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Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:02 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:02 pm, 3rd February 2020

I have to make progress because I know there is a long speakers’ list.

Clauses 21 to 26 on data will increase transparency and help to manage risk and market volatility more effectively, and clause 27 will help protect UK producers from unfair trading practices. The Bill enables us to make progress on our new multi-species livestock information programme. That addition to the Bill that was debated in the previous Parliament will support a game-changing initiative to strengthen biosecurity through traceability, and help to strengthen consumer confidence in the quality and safety of the food that reaches the supermarket shelf. Parts 4 and 5 include new UK-wide provisions on fertiliser and organic products, and on reform of agriculture tenancies in England and Wales. Many of those provisions will benefit farmers in every corner of our United Kingdom, delivering a fairer and more modern agriculture system.

The Bill includes new powers for the devolved Administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland, which they requested to enable them to bring forward new agriculture policy. We fully respect the fact that agriculture is a devolved matter, and we have worked closely with the devolved Administrations on this Bill. I thank them for the collaborative approach that they adopted. Where clauses cover devolved matters, we will of course seek the appropriate legislative consent motions.

Crucially, this Bill fully recognises the importance of food production and food security. In response to concerns expressed in this House, and beyond, about the previous version of the Bill, clause 17 places a duty on Ministers to report regularly on food security to Parliament. The Government are committed to boosting the best of British, and to championing our iconic produce on the global stage. Our manifesto commits us to maintaining and defending our high standards of food safety, animal welfare, and environmental protection as we embark on our trade negotiations with countries around the world.

We will give our farmers unfailing support as their businesses adapt to the bold and radical programme of change that this Bill ushers in, so that they can maintain and enhance the high standards that are the backbone of their success, play their part in tackling climate change and giving nature the space to recover, and continue their vital work of feeding the nation. I urge the House to back this historic change to agriculture policy in this country. Together we can seize this opportunity to deliver a better future for British farming, and I commend the Bill to the House.