Welsh Government’s subsidy scheme ‘will decimate farming communities’, PM warns

The Welsh Government’s new farm subsidy scheme will “decimate farming communities in Wales”, Rishi Sunak has warned.

Farmers will have to commit to planting trees on 10% of their land and allocate another 10% for wildlife habitats, as part of the Labour-run government’s proposals.

The Sustainable Farming Scheme, which is set to replace farming subsidies after Brexit, has prompted protests by farmers in Wales.

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said the plans were “the opposite of what is needed”.

Prime Minister’s Questions
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons on Wednesday (House of Commons/UK Parliament/PA)

“It is the opposite of what is needed. While we will always back our rural communities across the UK, it is Labour that would take them back to square one.”

This came in response to Conservative MP Virginia Crosbie who called for the agricultural budget to be ringfenced during Prime Minister’s Questions.

The Ynys Mon MP said: “Does the Prime Minister agree with me and Welsh farmers like Gareth Wyn Jones that our farmers and food security are vital and that the agricultural budget should be ringfenced?

“Unlike the Welsh Labour government propped up by Plaid (Cymru), which is determined to force our farmers out of business with its approach to nitrate vulnerable zones, TB (tuberculosis) and its new Sustainable Farming Scheme, which using Welsh Government’s own analysis is forecast to result in 5,500 job losses and a £200 million hit to the Welsh economy.”

Elsewhere in the session, Labour MP Chris Elmore accused the Government of making a “grubby deal” with steel giant Tata steel and “failing to protect” the industry.

Hundreds of people have protested in Port Talbot and Newport against Tata’s plans to shut down blast furnaces as it switches to a more environmentally friendly way of producing steel.

The MP for Ogmore said: “On the weekend the people of south Wales marched in support of their steel industry. Following the Government’s grubby deal with Tata it is now placing thousands of jobs at risk in Port Talbot and beyond.

“The Prime Minister is failing to protect our steel industry because he failed to place a red line on protecting jobs at the plant.

“So the Prime Minister now has a choice – work with the unions, Tata and the workforce to protect the industry and the jobs with investment or to walk away and do what Tories always do and abandon south Wales communities yet again.”

Steel crisis
Workers from Tata’s Port Talbot steelworks gather in Westminster following the announcement that Tata was planning to close blast furnaces at the country’s biggest steel plant in South Wales (Lucy North/PA)

“It’s why we agreed one of the largest cash grants of a half a billion to Tata Steel to safeguard at least 5,000 jobs which would otherwise have been lost.

“And perhaps he might want to ask why the Welsh Labour Government did not put a penny in to support that deal.”

Around 2,800 jobs would be at risk if Tata’s plans go ahead. The firm has said it will invest £750 million in an electric arc furnace, alongside funding for a support package for the employees expected to be made redundant during the transition.

The UK Government has committed to investing £500 million at the site.

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