Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Labour, Pontypridd 8:00 pm, 12th October 2020

Diolch yn fawr, Madam Deputy Speaker. On your warning, I will keep my comments brief and focused on amendments 16 and 17.

Colleagues will be aware that amendment 16 aims to protect something that, thus far, the Government have shown very little regard for. Specifically, it aims to ensure that imported food must meet UK animal welfare, environmental and public health standards. Bluntly, I struggle to see how Conservative Members can do anything other than support it. We have all seen the horror stories about hormone-injected beef and chlorinated chicken hitting our supermarket shelves, but those headlines are no longer just desperate attempts by the press to grab our attention. Sadly, without this amendment, that could be the extremely unwelcome reality for us all in the near future.

It is vital that the Government use this pivotal opportunity to commit to greater animal welfare standards. It is clear that there are ways to farm animals ethically. I am proud of farmers locally in Wales and across the UK who are committed to the sustainable, ethical treatment of their live produce.

I want Britain to remain a beacon of high standards in the ethical treatment of animals and environmental protections. The Government talk a good game on climate change, but we are yet to see any solid evidence or change that will have a positive and substantial impact. It cannot be denied that we are in the midst of a climate and ecological emergency. It is imperative that we have a clear roadmap for agriculture to reach net zero, and greater oversight of pesticide use. The Government must commit to an ambitious strategy to achieve that.

When will the Government get a grip, finally take a page out of the fantastic Welsh Labour Government’s book and commit to a consideration of flooding prevention mechanisms in their agricultural policy? In Wales, all new developments are now required to include sustainable urban drainage systems, which are designed to mimic natural drainage by managing surface run-off as close to source as possible. We also need a commitment to active agricultural land management to prevent run-off, which can cause flooding further down in the catchments. Colleagues may be aware that the issue of flooding and surface water is close to my heart, not just because I am the co-chair of the all-party parliamentary water group, but because residents and businesses in Pontypridd saw their livelihoods decimated by the flash flooding earlier this year. The recovery effort still continues, albeit sadly with no support from the Government, despite the Prime Minister’s promises. The Government can take small steps to support flooded communities by taking the lead and encouraging or incentivising farmers to take flooding-prevention steps as part of a robust climate change action plan.

I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept the amendments on a topic that she must receive many messages about. I urge her to spend just 10 minutes looking at my inbox, which receives hundreds of emails every day from concerned constituents worried about their future food standards. Ultimately, we would be doing ourselves and future generations a huge disservice if we did not uphold our stringent food and animal standards or commit to a robust strategy to meet net zero by 2050.