Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:54 pm on 10th October 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow Conservative, Taunton Deane 2:54 pm, 10th October 2018

The hon. Lady raises an important point. As she knows, I am passionate about this issue. We need to have a conversation about all our climate change targets, including the potential net zero target that some people are talking about. The question of targets is very important: how can we pay unless we know what we are paying for? The targets that we set for the climate change commitments have worked well, and a similar model might chime with the 25-year plan and the forthcoming environment Act. I believe that many of the details will go into that Bill rather than this framework Agriculture Bill.

Payments relating to our natural heritage and culture are very welcome. My constituency contains two areas of natural beauty where people are pleading that landscape, and landscape beauty, be included in the Bill.

The Government’s commitment to funding until 2022 and for the transition period demonstrates our ongoing support for the countryside. That is obviously important, given that two thirds of farm incomes in the south-west are currently derived from basic payments. I know the Minister understands that. However, I would like to see a further commitment to future funding. God forbid that we ever change Government, but the production of beef or horticultural crops cannot be switched on like a light bulb, and farmers would like some long-term commitment.

Although the Bill does not directly list food as a public good, it does much to enable the efficient production of food. My local farmers welcome the data-gathering elements in the Bill, although, for the purpose of transparency, they would like supermarkets to be included, as well as the manufacturers and producers along the line—not just the raw-material producers. However, I welcome the data collection, and I stand by the Secretary of State’s commitment to maintaining our high food standards. That is crucial to the future. I look forward to the creation of an overarching environmental standards body—in, I believe, the environment Bill—which will hold people to account.

Let me say penultimately that, much as we love our Welsh farming colleagues—indeed, many of them come to Somerset to trade at our markets, especially Sedgemoor market, and they are very welcome—no one wants an internal competitive market to develop as a result of the flexibility offered to Welsh farmers. I am sure the Minister understands what I mean by that.

In conclusion—and thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to speak—let me say that the Bill heralds the most significant change in our land use for decades, with the finances to underpin it. It is the Conservatives who are leading the way in that regard, for farming and for the environment. I am confident that issues relating to the environment, farming and everything to do with our rural communities will dovetail in the Bill. It is absolutely the right way forward for a sustainable and healthy future. Not one of those elements can survive without the others, and on that note, I give the Bill, and all those who have worked so hard on it, my full support.