South-west Agriculture and Fishing

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:13 pm on 19th October 2016.

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Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Conservative, East Devon 5:13 pm, 19th October 2016

Yes, and not all from the EU has been bad—that is the point. When we come to examine some of the legislation, and particularly some of the wildlife and environmental legislation, I strongly suspect that we will want to adopt quite a lot of it for ourselves. I very much hope Ministers will come to my constituency and speak to the principal and staff at one of the finest land-based colleges left in the country, Bicton. It should not be one of the few land-based colleges left in the country; we should have them all over the countryside. I hope the Minister or her colleagues will come and speak to them.

I hope Ministers will come and talk to dairy farmers such as Peter and Di Wastenage—who were farmers of the year in the Farmers Weekly awards in 2015 and who run a magnificent dairy herd—and address the issue of how we tackle the scourge of bovine TB and finally eradicate it, particularly in the south-west. I hope they will also discuss how we can deal with flood prevention and balance that against the needs of farmers.

I hope, finally, that we will discuss issues that are important in tourism but equally important to running farming businesses: rurality, services and broadband. Farmers need broadband. They are not only isolated in their tractor cabs, non-complaining. I am glad that my hon. Friend James Heappey has found so many non-complaining farmers—I would like to find out where they are, so perhaps he could tell me. Of course, farmers do get on with the job, but when they come home to fill in those myriad files—many of which I hope a new British farming policy will render redundant—they do need modern communications.

I think 75% of the countryside is already farmed. Let us make sure it is farmed properly and let us make sure it is farmed in the interests of the agricultural community. Let us make sure we have sustainability balanced with environmental requirements and deal, as my hon. and learned Friend Mr Cox said, with the issue of food security. On balance, yes, there are threats, but the opportunities more than outweigh the threats. We should be talking up British farming and British fishing because in the south-west it is our lifeblood.