Chancellor urged to dismiss senior adviser's 'blinkered' view on farming

Rishi Sunak has been urged reject his adviser's comments and support farmers as he delivers his first Budget (Photo: George Cracknell Wright/LNP/Shutterstock)
Rishi Sunak has been urged reject his adviser's comments and support farmers as he delivers his first Budget (Photo: George Cracknell Wright/LNP/Shutterstock)

The new Chancellor has been urged to dismiss the 'blinkered' view of his senior adviser who suggested the UK doesn't need its own farmers.

Treasury official Dr Tim Leunig is reported to have argued that the food and farming industry was not 'critically important' to the UK's economy.

In leaked emails obtained by The Mail on Sunday, he said the "food sector isn't critically important to the UK, and ag[riculture] and fish production certainly isn't."

NFU President Minette Batters hit back at Dr Leunig by calling his remarks 'completely out of touch'.



Now the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has responded by urging Rishi Sunak to reject his adviser's 'wild and wacky' idea.

It comes as the Chancellor of the Exchequer prepares to outline the UK's 2020 Budget on Wednesday 11 March.



TFA Chief Executive, George Dunn, said: “It is a major concern that Dr Leunig is considered a senior adviser, when his view is so blinkered to describe the contribution of UK agriculture as ‘negligible’.

"The suggestion that the UK should abandon agriculture falls squarely into the category of wild and wacky."

The economic adviser to Mr Sunak also said the UK could follow Singapore's model post-Brexit - 'which is rich without having its own agricultural sector'.

But Mr Dunn said the suggestion 'stands no scrutiny whatsoever': "The Chancellor has an opportunity to stand in support of British agriculture as he delivers his first Budget statement next week.

"He has a responsibility to us all to disassociate himself with Leunig’s eccentric analysis," he added.

The TFA has provided Mr Sunak with a set of proposals aimed at boosting the tenanted sector of agriculture.

“Our main concern is the lack of security available to almost half of the agricultural tenants who occupy land under Farm Business Tenancy agreements," Mr Dunn explained.



"The average length of term is now cripplingly low at less than three years and only 10% are let for five years or more.

"This is no basis for a productive, environmentally sustainable sector, which is why the TFA has suggested several tax changes that would lead to the availability of many more longer-term tenancies,” he said.

Mr Sunak is also looking at plans to make Agricultural Property Relief rules stricter in a bid to raise around £800 million a year.

But opponents say any move to tighten the rules could 'devastate' family farms, as financial returns from agriculture can be lower than many other businesses.