I welcome the Minister’s opening speech, which I listened to carefully. It did a lot to assuage the concerns of my constituents in Stafford, which is a rural constituency, and of many farmers across the UK. However, I also understand the sentiments of colleagues about the amendments under debate. I sat on the Trade and Agricultural Bill Committees earlier this year, so I had the opportunity thoroughly to question stakeholders and Ministers, as well as to scrutinise the Bill line by line. I feel that the Bill now provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an effective agricultural scheme that backs British farmers.
I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) and for Keighley (Robbie Moore) when they said that the previous scheme for agriculture, the common agricultural policy, has been a failure. From an agricultural perspective we have seen sluggish improvements to productivity, poor farm incomes, regressive distribution of funding to the largest landowners, ineffectual rules, and a failure to encourage the next generation of farmers. I believe that Staffordshire farmers deserve better, and this Bill will be better.
Early this year I invited the International Trade Secretary to my constituency, and we held a joint roundtable with local farmers, who directly raised their concerns with her about animal welfare standards post Brexit.
I believe that British farmers have some of the highest food standards in the world, which is something that we should be extremely proud of. From my meeting with Staffordshire farmers and local NFU members just last month, I do appreciate that maintaining these high standards comes at a high financial cost for the producer. British farmers must absolutely not be put in a situation where they are having to compete with lower quality food from abroad. I was very pleased that the Government listened to the views of the NFU, myself and other colleagues earlier this year and have now established that independent Trade and Agriculture Commission, which was referenced in Amendment 18.
I have frequently raised in this House and with the Government the importance of maintaining high food standards, and I will continue to back Staffordshire farmers in this House. I also believe that this Bill recognises the important and primary role of farmers as food producers. The coronavirus pandemic has emphasised to residents across the country the very vital role that British farmers play in feeding the nation. Tonight, I will now be backing this Bill unamended, as I do believe that the measures set out will reward our farmers properly for the work that they do.