Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:06 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:06 pm, 10th October 2018

I am always interested in what we can learn from France. We want to make sure that food and drink, which is our biggest manufacturing sector overall, can continue to be world leading. Critical to that, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned and as I acknowledged in responding to Mr Sheerman, is making sure that there is a fair price at the farm gate for our food producers. Our farmers do not want subsidy; what they want is fairness, and that is what this Bill seeks to deliver.

Talking of fairness, I just want to stress the critical importance of recognising what a public good is. There has been some debate over what a public good might mean. It is some time since I studied economics, but public goods have a clear definition: they are non-exclusionary and non-rivalrous. We can all enjoy them, and as we all enjoy them, no one, if they are enjoying a public good, does so at the expense of anyone else. I am talking about clean air, soil quality and making sure that we invest in carbon sequestration, that farmers get supported for the work that they do to keep our rivers clean and our water pure, that the public have access to our glorious countryside and that the contribution that farmers make to animal health and welfare is recognised. We all benefit from those public goods, but, at the moment, our farmers are not adequately rewarded for them. We in the UK spend a higher proportion of common agricultural policy funds on rural development and on environmental schemes than any other country in the European Union—I should say that the Welsh Administration lead the way in this—but far too much of our money still goes on coupled support based on hectarage payments, rather than on rewarding farmers for what they do and on giving DEFRA the opportunity to intervene to give farmers the deal that they deserve.