Support for Agriculture

Exiting the European Union – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th January 2017.

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Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk 12:00 am, 26th January 2017

What recent discussions he has had with farmers’ representatives on support for agriculture after the UK leaves the EU.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues, as part of the preparations for the negotiations on the UK leaving the EU, on support for farmers.

Photo of David Jones David Jones Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union)

We have an unprecedented opportunity to redesign our policies to ensure that our agricultural industry is competitive, productive and profitable and that our environment is protected for future generations. I regularly meet farmers’ representatives from all over the United Kingdom as well as my ministerial colleagues.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk

Does the Minister agree that, post-Brexit, there are two key priorities for agriculture? First, we need to devise a system of support for the rural economy that does not contain the current levels of EU bureaucracy, which is so expensive. If we achieve that, does he agree that we could then maintain the current levels of support for the rural economy?

Photo of David Jones David Jones Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Once we have left the European Union, we will be able to redesign our policies to suit the needs of British agriculture. That should lead to a significant reduction in red tape and, as he rightly says, a significant reduction in costs.

Photo of Chris Elmore Chris Elmore Opposition Whip (Commons)

In the Prime Minister’s speech last week, she failed to mention anything about the agricultural sector. When the Minister publishes the White Paper, will he guarantee that the farming, fisheries and agricultural sector is a key element of it, as the industry really needs assurance of support once we have left the EU?

Photo of David Jones David Jones Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union)

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the agricultural industry is indeed at the forefront of our calculations. As I said earlier, we consult regularly with the farming unions from all over the UK, including Wales, and indeed I will meet the Farmers Union of Wales on Saturday. Any suggestion that we are not listening to farming industry is unfounded.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

Will the Minister ensure that the new system of farm support rewards the highest standards of animal welfare?

Photo of David Jones David Jones Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union)

My right hon. Friend also makes an important point. The United Kingdom is noted throughout the world for its high standards of animal welfare and I have no doubt that the Government will wish to preserve that reputation in the forthcoming legislation.

Photo of Nick Smith Nick Smith Opposition Whip (Commons)

Farmers are worried that crops will rot in the ground without a seasonal workers scheme. Will that be included in the promised White Paper?

Photo of David Jones David Jones Minister of State (Department for Exiting the European Union)

The hon. Gentleman makes another important point. The farming industry is reliant, to a certain extent, on seasonal agricultural workers. As he knows, a seasonal agricultural workers scheme existed until fairly recently, and that is one of the models that the Government are considering.