Former Farming Minister and MP for Camborne, Redruth & Hayle, George Eustice, has tabled an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would create a duty on the Government to spend at least 0.2% of Gross National Income on the farmed environment.
The amendment, which closely mirrors the 0.7% target for aid spending which was enshrined in the International Development Act, would require Defra to spend at least 0.2% of Gross National Income on the purposes set out in clause 1 of the Agriculture Bill. These are predominantly the public goods such as environmental outcomes and animal welfare but also the productivity objectives. The amendment would require Defra to publish in its annual report whether the 0.2% target had been met and if it failed to hit the target to explain what steps it was taking to increase spending. A 0.2% percent target would equate to a small increase from the current budget to a figure approaching £4 billion per year.
George Eustice said, “The government has already guaranteed the agriculture budget until at least 2022 but, in the early stages of the Bill, there were concerns expressed about what might happen to the budget after 2022. This amendment addresses those concerns and brings the Agriculture Bill into line with other modern legislation like the International Development Act which creates a duty to offer financial assistance.
“Many of the purposes set out in clause 1 of the Bill are directly linked to the delivery of the UK’s international commitments on the environment so it is right that they are properly funded and that spending guarantees are underpinned in statute. There is currently an anomaly where money we spend on environmental projects in developing countries is guaranteed in statute but there is no equivalent underpinning to safeguard investment in our own environment.
“The current agriculture budget is very small compared to other items of government spending. I am proposing that we commit to guarantee just a fraction of what is already spent on overseas aid. This change will also make things simpler for the Treasury since, rather than worrying about the budget, all they will need to do is perform an annual calculation.”