The Agriculture Bill is set to ‘fall’ this month because it has made no progress through Parliament since November last year.
The legislation finished its passage through the Public Bill Committee in late 2018 and has been on pause ever since, while the Government attempted to get a withdrawal agreement with the EU over the line.
As the Bill has not received Royal Assent and Prime Minister Boris Johnson is proroguing Parliament this month to begin a new session, it will need ‘carrying over’ if it is to be passed.
But Dr Ruth Fox, director of the Hansard Society and an expert in Parliamentary procedure, told Farmers Guardian this may be difficult.
“For a Bill to be carried over requires the agreement of the party business managers and the explicit consent of the House of Commons,” she said.
“Given the breakdown in relations between the parties and the fact that the Government has not sought to progress the Bill for nine months, it seems unlikely the Bill will be carried over.”
The Bill is also guaranteed to fall in the event a General Election is called, because there is no provision to carry legislation over from one Parliament to another.
Chief executive of the Tenant Farmers’ Association (TFA) George Dunn, who has been critical of the Bill for its failure to include tenancy reforms, said if the legislation falls, it would be a ‘tremendous waste of everyone’s time’.
“However, it might provide an opportunity for a better Bill to be produced in the next session of Parliament with more protections built in for the tenanted sector of agriculture which are lacking in the current Bill,” he added.
But Tom Lancaster, acting head of land use policy at the RSBP, claimed the Government’s green credentials would be left ‘hanging by a thread’ if the Bill falls.
He said: “Urgent clarity is needed from the Prime Minister that the Bill will be reintroduced in the next session, with the core principle of public money for public goods intact.”
FG understands if agreement cannot be reached with the Opposition for carry over, the Government will look to reintroduce the Agriculture Bill in the next session of Parliament, with details set out in the Queen’s Speech, unless an election is called beforehand.
A Defra spokesman said the department’s ‘ambitious plans’ for a new land management system would ‘unlock potential for farmers’ based on the public money for public goods principle.