FARM leaders have expressed their ‘disappointment’ that some Cumbrian MPs did not vote for import safeguards to be part of the new farming bill.
Only two of the county’s MPs - Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron and Penrith’s Dr Neil Hudson - voted to support the inclusion of a clause to protect producers from lower-standard food imports in the UK Agriculture Bill heard in the Commons last week. Barrow and Furness MP Simon Fell voted against it.
Senior Conservative MPs Simon Hoare and Neil Parish led the push for the bill - which sets out new policy as the UK quits the EU-wide Common Agricultural Policy - to require a ‘level playing field’ for British farmers in future trade agreements.
They hoped to include a clause guaranteeing that post-Brexit food imports would match the UK’s high food and environmental standards, but their amendment fell by 277 votes to 328.
“Perhaps our buying public will be ready to listen as to why UK farming and food production is important. Sadly, I now have less faith in some of our local politicians,” said Adam Day, managing director of the Cumbria-based Farmer Network.
“Only two Cumbrian MPs voted to support crucial amendments to the Agriculture Bill. Many in the local farming community are aghast.”
National Farmers Union (NFU) regional director David Hall said: “The amendments were both unsuccessful and the bill passed to the House of Lords without any amendment at all. Whilst disappointing, it was somewhat expected given the size of the Government’s majority.
“The NFU’s voice was certainly heard throughout the session. I’d like to thank the Cumbrian MPs who were supportive of the amendments, particularly Neil Hudson who voted against the Government and in favour of the amendments.”
“Neil said he would support the NFU’s position during meetings with Cumbria county adviser Mike Sanderson and stayed loyal to his word.
“The Government has made a strong commitment to upholding the high standards our farmers produce to, and the NFU would like to see a trade and standards commission established in the future.”
Craig Brough, head of land agency at Hopes of Wigton, said on Twitter: “Very disappointed to see that Carlisle MP John Stevenson voted against the amendment put forward by Neil Parish to the Agriculture Bill. Interesting decision from the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Food and Drink Manufacturing.”