Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Defra to get big staff boost

Defra gets the second largest additional sum of any department (after the Home Office) to prepare for Brexit, an additional £310m. About 80 per cent of its work is affected by Brexit, given that its main task in the past was to seek to influence EU policy and implement directives It needs to develop new systems for agricultural policy, fisheries management and environmental protection. In particular it needs to develop the Government's rather vague green paper on food and farming into a set of viable policy instruments.

Staff will be boosted by 65 per cent. Of course, in the interim, many experienced staff have been lost. Under New Labour I had a period of secondment with the animal welfare team, and I was impressed by the way they integrated veterinary expertise with more generalist skills. But, like the rest of Defra, they were subsequently hollowed out.

Stakeholders such as the NFU will be giving evidence to the House of Commons Defra committee about the department this morning. It will be interesting to hear what they have to say. The initial discussion seems to be about farm policy rather than Defra's capabilities, but I will watch some more later.

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