Food security: Geoffrey Cox calls for farming to be treated as a strategic industry

6th November 2014
Speaking in a debate on the dairy industry, Geoffrey Cox calls for farming to be given higher priority by Government and treated as a strategic industry that contributes to food security with a representative at Cabinet level.
Mr Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon) (Con): I want to make a few swift points in the time available to me. First, it seems to me that much of the problem that we are all addressing today could be helped by a general elevation of farming in the priorities of Government. I would like to see a Secretary of State for Agriculture sitting in the Cabinet. It is time to see that innovation, which would send a clear message to the farming community throughout our constituencies—like my hon. Friend the Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr Heath), I speak as a representative of a west of England constituency. The fields and pastures of Devonshire are synonymous with the finest dairy produce in the world. That community would like to see, if at all possible, a seat at the highest table being attributed to the ministerial representatives of farming and agriculture.
If we started to think about the dairy industry as a strategic industry that contributes to food security in this country, and an industry that should be spoken for at the highest table, in Cabinet, the message would be sent throughout the processing industry and the retail industry that the Government were at last attaching to the dairy industry, and the cattle and livestock industry as a whole, the priority that they deserved.
I agree with right hon. and hon. Members about the methods and techniques that need to be adopted. We cannot do much about global commodity prices, but we can do quite a lot about the domestic market. We can strengthen the voluntary code, which is important, and we should be considering making it a compulsory code, as the Select Committee is. It is clear from the review by the MSP, Mr Fergusson, that that code could do a lot of good. We need it to be extended, and the Government need to fight and encourage people to adhere to it.
I would be failing in my duty if I did not also mention the crisis of bovine TB, which prevails throughout Devonshire and elsewhere. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will say something about the need to ensure that the TB eradication strategy is implemented in full. When I was a child, I was told that the animal kingdom was divided into two sorts of animals: the vertebrates and the invertebrates. As it is with the animal kingdom, so it is with Departments of State. I hope that the Minister will prove himself to be a member of a vertebrate Ministry that will discover its backbone.