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Support for Farmers

Volume 645: debated on Thursday 19 July 2018

2. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on support for farmers after the UK leaves the EU. (906536)

11. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on support for farmers after the UK leaves the EU. (906545)

We work closely with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on farming support. The Government will provide the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the Parliament, maintaining stability for farmers as we grow our world-leading food and farming industry in a sustainable way.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government’s policy is to leave the customs union, leave the single market, leave the common fisheries policy and leave the common agricultural policy, and that the Government are committed to the fact that in that new framework North Devon’s farmers will continue to thrive outside the EU?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Indeed, our White Paper confirms that the United Kingdom will leave the single market and the customs union. Outside the CAP and the CFP, we will be free to develop a domestic agriculture policy that works in the best interests of farmers in North Devon and across the UK, and at the same time we will become an independent coastal state with full control over our waters.

Order. I have just been advised that the hon. Member for Chippenham (Michelle Donelan) is not here. She has not yet been able to access the building. If she gets here later, I will try to accommodate her, but it means for the time being that the grouping falls.

The chemicals regulation division of the Health and Safety Executive regulates biocides and pesticides under the EU REACH—registration, evaluation, authorisation and restriction of chemicals—regulation. The pesticides have to be tested within the EU, so we will lose that work on 29 March 2019. Will the Government buy into the new replaced EU body, losing 300 jobs in York and Bootle, or will they be forced into having separate EU testing, placing additional costs on farmers?

Obviously, that is subject to negotiation, but I understand the concern that the hon. Lady has raised. We will seek to pursue a relationship whereby we are engaged with the regulatory structures in Europe to ensure that we have continuity and stability in that sector.

I congratulate the Secretary of State on his elevation to Cabinet. A number of leavers suggest that the governing classes or the establishment are calling the shots on Brexit and that that is why it is such a mess. Farmers in my constituency want to know who is calling the shots—is it the Secretary of State?

No, it is the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. I will be deputising for the Prime Minister in the negotiations. I will be out seeing Michel Barnier shortly, and I hope that I can attest to his full support for the White Paper.

Not so long ago, the Secretary of State, in a burst of youthful exuberance, published a blog—[Interruption.] It was not that racy. It included his 10 policies “for a Better Britain”. Policy No. 7 stated:

“We need to deregulate…the common market”.

Does he still agree with his own manifesto for Britain?

In all those areas, as important as they are and whatever the different views across the House on those sensitive matters, the crucial thing is that elected Members in this House have the last word on the laws of the land. I share her concern about those areas and her interest. Why on earth would she want to abdicate responsibility for law making to Brussels, when in this House we need to be accountable to our constituents?

For British farmers to trade successfully with Europe, we must remain on the same level playing field, with common standards and regulations. The president of the National Farmers Union said earlier this year that

“the floor is for our standards to be in line with the rest of Europe”.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the Farmers Union or himself?

She has welcomed the White Paper, but I would gently say to the hon. Lady that the CAP’s land-based subsidy and the bureaucratic structure that goes with it has held back productivity in this country and has not delivered the scale of environmental improvement we need. When we leave the common agricultural policy, we will make sure that we have the best agricultural but also environmental policy for this country.

Let me just say to the hon. Lady that it was a reckless door or barrier—electronic or otherwise—that sought to deny her access to the House, but she is with us now and we look forward to hearing her.

Thank you for your patience, Mr Speaker.

Leaving the EU provides opportunities for Wiltshire farmers; hence why they voted to leave. Does my right hon. Friend agree that making our own decisions for farmers to suit farmers will ensure that their interests are better protected?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We want a more dynamic, more self-reliant agricultural industry as we continue to compete internationally, supplying products of the very highest standard for the domestic market and increasing exports. We also want a reformed agricultural and land management policy to deliver a better and richer environment for Wiltshire and across the UK.