Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 6:33 pm, 10th October 2018

I welcome and support Second Reading of this important Bill. As someone who comes from a long line of people who worked on the land—mainly ploughmen—I am very grateful to witness and be part of this historic and significant moment as, for the first time in decades, the House of Commons legislates in this vital area. I congratulate and thank the farmers of the United Kingdom for the excellent produce that they provide for us on our dinner tables, and for the social good that was described by my hon. Friend Matt Warman from which we resultantly benefit.

In my short remarks, I will focus on things that are missing from the Bill. The first thing that is missing is a schedule relating to Scotland. I am afraid that that is down to the intransigence and the wrecking tendency of the SNP. There is no way of escaping that conclusion. While the SNP protests its concern for Scotland’s farmers, what we have in Scotland is a policy vacuum on agriculture. Witness the spectacle of the past few days in Glasgow at the SNP conference—not one mention of agriculture in the speech by the leader of the party and, by the way, no mention of an agriculture Bill in the SNP Government’s programme for government, which has produced very little legislation.

What we get from the SNP are carefully constructed, artificial areas for conflict so that it can progress the only agenda that matters to it—the break-up of the United Kingdom. What we see in that intransigence is simply another tactic in its campaign to bring about the tearing up of this wonderful, 300-year-old-plus, successful Union between England and Scotland.

I shall mention the other things that are missing from the Bill very quickly, as time is running out. First, I would ask the Secretary of State to include in the Bill—my friends and I will seek to include it somehow—the issue of the red-meat levy. Members will be aware that quite often the levy is imposed at the point of slaughter of cattle, sheep and pigs. It is a devolved matter, with revenues collected by Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. To cut a long story short, a lot of the cattle, sheep and pigs that are raised in Scotland are shipped across the border to England where they are slaughtered, so there is a sum of money that should go back to Scottish industry for the promotion of Scotch beef and lamb. I urge the Secretary of State to make provision for that simple change in the Bill, as it would require primary legislation. It is worth about £1.5 million for the promotion of Scotch beef and lamb.

The other thing that is missing at the moment are detailed terms of reference for the promised review of convergence payments. My friends and I wish those terms of reference to become known. Perhaps the Secretary of State can make that clear, so that we understand the pathway on timelines and so on. The result of such a review would set a baseline for the allocation of resources to Scottish farming. As my hon. Friends have said, we absolutely believe in and are defending the principle of devolution in the path that we are taking. Finally, there is a crying need for UK frameworks. That is what the industry wants, and that is what we should get on with delivering.