[John Cummings in the Chair] — Agriculture (South-West)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:16 am on 20th January 2009.

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Photo of Roger Williams Roger Williams Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 10:16 am, 20th January 2009

It is a great pleasure to take part in this debate. Let me start by putting on the record my interest in agriculture, as set out in the Register of Members' Interests.

I congratulate my hon. Friend Mr. Heath on securing the debate. He is a champion of agriculture, particularly in the south-west, and is very knowledgeable about it. He also has great sympathy with it, and that came over in his contribution.

South-west England is a large and productive agricultural area, which is important to Britain, Europe and the rest of the world. It has about 1.8 million hectares, which is roughly 20 per cent. of the agricultural land in England, but because of its productivity, its importance to agriculture is disproportionate. If one looks through the statistics, one sees that the number of agricultural holdings in the south-west has increased. One would think that that did not make sense, but the detail shows that while many farms are coming together to form bigger holdings, others are being broken down into smallholdings and lifestyle businesses. That is the way that agriculture is going.