Angry response as Owen Paterson voted against protecting British Farmers

Today Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson voted in parliament to undermine hard-working farmers in North Shropshire. Yesterday, local MP Owen Paterson voted against an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that would have prevented trade deals which undermine current UK food and farming standards.

Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn't voted to support British Farmers. Helen is pictured supporting Helen supporting rare-breed farming in 2019
Helen Morgan reacted angrily to the news that Owen Paterson MP hadn’t voted to support British Farmers.

Helen (Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for North Shropshire) said: “I’m so angry that our MP ignores the needs of the local economy. In voting against the amendment he has effectively told farmers ‘we’ll sell you out to get our US trade deal, complete with hormone-fed beef and chlorinated chicken’. It’s outrageous.

“This amendment would have protected our farmers by preventing trade deals which allow the import of goods with lower production, animal welfare, environmental and labour standards.

“Along with the looming ‘no deal’ Brexit at the end of the year, our farmers are looking at tariffs on their exports and critical imports (such as machinery and fertiliser) and no protection from substandard food imports in any future trade deals.

“Agriculture and the food industries are our major employer here in North Shropshire, but our MP is more interested in an ideologically pure Brexit than protecting our jobs. North Shropshire deserves better”.

Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, had called on MPs to back his amendment providing protection of our current production standards in law, saying:

“There is no point having world-leading standards in the UK if we do not expect trade partners to reciprocate. Allowing preferential access to food imports produced to lower standards will put many of our farmers at a competitive disadvantage and out of business.

“Not only will this export jobs in farming and food production, it will export the impact of this production, turning a blind eye to poor animal welfare standards abroad and encouraging environmental degradation there. We will be exporting control, not taking it back.”

Helen said: “Mr Paterson has notoriously travelled to the US to listen to the concerns of lobbyists there. But to safeguard jobs in North Shropshire he should be supporting British farmers and food producers. Liberal Democrats will continue to fight for our local industry and local jobs in North Shropshire”.

The NFU had been calling for greater protection for British Farms in the Agricultural Bill
The NFU had been calling for greater protection for British Farms in the Agricultural Bill

Yesterday MPs voted on a series of amendments to the Agricultural Bill

All MPs were sent a letter urging them to back British Farming
The letter said:
“As representatives of farming, consumer, environmental and animal welfare
organisations across the UK, we are urging you to take this last proper
opportunity to ensure that the Bill secures vital safeguards for the high
standards of food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection that
the public value so highly. At this time of crisis, you have the opportunity to
ensure that British farmers can produce the sustainable, healthy food we
need knowing that they will not be undercut by low standards imports as a
result of future trade policy, while meeting the public’s strong expectation
that food standards will be maintained. ”

The letter was co-signed by:

  • Minette Batters – President, National Farmers Union
  • Beccy Speight – Chief Executive, RSPB
  • Chris Sherwood – Chief Executive, RSPCA
  • Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles – Co-Chief Executives, Friends of the Earth
  • Mark Bridgeman – President, CLA
  • Hilary McGrady – Director-General, National Trust
  • Helen Browning – Chief Executive, Soil Association
  • Sue Davies – Head of Consumer Protection and Food Policy, Which?
  • Patrick Holden – Chief Executive, Sustainable Food Trust
  • Shaun Spiers – Chair, Greener UK & Executive Director, Green Alliance
  • Craig Bennett – Chief Executive, The Wildlife Trusts
  • Richard Benwell – Chief Executive, Wildlife and Countryside Link
  • Kath Dalmeny – Chief Executive, Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming
  • John Davies – President, NFU Cymru
  • Caroline Drummond – Chief Executive, LEAF
  • George Dunn – Chief Executive, Tenant Farmers Association
  • Ivor Ferguson – President, Ulster Farmers Union
  • Jyoti Fernandes MBE – Chair, Landworkers Alliance
  • Martin Lines – UK Chair, Nature-Friendly Farming Network
  • Andrew McCornick – President, NFU Scotland
  • Darren Moorcroft – Chief Executive, Woodland Trust
  • Kate Norgrove – Executive Director of Advocacy and Campaigns, WWF-UK
  • Doug Parr – Chief Scientist, Greenpeace
  • James Thornton – Chief Executive, ClientEarth
  • James Robinson – Conservation Director, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust
  • Sarah-Jane Laing – Chief Executive, Scottish Land & Estates.

Owen Paterson voted against British farmers

Owen Patterson MP for North Shropshire voted against the amendments that the NFU and the other signatories were calling for.  Clause 2 proposed by Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee would have safeguarded British Farms from inferior quality cheap imports and protected the animal welfare and food standards the public expects.

Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers
Owen Paterson was surprising satisfied that he had hadn’t voted to support British Farmers
Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers
Owen Paterson failed to vote to support British Farmers on the crucial amendments the NFU and others were calling for.

North Shropshire Lib Dems had previously backed the NFU’s calls to back British farmers. Before the coronavirus lockdown, we had launched a Farming and Food Standards petition to that effect urging Owen Paterson to:

  • Oppose any deals allowing imports of food that would fail to meet our current world-leading standards of hygiene and animal welfare.
  • Add concrete legal protections into the Agriculture Bill to keep current protections for food standards, hygiene and animal welfare, in time for the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.

Report stage of the Agricultural Bill

13 May 2020
Division 42
Ayes: 277 Noes: 328 (Owen Paterson voted  No)
13 May 2020
Division 43
Ayes: 221 Noes: 352 (Owen Paterson voted  No)
13 May 2020
Division 44
Ayes: 56 Noes: 362 (Owen Paterson voted  No)

Third reading of the Agricultural Bill

13 May 2020
Division 45
Ayes: 360 Noes: 211 (Owen Paterson voted  Yes)
Indeed all of Shropshire’s Conservative MPs failed to back British Farming despite pledging to do so in their manifesto

Reaction to the votes on the Agricultural Bill yesterday

“Despite frequent warm words, it is disappointing the government did not take the opportunity to legislate that they will not allow the imports of food that would be illegal to produce here.” NFU Brexit director Nick von Westenholz‘s response to the Agriculture Bill report stage.

Soil Association reaction: Liz Bowles, Assoc. Director of Food and Farming at the Soil Association said: “As a farmer, and a member of society, I was disappointed in yesterday’s outcome.”
Liz manages one of the largest pedigree flocks of Shropshire sheep in the UK and combines this with being a Council Member of the Breed Society.

Demand Better for farming and food industries
Demand Better for farming and food industries