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Food and Drink Exports

Volume 687: debated on Thursday 14 January 2021

We are launching a new food and drink export campaign this year, which will encourage British businesses to take advantage of the deals we have struck, covering 63 countries around the world. As part of our Japan deal, we will be putting forward 77 geographical indications to the Japanese system, including Welsh lamb.

The Prime Minister’s Brexit deal is a great achievement, but could my right hon. Friend help with problems being experienced by companies delivering goods to Northern Ireland, such as dairy wholesaler Spear UK in Llandrillo in my constituency of Clwyd South, which saw delays last week due to additional paperwork and permanent extra costs for the customs agent and veterinary oversight?

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster gave a statement on this issue yesterday, and he is working hard with the Brexit business taskforce to deal with those issues. We also have the trader support scheme for Northern Ireland. I am pleased to say that freight volumes for Northern Ireland ports are at normal levels for this time of year, and there are no significant queues. Supermarkets are reporting healthy levels of supplies, but I certainly will pass on my hon. Friend’s issue to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to ensure that it is resolved.

Let us head to Scotland to Scottish National party spokesperson Stewart Hosie with the first of two questions.

The Secretary of State was copied in to a letter to the Business Secretary from Vicky Leigh-Pearson, the sales director at John Ross Jr, Aberdeen, salmon producers and exporters. It described in excoriating detail the “barrage of useless information” on Brexit, which added no value or clarity for such food and drink exporting businesses. Would it not be better to fix the problems at the UK-EU border, where real exports take place, rather than make vague promises about future promotional campaigns?

I observe that the hon. Gentleman did not support a deal, so effectively he wanted no deal for the people of the United Kingdom. I think it is a bit rich of him to raise issues when no deal would have been very, very tricky for the exporters he is talking about. Given that £200 million was given to the Scottish Government to prepare to minimise disruption, I suggest he takes up the issue with Nicola Sturgeon to see how that money has been spent to help Scottish exporters.

That was possibly the worst case of deflection I have ever seen, even from a Tory. The Brexit advice on offer to businesses such as John Ross Jr, which has an exemplary 30-year record in exporting,

“has fallen woefully short when it comes to one of the most important commercial issues of our time.”

Instead of vague promises about future campaigns, pathetic attempts at deflection and playing rather silly politics, would it not be better to fix the problems at the UK-EU border, where real exports happen, to protect real jobs and businesses?

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is working very hard with the Brexit business taskforce to make sure that disruption is minimised and businesses are given support. It is perfectly reasonable for me to raise the £200 million that has been given to the Scottish Government and how they are spending it, and the hon. Gentleman’s silence speaks volumes.

Not enough vets to inspect Scottish fish, not enough customs agents to process border forms and not enough time for exporters to adopt new rules of origin—it is no good the Secretary of State saying that the delays are temporary or promising compensation with money that has been already allocated to modernise the fishing industry, as the Prime Minister did yesterday. The Government have failed to prepare for the new arrangements at the border, so is it any wonder that a company such as John Ross Jr says that the Government have thrown them in the sea “without a life jacket”?

I am not quite sure what the question was, but I have been clear that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is running the Brexit business taskforce and that we are seeing disruption minimised and businesses given the support they need. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that there is an urgent question immediately after this Question Time specifically on the fisheries issue, in which he will no doubt want to participate.