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Inter-Ministerial Group for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: 31 January 2022

Minutes from the meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Group for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 31 January 2022.

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Attendees and apologies

Chair

  • Lorna Slater MSP, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy, and Biodiversity

Attendees from the UK Government

  • George Eustice MP, Secretary of State for Defra
  • David TC Davies MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Wales
  • Lord Malcom Offord, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland

Attendees from the Scottish Government

  • Mairi Gougeon MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Islands
  • Lorna Slater MSP, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy, and Biodiversity

Attendee from the Welsh Government

  • Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Rural Affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd

Attendee from the Northern Ireland Executive

  • Edwin Poots MLA, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs

Items and actions

The meeting opened with a discussion on Single Use Plastics. Scottish Ministers re-iterated their position of a broad exclusion being put in place to mitigate the impact of the UK Internal Market Act (the Act) on Scottish regulations, and future policy measures. Defra was invited to provide an update on the current situation and actions being taken by the UK government to bring this issue to a swift conclusion. Devolved ministers then called on the UK government to provide a clear timetable for confirming its position. Defra Secretary of State advised that cross-Whitehall discussions were ongoing and that Defra is also looking at how it can speed up its own ban. Scottish ministers also repeated their concerns about the negative impacts of the Act on devolved competence.

The group then discussed DAERA’s Future Agricultural Policy Proposals for Northern Ireland, including potential collaboration on carbon reduction measures and soil health. Discussions focused on shared outcomes for future agricultural policies. Defra ministers also gave a quick overview of the first UK Agricultural Partnership meeting, which focused on water quality.

The group then discussed ongoing supply chain issues including the good collaboration that has already taken place on data sharing. Welsh ministers raised concerns regarding veterinary capacity at borders, recognising the additional impact of the ongoing Avian Influenza outbreak. Defra ministers advised that vets were already on the skilled and shortage occupation lists, before outlining the proposed July border changes. Devolved ministers stated that UK government needed to recognise that labour shortages are not seasonal, called for sensible changes to the immigration system to help alleviate pressures, and reiterated their request for meaningful Home Office engagement on the issue. Defra ministers confirmed they were liaising with the Home Office, while highlighting that industry had, and were continuing to, adjust to the changing labour market.

An update from Defra on the Northern Ireland Protocol followed where the UK government committed to keeping all ministers updated on the negotiations. Welsh ministers then sought clarity on import controls for the island of Ireland.

Finally, the administrations briefly discussed EFRA frameworks, the UK government’s Food Strategy, the Veterinary Surgeons Act, seed potatoes, the Benefits of Brexit publication, and the Clyde Cod Closure.

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