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House of Commons Hansard
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Support for Farmers
15 March 2018
Volume 637
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1. 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. [904374]

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12. 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. [904389]

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We continue to work closely with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on support for farmers. The Government will provide the same cash total in funds for farm support until the end of the Parliament to maintain stability for farmers as we seek to grow our world-leading food and farming industry in a sustainable way. Furthermore, the Government are currently consulting on future farming policy, seeking views on a range of possible paths to a brighter future for farming.

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I welcome the pledge from the Government to provide financial support for farmers in Wales, and of course in the rest of the UK, after Brexit. Does the Minister agree that this commitment will provide the stability to allow farmers to continue providing high- quality produce, without having a negative effect on the environment?

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I agree. British food enjoys a reputation for quality that has been built on high animal welfare standards and strong environmental protections. The Government’s proposals will support farmers to grow more, sell more and export more great British food, and ensure that we are the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.

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Recently I met local National Farmers Union farmers in my constituency who are frustrated by the complexity of and frequent delays in the EU’s basic payment scheme. When working with the Environment Secretary, will the Minister encourage a simpler system that will see farmers paid on time once we leave the EU?

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Yes, we will give such encouragement. I know that my colleague the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has listened to concerns and is consulting on arrangements to simplify and improve the delivery of the common agricultural policy while we continue to participate in it. Outside the CAP, with a system based on simpler and more effective rules, we will be able to support farmers to grow more, sell more and export more great British food.

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Why will the Minister not respect the desire of NFU Scotland to have the powers on agriculture devolved in full and then for a UK framework to be developed?

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Yesterday I attended the Joint Ministerial Committee plenary session, and I have to say that the First Minister’s tone was very constructive. I feel sure we will work with her to take forward the framework discussions—and, I hope, satisfactorily.

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Farmers need to know what a transitional deal is going to look like, what a trade deal is going to look like and about labour constraints. To go back to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Neil Gray), why will the Minister not listen to NFU Scotland and ensure that all agriculture powers are assigned to Scotland so that the Scottish Government can design a policy to suit Scottish farmers?

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Of course we are listening, and in the run-up to the March European Council we very much have the concerns of the devolved Governments in mind, but we must ensure that the internal market of the United Kingdom continues to function. We will go forward with those two tensions in mind.

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Stafford constituency has one of the largest areas for growing soft fruit, and indeed lettuces, in the country, meaning that we have less reliance on imports. However, those involved are very concerned about the great workers who come to harvest those crops. What assurances will the Minister give me that he is working together with his counterparts in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to make sure that the supply of people to harvest those crops is still available after we leave? [Interruption.]

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We have commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to give us advice on migration policy. As we have always said, this vote was not a vote to pull up the drawbridge, and we will ensure that policy reflects the needs of the United Kingdom’s economy, particularly the sector my hon. Friend mentioned.

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The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) was wittering about strawberries in December, or something of that sort. Anyway, we look forward to hearing his views with force and eloquence later in our exchanges.