Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:57 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Sandy Martin Sandy Martin Labour, Ipswich 3:57 pm, 10th October 2018

It is a pleasure to follow David Warburton. I agree that we need more certainty, but not that this is an excellent Bill without that lack of certainty. Without any certainty, I cannot see that it is a particularly valuable Bill.

I think that the Secretary of State would readily acknowledge that this is essentially an enabling Bill. It enables him to make regulations: to protect our environment, or not to protect our environment; to support some farmers financially, but not necessarily to tell them beforehand whether they would get that support, or what they would get it for; to support the public access to the countryside, or not; and even to create offences without Parliament knowing what they will be before agreeing to give him those powers.

What the Bill does not do is lay out a duty, a process, a funding mechanism or any other indication of how the Secretary of State will ensure that farmers in this country will produce food that is healthy, environmentally friendly, animal welfare friendly—or, indeed, any food at all. What on earth is the point of our giving the Secretary of State vague and plenipotentiary powers to encourage and enforce the highest possible environmental, health and animal welfare standards in English agriculture if we end up buying all our food from non-European countries where we have no influence whatever over the environmental impact of their agriculture and cannot be certain of the animal welfare regimes or employment regimes under which that food is produced? If the Government are serious about promoting healthy food, why is there no food and farming framework? Why are they not willing to use any future funding regime to promote the production of healthy foods?

Some mention has been made of mung beans. I am actually very fond of broad beans. I would eat far more broad beans if more were available in the shops, but I hardly ever find them. Why, among all the various powers that the Secretary of State is taking, does he not wish to take any to encourage the production of healthy food that I always thought agriculture was meant to be about?