Since February 2012 the SDLP’s South Down MP Margaret Ritchie has been the only member of the devolved regions in the United Kingdom to sit on the influential Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee.
Ms Ritchie recently met with Farming Life to discuss the work of the EFRA Committee and the influence that it has on farming and fishery industries in Northern Ireland.
Asked about the importance of a Northern Ireland MP being a member of the EFRA Committee, Ms Ritchie said it is her belief that local representatives should be on the committee.
She said: “It is my belief that the devolved regions, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, should be represented on the EFRA Committee with MPs from those areas. So far I am the only representative not only from Northern Ireland but also the other devolved regions to sit on the EFRA Committee.
“The committee impacts on several departments in Northern Ireland, for example it impacts on the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development both with regards to farming and rural affairs as well as fisheries. We have carried out inquiries into all of those three areas.
“The committee also impacts on the Department of Regional Development with regards to the whole area of flood mitigation measures, which is obviously of much interest at the minute with the terrible flooding that we are experiencing in England, as well as the Pitt Report.
“The big question now is what is going to happen as a result of the extreme weather events and the need for infrastructure to be robust for people and farming communities so that they can be protected.”
Ms Ritchie has also been able to bring the Northern Ireland experience to bear on the EFRA Committee.
She explained: “I have also been involved in moving forward plastic legislation. We have to remember that we have this legislation here in Northern Ireland to protect the environment as well as a revenue generating measure as well which empowers ministers to provide funding, and in the case of our own Minister of the Environment, for other much needed projects. I have been able to translate the experience here in Northern Ireland and currently the EFRA Committee is looking at particular legislation.”
Another area of protection which Ms Ritchie has been able to advise the EFRA Committee on is dangerous legislation.
“In England and Wales many people have been attacked by dangerous dogs, while we in Northern Ireland now have courtesy of the former Minister of the Environment Alex Attwood we now have dog chipping,” she said. “I was able to tell the committee about good practice here in Northern Ireland and the EFRA Committee is now giving that serious consideration.”