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Farm Subsidies

Volume 627: debated on Thursday 20 July 2017

The Government have committed to providing the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the Parliament. We have also announced our intention to introduce an agriculture Bill in this Session to provide stability for farmers as we leave the European Union, and of course we will continue to protect and enhance our natural environment.

The average hill farm has an annual income before CAP payments of minus £10,000, and therefore hill farming as a sector is under enormous pressure, despite the fact that it is utterly fundamental to food security, to the protection of our environment and, indeed, to the maintenance of the landscape that has just won the Lake District world heritage site status. Will the Secretary of State reflect on the fact that successive Governments have used the common agricultural policy as an excuse for not providing direct, tailored support for hill farmers? Will he use this opportunity to promise me, the House and hill farmers across the country that he will introduce a hill farm allowance to protect our uplands and the hill farming industry?

A very well-crafted question, and may I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his re-election in Westmorland and Lonsdale and take the opportunity to pay tribute to the dignified and principled way in which he has led his party? He is absolutely right that hill farming and upland farming matter. The proposition he puts forward is not the only way of ensuring that we can maintain the environmental and broader cultural benefits that hill farming brings, but I shall do everything possible to ensure that as we replace the common agricultural policy, the needs of hill and upland farmers are met more effectively than ever before.

I thank Members very much for supporting me in becoming the Chair of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As we reform our support systems for agriculture, and our environmental schemes in particular, we can make them less complicated—we will not have to count trees, work out whether a tree is a sapling and so on—and ensure that we can retain water and do everything that we want to do with the environment, as well as producing food. We have an ideal opportunity to do that as we bring the new British farming policy together.

I add my voice to those of everyone in the House in congratulating my hon. Friend on securing re-election as Chairman of the Select Committee. Once again, he absolutely hits the nail on the head. As we move outside the European Union, our system of agricultural support must protect farmers through the vicissitudes they face; and, critically, the environmental benefits that farmers secure for us every day must be at the heart of any new system of support.