South-west Agriculture and Fishing

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 19th October 2016.

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Photo of Geoffrey Cox Geoffrey Cox Conservative, Torridge and West Devon 4:52 pm, 19th October 2016

I can make my points to the Minister short. On farming, may I first make a plea for any priority for domestic agriculture policy to include the concept of food security? Food security has been a principle much spoken of but rejected by successive Governments, including the one in which the preceding speaker, Mr Bradshaw, served so honourably and in such a distinguished capacity. However, food security is vital, and therefore a vital component of any domestic agriculture policy.

Equally importantly, it is also vital for us to promote our agriculture in a way that we have failed to do in recent decades. The Dairy Council is the organisation charged with the promotion of the health benefits of dairy products, but it is not charged with the kind of marketing and advertising function that we see in countries such as New Zealand. I therefore urge the Minister to take from the debate my suggestion, and that of many dairy farmers throughout the country, that we need an agency or organisation that is devoted to the activity of marketing and promoting the fantastic dairy products of this country. The Dairy Council is not an organisation that is suited to that end because it is based on a research function rather on a marketing one.

We need to get behind British agriculture; we need to promote and advertise it in a way that we have not for many years; and we need a domestic policy that prioritises food security and domestic production. We also need a policy that decides very quickly what we will and will not support by way of direct Government grant.

On fishing, my plea to the Minister is to let any policy we design be based on local, sustainable fishing fleets that support coastal communities. This is our opportunity to ensure that a domestic fishing industry revives in the coastal communities that have been so hard pressed in recent years. It is our opportunity to deploy intelligence and flexibility, and to do away with blanket bans—despite the plentifulness of certain species of fish in the Bristol channel, we have a ray ban, a spurdog ban and bans that fishermen local to the area know are not right or intelligent. Instead, such bans should be flexibly designed. Any policy must support the interests of those fragile coastal communities.

The key areas and priorities that I urge the Minister to take away, therefore, are promoting, getting behind and marketing our British agriculture; and support and sustenance for coastal communities and local, sustainable fishing fleets.