The NPA’s Ed Barker summarises a turbulent year in politics and highlights the big issues to look out for in 2020.
For us at the NPA it was a year where everything, and nothing, happened all in the same breath. Whilst we had ongoing concern over whether or not the UK would leave the EU without a deal, we also had a sclerotic Government and Parliament that got very little done at all.
In looking ahead to 2020, in the wake of a comfortable majority for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, we can be sure that it will be a very different year. Here are some predications about what we can expect, and what it will mean for the NPA.
Bills: After his win, the Prime Minister did not hang around in getting a Queen’s Speech before parliament, unveiling a suite of Bills and legislation that will be coming up during the legislative programme for 2020.
Most importantly for us, the Agriculture Bill will appear once again. The previous Bill was mothballed at Committee stage and appears to hold all the same components that it did last time around.
That said, with a new Government and direction there could be new provisions in the Bill that we have to be careful of; every twist and turn will be scrutinised by the NPA. In addition to the Agriculture Bill, we can also expect Bills on the Environment, Trade and Immigration. Equally, we will have to watch these at every stage and make sure there are no lurking threats for the pig sector.
New policies and thinking: 2019 was decidedly unremarkable for agricultural policy, reflected in the minimal number of consultation or select committee responses the NPA made.
Those of you who can remember back to 2018 will recall a whirlwind of new policies, papers and inquiries that the NPA responded to – the ‘Health and Harmony’ paper being one such notable response. 2020 will likely see this level of activity happen again.
Now that the Government has a strong majority, it has the confidence to go out and set its own agenda and explore policies for the long-term (give the scale of their victory we could well be looking at a 10-year Conservative term).
This will involve a number of policy papers and documents, looking at short- and long-term changes for our sector in a post-Brexit climate.
This does provide a number of opportunities for the pig sector, if we can shape new policies to our benefit – however we are aware of the pitfalls if it goes wrong. With little chance of Government defeats on votes, we as the NPA have to make sure arguments over policy are made strongly, clearly, and at the right time.
We had a snapshot of possible welfare changes in the throes of the last Government, and this is what we have to be prepared for this time around. We know that the Conservatives have committed to looking at transport journeys, a new trade policy away from the EU and restricting migrant numbers – the question is what more is being thought up.
New MPs: A big opportunity for the NPA in 2020 is to engage with a suite of MPs elected for the first time in 2019. Although many new MPs come from the urban north, a number of MPs from rural constituencies stood down, or were defeated.
As a result, there are a number of new MPs in NPA members’ constituencies who we can positively engage with for the first time. This also means harnessing you, NPA members, to help us in making those contacts with MPs, and informing them about the UK pig sector.
We had a great response from members at the end of last year who contacted their MPs on farrowing crates and no deal Brexit, showing us the enthusiasm out there to ensure that parliamentarians are well informed.
With 2020 representing such an important year for our sector, we all have to be proactive in making ourselves heard. As ever, if members would like any help in setting up a meeting with their MP (new or old), we are happy to help.