South-west Agriculture and Fishing

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:08 pm on 19th October 2016.

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Photo of Anne Marie Morris Anne Marie Morris Conservative, Newton Abbot 5:08 pm, 19th October 2016

I congratulate my hon. Friend Scott Mann on securing this debate. Like him, I see Brexit as a great bonus for farming and fishing in the south-west. It is a win-win—but so it should be, because we have significant investment in agriculture and fishing in the south-west. Some 72% of Devon’s land is farmed, and £2.7 billion of turnover in the south-west is due to agriculture. A third of all dairy and beef, and a fifth of all sheep and lambs are also from the south-west. Whatever happens post Brexit will make a big difference for us in the south-west.

I entirely endorse the comments made about the CAP by my hon. Friend James Heappey. It simply did not work, and it rewarded people in the wrong way. I am not suggesting that we should in any way remove its environmental role. We should continue that, but we should make it relevant and appropriate while ensuring that we encourage production. Many farmers I speak to say that there is absolutely no incentive to produce more. That cannot be right. We also have to get the balance right between the large landowner and the farmer with a small landmass to farm who has been short-changed against the big landowners in all sorts of different ways, in part because across Europe the farmers tend to farm across much larger tracts of land, and what works for them does not necessarily work for us.

Going forward, we certainly need to see better, targeted support that is more appropriate to the nature of our agricultural community, which is not the same as that of France and Germany. We also need to ensure that the regulations are properly scrutinised, because at the moment we have rules about the size of gates, the height of hedges and how much space is left between the hedge and crop, and much of that we do not need. There are similar issues. While we clearly want to ensure that animal welfare standards are at their highest, my farmers tell me that much of the red tape around what we need to do are unnecessary and so easy to get around that, frankly, they are rather pointless.

I totally agree with my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox about marketing and labelling, because I think very few people really understand what that tractor means. We could get a proper scheme going, with proper support to encourage supermarkets and others to really promote British, and we could have legislation that made it clear where the word “British” or “produced” can and cannot be used, because it is unclear and the European rules are different from those we have here.