Aquaculture — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:00 pm on 17th July 2019.

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Photo of Stephen Kerr Stephen Kerr Conservative, Stirling 4:00 pm, 17th July 2019

I completely agree with my right hon. Friend; there is a connection between investment, the resulting gain that we make in national productivity and the benefit that will then accrue to the whole UK economy. Innovate UK, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, the Scottish Government and Marine Scotland all need to work together to create a shared strategy of supporting investment in research and development in this area.

At the very least, we need that shared strategy to be agreed in a spirit of cooperation. The industrial strategy calls for innovation across the board to boost our national productivity, as my right hon. Friend suggested, but it also calls for a new technological revolution in agriculture and food production. UK aquaculture is an innovative sector; there is a big opportunity to utilise big data, sensors, imaging or robotics. It is at the forefront of the productivity challenge, but it needs more investment and interest from the UK Government.

I ask the Minister whether DEFRA will consider investing UK funds to help to support the growth of a vital UK industry such as farmed Atlantic salmon? This is far too important a sector to be devolved and forgotten about. We need an explicit acknowledgment that UK aquaculture is a high tech, high growth, low carbon food source and direct future funding through the industrial strategy challenge fund to support further innovation in the sector. That would also give us an opportunity to address some of the other issues I have spoken about in terms of environmental sustainability, which can and will be solved through the power of science and innovation.

There is no doubt in my mind about the importance of this sector and I hope there is no doubt—I am sure there is not—in the mind of the Minister.