A new Farming Regulation Bill may be needed in order to overhaul the current ‘inefficient’ inspection regime, Dame Glenys Stacey has said.
Dame Glenys, who was appointed by Defra Secretary Michael Gove to review farming regulation in February last year, made the remarks when giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee this morning (January 30).
Her final report recommended the creation of an independent farming regulator which would have one ‘field force’ to offer advice to farmers, track progress in the sector and identify areas of concern, as well as carry out inspections.
She told MPs previous attempts to create culture change and stop duplicated inspections from different bodies such as the RPA and APHA had failed because they did not include such ‘systemic’ reform.
“In Cheshire over a three-month period, the movements of inspectors were monitored, and we showed one day where five inspectors were within a ten-mile radius of each other and probably drove past each other without knowing,” Dame Glenys said.
“The current arrangements are plainly inefficient. They do not provide value for money.”
Originally, Defra had planned to use the Agriculture Bill to establish the new regulator, but Dame Glenys explained the extensive list of powers it required would have ‘doubled the Bill in size’ and the legislative timetable would not have allowed it.
She has since written to Ministers to recommend it sit within the Environment Bill, but acknowledged a separate piece of legislation may be needed.
In the meantime, the Government has the power to set up a ‘shadow regulator’ without needing to introduce a new Bill.
“It can take a year or two to legislate well for a new regulator of this size and scale, but in the meantime some very good work can be done to establish the governance, to start thinking about the regulatory approaches and strategy, the enforcement and the way you engage with stakeholders,” said Dame Glenys.
“All of that good thinking can be done so you can be ahead of the curve.”