Skip to main content

Common Agricultural Policy

Volume 565: debated on Wednesday 26 June 2013

4. What assessment he has made of the potential effect on Scotland of the outcome of the recent negotiations on reform of the common agricultural policy. (160887)

Negotiations have been making real progress in the last few hours. We aim to deliver a strong outcome for farmers in Scotland, securing full regionalisation of the common agricultural policy to take account of the particular circumstances of Scottish producers.

Notwithstanding the proven need for environmental schemes, does the Secretary of State agree that it is important to enable the farmers to make decisions about their own production mechanisms, so that they can improve production and provide more sustainable food for this country’s future?

I agree with my hon. Friend. I spoke to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the last couple of hours after his all-night negotiations in Luxembourg. He remains committed to a scheme that will ensure that farmers get as productive as possible. He wants a scheme that is regionalised for Scotland, and he is delivering that. We have an arrangement that, I hope, will be fair to farmers, fair to consumers and fair to taxpayers.

Obviously the most important issue for my constituents is the future of the shipyards, which are threatened by separation, but they are also concerned about the fact that the common agricultural policy supplies public money to landlords who have surplus acres, while the Government fine tenants who are deemed to have surplus bedrooms. Is that fair?

Let me first pay tribute to the Chairman of the Select Committee, and welcome his evident return to robust good health. I agree with him about the importance of the shipyards in the context of the debate about independence. As for the agricultural issue, I hope that the hon. Gentleman—who is a long-time campaigner for reform of the CAP—will see an outcome from what is still an ongoing process that is fair to his constituents as well as to farmers.

I know that regionalisation is just as important to the delivery of the common agricultural policy as it is to the delivery of the common fisheries policy, but is my right hon. Friend aware of the possible cross-border impact of the way in which the reforms are implemented in Scotland on constituencies that are very close to Scotland?

Obviously I defer to the hon. Lady’s expertise in this area, but as one who represents what I believe is the longest section of the land border between Scotland and England, I am well aware of the issues that she has raised. What the Secretary of State has been negotiating in Luxembourg is an arrangement that introduces regionalisation for the whole United Kingdom, and allows us to design a common agricultural policy that is fit for local circumstances and fair to farmers throughout the UK.

I am disappointed that the United Kingdom Government are set to negotiate a CAP deal that will leave Scotland with the lowest rural development budget not just in the UK, but anywhere in Europe. Had Scotland been negotiating on its own behalf, it would have benefited from the rule that no member state should receive less than €196 per hectare by 2020. Does the Secretary of State accept that being tied to the UK in these negotiations will cost Scottish farming £300 million a year for the next seven years?

I am disappointed by the churlish tone adopted by the hon. Lady. I hoped that she might just have studied the tweets from the Scottish agriculture Minister, which have welcomed the major breakthroughs that we have achieved. We have done that as member of the United Kingdom, sitting at the top table and with the clout to deliver a regionalised CAP. It is now for Richard Lochhead and others to get on with designing a common agricultural policy that suits Scotland’s needs, and Mr Lochhead has the ability to do that.

If agreement is reached this week on a common agricultural policy that will benefit farmers throughout Scotland, will it not constitute more evidence that Scotland speaks with a louder voice in EU negotiations as part of the United Kingdom?

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman, and the model of the negotiations reinforces his point. It should be noted that the Scottish farming Minister, Richard Lochhead, who has been involved in discussions with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs throughout the process, was in Luxembourg overnight, and has seen the United Kingdom deliver for Scotland.