Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 8:45 pm, 12th October 2020

We have had a treat this evening—we have had Cotswold lamb, mince and tatties, Aberdeenshire beef, and berries and all sorts of other things. I, for one, have particularly enjoyed hearing farming voices this evening. We heard from my hon. Friend Neil Parish, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, who is basically in favour of the Bill. He was able to explain clearly how it would help the farmers of the future. We heard from my hon. Friend Douglas Ross, who very much enjoyed growing up with fields green with grass. We heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley (Robbie Moore) and for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont), who both spoke in quite quiet, but experienced, passionate farming voices about how the trade of the future was going to help others in the industry.

We heard from my hon. Friend Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, and we had perhaps the quote of the evening from my hon. Friend Bill Wiggin, who said that farming is not a religion; it is a business. I would like to reassure him that I see a bright future for British farming under our new agricultural policies. Productive, environmentally sustainable food production—that is what we are going to support, and businesses.

We heard from my hon. Friend George Freeman, and I am looking forward to a glittering career for him at Harper Adams. I think we will all benefit from what he learns there. We heard from my hon. Friend Julian Sturdy. I was pleased to speak to him a great deal about gene editing earlier in the year and I am glad that we will be consulting on that. These were experienced farming voices, passionate about trade.

There have been other speeches of note, including from my hon. Friend Gary Sambrook, who was proud to say that he does not earn a pair of wellies but he cares about standards, and about trade. We heard from my hon. Friend Theo Clarke, who has served on the Agriculture Committee, and who spoke thoughtfully about the cost of production and the work that she had done to take the Secretary of State for International Trade to her constituency to speak to her farmers.

My hon. Friend Anthony Mangnall is right: the fear-mongering must stop tonight. We are not going to be importing chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef. That is the law of this land. [Interruption.] There is no question of “Not yet”. This Government are not going to change it under any circumstances. We have said very clearly that in all our trade negotiations we will not compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare or food standards.

We have a range of tools to protect us. We have the existing regulation. We have parliamentary scrutiny, which I detailed earlier, including the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, which I, for one, think is significant. We have other experts feeding in, including the Trade and Agriculture Commission, which many Members have spoken about. It was designed to be helpful, to feed into the trade negotiations we are conducting at the moment. There is nothing to stop it being stood up again if it was felt that that would be helpful. There is absolutely no need to put this in the Bill. I am very happy to take as an action from tonight that I will discuss this with the Secretary of State for International Trade. Given what she said in her written ministerial statement to the House today, I am not anticipating that she will be surprised by that conversation, but I undertake to conduct it.

I also think that consumer labelling is important, while understanding that, of course, a lot of products are not directly labelled at the point of consumption. I think, however, that our consumers are canny and that they can make many of their own decisions. We also heard one other tool discussed this evening in favour of differing tariffs—my hon. Friends the Members for Mid Norfolk and for The Cotswolds both spoke about that—and that is something that we should perhaps think about in future.

You will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, that children play mummies and daddies or going to the shops. They tend to ape what the adults around them do. Well, my sisters and I played going to NFU meetings, because that was what the adults around us did. I welcome the work that the NFU has done to get consumers talking about standards, but we do not need primary legislation to have a Trade and Agriculture Commission. Amendment 16 does not enshrine these standards in law; rather, it obliges the Government to impose a wide and, in my view, slightly ill-defined set of conditions on new and roll-over FTAs. And if Labour Members truly are champions of farming, they should not support amendment 11, which bans the use of any pesticide in any field.

This Bill is great. The future of agriculture in this country is great. I commend it to the House.

Lords amendment 1 disagreed to.

Proceedings interrupted (Programme Order, this day).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83F).

Lords amendment 9 disagreed to.