Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:14 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales) 2:14 pm, 10th October 2018

It is a pleasure to see so many members of the armed services here to observe the debate—I hope that the Secretary of State was not so alarmed by the prospect of my speech that he called them in.

The Bill lacks a foundation, because as yet there is no Brexit deal and no trade deal. No one here knows what rules will have to be followed in order to allow agricultural produce into the European single market. No one even knows where the UK’s borders will be—perhaps in the middle of the Irish sea. It is that uncertainty that is causing the most concern to farmers and other food producers.

There is a need to be prepared, and I acknowledge that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has to try to guess the future framework that will be needed. I appreciate that Ministers have to bring forward proposals for consideration. Being prepared for what is to come seems sensible at first glance. I have to observe, however, that preparing for Brexit is a wee bit like someone blindfolding themselves before jumping off a cliff: they cannot see the horror, but it is still going to hit them pretty hard. I appreciate where Ministers are coming from, but they seem to have gone off a little prematurely. However, that is not all that is wrong with the Bill.

I think it is important that we talk about what agriculture is for, and what it has been for since the first sod was turned: food production. Agriculture is about producing food or it is about nothing. The advantages to the human race of being a species that can produce its own food rather than just hunt or gather it have been immense. There have been some downsides, not least the environmental damage that some farming practices wreak, but agriculture is what has allowed us to build the civilisations and lifestyles that we now have.