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Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:44 pm on 21st January 2020.

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Photo of Dr Caroline Johnson Dr Caroline Johnson Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham 2:44 pm, 21st January 2020

He does deserve them; my hon. Friend is right.

The Bill is narrow in scope but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire said, it is small but mighty. The Bill in essence fills a legislative gap caused by our leaving the European Union. When we leave, the rural payments from the EU, unlike some other payments that will continue to the end of the year, will need to stop at the end of January, because the payments that farmers apply for this year in March and that are paid at the end of the year will come out of the 2021 EU budget, of which I am pleased to say we will not be part. The Bill will fill a small legislative gap and continue the scheme for the whole UK.

Leaving the EU is a great opportunity for the United Kingdom. The voters in Sleaford and North Hykeham voted overwhelmingly for it and, at the general election in December, the Conservative party received a huge mandate to deliver it. This morning, I went to Conservative campaign headquarters, where I saw the clock counting down the 10 days until we deliver Brexit and take back control of agriculture policy, among other things. That will give us the opportunity to develop better agriculture support for farmers, help them with economic opportunities, improve the labelling and quality of our food and improve our exports and trade with countries outside the European Union.

The budget for farm payments currently stands at £3.5 billion a year, of which 80% is largely based on the acreage that the farmer farms. Last year, £21 million was given to farmers in Sleaford and North Hykeham alone. It is really important money because 42% of farms would not be profitable were they not to receive the money from the Government. This is not supporting unproductive business, but instead is supporting our farmers and helping them to deliver high-welfare, environmentally sound, healthy food production.