where will the money come from? It goes on:
“In addition, the Government has pledged to continue to commit the same … total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament, expected in 2022”.
This has been exercising me for some time. The Government have consistently said that we are committed to paying money until the end of this Parliament, which is expected in 2022. It begs the question: if a general election—heaven forfend—is held before 2022, possibly this year, does that leave the door open for a newly elected Government to cease to pay those funds for those three years, from 2019 to 2022, particularly if there is a change of Government? It is just not clear and it gives us the opportunity to clarify that this afternoon.
Going forward, I think the Government have said that there is to be a transitional phase of continuing to support farmers with the schemes that are the subject of this SI from 2022 until 2027. Is that to be the subject of a different statutory instrument or does it rightly fall within this instrument? Again, does my noble friend the Minister have any idea as to what the funds will be? I know that farmers tend to plan a year or longer ahead, so it would be helpful to know whether the department envisages similar types of schemes to those which have qualified. My concern is about taking the active farmer out and changing the Countryside Stewardship Scheme to natural capital schemes, where the tariffs have been published but we do not yet know what these environmental benefit schemes are.
I know that this is largely an argument we will have—a discussion, not an argument—when we debate the Agriculture Bill. I was very wedded to the idea of rewarding all the farmers and landowners who perform environmental schemes for the public good. However, if you do not own the land you will not get the money. My noble friend will hear an awful lot about this but there are graziers and tenant farmers who, at the moment, receive small amounts of money that are keeping them in farming and enabling them to tend a hillside. Short of sheep and cattle grazing, it is difficult to envisage how else we are going to see those hills being managed.
I have covered all the ground that I wished to; most of these points were also raised in paragraph 3 on page 3 of the Sub-Committee’s report. The instrument obviously begs a number of questions, which I have set out, but I hope that my noble friend will take the opportunity to allay a number of fears.
My Lords, I follow my noble friend on her various questions; she touched on some of the things I wished to raise. The question of the timescale is hugely important because, in the past, some agricultural schemes have run for 10 years and some for seven years. The timescale that she has just referred to—between 2022 and 2027—is a span of only five years, so that ongoing question needs to be resolved.
We have talked about the question of active farmers and of who receives payments in the future in many of our discussions on agriculture. I particularly wonder whether that could, in the future, include youth projects and retirement projects, or whether that is outside the particular instruments that we are looking at. It may well be so and if I am told that it is, I will perhaps be happier than I am with it not being mentioned here.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh spoke about tenant farmers and graziers, or commoners, but if I am right, I would also raise the whole question of contractors with the Minister because so many farms—as indeed ours are—are now contracted out. It was easier in the past to always refer to tenant farmers, but I think one will find that there are many more contracted arrangements now between farmers.
I, too, would like to raise paragraphs 3 and 4 of the report from the Scrutiny Committee’s Sub-Committee B. These refer to the deficiencies but the Minister has covered many of them in his presentation. If there is anything he wants to add to it, it would be good for the Committee to hear that. Also, what is happening with the financial analysis that has taken place?
Returning to the European structural and investment funds regulations, page 3 of the Explanatory Memorandum refers to the,
“special interest to the Joint Committee”.
I understand that the House of Lords sifting committee did not think it was necessary to have a debate. However, the House of Commons recommended that we should, which is why we are debating it here. It would be interesting to know what it was unhappy about and what steps the Government have taken to rectify that, but overall, these instruments are obviously welcome. They are very technical, and allow systems to keep going as they are.
Moving to rural payments, we have talked about money being made available for rural development. Can the Minister say if that will also be defined as, for example, making it possible for groups of people to come together to enhance businesses and make that food chain shorter? That is not clear here. One of the big challenges that we face as a nation is how to contain the costs of producing food. The Minister, who is so knowledgeable on these things, knows very well the great advantage one has in fruit growing, or whatever it is, if there is a chain that links everything together. Money has been put aside in the past for that sort of work and I wonder whether that would fall within these regulations. It is not defined but it would be of great help.
Once we have accepted these instruments and moved on, perhaps there will be greater freedom for the UK to develop more ideas of its own as to how money could be used better to ensure that we produce food to our very high standards while reducing the chain. That way, the actual cost to the consumer could be contained in a better way than it perhaps has been in the past—it has been a bit fractioned in some areas. Pigs and poultry are not falling into that but there are some other areas, particularly horticulture, where the coming together of business would bring great benefits. However, having read through this, I am not clear whether that falls within the category of the thinking behind these regulations.
My Lords, I will speak to the first two of these four statutory instruments that are being taken together. I thank the Minister and his officials for their very helpful briefing session on what is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, has already indicated, a very complex subject.
The European agricultural fund for rural development provides rural development programmes which run under the multiannual financial framework. This SI allows funded programmes to run allegedly unhindered after exit date, until their natural end in 2020.
Annexe 2 of the Explanatory Memorandum lists the six legacy regulations affected by the SI, two more in which deficiencies will be remedied and four where the devolved Administrations have had programme amendments approved. This will ensure that structure fund programmes continue to run smoothly. As I understand it, these programmes will continue to report in the same way as previously but will report to the rural development programmes of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as the relevant devolved Administrations, instead of direct to the EU.
The aim of these SIs is to ensure operability of schemes and the continuity of investment in rural areas, which is the key element for me—it is really important. I wish to ask about the specifics of reporting mechanisms. The EU was very stringent on the information that was required by those who had received structure funds. Being involved with an organisation that had some of their money, I am aware of just how stringent it was. Can the Minister assure us that the UK will get good value for public money? This is especially necessary now that the Exchequer will pick up the funding instead of the EU.
As someone who comes from a rural community, I have a keen interest in the effect of these SIs. Last Friday I took part in a rural conference whose chief aim was to press the Government to produce a rural strategy. The Government have produced an Industrial Strategy which addresses the needs of urban communities and their economy. Now it is time to produce a strategy to address some of the huge disadvantages that rural communities face. These include lack of infrastructure, lack of transport, significantly less pupil funding, lack of affordable housing and poor access to services. I am concerned that the lifeline of rural development funding will be cut off by 2021, to be replaced by a nebulous undertaking that this will in future be covered by the Agriculture Bill.
The Agriculture Bill as published makes some significant changes to the way funding for farming and the environment would take place—as has already been said, public money for public good—but the Bill has become stuck in the Commons after Committee. I am concerned that a large gap in funding for rural areas is opening up before us. As the noble Lord has indicated, Sub-Committee B of the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee estimates that the value of EU funds that will need to be replaced is between £400 million and £450 million a year of the European agricultural fund for rural development programmes for the remainder of the period to 2020. The loss of this investment will be keenly felt by many in deep rural areas.
Paragraph 7.3 of the Explanatory Memorandum states:
“After EU Exit, no new rural development programmes will need to be approved and from 2021 new agricultural and environmental schemes will be delivered under the Agricultural Bill”.
The Agriculture Bill will therefore need to be in place by 2021. It should have been in place by the 29th of this month, so that rural communities could plan ahead and have confidence that they were not going to suffer from a severe lack of resources. I know that the Minister understands these issues, but I am not sure the rest of the Government do.
Paragraph 12.1 of the Explanatory Memorandum, under “Impact”, states:
“Beneficiaries will continue to receive rural development funding as before EU exit”.
I am not confident that this will happen and am very concerned about the fate of rural communities.
My Lords, I first thank and apologise to the Minister for having missed his briefing on Monday; I was election monitoring in west Africa. I left central Guinea-Bissau at the right time and the journey all the way back to Gatwick Airport was perfect until I tried to get the Gatwick Express to Victoria, when it all went wrong and I missed the meeting.
For six years I had the great privilege of being a board member of the Marine Management Organisation, a Defra non-departmental public body. I have had an awful lot to do with structural funding over the years as an MEP, in other roles locally in the south-west and a little bit as part of the MMO. The EMFF recently has been one of the best-delivered structural funds. I am particularly thankful for the good work of the MMO’s finance director, Michelle Willis, under the direction of the chief executive, John Tuckett, who managed to deliver a programme of structural funding pretty well on time and of the right quality, which is unusual in this area.
I know the Minister always likes me to be positive, so I seriously congratulate the Government on one thing in particular—there will be others: in paragraph 6.7 of the Explanatory Memorandum, for the first time ever the Government have used the term “fishers” rather than “fishermen”. I have brought this up before, and the government response on why they used that word was that they consulted with the industry and that is the term it said it wanted to be used. There is something wrong in the way that that logic works. But congratulations on that. My sub-committee’s most recent report on the landing obligation, which I cannot go on to today, also used that terminology, because that is the way that participants in this industry are described in most other English-speaking countries. I hope that that will continue in future.
I welcome the fact that funding will continue but, here we are: discrimination again. Paragraph 7.6 of the Explanatory Memorandum states that there will be,
“the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of this Parliament, expected in 2022”.
That is farm support. Where is the fishing industry? It is funded only up to 2020. There is no commitment to fisheries for those final two years. Once again, I see discrimination for an agriculture industry that is, to be frank, pretty well off, against one, fisheries, where certain sectors are well off, but there is no government guarantee to continue that EMMF funding until 2022. I hope that I am wrong, but I have not seen any different.
I welcome the fact—the Minister mentioned that this will be in a future SI—that the scope of the EMFF will include energy efficiency measures, which is excellent, and working conditions. That is how it is described in the Explanatory Memorandum.
Having said that, the Minister may be aware that the European Union has been looking at the EMFF regulations and recently published amending regulation 508/2014 as regards certain rules relating to the EMFF by reason of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the Union. The rest of the European Union is allowing for the EMFF to be used when it is necessary to compensate communities when they have been excluded from UK waters for fishing.
I ask the question because fishing by UK fleets in other EU waters yields 94,000 tonnes of fish at a revenue of £106 million on average each year. Would the Government consider a similar scheme—not reciprocal, because it can be done unlilaterally, as in the EU—for communities particularly hit by the fact that certain types of fleet and fisheries might be excluded from access if there is not a proper agreement? That will be useful.
I should also be interested to understand whether these EMFF funds will in future be equally open to a sector of the British fleet, known as quota hoppers, owned by foreign EU businesses. Will they, both Spanish and Dutch-owned, have a significant proportion of operations? I presume that they will have equal access post Brexit to these funds under non-discrimination in a UK single market. I should be interested to hear the Minister’s reaction to that.
My last question on fisheries contains devolution. At the moment, the Marine Management Organisation acts on behalf of Defra for the whole of the country, although it administers only the English proportion. I presume that under the new UK system, the default authorities will take full control of those funds and the MMO will be relieved of that duty. That will be useful to understand.
Lastly, I was surprised to read in the Explanatory Memorandum about a broader issue: the European Investment Bank. The European Investment Bank, which usually does not get out of bed for anything under about £5 billion—or €5 billion—says that EIB money will no longer be available once we leave the European Union. I find it interesting that that is in the EM. The EM continues that this will be replaced by “domestic finance mechanisms”. I have heard nothing from the Government about what will replace the billions of pounds—or euros—invested in environmental areas by the European Investment Bank. It seems that the Government now have some clue about that, and I should be very interested to hear from the Minister what that is.
I thank the Minister for his explanation of the instruments before the Committee today and declare my interests as stated in the register as being in receipt of EU funds. As the Minister said, these statutory instruments are amendments to retained EU laws to allow the rural development programmes and others supported by a combination of UK and EU funding to continue to operate after EU exit for the remainder of the 2014-2020 programming period.
The Government have guaranteed that projects will be funded for their full lifetime, and have gone further by pledging to commit the same cash total in all funds for farm support, including the common agricultural policy, until the end of this Parliament, expected in 2022. All the SIs were originally negative instruments that the sifting committees of either or both Houses of Parliament have recommended be debated by Parliament.
Sub-Committee B of your Lordships’ Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, in its ninth report, expressed disappointment at the uninformative nature of the Explanatory Memoranda that provided no explanation of the instruments’ discrete functions. On my analysis, the first two memoranda on rural development are the same, verbatim, except for the title. In its 18th report, the committee also commented that the provision of more financial information would have been useful to inform debate.
The second two instruments on EU structural funds are similar but more informative, providing some detail on the value of EU funds to be replaced. While it is recognised and appreciated that the Government have accepted the committee’s recommendations, why has so little information being provided in the Explanatory Memoranda?
Other than funding originating from the UK Government and several Commission roles being domesticated, will any significant changes result from the enactment of these SIs in a no-deal scenario? Although they appear largely technical, it is difficult to appreciate the amendments from the legal text.
I have some questions to clarify exactly what is happening here. First, these instruments transfer obligations or discretions from member states to relevant authorities, and these will be pertinent to each devolved Administration. I am sure the Minister will confirm that each devolved Administration—probably excepting Northern Ireland—has discussed and support the orders, and that each devolved Administration has consulted with the programme monitoring committee, which is composed of stakeholder representatives, including non- government organisations. Under the rural development regulations, no further details are disclosed. Under the structural investment fund regulations, there is further information that Defra has met the Rural Payment Agency’s industry partnership group, and these stake- holders are named.
Can the Minister clarify the extent of the consultation and the full extent of the consultees at devolved level? Have the commencement stakeholders named in the IPG UK list been consulted at devolved level—the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland representatives of farmers, consultants and agents? Although consultation may have been impossible with the Northern Ireland Office, it would be useful to know that stakeholders had been consulted in that region.
Under regulations pertinent to the European maritime and fisheries fund, the EMFF, no details regarding stakeholders are given, other than that there was “targeted engagement”. Can the Minister clarify what “targeted engagement” amounts to and specify exactly which stakeholders were involved? These details would be most informative as noble Lords prepare for the Fisheries Bill, which is promised soon.
Secondly, at paragraph 2.6 it is explained that some regulations are being addressed separately by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The split between departments leads to confusion. Can the Minister clarify whether the European structural and investment funds under paragraph 2.8 come under his department or BEIS?
Further, an explanation regarding the European Investment Bank, which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned, and its relevance to these instruments would be helpful, as it is stated at paragraph 12.1 that the UK’s involvement in the EIB will cease on EU exit. The paragraph goes on to say that,
“domestic finance mechanisms would still be accessible”.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, I would be most grateful to understand what this refers to. What are these mechanisms, how will they operate in regard to these instruments, and who might those finance providers be?
Paragraph 7.5 of the Explanatory Memorandum for the structural funds instruments mentions that projects under both the European agricultural fund for rural development, the EAFRD, and the previously mentioned European maritime and fisheries fund,
“whose funding has been agreed before the end of 2020 will be funded for their full lifetime”.
How long will that be? I am a little confused that projects post leaving the EU, especially under a no-deal scenario, that have not yet been endorsed at EU level until 2020 will still be guaranteed by the Government—let us stick to the convenience for now that we will be leaving in March 2019. Can the Minister clarify the apparent contradiction? The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, also raised queries in this regard: whose budget will be responsible and in which circumstances?
I am grateful to the Minister for the consultations he has undertaken with all Benches on these SIs. They have been most helpful, as have his written replies to our previous questions on other SIs. I apologise that it was not possible for me to meet him this week, and that consequently I was not able to give him notice of my inquiries today. How does his department intend to manage agricultural and rural development support through these exit regulations, and no doubt CAP regulations to come next week, with full funding to 2022 and subsequently to the provisions of the Agriculture and Fisheries Bills? These support measures are indeed vital across the rural economy.
His department has included features of this landscape at paragraph 7.5 of the Explanatory Memorandum to the rural development regulations. This explains that the new RDP will cease, while,
“the same cash total in funds for farm support”,
including the common agricultural policy, no doubt, will continue,
“until the end of this Parliament”,
which is still expected to be 2022—even though the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, is quite entitled to reflect otherwise. The CAP is at a total funding of £3 billion per annum, and paragraph 7.7 is not entirely clear what the total or annual value of the funding of the EU commitment to scheme holders will be and for what duration. I would be most grateful if the noble Lord could give any further explanation beyond those given in his introduction. That only three lines on this are included in the financial implications is much to be regretted.
I am sure the Minister will also be aware of modulation, whereby deductions from payments under Pillar 1 are made and subsequently transferred to Pillar 2—rural development—and that these sums must be matched by the Government. Will the full administration of all these features still operate under the CAP towards rural development and be guaranteed by the Government? It looks as though there may be a gap before rural development is reinvigorated through the Agriculture Bill. Once again, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, has drawn attention to the fact that there could well be nothing for fisheries.
I may be asking for far more than the Minister can possibly undertake under the regulations today, especially if he was to answer the pertinent questions from the noble Baronesses, Lady Byford and Lady McIntosh. However, I am sure that his full explanation will be greatly welcomed across the industry. With that, I am pleased to approve the instruments before the Grand Committee today.
My Lords, I am most grateful for what has been a valuable debate and consideration beyond what are, as we all know, the technical requirements behind why we need to do this. I fully appreciate that many of us have been waiting and wanting to get on with some primary legislation, but that is not in my gift, alas. If it is my privilege to do so, I look forward to taking part in discussions, in the Chamber and beyond, on how we take forward fishing and marine interests and agriculture, and the produce we create in our waters and on our land, which is so important for domestic production and for export.
These instruments ensure that the rural development programmes and the maritime and fisheries operational programmes continue to operate effectively. As I said, the rural development fund is worth some £430 million per year and the maritime and fisheries fund is worth some £32 million per year. I am sure that, at this point, the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, is thinking that that looks like a big gap. It was very generous of him to raise the fact that the fund has been a good custodian of other people’s money.
I will try to give as much detail on this as possible. The Government have guaranteed that any projects funded from the 2014 to 2020 allocations from these funds will be funded for their full lifetime. Whatever is agreed up to 2020, and if thereafter those projects are to be funded, that will be honoured. My noble friend Lady McIntosh opened by asking where the money is coming from. The Treasury allocates to departments. My advice to applicants is that Her Majesty’s Treasury funding is a guaranteed cover of all rural development projects entered into before the end of 2020 for their full lifetime. I encourage those who are minded to think strongly of that Treasury guarantee.
My noble friend raised another point. I have declared my farming interests, and we all would like as much certainty as possible. That is precisely why there is a promise to, as far as is possible—I use those words deliberately, and will seek to clarify that—guarantee the same level of funds until 2022. Some noble Lords will wish completely the reverse, but I have no idea whether this Parliament will go on until 2022, and, as we all know, no Parliament can bind its successors. But this is a promise to the rural community, while this Government are in office and have that responsibility, to honour the level of funds until the end of this Parliament. None of us here is in a position to know precisely when that Parliament may conclude.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the legal basis for reimbursement and the date. It is because the EU is bound by the regulations while they apply to the UK as a member state. Any commitments that the UK has entered into prior to exit are commitments made from the EAFRD. That is the basis, and it was why that was the date in Article 50 and why precisely the Treasury guarantee kicks in for anything after the date of us leaving.
Several noble Lords raised the issue of the link to the Agriculture Bill, including my noble friend Lady McIntosh and the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. These SIs are made under the withdrawal Act; they allow us to correct deficiencies. The purpose of the Agriculture Bill, for which we are waiting, is obviously to provide the opportunity to redesign our approach to agricultural support, so that if we wish to we can amend retained EU law. Therefore, any amendments that we make are, yes, probably for the short term, and they will probably be to see how we might improve the current arrangements and give better experience to agreement holders.
Under Clause 1 of the Agriculture Bill, the Secretary of State may provide financial support for managing land or water in a way that protects or improves the environment. Of course, as we design our agriculture policy, we will look to see—and this is a point that I would like to put to my noble friend Lady Byford—how we can support bringing together groups who work together in the agricultural sector. Clearly, as we look at how we can enhance the environment and how we deal with landscape, it is with clusters and the concept of catchment areas. I think of Slowing the Flow at Pickering, in regard to my noble friend Lady McIntosh. All this is where working together in schemes is going to be very rewarding in terms of enhancing the environment and producing very good food as well in that context.
To my noble friend Lady Byford, I say that I am delighted that the House of Commons said that we should have a debate on this. My understanding is that future funding is important to rural and marine communities. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that on 10 December 2018, the Government committed to providing £37.2 million of extra funding for the UK seafood sector for projects approved for 2019 and 2020 to boost the industry as we become an independent coastal state.
On the Agriculture Bill, rural growth, which includes the LEADER scheme, is currently included in the rural development programme and will continue under the government guarantee until the end of the programme period. Beyond that, the expectation is that rural growth initiatives will be supported through the UK’s shared prosperity fund, which is intended to deliver for all parts of the country. Wearing the rural-proofing element, which is a strong one, I say that Defra is working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to develop the ways in which it will support the rural economy.
Perhaps I can immediately say to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, on the rural strategy that I was fortunate enough to give evidence with the Secretary of State, and he has said publicly that he was looking forward to the report of our Select Committee and that it might be an occasion to respond. I think he was generously saying, as noble Lords who were in that committee will have heard, that this was something that was raised. I know that he and I will be very much looking forward to the rural economy report whenever it comes out.
The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, asked for reassurances about reporting. I assure your Lordships that the level of rigour currently applied to ensure that the rural development programme achieves value for money and overall public benefit will continue. Inspections will still take place. Annual implementation reports will continue to be produced and approved programmes can continue to be evaluated administratively by relevant authorities. The National Audit Office will continue to be involved to maintain existing levels of scrutiny and good practice. We have put in place arrangements to ensure that the Commission’s functions are now taken up by each devolved authority or the programme monitoring committee, which is composed of representatives of environmental, rural and agricultural stakeholders, including non-government organisations.
The noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised the question of EMFF and how new replacement work schemes will work. In the Fisheries Bill, we propose a power to replace, modernise and broaden the existing grant-making powers in the Fisheries Act 1981. This will provide greater flexibility and ensure that new grant schemes can deliver value for money. Fisheries are devolved and once we leave the EU and on the closure of the EMFF grant scheme, devolved Administrations have indicated that they would want to run their own grant schemes targeted on their national priorities.
The noble Lord asked about fishing support after 2020. The Government have committed to replace EMFF from 2021 across the UK for the next two years, as I said. It was announced that that extra EMFF will be available to UK-licensed vessels.
The European Investment Bank was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Teverson. It currently has no involvement in UK rural development programmes or the maritime and fisheries programme. Treasury funding will still be accessible to those seeking it. The impact on agreement holds will therefore be negligible. I am bound to say that the loss of access to the EIB is a result of exit, not as a direct result of the instrument.
My Lords, may I say that my fishers friends in Mevagissey did not have the European Investment Bank highest on their priorities, but I am glad he clarified that.
I thank the noble Lord. I have dealt with the issue of further financial assistance.
The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, raised areas where different Governments are engaged in regulating the same area. We are working closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in developing the instruments. The European rural development fund and the European social fund have domestic power to continue making payments following exit. This is not the case for the European agricultural fund for rural development or the European maritime and fisheries fund, which rely on the spending powers in the EU regulations. That shows the distinction. A different approach is therefore necessary to allow funds to continue operating under the Treasury guarantee.
The noble Lord also asked why the provisions do not apply to the European rural, development, social and cohesive funds. They are being addressed in a separate SI by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. That SI and others will be developed in your Lordships’ House on 14 March.
The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, asked about consultations. On 25 September 2018 Defra met the Rural Payments Agency industry partnership group. The stakeholders present were the Tenant Farmers Association, the Country Land and Business Association, the Farming Community Network, the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators, the British Institute of Agricultural Consultants and the National Farmers’ Union. A subsequent meeting was held on 26 November 2018 between Defra and the Rural Payments Agency IPG, as detailed above, updating stakeholders further on legislative progress in preparing for exit. On fisheries, a targeted engagement was carried out on the approach to amendments involving key stakeholders from the fisheries sector, the food industry and environmental non-governmental bodies. In addition, a 10-week consultation was conducted through the fisheries White Paper.
As for the devolved Administrations, these instruments have been developed in collaboration with officials in the Scottish and Welsh devolved Administrations and the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. They have discretion to consult with their stakeholders, as it is a devolved matter.
I press the Minister to clarify that a little more. Is he therefore saying that it was the devolved Administrations’ responsibility to consult with their stakeholders rather than that of Defra, with its wider powers of consultation?
Defra has very good relations and dialogue with a number of rural and fisheries organisations across the devolved Administrations. It is right to say that there is sensitivity, if the responsibility is a devolved Administration’s, in that to appear to be overhauling that would not reflect well. It is a matter for the devolved Administrations, but clearly we wish to work collegiately.
I ask the question only in terms of how it relates to how it is reported to us in explanatory memorandums, so we know that there has been full consultation in all the regions as well as on a UK-wide basis.
If I have any specific details, I will let the noble Lord know precisely. It may be helpful if I can glean some information on devolved consultations with stakeholders. I would say that when we have been engaged with key stakeholders, on fisheries, stakeholders we have been engaged with were supportive of the work being undertaken. On rural development, no concerns were raised by stakeholders, who expressed their appreciation of the work being undertaken.
I shall read Hansard, because my noble friend Lady Byford asked a number of points about youth and retirement projects, issues to do with contractors and other matters. All I would say is that the order is designed to continue with the arrangements that we have, but with the payment after we leave by our guarantee that we will fulfil the funding of any schemes that are applicable at the moment. Obviously, as my noble friend knows, this is not about future schemes, on which we will have all sorts of discussions. Whatever is appropriate now under these funds, people can apply for until the programme ends, and so forth. If there is anything further that I think would be helpful, I will inform your Lordships, but I recommend the instruments and I beg to move.