MP Lamont stands by decision which has angered farmers

Borders MP John Lamont has defended his decision to vote against a bill amendment that would effectively ban the import of food produced at lower standards.

Monday, 18th May 2020, 4:31 pm
John Lamont MP in the House of Commons.
John Lamont MP in the House of Commons.

The Agriculture Bill – which sets out regulations on expenditure in the agriculture sector post-Brexit – passed its final report stage in the House of Commons last Wednesday, May 13.

Mr Lamont, Conservative MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk, angered local farmers by not supporting the amendment by his fellow Tory Neil Parish, which would have ensured “any agricultural or food product imported into the UK under the agreement will have been produced or processed according to standards which are equivalent to, or which exceed, the relevant domestic standards and regulations in relation to animal health and welfare, plant health, and environmental protection”.

National Farmers’ Union Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall said: “While the passing of this landmark Bill unamended was no surprise, it was still deeply disappointing.

National Farmers’ Union Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall.

“The UK Agriculture Bill is a once-in-a-generation piece of legislation and it must safeguard the sustainability of domestic food production and the integrity of domestic food consumption.

”The Bill presents an opportunity to ensure that agri-food imports in the future are produced to at least equivalent environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards as those required of farmers and crofters in Scotland and the UK. Anything less would undermine the highest standards to which the industry in Scotland works to, and the entire agri-food supply chains of the UK.

“Encouragement can be taken from those MPs from across the house who argued so strongly for amendments to the Bill in the Commons.

“While unsuccesful, the fight goes on and NFU Scotland will continue to press its case as part a 26-strong UK-wide alliance of agricultural, environmental, animal welfare and consumer groups as the Bill now enters the Lords.”

Mr Lamont came in from some criticism from farmers in the Borders.

After the vote, Berwickshire farmer Sally Williams tweeted: “So incredibly disappointed to see my MP, @John2Win, who represents a predominantly farming-based constituency, vote against the amendment which would have banned the importation of food produced at low standards. This will undermine all the good work our farmers do in the UK.”

Later, she added: “They’re a bunch of hypocrites who are all too happy to export our environmental responsibilities. Bitterly disappointed at the short sightedness of it all.”

Answering the criticism, Mr Lamont said: “Whilst this vote allowed me to support the Agriculture Bill that will create an agricultural system that rewards farmers and land managers who protect our environment, I was unable to support all of the amendments.

“Critically, we will maintain our import standards, which include the ban on chlorine washed chicken and hormone injected beef.

“The Government has also made it clear that no UK import standards will be diminished as part of any free trade agreement.

“We will also not undermine our high domestic environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards by ensuring in any agreement British farmers are always able to compete.

“I know that the UK Government is working very closely with industry figures such as the NFUS to get the best trade deal that will allow Scottish farming to flourish.”