Agricultural and County Shows — [Dr Rupa Huq in the Chair]

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 1:40 pm on 21st July 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Richard Holden Richard Holden Conservative, North West Durham 1:40 pm, 21st July 2022

I certainly think that my hon. Friend should help with the sheep shearing, and I hope she shares some videos on social media. She raises a particularly important point about the volunteers behind those shows. I have seen it myself on the ground: they could not take place without the volunteers who run the committees, put up the signs and do the fundraising to ensure that they are sold out. Often, the judges will themselves be volunteers. They are the backbone of those shows, reflecting the real link between the rural communities and the shows. I obviously encourage as many people as possible to go to the Anglesey show.

My hon. Friend’s intervention relates to the point I was making about tourism in rural areas. We have to ensure that our rural areas are thriving hubs not only of agriculture, but of environmental land management and tourism. We have to ensure that they do not die— that they do not become dormitory villages or just the sites of second homes. It is really important that those local communities are able to thrive, and that the links between agriculture and the broader economy and our lives are maintained. That is one of the reasons why these shows—including, obviously, the Anglesey Show—are so important.

We must ensure that our farmers are as productive as possible and that they grow for Britain, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Preseli Pembrokeshire was saying. Direct interaction with the farming community through county shows will probably help to address some of the issues and concerns that people might have by showing some of the diversification that takes place in the sector. There is always a danger of an urban disconnect with rural Britain. That is why these shows are so important: they provide an easy and very accessible link between our rural communities and people from across the country.

In the light of the rising costs of food, people are starting to look at food in a slightly different way. The Russian blockade of Ukraine has caused huge problems, following their illegal invasion of that country. It is not so much that Britain needs to be totally self-sufficient in everything, but we certainly need to be more self-sufficient than we have been. When I was a special adviser looking at the balance of trade between Britain and other countries, one of the biggest things that we were importing that we could, actually, easily do here was food. I am particularly glad that the Government are starting to look at that area, to see how we can become more productive and grow more in the UK. That is also particularly important when we look at the environment at the moment. We want to see those food miles reduced as much as possible and see things grown in the UK. We need to take more account of the transportation costs and the environmental impact of that transportation, rather than simply the bottom line in terms of price and other considerations.

Britain’s farms are essential to our national economic interests, not just because they look great and they keep our country looking great, but because we need them to be as productive as possible to help our country. Country fairs are central to that rural economic fabric and to highlighting the great work that our farmers do. They provide unmatched social benefits to our towns and villages. County fairs also play a pivotal role; we saw the county flags around Parliament Square just yesterday, showing that they are also at the heart of rural Britain. The fairs provide a brilliant opportunity for the transfer of knowledge as well, by getting farmers together to see innovations and spread best practice within the rural community.

The shows provide a value beyond their locality as a source of income generation for the wider community, for the people visiting, and as an eye-opener for what farming is actually about in modern Britain. The largest shows—such as the Royal Cornwall Show, of which I know the Minister is a great fan, the Great Yorkshire Show, which I am sure will be mentioned by my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, the Royal Three Counties Show, the Royal Highland Show, the Royal Welsh Show and the Balmoral Show—are not just in their local interest; there is also a national and often international interest in them. They offer a new set of opportunities for our farmers to diversify their operations, expand into new markets and find new, much-needed revenue sources.

Rural Britain must maintain its cherished position in the national fabric. It is imperative that we protect and promote county and agricultural fairs across modern Britain and do everything we can to ensure that they thrive into the future. They provide a stage on which the very best of our rural towns and villages can be showcased, as well as serving as a much-needed driver for innovation, investment and tourism in our rural economies. Their importance cannot be underestimated, and I look forward to visiting my local rural shows in Wolsingham, Stanhope, Hunstanworth and St John’s Chapel later this summer.