I am very pleased to follow Mark Pritchard, and I congratulate him. I do not imagine that he is in the running for his Chief Whip’s Back-Bencher of the month award, and he might have to wait a wee while before receiving further invitations to receptions at No. 10, but he is showing great tenacity and determination in keeping this issue alive in Parliament, and in bringing it to the attention of the House today, with the able assistance of Bob Russell. I also thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting time for this debate.
Some people may not consider this issue to be of major political consequence, but it means a great deal to a lot of people, as evidenced by the thousands of responses to last year’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consultation, by the number of people signing The Independent newspaper’s petition, by the hundreds of MPs who have signed the relevant early-day motions, and by the e-mails and letters MPs have been receiving not just in the last few days, but over the past 14 months.
I should declare an interest: I was the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister who left this matter to the current Minister of State, Mr Paice, to sort out, and I apologise to him for that. I am sure he would rather be concentrating on other matters, but he is a highly respected politician of integrity, and I know he will take note of today’s debate and vote.