Six Scottish Tory MPs vote against food import safeguards

SCOTTISH Tory MPs are being urged to explain themselves after voting down an attempt to protect the UK food and farming sector from sub-standard imports.

Neil Parish, a Tory MP from England’s south-west, had tabled an amendment to the UK Agriculture Bill which aiming to enshrine in law the principle that imported food would need to match UK farmers’ quality and animal welfare standards.

However earlier this week the measure was thrown out during Commons voting, with all six Scottish Tory MPs rejecting it.

John Lamont of Berwick, Roxburgh and Selkirk, Andrew Bowie of Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, Douglas Ross of Moray, David Duguid of Banff and Buchan, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack of Dumfries and Galloway and his predecessor David Mundell of Clydesdale and Tweeddale all voted against the measure. The bill will be the foundation of the UK’s food and farming policy at the end of the Brexit transition period.

READ MORE: Food standards must be protected in trade deals, says SNP

On social media farmers felt those in the live-stock producing constituencies the Tories represent had the most to lose from the lack of protection, which would mean the UK market would be open to imports of cheap meat from production systems which rely on unrestricted use of genetically modified crops and hormonal growth promoters, as well as feeding systems very different from the grass-based farms in Scotland.

Recent chairman of the National Sheep Association in Scotland John Fyall said: “Is there an obvious reason I am missing why the farming constituents were thrown under the bus?

“Six Scottish MPs backed the government denial of the motion, exposing Scottish farmers to free trade without a level playing field. Years of work on animal and environmental care thrown away!”

Meanwhile, NFU policy director Jonnie Hall said: “While the passing of this landmark Bill unamended was no surprise, it was still deeply disappointing. 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.”

However he added: “Encouragement can be taken from those MPs who argued so strongly yesterday for amendments to the Bill 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 enters the Lords.”

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart, who represents a formerly Conservative rural constituency, said the Tories’ rejection of the amendment was “absolutely shameful”.

He added: “Scottish Tory MPs voting against the interests of the farmers they serve.”

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