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

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 2:18 pm on 21st July 2022.

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Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee, Chair, European Statutory Instruments Committee 2:18 pm, 21st July 2022

My hon. Friend the Member for North West Durham is a generous man, but he is also completely wrong. My point is that the show has been a big part of something I have enjoyed. About 80% of the visitors are from Yorkshire and the Humber and the north-east, which means that many visitors come from a considerable distance away, which obviously brings a significant boost to the tourism and hospitality sectors.

The shows are places where people come together. We have highlighted that that is particularly true for farmers, but the shows are social beyond that; the beer tent does a brisk trade. Shows also celebrate the local agricultural sector, and the stock displays are critical to that. It is always great to see the pride in animal husbandry. Last Friday, I spoke to cattle farmers in the morning and sheep farmers in the afternoon, and congratulated those who had won prizes, such as best in show. The competition was strong, and their delight in winning was good to see. The livestock are the heart of the show.

There is obviously a commercial element to shows, and a strong retail presence. There are also agricultural equipment displays, which are a good way for people to see what is available and learn about new ideas and technology to boost productivity. There is business, and lots of money changes hands, but that is not the beating heart of the show. They are not just trade shows; they are much more complicated, but also more significant, than that. They are a platform for the celebration of the produce of an area, and they are a showcase of that produce. I do not just mean the livestock; I am particularly thinking about some of the smaller food producers. The quality of local produce, up and down all four nations of the country, is absolutely fantastic.

The shows are a platform that enable companies to reach customers and be spotted by bigger distributors. Introductions can be made, knowledge shared, and, later, deals done. I am sure we can all think of examples of how that has worked in our constituency. Certainly, judging by the sampling in the food halls last Friday, the enjoyment of local produce was pretty strong. The shows keep evolving, of course, and there are always new things to celebrate and new things to learn, as well as old. There can be new companies and new displays; for example, this year, the Yorkshire Show had sheepdog trials for the first time, which drew crowds.

The knowledge-sharing mentioned by a number of Members is an absolutely critical but under-recognised part of the shows. That works in a few ways. To give a practical example, Rural Payments Agency staff may be available to answer questions, and there can be expert talks put on to enable the sharing of best practice. Shows are also critical, and practical, for MPs. I had many excellent conversations at the Great Yorkshire Show last week, including with ASDA; I met its representatives to discuss local sourcing and the challenges of food inflation, and I met the National Farmers Union to discuss the challenges faced by local farmers. When I was last at the Boroughbridge Show, I met the Rare Breeds Survival Trust—a charity whose aims I support—and I did so again in Harrogate last week. We also had Ministers present, which was valued by those who got the opportunity to say hello. I do not think my hon. Friend the Minister has yet visited the Great Yorkshire Show, but I hope it is only a matter of time until he does. He would be welcome.

There are many elements that make agricultural and county shows work, but at their heart is a celebration of the countryside, its people and produce, its stewardship and its future. Their anchor is in local communities, and they make communities stronger. They are important to rural Britain, as the title of the debate suggests, but I would like to go further and say that they are important to all of Britain.