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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.