Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:37 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Colin Clark Colin Clark Conservative, Gordon 5:37 pm, 10th October 2018

I truly hope that if SNP MPs are listening to the industry, they will introduce a schedule to the Bill as it progresses.

The north-east of Scotland is a traditional area of agriculture, with high organic matter. Leaving the EU is a massive change, but it is also a huge opportunity. I welcome the fact that the Bill addresses retiring farmers, something I am not planning to do for a long time. It is disappointing that the Scottish Government’s right to buy has undermined the rented market in Scotland and young entrants are not getting in because there is no access. Yet again, the Scottish Government are neglecting the farming community. I hope that the Bill will encourage new entrants. I applaud my right hon. Friend Richard Benyon, who is no longer in his place, for his recognition of young farmers.

I would like to highlight the 2016 ADAS consultation on public money for public goods. It raised a few issues of which we have to be very conscious. It recognised that Brexit is an opportunity to address these issues. It defined public goods as consumed by society as a whole, not necessarily by individual consumers. It draws a contrast between food and energy as private goods. If we create a differential, an environmental or standards cost, ADAS recognised that this could risk the competitiveness of UK producers. I would therefore like clarity from the Minister on who compensates or buys the public good when we set higher standards. It is not that I want to drop standards; I just want to understand who compensates farmers.

ADAS was very clear that moving to public money for public goods would be radical and would need testing. I welcome the fact that there is a transition period, because we have to check its efficacy during adoption. Modern productive agriculture does not have to undermine the environment; it goes hand-in-hand with the environment. Many Members have reminded us that every acre of this island and this Union has been created and shaped by agriculture in some way.

The good farmers of Gordon stand ready, with the opportunity of Brexit when we negotiate our free trade deals, to grow more malting barley for export to the rest of the world. The Bill must accommodate productive farming. I echo the words of my hon. Friend Derek Thomas. We need access to labour for our factories, our abattoirs, our fish processing factories and our food factories. That is very important. I want to see the back of one-size-fits-all EU interference. I want to see the UK internal market protected. Most of all, I want to see a Scottish schedule in the Bill.