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Incorporation of EU legislation governing the CAP direct payment schemes

Part of Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:27 pm on 28th January 2020.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2:27 pm, 28th January 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that comment. This goes to the heart of some of the debates that might transition into our discussions on the Agriculture Bill.

I want us to have a farming system that reflects the climate crisis, taking due cognisance of food miles and the carbon intensity of importing food from one side of the planet to another when our home-grown local produce is of exceptional quality and something that we can be very proud of. Speaking as a west country MP—indeed, the Minister is another—I think we need to recognise that the south-west creates some of the most fantastic foodstuffs in the country. Representatives from right around the country have their own produce that they can be very proud of. British produce is something that we should be very proud of. I encourage all Members to support buying goods with the red tractor logo to make sure that we take steps to encourage consumer behaviour in buying local.

That is really important, because in any future trade arrangements discussed in other legislative vehicles, we need to ensure that our UK farmers are not undercut. It is important that we set out what that means, because chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef are of concern to many people. This does not mean that UK farmers will be treating their chickens with chlorine or using antibiotics on an industrial scale as US agriculture does; it means that we will be allowing access to our market for food produced in that way. It is not the chlorine or the antibiotics that are the main concern—it is the fact that they are used in the first place because the animal welfare standards for those animals are so low. We will need to rehearse and repeat this argument as we get closer to Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill.

It is also important to set out that we need a fairer form of farm support that makes sure that our farmers get their payments on time. Improvements have been made but there is still more progress to be made. We need to support our farmers in decarbonising agriculture, partly by allowing our natural habitats to thrive. We must ensure that farm run-off does not pollute our watercourses, as we heard earlier. We must create a system where we are moving effectively and efficiently towards public money for public goods, not a form of farm subsidy.

This Bill completes a technical amendment that the Minister could, should and probably would have made a year ago, if he had been allowed to by the Whips. I am glad it has been done now. However, as we lead up to the Agriculture Bill, we must make sure that we have a system of farm support, and a debate, that is worthy of the importance of the high-quality, nutritious, locally produced, decarbonising food production that all our farmers and, indeed, our voters want to see.