Farming: Funding Schemes

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart Conservative, Brentwood and Ongar 12:00 am, 29th November 2018

What steps he is taking to deliver equitable funding schemes for farmers throughout the UK.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Once we leave the common agricultural policy, we will be able to create fairer funding for farmers, with greater freedoms across the four Administrations. On 16 October, the Government announced a review of the intra-UK allocation of domestic farm support funding between 2020 and the end of the Parliament. The review will consider a range of factors that reflect the unique circumstances of each part of the United Kingdom.

Photo of Alex Burghart Alex Burghart Conservative, Brentwood and Ongar

I very much welcome the news that we will have fairer funding across all four parts of the UK after we leave the EU. Will the Minister reassure me that this fairer funding will take account of each country’s individual circumstances, particularly the environment, their agriculture and their socioeconomic needs?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the review will indeed will consider all those issues—the environment, agriculture and socioeconomic circumstances of each part of the UK. We have a manifesto commitment to keep the agricultural budget the same until 2022 and a commitment to put in place a new funded scheme thereafter.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Will the Government Front-Bench team stop blaming Europe for everything in farming and recognise that it is modern industrial methods of agriculture that are responsible for denuding our country of wildlife and for species going into extinction? That is the problem. We need a funding system that is equitable but deals with that problem.

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is Government policy to support a more sustainable approach to agriculture. The common agricultural policy has failed to do that. The new policy that we have set out in the Agriculture Bill will deliver a fairer, more sustainable and more profitable agriculture for the future.

Photo of Luke Graham Luke Graham Conservative, Ochil and South Perthshire

Since it was established in the Agriculture Bill Committee that further primary legislation is required for direct payments to be made to Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom, what steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that Scotland is in the UK Agriculture Bill and that it conforms with the needs of the National Farmers Union Scotland and my constituents?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend makes an important point. As I said earlier, there is an open offer from the Government to add a schedule for Scotland at a later stage of the Bill’s progress, should Scotland wish us to. This area is devolved to Scotland. The Scottish Government have the power to act in this space and they need to make up their mind and decide what they want to do.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Energy)

How can the Minister talk about ethical funding when Westminster has stolen £160 million of convergence uplift meant for Scottish farmers? What are the Government doing to replace that up to 2020, and what is going to happen beyond 2020?

Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As the hon. Gentleman will no doubt be aware, the average receipt for Scottish farmers tends to be higher than in other parts of the UK, because Scottish farmers have larger holdings in more disadvantaged areas. We are having this review precisely to address the importance of fair funding in the future.