Defra Secretary Michael Gove has refused to commit to delivering a multi-annual agriculture budget after Brexit, insisting ‘no parliament can bind its successor’.
Mr Gove made the remarks at a Countryside Alliance event at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham this week.
Farming and environmental groups have been pushing for clarity on future funding for some time, and Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman pledged to table an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would create a long-term budget at the Labour Party’s conference last week.
But when pressed, Mr Gove would not promise to set out a multi-annual budgetary framework for agriculture after 2022.
He said: “It is a strict and boring constitutional point that no parliament can bind its successor. We could put the strongest possible protections into the Bill; I and the Chancellor could write a guarantee in blood, and then a future Government of whatever kind could simply change that if it wished to.
“We are going to have a spending review, and in that spending review we will be looking at the future of spending for Defra and other Government departments.”
The Defra Secretary did, however, suggest creating environmental land management contracts under the new public money for public goods scheme would be a different way of guaranteeing long-term funding.
He said: “One of the reasons we are talking about environmental land management contracts is if a Government enters into a contract, and then a future Government comes in, that contract is binding. You cannot change it – judicial review would prevent you from doing so.
“The best way of providing that guarantee beyond the contractual period is to have a consensus in which both those at the sharp end of land management and those who care about our countryside can come together and ensure future Governments recognise the importance of this investment and ensure the Government does not feel the need to move away from it.”