Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray 8:30 pm, 12th October 2020

I come from a farming background. It was all I was ever interested in at school. I grew up on a farm where my dad was a farm worker and I had a passion for dairy cows—Holsteins. When I was thinking of future careers, the only green in my life was the grass that the cows ate in the fields rather than the Benches I now sit on. This is something that goes through my veins. Representing a rural constituency like Moray makes it a hugely important issue for me, both locally and nationally.

I want to say from the outset that this debate is not about chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-injected beef, which are banned in this country and will continue to be banned in this country going forward. There have been scare stories in the media and throughout the debate, which I have watched from the office and then, when seats became available, in the Chamber. We have to get past that. This is also about what our Moray, our Scottish and our UK farmers have done for years and through generations in building up their world-leading and respected animal welfare and food safety standards. They have done so much, through generations of farmers, to build up the reputation that we now proudly have as a country.

I know how passionate the Minister is about upholding these standards, as I saw when watching her opening remarks. Indeed, that passion is shared by those right across the Conservative Benches. We were all elected on a manifesto commitment to uphold those standards. I know that every single Conservative Member believes that and continues to believe it, no matter how they vote tonight. For some, it will be delivered through an unamended Bill because, they will rightly say, the Minister has said, and repeated Ministers and, indeed, the Prime Minister have said, that this Bill does not reduce animal welfare or food safety standards. Others on the Conservative Benches and around the House will say that it needs to be enshrined in law and put into the Bill. I do not believe that either is wrong. We all want to get to the same destination, but we could potentially take different routes. Some may choose the unamended Bill to uphold animal welfare and food safety standards, and others will choose to amend the Bill, as amendments 16 states, to call for agriculture and food imports to meet domestic standards.

The passion that we all have to meet that ultimate aim is shared; it is just that the route to get to the destination is different. Having thought long and hard about this, I have decided that the best way to do that—the best way to stand up for my Moray farmers, Scottish farmers, and farmers around the country—is to get this measure into the Bill. I agree with and support amendment 16 because I want to make it absolutely crystal clear to farmers up and down the country—to send them the message—that the Government, and I, as the local MP in Moray, have their back and will support them in continuing their efforts to uphold the outstanding standards that they have built up through years and generations.