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

I will take on board my right hon. Friend’s wisdom, and we will look at that as we go through the Select Committee process to ensure that do not do that. I thank him for his intervention.

The Bill very much attempts to tackle unfairness in the supply chain. That is essential. We need to ensure that the groceries code covers all aspects of trade—from the big retailers through to the processors and right down to the big suppliers—so that we can have true fairness in the supply chain. Often, when a consumer buys a product, enough money is paid to the retailer to ensure that there is enough money for the producer, and it is a question of ensuring that that money then gets back to the producer. There is an uneven relationship, with producers often being the weaker partner and not having enough strength in the market.

I welcome the proposals to request data, which will improve transparency in the supply chain, but the way in which that increased transparency will improve fairness in the supply chain remains unclear. Furthermore, there are proposals to streamline support payments and reduce bureaucracy, which I believe we all welcome. I look forward to the Secretary of State and the farming Minister coming before our Select Committee to explain exactly how that can be done. Whether people love or hate the common agricultural policy, there is no doubt that we can have an agricultural policy that suits the four nations of the United Kingdom and that we can devise a better system than the one designed for the 28 countries of the European Union. I have direct knowledge of that, having previously chaired the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, so I know that we can do better and I look forward to that.

We welcome this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape British farming and the environment. We can improve policies such as our stewardship scheme, for example by ensuring that it runs for a minimum of 10 years and involves forestry. We can also ensure that we do not have to work out when a tree is a sapling and when a sapling is a tree. If we want to include water management, our schemes can include planting trees on banks to hold back water and so on. We can do so much better, and I look forward to hearing about that from Ministers.