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Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:26 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion 2:26 pm, 21st January 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Bill Wiggin. I agree with a lot of the points he raises, particularly on the importance of maintaining a level playing field for our farmers, both in trade and, as I will discuss, within the UK internal market in so far as it exists.

Seeing the crowded Government Benches reminds me that the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Fay Jones) will shortly be making her maiden speech, and I congratulate my constituency neighbour on what I am sure will be a very impressive first outing.

The Minister can sit easy, because I confirm that Plaid Cymru will not be opposing the Bill today. In so far as the Bill is being introduced to ensure that farmers in Wales who are participating in the basic payment scheme in 2020 can be paid from December, we fully support it. I am glad the Bill has been introduced to offer some certainty to farmers in Wales.

I am also glad that we have this opportunity to discuss the broader elements of the Bill. This Bill and the Agriculture Bill, which we will discuss soon enough, will largely determine the future of agricultural policy across the four nations of the UK for years to come. The Minister will have previously heard me preach about the need to replace some aspects of the common agricultural policy, particularly some of the associated frameworks that, taken together, have provided the financial and legislative basis upon which the four national Governments of the UK have formulated their agricultural policies for some years.

I raise this today because, particularly when it comes to funding, divergences and distortions can arise if we are not careful. As the four UK countries develop their agricultural policies, the question of how they will co-operate to ensure the effective functioning of the internal market in these islands looms ever larger. I am sure that greater flexibility and a more bespoke agricultural policy for each of the four nations will be championed in parliamentary debates, and rightly so, but we should also ensure that some of the CAP’s objectives in preventing excessive market distortion and maintaining a level playing field for our farmers within the countries of the UK do not fall by the wayside as we transition to this new settlement. Before I am challenged on this by Scottish National party Members, let me make it clear that that is not to say that we should prohibit policy divergence of any kind. Rather, I am trying to say that the four Governments should come together to agree financial and regulatory parameters to facilitate the functioning of the internal market, while allowing each—