Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:42 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Sue Hayman Sue Hayman Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 1:42 pm, 10th October 2018

I do not believe that I made that commitment, so it is not something on which I have done calculations at this time.

Continuing to deplete soils, lose pollinators and pollute waters does nothing for farm productivity; that is why we need a Bill that delivers food security as well as environmental outcomes. It is self-defeating and academic to separate those objectives, as the Secretary of State is attempting to do. This is the first time in more than 40 years that a Secretary of State has been directly responsible for the nation’s food security, yet food security has drifted off the Government’s agenda, and they are not offering any clear vision for the future of our nation’s food supply. The Bill is worryingly silent when it comes to food poverty. It says nothing about the balance between the production of healthy and sustainable British food and reliance on imports, the jobs and health and safety of agricultural workers, and preventing trade deals involving lower standards, undercutting British producers.

It is 71 years since the Agriculture Act 1947 was passed by the great post-war Attlee Government. Attlee judged that its author Tom Williams

“effected nothing less than a revolution in British agriculture” and that

“his place in history is assured as the greatest British Minister of Agriculture of all time”.

I remind the House that the purpose of the Act was

“promoting and maintaining...a stable and efficient agricultural industry capable of producing such part of the nation’s food and other agricultural produce as in the national interest it is desirable to produce in the United Kingdom, and of producing it at minimum prices consistently with proper remuneration and living conditions for farmers and workers in agriculture and an adequate return on capital invested in the industry.”

Article 39 of the treaty of Rome set out the aims of the common agricultural policy, including ensuring

“a fair standard of living for the agricultural community…the availability of supplies”,

and that

“supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices.”

It is a matter of strategic national interest and social justice that we should ensure that our country is better able to feed itself with healthy, nutritional food while protecting itself against volatility. That is why it is important for sustainable food production to be a central part of the Bill.