Farming is one of our most important social and economic sectors both for Lincolnshire and for the country as a whole.
While it may be what we think of as one of the most traditional and important in English history, farming today is an innovative and growing part of the economy.
Food businesses have been resilient through the recession and there have been over 200,000 new jobs created over the past four years. Our pioneering streak is running strong as well: producers from Great Britain are bringing 16,000 new products a year to the market, which is more than France and Germany combined.
The Government is supporting food and farming by facilitating skilled new entrants to the industry, making it easier to set up food and farming businesses, and cutting red tape and bureaucracy for farmers and food-sellers.
Farming needs well trained people to maintain this continuing advance. Making sure this demand is met is vital, which is one of the reasons why I’m such a strong supporter of Riseholme College and agricultural education in the constituency.
We’re also providing a strong backing for apprenticeships: in 2014, 7,000 young people started apprenticeships in farming, and a further 3,7000 in food manufacturing. Whereas just a few years ago colleges were finding it difficult to find takes, the Environment Secretary reported to the National Farmers Union conference recently that teenagers are now flocking to courses in farming, food, and horticulture.
We’ve also pursued a lot of simple but effective reforms. For example, we’re raising speed and weight limits in tractor and trailer regulations that were frankly outdated. We expect this will save the industry about £57 million per year. That’s money that producers can then plough back into jobs, investment, and savings for consumers. The country can be proud of its farms, farmers, and food producers.
Britain can also take pride in leading the fight against slavery. The noble campaign started by Conservative Member of Parliament William Wilberforce led to the banning of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807, with the total abolition of slavery freeing over 750,000 slaves in 1834.
Unfortunately, slavery and forced servitude are still with us today.
That’s why the Government has a devoted minister for anti-slavery and has introduced a bill to fight modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Bill will bring in new powers to fight the criminal gangs who are behind human trafficking.
Sir Edward Leigh
Conservative PPC for Gainsborough