I’ve farmed since the age of 16 and led on rural affairs in Brussels and Westminster
At this crucial time, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee needs a steady hand on the tiller, writes Neil Parish MP
It is great to be back here in Parliament as the MP for Tiverton and Honiton, catching up with familiar faces – and meeting so many new colleagues.
In a matter of days, we will be leaving the EU. This Parliament has some vital work to do to ensure our laws are ‘Brexit ready’. Part of that process will involve the formation of our Parliamentary select committees so legislation can be scrutinised, and ministers held to account.
As we leave the EU, our Parliament will begin to take back control of a whole swathe of policies, from the environment to agriculture and fishing.
Outside the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), we can look again at how to support our industries domestically, as well as our rural and coastal communities, for the first time in decades. It will be a challenge, and a significant opportunity for this Parliament.
“We need experienced voices at the table to ensure our new policies are workable”
I am glad the Government has already legislated to fund agricultural support at the same level as CAP. But with the Environmental Land Management Scheme incoming, a greater focus will be placed on public money for ‘environmental benefit’.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs aims to have enrolled 82,500 farmers and land managers by 2028. In my experience, this will be a huge challenge for agencies like the Rural Payments Agency – and will require significant forward planning and scrutiny.
On top of this, we will be negotiating trade deals, both with the EU and new markets from the Commonwealth, the US and south-east Asia. These negotiations will be tough – and knowledge of how these countries operate will be vital to getting good deals for Britain.
At this crucial time, I believe we need experienced voices at the table to ensure our new policies are workable. As someone who has farmed since the age of 16, led the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee in the European parliament – and been chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee here since 2015, I hope I can be of real assistance to this Parliament.
That’s why I am running to be re-elected as chair of the Efra Committee. As chair from 2015-2019, I sought to lead inquiries which would provide answers to the difficult questions we face. From cutting plastic and food waste, to improving air quality and designing a first-class fishing policy, an evidence-based cross-party approach can help both scrutinise and influence government policy for the better.
Now that the Government has a large majority, the political landscape in Parliament is clearly different, but the Government cannot afford to get complacent. Ministers will be wise to listen to select committees and those in Parliament with knowledge and experience of different policy areas. Select committees can be a pain for government sometimes, but they can be useful too!
Over the course of this Parliament, we will reshape agriculture, environment and fisheries policies for decades to come. Now more than ever, we need practical experience and effective scrutiny to ensure legislation is fit for the future.
Neil Parish is Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton