Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee 2:03 pm, 10th October 2018

This is a historic moment, as we last had an agriculture Bill in this House in 1947, since when there have been 15 Prime Ministers and many Governments. We therefore really need to get this Bill right.

The Bill is about agriculture and the environment not just today, but in the future, so I welcome our Secretary of State’s commitment on food security. During the Bill’s passage, I will look for us to adopt for England provisions similar to those in schedule 3 for Wales to ensure that we can support high-quality food production and high animal welfare standards in England and across the United Kingdom. Food security—the ability to have plenty of food, and good food, for our constituents—is very much a public good, and we will debate that further.

While I very much welcome the Bill, I am disappointed that my Select Committee was not offered the opportunity to subject it to prelegislative scrutiny. However, the Secretary of State and Ministers should not worry, because we will do our utmost to ensure that we scrutinise the Bill carefully, clause by clause. While the Bill is very good, I am sure that a little tweak here and there will not do it any harm.

I welcome the long transitional period because it gives farmers certainty over that time. We also need to ensure that as we build stewardship schemes, land management schemes and environmental schemes, we also enter into contracts with farmers of at least five to 10 years. Ministers and the Secretary of State might say that we cannot bind successive Governments, but we must ensure that we have a contract in place so that land management and farming can go hand in hand. We talk as though the environment, food production and farming are all separate, but they are not—they are very much combined. I believe that farmers are the original friends of the earth, and we will ensure that we deliver better soil, a better environment and great food while having as much food security as possible in this country.

I also welcome the Bill’s attempt to tackle unfairness in the supply chain.