|Andrew R.T. Davies AM||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Mark Isherwood|
|Substitute for Mark Isherwood|
|David Rees AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Jane Hutt AM|
|Jenny Rathbone AM|
|Dr Nerys Llewelyn Jones||Cyfreithwyr AgriAdvisor|
|Professor Janet Dwyer||Sefydliad Ymchwil Cefn Gwlad a Chymunedau|
|Countryside and Community Research Institute|
|Professor Peter Midmore||Prifysgol Aberystwyth|
|Professor Terry Marsden||Prifysgol Caerdydd|
|Professor Tim Lang||Prifysgol City|
|Professor Wyn Grant||Prifysgol Warwick|
|Katie Wyatt||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Yan Thomas||Dirprwy Glerc|
|1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau||1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest|
|2. Amaethyddiaeth a Brexit: sesiwn dystiolaeth 1||2. Agriculture and Brexit: evidence session 1|
|3. Amaethyddiaeth a Brexit: sesiwn dystiolaeth 2||3. Agriculture and Brexit: evidence session 2|
|4. Papurau i’w nodi||4. Papers to note|
|5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 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 from 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 14:12.
The meeting began at 14:12.
Good afternoon. Could I welcome members of the public and Members to this afternoon's session of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee? Can I remind Members that the meting is bilingual and therefore if you require simultaneous translation from Welsh to English, the headphones are available and that's on channel 1? If you require amplification, then please use the headphones on channel 0. There is no scheduled fire alarm this afternoon, so, if one takes place, please follow the directions of the ushers to a safe place. Can I also remind people to turn off their mobile phones or other electronic equipment that may interfere with the broadcasting equipment?
We've received apologies this afternoon from Steffan Lewis and Michelle Brown, and we've also been given an indication that Mark Isherwood and Suzy Davies will be late due to other commitments and issues. Can I welcome Andrew R.T. Davies this afternoon, who is acting as a substitute, for the time being, for Mark Isherwood? Welcome.
We move on to our next item of business, which is the evidence session on agriculture and Brexit, and we are, this afternoon, looking at some of the issues facing the Welsh economy in relation to agriculture and the consequences of that. Can I welcome Dr Nerys Llewelyn Jones, AgriAdvisor Solicitors, Professor Janet Dwyer from the University of Gloucester,and Professor Wyn Grant from Warwick University? Welcome and thank you for your attendance this afternoon.
We'll go straight into questions if that's okay with you. I'll start off with the obvious, simple one. Based upon, obviously, the decision, as regards the opportunities and challenges that are facing us, post withdrawal—. We've obviously had a discussion, but we're now in a position, perhaps, to have a better picture of post withdrawal and the opportunities and challenges to the sector, particularly in Wales. So, who would like to lead off on what you think those issues are? Professor Dwyer.
Yes, okay, thank you. Good afternoon, everybody. I think the opportunities and challenges for Welsh agriculture and Welsh rural areas relate to several areas in respect of the post-Brexit environment. Firstly, the future trading relationships that Wales and the UK will have with the European Union and then beyond that with other third countries. The second area of uncertainty at the moment concerns the level of future public funding for the agriculture sector and for rural areas through rural development funding. And then, a third area, which influences those first two, is the broader rural economic conditions, which depend much more on the overall economic and social situation after Brexit.
I think that, in respect of trade, Wales is in a very unique position among the four devolved parts of the UK in that its agriculture is very much export-oriented and the largest part of the value of Welsh agricultural production is lamb, most of which is exported to Europe. That puts it in a particular position as regards a future trading relationship with Europe, which means that barriers to trade between us and the European union become a concern for Welsh agriculture as a whole.
In other respects, the opportunities that might arise from a post-Brexit situation for trade might be opportunities for growth in areas where, at the moment, the UK is dependent on imports from Europe. So, one might think of horticulture, for example. There are obviously opportunities in respect of dairy produce because, at the moment, we import quite a lot of dairy product from Ireland and other parts of Europe.
Other opportunities might relate to knock-on changes as a result of changes within the agriculture sector in Wales. It's possible to envisage a situation where more land becomes available for other uses as a result of a downturn in grazing livestock production because of the future trading relationship.
All of that is very interdependent, though, with what Wales is able to do for future support to the sector—future public support to the sector—and where money might be directed and for what purposes. We know now at the level of Government decision making in Whitehall that Mr Gove has already signalled an intention to move away from support for agricultural production per se, or farm incomes, as the bulk of the funding at the moment is targeted, towards support for the provision of public goods, however those may be defined. I think the Welsh Cabinet Secretary's announcement recently echoes to an extent that same direction of travel for Welsh public policy. The uncertainties remain around how much money would be available and then exactly what range of public goods would be supported. Again, there are opportunities and challenges in that.
Thank you. Some of the points you've highlighted we'll come onto because we want to explore those a little bit more in depth. Professor Grant, do you want to add anything to that?
Yes. I think Janet has identified many of the key challenges, and I would just underline the fact that the trading relationship is very important. I think that, in the future, the non-market side of farm income is probably going to be less predictable and more uncertain than it's been under the present basic payment system. That's not an argument for retaining that system, which has many faults. I think there are opportunities. Wales already has a good reputation in a number of areas for high-quality niche products, and I think that more can be done in the future to develop those products, to encourage them and to really boost the image of Wales as a country that produces really very high quality and very attractive food products.
I think we are already seeing the sector responding to the concerns that may happen post Brexit in terms of lamb and beef. We've seen significant investment in poultry already over the last year and also in dairy, because they're seen as markets, as was set out by Janet, that we export more in and therefore there are opportunities there for farmers to perhaps diversify their businesses so that they're more resilient going forward.
I think my main concern is that we may have too many changes happening at the same time. We're going to have a change in terms of the trading position and the trade policy—and we're not quite sure what the position is going to be in relation to that as it stands at the moment—at the same time as significant, potentially, changes in terms of support mechanisms and how they work. So, in order for business to be able to have the certainty they require to invest and to be able to change and adapt to the changing financial environment that they're going to be finding themselves in, they need to be in a position where they have less changing at the same time, perhaps so they have better certainty in relation to that.
Okay, thanks for that. If you were advising the Welsh Government and they were able to influence negotiations—and that's another question we will have with Welsh Government—what would your advice be as to what their priorities would be in the negotiations for that future relationship with the EU, because we're still at that stage at this point?
Well, I think that, from a Welsh perspective, as free a trading arrangement as is possible for continued movement of goods between Wales and the rest of the EU. If there are to be trading barriers, to have a very clear advance warning of the extent of those barriers in the sectors to which they will apply, and an attempt to minimise the additional friction—the additional costs—associated with there being some kind of trading barriers. This is in respect of agricultural products particularly. I think it's really important that, as far as is possible, the arrangement between the UK as a whole and the devolved administrations in respect of future funding should be agreed early on, and agreed in such a way that farmers can have, as Nerys was saying, this degree of certainty in respect of future public support because the trading relationship is something that will still take a little while to sort out. We have the transition period during which, hopefully, agreements will be made, but, even beyond that point, once we leave the European Union and we have some kind of agreement with Europe, every time we're negotiating trade agreements with other third parties outside Europe, there could be implications for the trading relationship between Wales and the places to which it would seek to export.
It's actually our priority to safeguard the sheep meat sector because that's so important to Wales, and so important to the remote and rural areas of Wales to ensure that those rural communities, which are often areas where the Welsh language is very much alive, continue to be viable. So, that, I think, is very important.
I think another aspect of the trading relationship is that one has to be very careful about any agreements that are reached with third countries outside the European Union, such as the United States or Australia, because these countries would have ambitions to land beef products or sheep meat products into the UK and to undercut domestic producers. So, that, again, could put a great deal of pressure on producers here in Wales.
Yes, from a legal perspective—. It's difficult to answer that question because, actually, some sectors will fare better on a hard Brexit. So, I think, it depends. If you say there's a hard Brexit, there's no agreement and, actually, some of our sectors will actually excel on a hard Brexit. So, it's very difficult. But, obviously, we are concerned about the lamb sector, and the beef sector in particular, and how that might work, going forward. I think we need to have clarity in relation to how those relationships would work, and also perhaps empowerment for farmers and for groups of farmers to be able to be in a position where they are able to still export, even albeit subject to whatever tariffs et cetera there are. So, we need to be encouraging and empowering farmers to have better co-operation as well so that they're in a position to compete in a very different market to what we find ourselves in at the moment.
Thank you, Chair. I'll just declare an interest as a partner in a farming business, and I refer the committee to my declaration on the Members' interests register.
Thank you for coming today and presenting evidence to the committee. We know that, obviously, once we leave the European Union, the common agricultural policy won't be the main support plank for the rural economy and, in particular, farm businesses. That was a pretty well understood piece of funding and mechanism that lasted for a seven-year period, which was in place and revised every seven years. If you had a clean piece of paper to draw up a replacement—we know we have to have a replacement, and there does seem to be UK frameworks as the benchmark that people are marking out as the first port of call—what type of replacement mechanism would you like to see? Given that our parliaments and assemblies operate on a four or five-year parliamentary cycle, we know that, in a Westminster context, you can't bind a parliament. So, there is this issue of the political flexibility that needs to be incorporated into any document that might be put into place to support the agricultural and rural economy. I just wondered whether you have any thoughts on what you think would be, in an administrative sense, the ideal document to come forward.
I think I would agree with the two points made in the statement by the Cabinet Secretary about having support that's, in principle, available to every farm business in Wales, and, I think, support that wants to maintain the management of the land, because of the very important link between agriculture and the quality of the rural environment, and, in fact, in Wales also the social and community resilience in rural areas. So, I think a broadly based framework and a long-term commitment, although I understand, obviously, in the legal sense, no parliament can commit beyond its term. But I think if there's a strong consensus, which I believe there would be across the Assembly Members, for continuing support in some form, a commitment to say, 'We will set up a policy that will run for longer than a five-year period at a time' will set longer term directions 10 or 20 years ahead. In the same way that we have to make policies on things like climate change, we need to look beyond just a parliamentary lifetime. And I think there would be—judging from my involvement in the working groups that have been set up by the Welsh Government with groups of stakeholders—a measure of consensus around the purposes for which future support should be given, which would broadly coalesce around an agenda of public benefit, but would also have a strong focus on the social element of the importance of agriculture to rural Wales, which perhaps is the biggest difference between the England situation and the situation in Wales.
I think there would need to be some continuing form of support for hill farmers. I think, actually, within England, that kind of provision is going to have to be made unless they want to have land abandonment with all the landscape consequences that that would have. So, I think that has to continue.
The other area, I think, which is the subject of a great deal of debate, and which would also benefit hill farmers if it was probably executed, is the whole question of payment for ecosystem services. I think there are a number of challenges there, because, actually, setting a price that is both fair to the farmer recipient and to the taxpayers does raise a number of issues. There are different ways of doing that that are under discussion at the moment, but I think further work needs to be done, if we're going to turn that, actually, into a viable policy that could be administered without too many transaction costs both for Government and for farmers.
In terms of the ideal, the ideal should be as long a plan or a framework as possible, because we talk in terms of environmental planning for 25 years in UK Government. We need a 25-year plan, as far as I'm concerned, as far as agricultural policy going forward. And the reason we need that is because, at the moment, we've got agri-environment schemes—Glastir, which lasts five years, then 10 years, maybe, if we extended by another five et cetera. It's not enough if you're looking at providing long-term security in terms of public benefit and in terms of public good for the wider public.
If you designate that land under an agri-environment scheme, what happens at the end of the five years or the 10 years? What is the position then in terms of the maintenance and preservation of the environment and the conservation of those areas going forward? We've got SSSIs—sites of special scientific interest—that were designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and they were designated, but there hasn't been funding available there to make sure that they're actually looked after in the way that they should've been looked after. So, we have to put the two hand in hand; we have to put the legal framework in place that enables a long-term strategy to be agreed between everybody as to how that needs to happen, because it's for the benefit of the public at large. And then we also need the funding commitment behind that, because the two have to go together. But how you achieve that in the current system, our current constitutional and legislative system, is the challenge.
The multi-annual financial framework, which is what Andrew was referring to, is a seven-year cycle, which therefore covers at least two Parliaments of the European Parliament, in a sense. The UK Government has committed itself to 2022 of current support. Is there a need for the sector to understand the longer term perspective by that stage, and in the time between now and then they should be using to produce a long-term strategy so that they have confidence as to where they can be going and what type of mechanism and what type of system you want to be working within?
The reality is that farmers are making decisions now about what their businesses are going to look like beyond 2022. It's very difficult. With the seven-year cycle, there was only ever about two, maybe three, years when a farmer could really make real decisions, investment decisions, about what they were doing with their business going forward. So, farmers are already stagnating in terms of decision making and investment decisions because they're not sure what's happening beyond 2022.
Yes. Most farm businesses will be looking three, five, 10 years ahead in terms of their business planning. So, short-term political cycles are very difficult to cope with, and, actually, the decision-making process under the CAP has become more short term, in a way, as things have changed since the mid-1990s, and I think that has caused significant additional risk and uncertainty for farm businesses.
So, whilst it was welcome that they have certainty till 2022, in one sense, it's concerning that at a time when they need to be planning for post 2022, there's still huge uncertainty.
Just to summarise, would you say that a transition period up to and including the next CAP cycle—so, seven years after 2022—is a reasonable one to enable people to adapt?
I think it's certainly better than what's so far been mentioned, which is a five-year transition up to 2025 in respect of establishing a future support framework. I think if we look at what happened in the UK with the move from decoupled payments based on a historic basis to decoupled payments based on a flat-rate area payment—in the Treasury they agreed to a nine-year transition because there were going to be winners and losers from that process, and in some respects that was less radical than what's being proposed now. So, I'm amazed, in a sense, that nobody has started talking about longer term transitional periods for farming, because I think there's a lot of evidence in previous research that, if change is brought about too quickly within the farming sector, you get significant detrimental effects on the fabric of the rural areas—so that's the rural environment and rural communities.
It's not really about how long the transition period is. It's what you're transitioning to. I think it's a decision about what you're transitioning to, and then you can factor in a transition period that is appropriate for whatever you're transitioning to, which is picking up on what Janet was saying.
One of the issues that was surprising in the Cabinet Secretary's announcement on 8 May was that she was proposing that funding arrangements should be divided into two elements of support—one for economic activities and one for public goods production. The Farmers Union of Wales in particular was surprised that the Cabinet Secretary wasn't recognising food production as a public good. I somewhat share that, given that what else is the land for, ultimately? So, I just wondered: what are the implications of separating food off from public money for public good, particularly in terms of food security?
It very much depends on how this is done. The reason why food is not generally considered a public good is because of the meaning of public goods in respect of economic theory. So, it's goods that are public in the sense that you can't buy and sell them through marketplaces. So, food, obviously, you can; but you can't so easily with the quality of the natural environment, and those sorts of things. Having said that, every farm business is juggling every day with a mixture of public goods and private goods, and trying to achieve a good balance between them. So, by the Welsh Government deciding to say, 'We need some economic support as well as some support for public goods', that's a useful thing, to recognise the integrated nature of farming business—that it is about food production and about the generation of public benefit—but my concern would be that those shouldn't be pursued as two separate policies, because, actually, at the level of the farm, they are integrated. So, the delivery of policies for economic support and for environmental and other support to farming should be integrated, in my view. It makes more sense from the point of view of people actually working the land and trying to balance these things. The risk otherwise is that, if you split them off, some farmers will say, 'Oh, we're going to go for economics', and others will say, 'We're going to go to be landscape managers and not worry about food production', and then the risk is a zoning of the countryside, which is not good for environment in the long term, and is certainly not good either for the viability of the sector going forward. So, I think: fine to have the two purposes, but integrated delivery that tries to ensure that, at the level of each individual farm, they're able to contribute something both towards food production and towards the delivery of environmental and social and cultural support to rural Wales.
As the Cabinet Secretary makes clear, an individual farm will be producing both goods for sale in the market and it will also be producing public goods. It's clear that the debate in the UK as a whole, steered by the DEFRA Secretary, has very much gone in the direction of very strong emphasis on public goods, which is, I think, thought of as something that will appeal to a largely urban electorate, and there has been, I think, a relative neglect of food production, particularly in terms of food security. One's got to be careful about setting particular targets for domestically produced food, but nevertheless, one does want to have a situation in which we can still produce a reasonable amount of our own temperate foodstuffs for people to purchase at an affordable price. So, I think one's got to be a little bit careful about how one balances out these different considerations.
Food production at the moment, or food, is provided by the market, isn't it? The market provides our food and therefore it can't be a public good, because it's provided by the market. However, my answer to that is, 'Well, what happens if the market isn't providing food?' I wonder if that's something that we will have to address or consider at some point in the next 20 to 25 years.
We need to consider it now, I would have thought. I think in the context of climate change, it seems to me rather difficult to ignore the environmental context in which we are producing food—you know, as something over there. There are environmental implications to everything we do and all the choices we all make. And in addition to that, I think we also need to bear in mind that consumers want fresh food, locally produced, and the radio this morning was talking about the surge in veganism, which means plant-based food. So, the farmers need to also be listening to consumer trends, which are partly dictated by environmental concerns and partly by health concerns. Obviously, farmers can't be producing food for a market that doesn't exist.
I think there are new opportunities to produce different kinds of food in response to changing consumer trends, and I think that is going to be very important in the future. The other thing I would say, if we're talking about climate change, is that I think one of the defects of the common agricultural policy it's that it's paid very little attention to climate change—there hasn't really been a proper climate change dimension within that policy.
In terms of future generations, we surely can't be neutral about soil washing into the rivers, because that is for generations—. You can't return the damage that that causes.
The challenge with all of these things is the nature of integration between them, because at the one end of the spectrum we have a concern about human health and about nutrition, and about good diets and challenging the problems of obesity. So, food production is important in that context as well—thinking about a food policy as strategy that helps to deliver healthy, nutritious food to everybody in Wales and, in fact, to the UK and those that we might be exporting to, at the same time as protecting and sustaining the environment. And it's not an either/or choice; we shouldn't be trading the one off against the other—we need things to work together in an integrated way.
I think that's one of the things that people have said in response to the 'Health and Harmony' consultation—that a lack of a mention of food production and the links between food, diet and health is one of the gaps that that document doesn't really address. I think in Wales there is a better grounding for a more integrated approach, because you have more linkages across these different sectors in thinking about future strategy, and, certainly, the Wales food strategy is a good start in looking at some of these issues.
Yes, just on food security, if I may, Chair. You touched on, Professor Grant, that targets are arbitrary and challenging sometimes, but I just wondered whether you had a view on what we should aim for as a percentage of our output. I mean, the output of what we can produce has been falling over recent decades as a country, but if you're going to have a public policy that says you're going to support the rural economy, you need to obviously try and have an aim to produce something from that, then. Do you have a view on what you think would be a reasonable expectation for what we should produce around food security—should it be 60 or 65 per cent of what we consume?
[Inaudible.]—halt the decline. I mean, that's the decline in relation to temperate foodstuffs that has been taking place, and obviously you can't produce tropical foodstuffs. I think one wants to halt that decline; if it went further, then I think one would be concerned.
I think it's very difficult to answer that question without thinking about the issues of diet and health, because we could produce a higher proportion of our total overall consumption of certain foodstuffs in which we are undersupplied at the moment with a relatively small change in land use and investment. So, for example, if we doubled our horticulture sector we could make a very important contribution to substituting imports and increasing nutritional value and health in the UK diet. But that's a relatively small sector, but one in which a small change makes a big difference.
If you're looking at cereals, the picture is different. It would be quite difficult for us to massively expand our production of cereals, and it probably wouldn't be cost-effective, and there would be environmentally negative implications of so doing.
But surely it should be desirable for us, as Professor Grant said, to halt the decline in food security numbers, because, obviously, I believe we're under 60 per cent now, so a bare minimum of public policy should be about addressing the decline in the ability of the country to provide the foods that we can produce as much as possible.
When you think about Wales, though, it's interesting, isn't it, because, actually, so much of Welsh agriculture is export-oriented? It's not looking at feeding the Welsh population. We produce much more lamb than you could ever feed to the people of Wales. So, it is about shifts in relative proportions of different types of products. We're now just maybe around 60 per cent. At the extreme other end, we were at about 85 per cent, I think, in the mid 1980s to late 1980s. We wouldn't ever be 100 per cent because of the demand for products that we can't produce effectively here.
Nobody's suggesting that we start trying to produce pineapples or something like that, but you said that there's only a small change required to get us back to the horticultural production we used to have. What sort of incentives would farmers need to start producing that? Because we used to produce them, so it's not that the land won't produce.
I think we've had policies that have focused very much on specialisation as the route for economic success in farming. It's arguable the role that the CAP has played in that. Some will say that it's been a big driver for specialisation, but it's been a market trend anyway, partly because of supply chain concentration in food and drink. I think in the future it would be a good thing to be able to support the idea that every farm in Wales is a manager of diverse resources and should think about a more diverse portfolio of product, insofar as that's possible, given the aptitudes, the skills, the abilities within the farming sector. If Wales were able to invest in ensuring a good level of skills and a good level of entrepreneurial capability, I think that's going to put the sector in a better position going forwards, and it could lead to a greater diversity of production. Also, the whole relationship between primary production and the food supply chain is really important in all of those discussions. So, engaging the food retailers, the processors and the distributors in thinking about how you could create a more self-sufficient policy for Wales, I think, would be a very worthwhile thing to do.
Are you seeing signs of that movement from the Welsh Government, obviously, following the decision to leave the EU, and are they making the sounds you want to hear?
There are some capital grants available for farmers at the moment to invest in their holdings, but they're not significant enough to look at the transformational change that you're looking for here in terms of changing into a new sector or developing a part of their business into that new sector. Horticulture will require quite significant capital investment and capital expenditure, and also availability of labour—I think that's important to emphasise as well—and good distribution and transport links as well. We have to be close to our markets as well to be able to supply those markets.
And, whilst I appreciate the uncertainties that exist because we haven't come to a final agreement on our relationship with the EU yet, what type of timescales would you expect the Welsh Government to be working to to actually put these types of things in place?
I think it should be starting now, even while things are uncertain, and it should be looking five to 10 years ahead, to set up the relationships with the food and drink sector, to build strategies for adding value, retaining value and supporting Welsh rural areas.
Two of the challenges you mentioned earlier on, Professor Dwyer, related to future funding arrangements and also future trading relationships as well. Just in terms of future funding, obviously, it's very topical and there's great concern at the moment about how that funding would be allocated. There's a strong view that it shouldn't be Barnettised, that it should be ring-fenced. Can you give your views on the current situation? We didn't get clarity, I don't think, from the Minister of State; he said he had strong representations in terms of funding allocations, but it is very topical.
Underneath the common agricultural policy arrangements, Wales gets a certain allocation direct from Brussels, in respect of both pillar 1, and to an extent pillar 2 funding—the rural development and agri-environment funding. The implications, as I understand it, of moving more towards a Barnett-style formula would be to cut in half that scale of funding going to Welsh agriculture and rural areas, because Barnett is based much more strongly on the population proportion across the UK, whereas the CAP allocations are based more on the notion of land area and a whole range of other factors. If you're focusing future funding on the public benefits that rural areas can deliver for the population at large, there's a strong argument to say that, actually, Welsh areas are high value and, therefore, deserving of a high level of public support in that kind of equation. But all of this is extremely uncertain because there's no guarantees when we leave Europe that future funding decisions will be made on the basis of some new idea of public benefit and the relative importance of the four devolved administrations in delivering those public benefits. So, the risk must be that you default to a Barnett situation and that leads to a large loss of funding for Wales as a whole. I think it's extremely important for those discussions to be starting now regarding the principles on which future funding could be agreed across the UK, which would then influence the allocation of resources to agriculture, land management and rural areas under that approach.
I wouldn't claim to fully understand the Barnett formula—I don't think many people do—but I'm aware of the concerns that the Farmers Union of Wales have expressed about this arrangement, and I think there certainly are grounds for concern there. I think, just to broaden out the point you've just made, what we need, really, is a much more robust arrangement for discussion and agreement between the devolved administrations and the UK Government. The arrangements that we have at the moment are not really adequate for that purpose and we really need to start working on that now. I think that has become a very high priority, but there's, perhaps, a lack of urgency on the UK Government's side.
Obviously, evidence was given by the Minister of state to the Welsh Affairs Committee where this lack of clarification came through. But, our First Minister has warned about farmers losing 75 per cent to 80 per cent of their support if the Barnett formula were used—which, as you say, is based on population—and is arguing very strongly that it shouldn't be part of the block grant. And, I think, farmers unions are talking about at least 40 per cent, so I think it's a fairly united call that it's inappropriate to use the Barnett formula and it would be helpful if academics could be looking at this on our behalf as well. But I think there is real worry about the big issues that we've been talking about already this afternoon. I don't know if you want to say anything more on that, but it would have a big bearing on this issue about transitioning, management and enabling farmers to diversify.
I think one very important point is that, actually, the public benefits delivered by land management in Wales are not just for the benefit of the Welsh people, because [correction: because, for example] a large proportion of the drinking water resource in England comes from upland areas of Wales. So, if you're looking at where the benefits flow to, and what share of the population that then benefits, it's certainly not a simple question of allocating money by where people happen to reside, because these services are provided in a variety of different ways. If we were to look at, for example, tourism, and the beneficiaries of tourism in Wales, a lot of those would be people in England and other parts of the UK. So, it's not a straightforward assumption that Barnett is an appropriate way to be dealing with resource decisions about the natural environment and the cultural and social fabric of rural areas.
If you look at it from the point of view of public contribution, I think if you look at the uplands of the UK as a whole, the amount that each taxpayer pays toward the support to farming in the uplands is a relatively small amount of money—it's something like £3 a year. And, I think, when questionnaires have been devised to ask the public, 'What do you think the countryside is worth?' that wouldn't seem a great deal of money to a lot of people for the sorts of things that the uplands provide us, by way of biodiversity benefits, ecosystem services, carbon storage, recreational opportunities, and so on.
Thank you. Moving on to the implications of different trading scenarios for the agricultural sector in Wales, have you got any more comments you'd like to make as far as the challenges and opportunities are concerned?
I think the concern is: what is the UK Government prepared to take a stand on and what is it going to give away in discussions? Is it really going to give sufficient priority to things like the sheep meat sector or to questions relating to beef imports and so on? That would be my concern. It would be a political concern in a way.
The sheep sector is more complicated than that as well. It has to do with when those imports are coming in to this country as well, and when we're exporting. There are certain seasons we have in terms of when we're exporting lamb, and having lamb being imported into the country at other times is not such an issue. My view is that we have to change the way that we farm to adapt to the market that is going to be available to us. We're going to need to be able to produce lamb 12 months of the year as opposed to it being concentrated in six or seven months as it is at the moment. So, it's a very complicated picture in terms of how that's going to work, going forward.
From a farmer's point of view as well, there are concerns about how it's going to actually work in practice. What are the rules going to be? How is that going to impact on them? Is that going to be a cost that's going to be passed on to them via the processor? Are our processors in Wales ready and adapting to those challenges as well? So, there's a practical side from a farming point of view that we need to consider.
And the supply chain involves big players from outside Wales, and also the labour in the supply chain involves a lot of people from outside the UK, currently. So, there's a lot of uncertainty as regards how that develops going forward. There's also the relationship with New Zealand and the tariff-rate quotas, and whether those should be split between us and the EU once we leave, or whether—. George Eustice was suggesting there would be a proportionate split between the UK and the EU, but actually that could disadvantage our own producers much more than if more of it were to stay with the EU.
It's just—. In reply to a couple of the questions, you touched on the political decision making on UK frameworks and how we get to a point where we have that decision making on an equal footing, if you like. I think that's a really important area, domestically, for us here in Wales, and all the other component parts of the UK. Have you, as academics, or from the legal point of view, thought about what you might think is a good model? I appreciate it's a very complex field, and we've literally got nine minutes or whatever, and I'm sure there are other questions, but is there something that you could say, 'Of what I've looked at, that's what I think would be the best way to do this'?
Last week, Nerys and I were both at an event held at the university, by the school of law and policy, and we heard a presentation by somebody from Spain about the way in which it works there, because they have 17 devolved autonomous regions—or semi-autonomous regions—who make their own agricultural policy, but they also have a national framework under which that policy is made, and funding decisions are made. They have a standing committee on agricultural and rural development policy, which meets regularly, which combines the Ministers from the central Government with the appropriate Ministers from the devolved administrations, and they have an equal vote, which is interesting: 17 regions and one central body in that forum. I think the UK needs to start establishing some institutional structures of this type, if it's going to make firm and stable decisions on these issues.
So, could I just ask, Janet: is it more the case that you've only recently heard about that as an example that you've put before the committee, or have you actually studied it and think that it is a good model to look at?
I recently heard about it, I have to be honest. I don't know if Nerys has a view.
No, it's something new, as far as—. But it's a model to look at, perhaps, in terms of how it works. I think the most important thing is that there is joint decision making in terms of how the framework is put together, and in a similar way that the European Union agreed the treaty, you need to agree those common frameworks between all of the constituent Members involved, and it has to be something where there isn't a feeling—. There needs to be a strong feeling of trust as well, in terms of how that process is going to work, which is how it works at the moment. There needs to be a constitutional basis for that.
It's very relevant, and it's interesting you've put a model on that could be explored. If I could be greedy and maybe just take one other point, if I may, which is something that happens in the here and now, with the—well, I'll call it the old MLC levy—the meat promotion levy, because obviously we have a small slaughtering capacity here for beef cattle in particular, a lot of that capacity is over in England, and the levy is paid into the English system because the levy is raised at the point of slaughter. If we look at the dairy sector, for example, there is a huge amount of processing going on in England now, because we have such little processing capacity here in Wales. Again, do you have a view on, maybe, how that might work in a post-Brexit environment, because that potentially has huge ramifications for, as you pointed out in your evidence, passing back to the producers? So, the producer is in one jurisdiction, Wales, and the processing is happening in another jurisdiction—in this, case, England, which is the current trading network.
Yes. I think, to an extent, that will continue post Brexit, but I do think that the Welsh Government, to the extent that it has resources and the ability to do this, should be looking at investment in processing capacity within Wales for a whole host of reasons—employment, diversification, in resilience, in future planning, and, actually, environmental benefit if you get the whole selling point right and it works for a high-quality Welsh branding.
Yes, absolutely, all those things.
Can I go on to protected food names? In terms of the future of protected food names, we have 16 protected food names under the EU scheme and a couple more in the pipeline, but UK Government's view is that it's a reserved matter. This is, again, where our influence is crucially important in terms of future prospects.
Well, the UK Government takes the view that there's quite an important World Trade Organization dimension to this, which does rather complicate matters from a legal point of view. But I would certainly agree that if one's going to have a strategy which is based upon high-quality, high-value-added products then these geographical indications, these protected names, are very crucial to that strategy, and therefore—. But this, again, raises this whole issue of the relationship between the UK Government and the devolved administrations, and the need for some new kind of framework within which those matters are discussed and, hopefully, reach a consensus, I think, rather than actually voting on these issues.
It's understandable why they've cited it as a reserved issue because it's part of the trade negotiation, and, for trade, it's fairly clear we need to have a single UK voice, but the relative interest in protected designation of origin and protected geographical indication type designations is greater, I would imagine, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland than it would be in some parts of England. So, as Wyn has said, if you have a proper framework in which these things can be discussed between the administrations in an open way, it's preferable to just imagining that those people negotiating on trade will have the interests of the devolved administrations in their heart.
I think it's more practical than that as well. There's a capacity issue in terms of—. From my experience, and, indeed, other people in countries outside the EU, trying to get PGI status within the EU—it's a really complicated, detailed process to do. So, if you can have one body that has the excellence and expertise in that, I think it makes sense. But what you do need is very strong Welsh representation on that, and the building of skills within Wales to be able to do that maybe in the longer term. But I think, capacity-wise, there's such a detailed, complicated process, irrespective of what the trading position is, I think it's a difficult thing to be able to do in any event. So, I think being able to have a centralised, expert body to do that is the right way to deal with that, but it needs to allow people to build skills in those things outside of just England. It needs to be something that UK—
So, it's quite a priority, really, in terms of resilience as we—. You've mentioned the issue of withdrawal of labour and the fact that we depend on labour from outside of Wales and the UK and the implications of withdrawal of labour—it varies, obviously, across the sectors, but any more comments on implications in terms of labour?
Well, I think we've seen a fall in the availability of migrant labour; that's already happened. It's happened for a variety of reasons. One has been simple changes in the value of the currency. The Government has been pressed for some time to introduce a new version of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, and it hasn't ruled it out, but neither has it taken the action to put that in place, and, in the meantime, certain sectors are suffering because of the drop in the availability of migrant labour.
I think a SAWS scheme is very likely to emerge from the Brexit deal—so, a seasonal agricultural workers scheme—so that the short term, seasonal in-flow and out-flow of labour from outside the UK is likely to continue. I'm more concerned, really, about skills in the sector in the longer term, which, at the moment, are skills that are provided largely by people who aren't from the UK. So, the Polish, other people from Eastern Europe, who might have been here for six or seven years who are managing some of these quite important enterprises, particularly in horticulture in areas where there might be scope for growth; the dependence of the sector on veterinary expertise that comes from outside the UK—these are quite important parts of the infrastructure of the food and drink sector in Wales and the agricultural production base, and I think investing in skills development, investing in the image and the opportunities within the sector for making a profitable career is worthy of Government attention.
We are very dependent on long-term migrant workers—I think that's quite well termed—in the dairy industry especially, in terms of our abattoirs, our processing plants, et cetera. And I echo what was said about veterinary expertise. In terms of post-mortems, I think the majority of post-mortems within the—[Inaudible.]—are carried out by people who are from outside the UK, so I think we need to make sure that those long-term employment positions are still able to be carried out by those migrant workers.
Yes. Recent statistics show a withdrawal of labour, of short- and long-term skilled labour, so, again, that is a crucial point. I think an overall question really in terms of—you've mentioned this—the impact on rural communities of EU withdrawal, particularly looking at the role of rural development plan funding, which has had a very beneficial impact in Wales, across the whole of the country, as well as, of course, funding for agriculture: have you got any points you want to share with us just in terms of the wider implications for rural communities?
I want to make a point about the fact that the two—. Well, the biggest sector in employment terms in rural Wales is actually the public sector, and we are in a situation where the public sector funding in these areas has been constrained, shall we say, since 2010 in the general shrinkage of public sector expenditure. So, areas [correction: some areas] that are facing pressures at the moment in respect of the delivery of public services and the maintenance of rural employment and rural community cohesion, when you look at the agriculture sector in particular parts of Wales, particularly the north and the west—the places most remote from major centres of population—those are the areas where small changes in support to agriculture could have big impacts on rural communities and could increase the stress that is already being faced by those people in coping with low levels of provision of public service, and social deprivation.
Hill farming is a very challenging activity, and these farmers are often quite financially vulnerable, and even the loss of a small amount of their income could have serious consequences. So, one could end up with a situation in which one was faced with land abandonment, rural depopulation, and that would have consequences for Welsh rural culture and for the Welsh language.
Yes, the language is a very important link.
I think we can't forget the rural businesses as well. You mentioned the fact that rural development funding is not just on agriculture; it's on other rural businesses. There are a number of rural businesses that depend on that agricultural sector but have also diversified into other opportunities, tourism being the obvious, obviously. But there are lots of other enterprising rural businesses that are enabled by superfast broadband in the places that it's reached so far, so I think there is the opportunity to develop other rural businesses in these areas, and we should be trying to encourage that entrepreneurship as well.
And I think it's an area of investment where a small amount of money can go quite a long way.
Yes. You've just brought in about rural tourism, and right the way through the presentation this afternoon, obviously people have talked about opportunities for rural businesses and farms in particular. Something that obviously is in the gift of this Assembly and the Welsh Government is the planning system. One could argue that the planning system is very challenging, shall we say, and rightly so in some cases, but in other cases it can just kill dead any diversification projects. Have you a view on what might be required reform-wise to the planning system in a post-Brexit world to create this opportunity of diversifying income away from maybe what traditionally used to come via the common agricultural policy?
The Law Commission has just carried out a review of the planning policy within Wales and in the law, so I think there are recommendations that will come in due course in relation to that, but essentially we need to make the process easier and we need to extend the ability to have permitted development rights in relation to certain developments so that it just is an easier process to enable people to carry out those developments without having to go through the rigorous and long process it is at the moment, because the cost of making a planning application is significant. There's a significant amount of cost in going in without even knowing what's going to happen, so we need to frontload that a little bit so that people are a bit better assured and more certain, if they're going to be making an application for planning, that they are going to be having something at the end of it as opposed to lots of appeals and issues—
Would it be fair to say that the current model of planning we have isn't fit for purpose?
It's—I think it needs tweaking.
Yes, I wouldn't want to make a comment that was that strong, but I think there is a need for much better communication at the local level between planners and agri-rural business, a recognition of the fact that things can't be frozen in aspic and businesses have to change as market opportunities change and as policies change. But then, at the same time, the rural environment is the asset on which everybody depends in some way or other, so it doesn't make sense to allow for types of change that lead to irreversible damage. But it is about both sides understanding that, within those parameters, there's a lot of scope for beneficial development that is good for the rural economy and good for the rural environment. It's about not having simplistic rules about what is or isn't permitted, but having a more intelligent discussion about what is the sustainable development pathway for these areas that is going to deliver the safeguarding on the environmental side and the business benefits.
We've come to the end of our allotted time for the session, and I just want to ask one question, in a sense. Last week, obviously, the Welsh Government and the Welsh Assembly consented to the legislative consent motion on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, which included references to the UK frameworks. I suppose what I want you to refer to is to what extent should these kinds of frameworks be legislative or non-legislative in your views.
I think there has to be a legislative basis to them, but it also depends on negotiation and trying to—. It needs a willingness on the part of the Government in Westminster to, I think, give greater recognition to the needs of the devolved administrations than has been apparent so far.
I think they must be legislative. I don't think you can do it in any other way to make it something that is—. Again, because of transparency and clarity as to what the position is—in relation to if you have it in terms of any other status then people don't consider the effect of it in the same way, I think. So, it has to be legislative, but it needs to be a framework set of legislation. It shouldn't be going into detailed rules about administration and implementation; that should be something that is allowed to be done at devolved level.
Thank you. We've come to the end of our time. We've actually exceeded that time, but we did start it later, so it's okay. Thank you very much for your evidence this afternoon. You'll receive copies of the transcript. If there are any factual inaccuracies you identify, please let the clerking team know as soon as possible. So, once again, thank you very much. I propose now to have a five-minute interval, to recommence at, well, shall we say 3.15 p.m? Thank you.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 15:07 a 15:15.
The meeting adjourned between 15:07 and 15:15.
Can I welcome everyone back to this afternoon's session of the External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee? We continue with our evidence session into agriculture and Brexit aspects. Can I welcome the next panel of witnesses, Professor Tim Lang from City University, Professor Terry Marsden from Cardiff University and Professor Peter Midmore from Aberystwyth University? Can I welcome you all?
We'll move straight into questions, if that's okay with you. Perhaps the easiest one to start with is: in your positions, what do you see as perhaps the opportunities and the challenges post Brexit that we face in the agricultural sector in Wales? Who would like to lead off? Professor Marsden.
Well, if I could just start—and I think maybe others share this—there's a bit of impatience with really needing to develop a proactive and quite urgent approach to developing a policy for rural and agriculture issues in Wales, given the sort of impasse that's happening during what seems to be a long drawn-out transition period. So, I think it's quite urgent that the Assembly makes progress on developing a bespoke and integrated set of policies between food, agriculture and environment under the auspices of the future generations Act, actually. We're lucky enough in Wales to have the future generations Act and the environment Act and NRW and all sorts of things—planning—that we've put in place before Brexit. This is a golden opportunity to develop an integrated policy.
I agree with that completely. I would add one other word, or two words—public health—to that. Terry's absolutely right; this is an opportunity for Wales to really promote and, indeed, champion an integrated food policy. If I may say, I work in London, so I focus quite a lot upon England within the UK, within Europe. It's actually shocking to see the lack of a food plan. There was going to be a DEFRA food plan, and it's been kicked into touch. We have a DEFRA 25-year environment programme, and we've had the 'Health and Harmony' consultation paper, which has the word 'health' and has the word 'food' on its title page, and thereafter nothing. So, you've actually got an extraordinary opportunity in Wales to take a lead, and frankly, if you kowtow to England, you're done for, because there is a deliberate lack of attention to food. There is a fantasy being peddled in London that somehow Britain is going to be having a strong position of negotiation for its food system when, actually, Britain is in an incredibly weak position in terms of food. We import for the UK 31 per cent of our food from within the EU. A further 11 per cent comes from trade agreements negotiated by the EU, and we are eight months from leaving the EU with no plan in position. The food industry's been telling the Prime Minister, the food industry's been saying this to the Secretaries of State, with absolutely no comeback. And with respect, I've been in this room—not with this committee, but another committee of the Senedd—and I'm still waiting for Welsh thinking to emerge; I'm still waiting for it.
Before we can move on, clearly you've talked about the Welsh Assembly, but this is Welsh Government policy we are talking about. It's important to just clarify the difference. Professor Peter Midmore.
Well, I'd like to start with a positive. I think this is what Brexit is supposed to have been for—to give us policy freedom. And to a large extent, the common agricultural policy, through all of its iterations, has never fitted the United Kingdom particularly well. So, there is a chance to align food and agriculture and rural development policies in a way that's never been possible under the strictures of European legislation.
But I'm reminded of the optimism of the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where, as successive limbs are cut off, he still keeps on fighting back. And I think the parallel I wish to draw is that, whilst there is now the scope for greater policy freedom, actually, the wherewithal with which to do it is likely to be increasingly constrained. So, we will have policy freedom but few resources. So, I think there needs to be very creative thinking in order to make the most out of what that opportunity offers.
And that won't happen unless there's political leadership, which is, I think, probably the thing that the three of us would agree with. There's not that political leadership at the moment, and there should be.
Can I ask whether the frameworks, which will obviously come to be agreed as part of the EU withdrawal Bill, are going to be a constraint upon our ability to introduce such policies, or should we be putting policies in place so that they are part of our negotiating position?
It depends whether you've got a say in that Bill. At the moment, we don't know even what it is. We've been promised an agricultural Bill for October, but we don't know what's in it. We've got the consultation from DEFRA, not— . It's being assumed in Whitehall that you're subsumed under that. I think you've got to do a very radical critique of this.
Well, we understand that the agricultural command paper is more focused upon England than, perhaps, Wales.
Of course, but the rest of the European Union—the 27 who are negotiating with us—are assuming that London is speaking—. They're not alive to the devolved issues, so those are really delicate politics, and not just for Wales. Northern Ireland, obviously, is even more complicated—that, actually, is more on the agenda than either Wales or Scotland. So, I hope I'm not coming over as too strong, but I really feel a sense of urgency about the deficit in Wales of leadership, currently.
Strength of opinion is welcome here. It's how we then interpret that strength of opinion—[Inaudible.]
The Farmers Union of Wales was a little bit surprised at the Cabinet Secretary's announcement on 8 May here in the Senedd that there'd be two elements of support in the new arrangement: one for economic activities including food, and one for public goods production. I wondered whether you saw that as helpful or unhelpful.
Just to start, I think what's been announced in the written statement that she made in March to the farmers unions, and recently in May, is really shadowing what's going on in England, it seems to me, in the sense that it's talking about—. It's quite a bland notion of public goods here and potential funding for some form of support beyond the end of 2025. So, she's setting a timescale there of some sort of transition—to what, we don't know, and with a vision of what, we don't know.
I'm worried that, actually, this is going to mean that, as is what's happening in England, we are dividing and ruling the environment lobby and the agricultural lobby here, in a sense, and falling into the trap of not taking the opportunities that Peter's talking about about developing a more integrated policy around food and rural development, as well as agriculture. It's a great opportunity to bring agriculture back into a multifunctional rural economy, and not see it as a grant taker or subsidy taker—you know, not just transposing Brussels to Whitehall and expecting Whitehall to pick up the tab. I don't think that's really going to happen and I think we need a new thinking about levels of support and levels of diversity we want in the rural economy, of which agriculture is a central part but not the only part. So, what she's said so far is very bland, to be quite honest. It's five principles: keep managers on the land, food production is vital, public goods, all land managers should have the opportunity to benefit, and a prosperous and resilient sector. Well, we should be getting further than that in terms of developing a Welsh approach within a broader UK framework, it seems to me. So, I don't think that's going to placate the farmers unions either, actually. It's not even as detailed as the relatively bland Gove statement.
And turning it around, Jenny, could you imagine anyone in a leadership function in farming or food not saying that, 'It's bland. It says nothing'? The only interesting bit in it from my point of view—I don't know what Terry or Peter think—is the public goods issue. There's a lot of waffle going on about public goods: 'This for public goods, this for public goods, that for public goods, this isn't a public good'. It's being used in a very broad, woolly sense, not the usually very narrow sense that is used in neoliberal economics. So, I'm quite surprised that there hasn't been more discussion by you in Wales about the public goods element of that. Because you can say food is a public good, in which case the whole of Welsh agriculture should be oriented towards producing goods. In this room or, I think, the room next door, I argued that Wales ought to be, in the context of Brexit, doubling, tripling, quadrupling its horticulture. That's actually what Wales needs to tackle the public health problem. And we ought to be doing that. Why? Because we're cutting ourselves off from where we get all the things that matter for public health, namely fruit and vegetables. We import in the UK £9 billion-worth of horticultural produce and produce precisely less than £1 billion. So there's a huge deficit, and the London Government, if you can call it that—the Secretary of State himself went on the record to say this—is planning to substitute for southern Europe by just going to west Africa. Well, this is a sort of neo-imperialist position re-emerging. What is Wales going to be doing in that? Does that fit in with what you want? Is that a public good for you, to have Wales being fed from the Gambia and Ghana? Is this great? You've got to decide. We need more detail, which is what Terry said.
I have some sympathy with the Cabinet Secretary on this issue, because I think it's a really difficult time for Welsh policy makers because there's so much uncertainty about what the negotiating position is and what the outcome will be. So, I don't think it's really surprising that there's no clarity.
I think the issues that we ought to be considering and the questions that we ought to be posing relate to how far policy will change in terms of migrating from income support payments to payments that depend upon certain environmental objectives being achieved on farm. I think it's a really interesting question, because sometimes I think the English position is one where it is assumed that you could substitute all of pillar 1 with pillar 2-type payments, if you'll forgive me for using the technical jargon. But actually, that places farmers in a much riskier situation, because a lot of environmental actions that they can undertake may not necessarily result in measurable outcomes. It's more of a random process—much more of a random process—I would argue, than the production of food, so they're actually being exposed to more risk by converting payments in that way. Now, if Lesley Griffiths is saying, 'We're going to keep an element of economic support that is designed to encourage farmers to be active farmers, to produce food and other kinds of agricultural commodities', then the scope with which she is able to deliver that is necessarily uncertain until we can see more detail about the withdrawal Bill and what common arrangements for the United Kingdom govern the devolved administrations' freedom to manoeuvre. I suspect that what the Whitehall ministries would like is to become in effect the inheritors of the Commission's powers, and then use them to steer the whole of UK policy in the direction that they would like to see it go. 'Public money for public goods' is the obvious slogan under which that would be carried forward, but, until that becomes clear, I'm not surprised at all that there can be nothing more than these rather bland statements about the principle.
However, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, who's been in charge of the negotiations on Brexit, has spent months negotiating the position that says that, whilst there will be a period of time when there'll need to be some common agreements, because we are all part of a UK trading area, nevertheless the powers will have to come back to Wales. Now, obviously, it's work in progress, but I don't think that Wales will accept having agricultural policy set by Whitehall, and nor should it be because it's quite different; the needs of Wales are quite different from the agricultural—
I think that's absolutely right, and it's entirely Wales's responsibility and right to do it. As Terry was arguing—again, in my view, rightly arguing—in Wales you've got a legal framework that is extremely interesting, and all the benefit now should come into play, but it won't come into play unless you in Wales actually fire across the bows of London. Scotland just has done with the vote last week. I haven't seen that coming from Wales. 'You're assumed to be steamrollable' is the noise I get in Whitehall.
Just to come back on the temporary nature of the arrangements, we've had temporary provisions since Joel Barnett's famous formula. I wouldn't put much faith in an agreement with the Westminster Government, you know, that, 'We'll look at this in more detail but, for the moment, we need a stopgap solution.' They tend to endure much longer than they're designed for.
Okay. Given the challenges and the risks we face, what mileage is there in emphasising some of the issues that were discussed by the earlier witnesses, which you may have heard, around the importance of water to Wales, and not just to Wales but also to very large populations in England? Water is the new gold; none of us can survive without water. So, should we be championing our role as the provider of water for much larger areas than just Wales, and soil-less conservation and, indeed, the role of new technology in enabling farmers to be more precise in what they're doing and minimising damage to the environment.
With the present structure of Welsh agriculture, I think the scope for precision farming is quite limited. There are some aspects, particularly in dairying in terms of specific nutrition plans for dairy cows and dairy health management, but, actually, for most, because of the size structure of holdings and the kinds of things that they produce, I don't think there's much scope for things like geopositioning software attached to tractors, and so on. And also—
You don't think that analysing the precise make-up of the soil and the grass—you don't think there's any—
There's some, but, compared with the areas where spectacularly large gains can be available from precision farming, I think the scope is quite limited in Wales.
Just let me take this issue of water. I fear that there is a danger that we'll come back as a colony for producing water and timber for the UK. I think we've got to play it both ways. We've got to be part of what I think is going to be necessary—a UK framework for food, agriculture and environment, and I think we should be pushing in Wales for being very proactive members of a UK framework and an environmental framework that demonstrates the significance of natural resources in Wales for the UK. And that goes for food as well. The food industry in Wales is highly integrated into the rest of the UK, so it would be unrealistic to create a false economic boundary between Wales and the rest of the UK.
That's not contradictory at all, it seems to me, in also developing a Welsh bespoke and integrated policy that would be nested within the sustainability goals of a UK framework. It's the sort of thing we started to develop 10 years ago with the Sustainable Development Commission, where we had a UK framework for climate change and these big generic issues, and water and these sorts of things fit into that. That might, of course, then justify a Barnett plus-type arrangement for the transfer of funds.
So, I think we need a dual strategy here. In fact, I think we need a triple strategy because I don't think we should forget Brussels. Brussels, next week, are debating an integrated food policy for Europe, minus us. That policy document and framing involves health, climate change, public consumers—the real public goods of food and health benefits. I think that we should attach ourselves, despite Brexit, to what's going on in mainland Europe. They are thinking much more horizontally about these things. And we shouldn't lose sight of that agenda, because our markets are also dependent, partly, on that. So, I think we've got to look three ways: we've got to look within, with the UK and with Europe, despite Brexit. Brexit isn’t going to mean the end of European influence, it seems to me, on where we're going with our agriculture nested in this bigger picture.
I'm going to bring in a couple of other people who have questions. Andrew and then Jane.
Thank you. Thank you for your evidence. It's good to see a sparky debate, to say the least, because, I think that one of the things since the referendum debate is that we've all waited for someone else to take the lead rather than actually being at the front of this debate and this discussion. For me, as a practising farmer, food security is the be-all and end-all of everything to be honest with you—quality food that assists the public health messaging, assists the environment, and the whole things is integrated together. And I think that the total of the evidence that you've given us here today is that, actually, we need to be throwing these ideas out there. Okay, even if they get shot down, at least there are ideas and suggestions coming forward that aren't at the moment. The evidence that was given, in particular, and I wrote it down here—'the wherewithal'—. I'd be interested to know from the three of you where you think public policy and, in particular, Government is lacking in the wherewithal to develop these ideas, develop the policy, because, as you said, the Cabinet Secretary's statement a fortnight ago—. We were all saying 'amen to that' then and it didn't push the boundaries at all, it didn't. But you introduced the thing about saying that it lacked the wherewithal to do it. Where is Government lacking the wherewithal? I heard what Tim has said about the lack of political leadership and, okay, we can argue and debate on that on our political colours, but there's also the ability and the capacity for Government to develop the policy and put the ideas out there. Have you a view on where that deficit exists?
Well, since I used the term, perhaps I'll kick off. My first concern is that the scope for growth in public spending, from which agricultural policy and all the others are financed, is going to be limited over the next decade or so. And we haven't yet come on to the issue of Barnettisation or not of the current receipts of the common agricultural policy. But, clearly, if they are Barnettised, that means that the Assembly's available resources—. If they are not ring-fenced, there will be other competing pressures. So, that, I think, is the first issue that needs to be addressed: to what extent will the resources be available to fund the kind of agricultural policy that we've been used to over the past 30 years? But, I think, implicit in your question as well is whether we have the brain power to devise the sort of skilled and focused policies that will actually elicit what we need for the public interest whilst at the same time keeping the agricultural base in good heart, and producing—what I would add to Terry's list of water, environment and biodiversity and so on—amenity value. I think Wales serves as an enormous amenity resource for the rest of the UK, particularly the parts of it that are adjacent.
Could I just say that it's not necessarily brain power of finances? I was more interested in the structures, the ability of Government to respond to the new era, and the ability to formulate that policy, which is what I took when you spoke about the wherewithal—that we haven't adapted the public structures and the public systems to deal with the new era.
Well, the Government structure in Wales at the moment is designed to administer policies formulated in Brussels for general use and then adapted to local circumstances. So, it's going to start from that position, I think. If you wanted to reform the structure of Government in Wales, many people have said it's far too enclosed within silos, that there's one part of the Government that looks after regional development, when, clearly, there's a very strong territorial aspect to agricultural and other land use based policies. So, because of the scale of the population and the land area, it ought to be possible to devise a completely new model of government that was more integrated and more focused on achieving particular objectives. Now, there are some glimmerings of that, but unfortunately what it's resulted in is an awful lot of strategies being generated, which are supposed to co-ordinate actions to meet specific targets. But, because there are so many strategies and there's no sort of overarching metastragegy, I think that a lot of the effort that goes into those is wasted. And so—I'm not sure what the answer is, but I think that it should be possible, within a framework that could potentially be more agile than the lumberings of the Westminster Government, to produce the sort of outcomes that are appropriate to local needs.
Just to pick up on Peter: Terry Marsden and I, and another colleague at Sussex University, Erik Millstone, wrote a paper a year ago, where we—. It was a very long paper reviewing food and Brexit and this whole area, and we itemised something that's been mentioned much since: at least 35 institutions on which the UK food system draws from Brussels's common framework. This is back to Terry's point, 'Don't forget Brussels', in the sense that they're our neighbours. What Wales could be doing is going through systematically all of those 35 in the table in our report and saying, 'What is Wales going to have to replace this and what institutional infrastructure has it got and hasn't it got and what could it be doing?' It could be setting up—again, I'm going back to the very first question, 'How can we, what positive—'. I would have more time for what's happening here in Cardiff and throughout Wales if I'd seen you developing new institutions or institutions that will replace what is going, and I don't see anything of that. You can tell from the tone of voice I'm frustrated. I think you should have been doing this, I think you could be doing it, and I'm now more interested in why aren't you: why this sclerosis where you're colluding with London, basically?
And, let me just tell you, London is not sclerotic, because what is being prepared is a very different vision for the UK food system. I've hinted at it: Mr Gove focusing upon ecosystems health but not human health, kicking the 25-year food plan into touch but having a 25-year environment plan. He's preparing the deals from Liam Fox to be fed by Americans—'Bye bye: you're not needed; you're not needed'; I've seen a scenario of 50 per cent, 70 per cent, of British farms going. So, let's just get a bit real about this. I don't think people in Britain are quite aware of the extent to which the system of food and the trucks that go through are actually very integrated across and if we choose to go off the edge—which is certainly what half the cult in the Cabinet wants—in that case, this is going to be very dangerous indeed for the people of Wales. You've got to be thinking very realistically now, I think. I really urge you to be doing that preparatory work on institutions.
Who's going to do the veterinary inspections? I heard—I think it was Janet Dwyer before. She's absolutely right: it's one of the 35 institutions. This underpins animal health; it underpins whether Wales can export lamb. If you haven't got that scientific credibility and that infrastructure provided by Spanish vets, who are being sent away, 'not wanted'—you know, come on, this is a really delicate situation. That's only one of the 35 institutions that Terry Marsden and Erik Millstone and I outline. Just go back to that table, look at it, and say, 'What's Wales got that replaces this?' and you haven't got much, actually.
Professor Marsden, before you go and answer the question, I can assure you [correction: you, Professor Lang] we're not screaming 'bye bye' to Spanish vets—we want them, as much as possible. Professor Marsden.
Yes. Let me just go back to the issue of capacity building. I think it's a good question. I think we need to have a debate about what sort of capacity is necessary to build, building on our history. Remember, we set up a very innovative development board for rural Wales, which wasn't all for rural Wales, but it was a very innovative development body for mid Wales back in the 1950s or whatever, and so I think we need to—. This is an opportunity to devolve within Wales this area—the rural, the agricultural and the food agenda are for all Wales. We've got various institutional building that's happened—the NRW. We're going to have a gap, not just in agricultural policy but in regional economic development policy, which has been significant for rural Wales in the past. So, we've got a vacuum there, I think you're right, in terms of institutional building. Now, we don't want to go back and create a massive bureaucracy with rural payment agencies and you know what—
Yes. We want to forget much of that labyrinthine bureaucracy that is associated with Brussels that we've all criticised in the past, so we need to be innovative. But why not a partnership approach to rural development and food issues in Wales where we bring the main actors together and have a forum? I don't think we just need the odd written statement and then consultation via a sort of top-down consultation exercise. We need to open the framework much more broadly and bring in the rural development stakeholders into this particularly, which are not often the usual players. These are the people who run the LEADER programmes. What are we going to do about LEADER? What are we going to do about rural community development? How are we going to enhance renewable energy on farms, which is growing significantly? So, we need a multifunctional approach to this, and I think it probably does need a devolved representative commission of some sort within Wales to get those ideas fertilised and developed and then put to you guys to interact with that. We've been too fragmented in the past, I think.
Just perhaps the important point to note from last week is that we did come to an agreement—the Cabinet Secretary for Finance negotiated an agreement in order to ensure that the powers came back to Wales, apart from those frameworks. Indeed, that agreement was supported in terms of the legislative consent motion in order for us to get on, I think, with a lot of the things that you've been doing. He's been totally engaged in negotiating to ensure that the power grab, as we described it—that, actually, he got the powers back to Wales so that we can get on with what we should be doing, and I think the points you make are very important.
Just in terms of how we take this forward, we've got to have—. We've got to establish and keep our strong voice in the UK, and we've been talking about that—strengthening the UK inter-governmental—. It would be very helpful to get your backing for that, as you know how inadequate and dysfunctional it is. We also have to have a very strong voice in the EU, and we've just presented a report on future relations with the EU. We've been to Brussels and we are banging hard on the drum there. I'm very interested in how we can then engage the people of Wales in the way that you describe in terms of developing a post-Brexit scenario where you have integration. I don't think we need more institutions; that's why we've got devolution, and we've got to make it work. The Government's got to be accountable to us, and we have loads of partnerships, as you know, local and regional. But I'm also interested in how—Tim particularly you've mentioned that one of the positive things that we've got is the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. And also the opportunity to—. We are small enough, and we as Assembly Members and the Government should be able to bring that agenda together, but we need to engage with the citizens as well as the partners in Wales. So, it would be helpful for you to say a few words on that.
Public health is as important as land management in terms of food policy. So, you guys are going to have to give us some steers as well as to how we as a committee—and how we can hold the Welsh Government to account, but also get a steer on where we should be going. I certainly don't think it needs more institutions. It needs, you know, a way in which—
Jane, my point was not more institutions but you've got to know that there's an underpinning, which is currently invisible except to sort of sad cases like us this end of the table who follow these things. There's an infrastructure that is about to be lost. Don't underestimate that. The food inspections—. I referred to a report that Terry and Erik Millstone and I co-wrote over a year ago—about a year ago, but we spent a year writing it, straight after the referendum—looking at what were going to be the implications, and I've just spent six months doing a report on Northern Ireland. Well, let me just give one Welsh dimension of that. Northern Ireland's and, indeed, the republic's food comes to Pembroke and comes to Holyhead, and quite a lot—well, certainly, by the fast end—goes into Heysham. Six weeks ago, the biggest roll-on/roll-off ferry for shorthaul ever built was built, which is planning to, and built to, take 650 lorries, because, expecting the Prime Minister's I think rash commitment to no customs union as single market, the republic is preparing to bypass Wales altogether. Now, the implications of this for Wales's economy—as someone who has family on Anglesey and 200 years of Welsh ancestry—this is enormously important. If you think of Telford and the building of the roads to Holyhead and the planning and the opening up of the north Wales economy that followed from that, and the arguments about William Madocks and whether or not it would go through Holyhead or further down the Llŷn peninsula, all of that is about to be re-written with not a whimper of comment. The implications of this for Welsh jobs, for Welsh logistics, for the Welsh tourism—I know lots of people, you know, wagon drivers, come and stay the night in places all the way down the trips—just to bypass. It's great for north-west France. Let me tell you, they are thrilled to bits. It's going to mean animals crossing 16, 17 hours on a boat instead of two hours to three hours on a boat, so there will be the animal welfare implications of that, but it will have bypassed Britain and bypassed Wales.
But we do have the EU—. We have the Wales-Ireland programme, which is fairly robust, which we—
Yes, but, Jane, the boat has been launched. It's being prepared to be used.
But it is fair to say that that boat will also be used on the Holyhead to Dublin route.
Well, let's hope so. Let's hope so.
Yes, can I go back to the public health issues, because I think it's really important that we have a policy post Brexit? Clearly, the £9 billion-worth of horticulture imported, versus the miserable £1 billion that we create ourselves—how are we going to gear that up, given that so many of the workforce in horticulture actually comes from the EU and—
The answer is 'with great difficulty'. That's the main reason. But the EU migrant labour issues: Terry and I, and Erik Millstone, in this paper, we went into it in some depth, and I confess I've helped, for no pay, the horticulture industry do an assessment of the implications of all of this, and, indeed, I'm about to meet a Conservative Member of Parliament about this, with them, in Westminster. Essentially, this is about Terry's central point, which I completely agree with: this is the time when we should be, Wales should be, preparing—with other parts of the UK wherever possible, for obvious reasons—a plan and a way of thinking for what is required for the mid twenty-first century. And in six words, I would say 'sustainable diets from sustainable food systems'—that's what Wales should be aiming for.
Okay. Terry mentioned the LEADER programme. I think one of the ways in which—
Yes, and LEADER is an answer to all of that.
Yes, we discussed it, Peter and I, a couple of weeks ago in a different round table on this. LEADER's been one of the more successful aspects of Europe—something that we could build on in Wales, and we've got a good track record in particular locations, like PLANED and so on. Why not mainstream the innovative good work of LEADER across Wales? What would that take? This, of course, means that we're not again talking about old forms of drip-feed Barnett or whatever funding, or subsidy-driven funding; we're dealing with partnership funding in all sorts of ways. So, this is why I'm keen on partnership, because partnership can deliver more entrepreneurial, collective forms of funding for rural development. I go back to this point about the rural economy and the non-agricultural: this is absolutely critical in rural Wales in terms of building that into what we're talking about, whether it's food or whether it's other forms of production and consumption. It is what's going to happen to the rural economy and how can we build it as a much more diversified economy. So, I'm for suggesting the idea of mainstreaming a LEADER-type approach. Give it a Welsh name and develop it as a way of empowering local people to take back control of these sort of things, actually away from Cardiff in many cases. LEADER was the great experience: you gave people a relatively small amount of funding and they did a lot with it—great innovations.
I would say, Terry, not a relatively small amount, but an absolutely small amount.
An absolutely small amount, yes. So, it's cost-effective in that respect.
I'll just give you another little example on the horticulture front. Horticulture is a priority. For anyone who deals with public health and with the lamentable diet-related ill health that Wales has, this ought to be a priority. I know it's been a priority in terms of both the prognostication from the Assembly and also from the Welsh Government for years. I've been part of it, I've helped advise it. We ought to be building a horticulture sector in Wales. Why? You could say 'This is hopeless, you can't possibly compete with west Africa or the southern Mediterranean.' Well, if we go behind what the British Retail Consortium estimates, which is 22 per cent tariffs from a hard Brexit, which is what the Prime Minister and, certainly, Mr Gove and Mr Johnson are taking us towards—and Mr Fox—22 per cent food tariffs are going to make the economics of the horticulture from Wales very different.
You have very ancient universities with very ancient histories of agriculture. My own great-grandfather was the treasurer of Bangor University. Helped by the farms, which are alongside the Menai straits, which are horticultural, there are huge investments not being used. Here is the chance to be revitalising Wales's horticulture industry in the new 'take back control' post Brexit. Here's the opportunity. What I would want I think—and it's entirely, I think, in keeping with what Terry's been arguing—is that you should be developing different plans for different scenarii of what might be happening. No-one knows exactly what Brexit is going to be, what deal will be done in October. We don't even know. I know people in Whitehall are saying there'll be just a permanent transition. That's the sort of plan that needs to be happening to prepare for the different scenarii, and saying 'Well, what do we do for horticulture? What do we do for tourism? What do we do for land use? What do we do for energy? What do we do for employment?' Literally, very simple matrix planning could be being done at the moment, and it's not being done.
Professor Midmore, you actually questioned the situation. You explained that the Welsh Government is also constrained within some of the unknowns at the UK level from these frameworks. Is it the situation that actually they should still be producing these plans so that when they go in to negotiations they actually have this policy in place, they have a direction? Or is it actually an important area that they have to wait on, because whatever decisions are made at a UK level it allows them only the flexibility within that? Should we be going in prepared with a view and a vision beforehand?
I think I would fall back on the economist's distinction between risk and uncertainty. Risk is something that you can measure in terms of probabilities of certain outcomes, and with uncertainty you have no knowledge at all. I think we are facing uncertainty. So, in order to plan for every possible situation we probably wouldn't have made the plans before the situations have come about. So, I think that there's a difficulty in terms of how much preparation can be done. I think we need a few thought experiments as to 'Well, what if this were the circumstance, what sort of policies could we develop?' But I don't think you can second-guess the outcome at all.
I think, given the outcomes of the last few weeks, I'm a little bit less pessimistic about a hard Brexit than Tim, possibly. At least if we manage to engineer ourselves into a situation of a transition—if we agree a transition—that at least is a positive step, because it means that we aren't going to be hit with all of these dreadful things that are waiting in the wings for us.
But we should prepare. I'm not an Armageddonist, in case you think I am. I'm not. I think it's just very important. The history of food policy, not least of this country, teaches us that it's really useful to prepare for various eventualities.
Just one point for clarification. I think, when you were referring to institutions, you were referring maybe more to the agencies that support, rather than institutions that, in a political sense, we think of as assemblies and political bodies, then. I'm correct in assuming—
Things like the European Food Safety Authority and the Food and Agriculture Organization. There are a vast number of—
Agencies, but some are actually institutions. I could send you our report if you'd like it, because there are some that are just frameworks of legislation and frameworks of understanding, but they're written into the acquis communautaire. If we're leaving that, which we are, something has to replace that. The exiting the EU Bill is transferring those powers here. Where? London, the air, Wales—where are they? I don't see any sign of anything coming from that, and I'm extremely well informed about what's going on inside DEFRA. DEFRA basically lost 500 civil servants and then have re-employed 500. They're basically learning their skills, and it's a quite scary thing to watch, I can tell you.
Yes, I did.
Well, the absence of it.
The absence of it. And I think I'm correct in saying that not one of the devolved administrations, or the Westminster Government, work to a food plan at the moment, or have got anything developed similar to what you outlined in your earlier remarks—
I'm going to be a very boring academic—
You've got to talk about explicit food plans and implicit food plans.
That's what I was going to, hopefully, encourage you to impart to the committee. What would your vision be of a food plan? Because I think it's a very interesting piece of work. It's surprising that none of the Governments work to that, bearing in mind the importance, in my view, anyway, of food security and the way then you layer the support around that. How would you see a Welsh food plan developing or being developed, and what sort of time frame would you think would be a sensible vision and horizon for that food plan to capture—five, 10, 15 or 20 years?
I was always interested in the fact that there were two parallel processes being prepared by DEFRA: a 25-year environment plan and a 25-year food plan. So, I was, as you can tell, reasonably distressed when the 25-year food plan was kicked into touch. I'm probably the only person in this room, maybe—correct me if I'm wrong—who actually read the draft. It was being written; I actually read it, because I was asked in by the civil servants to have a look at it. It was weak, it wasn't great, but—now on to answer your question—it had a broad aspiration, said who's going to do what, what sort of direction of travel do we want to have for the amount of food that we produce, do we want to produce more, do we want to produce less, what's the point of food. Now, the only little bit of such analysis that has emerged into the public was when Hilary Benn MP's committee for exiting the EU released the Government's analyses, the risk analyses. If you look at that one that DEFRA did—which was done for the whole of the UK, by the way, including Wales—you will see it was literally an assessment of what Britain does at the moment. What it didn't do—what a food plan would do—is say, 'Where do we want to be?'
It's back to the theme, I think, that Terry raised very elegantly at the beginning, which is: what do we want? What do you want land use—what's Welsh land for? Is it for the view? Is it for water? Is it for carbon sequestration? Is it for tourism? Is it to produce food? Is it to keep people building walls? Is it for planting trees? What's it for? A plan is saying, 'Here we are at the moment, this is where we would want to be in 20, 50 years' time in a world of climate change'—et cetera, et cetera—'and here's how we think it could and should happen.' You give a steer to farmers like your good self, or to food service people, and you say, 'This is the framework that we're aiming for.' But you make it explicit, as opposed to what we have at the moment—we've got a muddle that is implicit.
Yes. You set the agenda. We've been innovative before. We haven't necessarily achieved everything that we wrote in the 'Food for Wales, Food from Wales' document back in 2009. Wales put a lot of effort—the Welsh Government put a lot of effort—into that process 10 years ago, which was an integrated document. Then it had a food action plan, and I think we need to revisit that experience and update it and develop it, but not forget it completely, because in these new, uncertain, transitional times, a key word here, of course, is building resilience. If we're going to be in a transitionary period for 10 years, probably 20, even with a soft Brexit, with markets being much more uncertain and demand changing, and production subsidies disappearing—so, both ends of the spectrum—then clearly we need to revisit those plans we put together and pragmatically and incrementally build on them in that more uncertain context. But try to build resilience—we shouldn't wait for 10 years for building resilience.
We know we've a generation of young farmers. We're putting money—Welsh Government's putting £6 million—into young farmers schemes. We want to, as future generations, build a land-based, land management community. So let's start. Let's take that and not wait for these machinations of Brexit to take place. I think we're into a contingency planning period for a long time, one way or the other, and so we should dust off those old documents and reshape them in this more integrated context.
And use the universities, because you've got great agricultural universities. They need to be food—more food than just agriculture.
In particular in the Aberystwyth context, a lot of the scientific effort has gone into improving grassland, particularly for sheep production, but also, to some extent, beef and dairy. So, whilst Tim is right that we certainly would benefit a lot from improved capacity for horticulture, I don't think that we've got the structure in place for that at the moment in the Welsh universities. But actually, a lot of modern biological science is related to genetics, and there's certainly the expertise as far as genetics are concerned. I think it's eminently transferable to horticultural crops. So, we've got the basic science, but we would need to develop the applied science in order to be able to take up those opportunities.
Yes, I think that's right. I think the applied sciences are absolutely crucial here, getting the universities—. I think Bangor's doing quite a bit, actually, on developing a new university farm and so on. But a more concerted effort in applications for the Welsh environment I think is—.
Aquaponics has got huge potential, but we need more people who understand it. I know of one local Cardiff councillor who has plans to deliver all the lettuces for Cardiff out of one large shed. That's fantastic, and surely all communities ought to have something like that. What they'll taste like is another story, but—.
And also shellfish. Every time I go to Anglesey and along the north Wales coast, here we have the most dramatic tides on the planet, or some of the most dramatic tides on the planet, and what do we do? (a) Not have a very big shellfish industry, and (b) export what we have. I mean, you couldn't invent this.
We're coming close to the end of our session. I've just got one final question. Clearly, there are opportunities for development of our policies, but the frameworks also, and the way ahead allows us to find a divergence of policies. What are the challenges and opportunities you think will occur as a consequence of that divergence, and what should we be wary of in divergence as well? Because clearly there's a question, as we've always talked about, on the regulation aspect with the EU and how far away we could end up being from those regulation aspects, and you've already highlighted animal welfare as an issue.
I think there are lots and lots of issues. You've had lots of steers from us. I'm sure you didn't need them, but we're your witnesses, so we're giving you what we think. I would be wary of leaving your people behind. I think it's really important to take the people of Wales with you. I think there's a certain level of fantasy about what Brexit means, and people don't understand, actually. They thought it would happen the next day, or whatever. I think you've got to actually start really taking the people of Wales with you to say, 'Look, this is a big deal, we're leaving where we get nearly half our food from. What do you want? Do you want to carry on getting that food or do you want to get it from Gambia, Ghana, Brazil, and US chlorinated chicken?' You know, 'What is it you want, people of Wales?' It's really important to re-engage with that. If there's any food policy and food planning, you've got to take all the things that Terry and Peter have been referring to, and require that connection between the political process and the people. You've got very good arguments for doing so—bad Welsh public health, diet-related health, a very important and very beautiful countryside, a huge commitment, intellectual and cultural, but you've also got this hard economic reality that the structures are changing. That I think is potentially an explosive mix, but also, as Terry said right at the beginning—I'm trying to get back to his beginning—there's a real opportunity for creativity here, but not if it's waiting for London to make the running. Don't do it.
The dangers: I think the main danger is not taking proactive action, really, and taking consumers with you as well, actually, in all of this. I think there's a danger that agriculture becomes another black box again with all this, and that we're just focusing on what we're going to replace agricultural subsidies with, and then we're going to placate the environmental lobbies. So, I think we need a more holistic approach, bringing rural development to the heart of this, and asking what the rural economy's contribution is to Wales and the UK and, indeed, Europe, in a broad sense. So, not falling into the trap of boxing in agriculture I think is a major concern and danger.
I think you could take your future generations Act and actually meld the rural to the urban.
Yes, use the seven principles of the future generations Act. I agree.
I think you've got it.
I think I'd take a slightly different view. I think I'd be worried about regulatory alignments, both external between the UK and the rest of the EU, because that's—. You know, we're not going to change the fact that we are mutually interdependent overnight, although that might be the long-term outcome of Brexit. And then the internal regulatory alignments between the various administrations within the UK, I think they have to—. They can be different but there has to be agreement in both sets of dialogues, and that requires collaborative rather than adversarial politics. The unfortunate thing, especially at the UK level, is that there's a very strong adversarial element to the divide between remoaners like me and people who are keener on Brexit, and that doesn't bode well for the future. So, I think we do have to develop ways of working that mean that we can agree to differ in ways that serve our mutual interests beneficially.
Thank you very much. Thank you for the evidence this afternoon; it's been very interesting. You will receive a copy of the transcript to check for any factual inaccuracies. If there are any, please let the clerks know as soon as possible so that we can get them corrected. Once again, thank you for your time.
Thank you. Good luck. We expect to see a food plan within a couple of weeks, okay? This is what we do to our students, and if you don't have it, you fail. [Laughter.]
We move on to our next item on the agenda, which is papers to note. For Members, the first paper to note is from the Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport regarding our letter to him on trade policy after Brexit. And the second one is from—. Are Members content to note the first one? The second one is from the Llywydd regarding the Senedd@Delyn initiative, which is scheduled to take place the week commencing 25 June. Are Members content to note at this point in time? We will discuss our forward work programme later on. And the third one is from the First Minister responding to the joint letter sent from me and John Griffiths, Chair of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. Are Members content to note the response from the First Minister?
Could I—? Sorry, just on that, I think it would be useful to not just note this, but to do something with it. I'd like it to be sent to all of the people who gave evidence. I know that it's available in the public domain, but I think it would be good if we did have quite a good set of organisations, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission and various—. So, could we send it to them for their information and comment? I also think it would be good at some point to have either a debate or possibly, Chair, a statement on it because I think it's a useful piece of work. I'd question some of the responses from the First Minister and that we haven't got a chance to do anything with it. So, I'd like to—. We may not do it today; obviously, we can perhaps come back to this. But I don't think we should just note it. We can talk to John and his clerk about what they decide.
If we send copies off to the organisations that came and gave evidence to us—. We will need to speak, obviously, to the Chair of the other committee, John Griffiths, to discuss how we may want to take it as a Chair's statement, because it could be—
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.
In that case, we'll move on to the next item. If Members are content, we'll move into private session for the remainder of the meeting today, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi). Are Members content to do so? Thank you. Therefore, we'll now move into private session for the remainder of today's meeting.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 16:16.
The public part of the meeting ended at 16:16.