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VIDEO: Gloucester is better than Cheltenham, says Michael Gove

It is not every day that a senior Government minister can be found behind the fish counter at your local market, but that was where Michael Gove spent some of Friday (Nov 23) afternoon.

The secretary of state for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and MP for Surrey Heath was in Gloucesterhire visiting the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester before embarking on a flying visit through Gloucester.

And on a trip to the city's Eastgate Market, in the heart of the constituency of friend and fellow Conservative MP Richard Graham, the pair got talking to David Witts, who runs the fishmonger MR Smith, and he invited the duo behind the counter (see video below).

"It was good fun and a nice surprise for him to drop in on us like that. Fishing is in his remit, of course," said Mr Witts, referring to the high-profile politician's portfolio.

Mr Witts told the politician, who has been played a central role in the great political drama of Brexit, that business was good.

Mr Gove said that Brexit would allow more quality fish to be landed at British ports for the great British public to enjoy.

"Michael has been up at Robinwood Hill with me, visiting the Gloucester Wildlife Trust," said Mr Graham, explaining the pair were not just in town on a shopping trip.

"They do fantastic work and work incredibly hard," added the famously polite Mr Gove, referring to the trust volunteers he had seen earlier.

"I also wanted to say thank you to Richard who has been a great source of advice for me."

He was also happy to pose for pictures with newly qualified Moose Marketing and PR and Punchline-Gloucester.com apprentice Beth Winter, who had previously been presented with her certificate by Mr Graham.

Playing to his audience he added: "Gloucester is a beautiful place, a wonderful place with a wonderful MP.

"I understand people think Cheltenham is special - I think Gloucester is even better."

Unable also to resist the positive feast of fish in front of him Mr Gove said his goodbyes, and walked away with some King's Dish natural smoked sole from Grimsby.

Earlier in the minister for agriculture was cultivating contacts at Cirencester's RAU, ploughing effortlessly through a heavy itinerary heavy with skills development necessary for the agri-food and land management sectors.

He toured the university's Rural Innovation Centre (RIC) at its Harnhill Manor farm, learned about the programme available and the importance of farm animal welfare.

He also had a crash course in Professor David Main's work on welfare assessment and RAU's Buitelaar dairy bull calf-rearing project, which involves academics, industry and welfare organisations working in partnership.

PhD student Emily Edwards also described research that is underway to address the significant challenges facing the dairy bull calf rearing sector, including antibiotic usage.

Mr Gove, who was flanked by Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, MP for the Cotswolds, also received a whistle-stop tour of the £4.2m Alliston Centre, which opened on the University's Cirencester campus this summer, supported by funding from the GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership.

The building is home to the Cirencester Growth Hub, which develops regional businesses of all kinds in a collaborative environment, and Farm491 - an incubator for small and medium-sized Agritech businesses.

Mr Gove said: "It was fantastic to meet students and staff in Cirencester and see first-hand the training and development of skills that are so vital for the industry's future.

"I was particularly interested to see the emphasis on farmer-led innovation and the opportunity for students to explore, develop and share their own ideas. This is essential and must be encouraged."

Professor Joanna Price, RAU vice-chancellor, said: "We were delighted to welcome the Environment Secretary to our University at a crucial time in our development as we are launching a new strategy that will enable us to become a leading specialist University providing a fresh perspective for the land agri-food and rural enterprise sectors during a period of uncertainty and opportunity.

"It is crucial that more people from a wide range of backgrounds are attracted into the agri-food and land management sectors and the RAU is committed to giving our graduates the real-world skills they need to play leading roles in shaping the future of these industries, our rural communities and the landscapes and environments we treasure."

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