North Shropshire MP criticised for food standards 'no' vote
North Shropshire MP Owen Paterson has been accused of undermining Shropshire's farmers by not voting for food standards amendments in a new Agriculture Bill.
Critics claim if the amendments had been successful it would have prevented future trade deals from importing goods not produced to the highest quality.
But Mr Paterson, a former environment secretary, said it was ridiculous to accuse him of not protecting the industry when he had been representing the rural constituency for more than two decades.
He was responding to Helen Morgan, Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for North Shropshire, who 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.”
Mr Paterson told the Shropshire Star: "Free trade is very good for farming. We do not want to have protectionism. We want to give our food and farmers the maximum exposure around the world.
"It's ridiculous to accuse me of being anti-farming."
The amendments were defeated by 328 to 277 votes after failing to win the backing of the government.
Mr Paterson told the Commons debate that during his time in the Cabinet, farmers would constantly ask for more freedom from regulation.
"We already have high standards, and the minister has made it clear that we are not going to reduce those standards. The new clauses are unenforceable.
"Let us take the great vexed issue of chlorinated chicken - people do not use very much chlorine - they use pathogen reduction treatments, which have been cleared by the US, the EU authorities and by Codex Alimentarius.
"When we look at the regulations, we see that stocking densities are similar to those that pertain in Europe. The outcomes on health grounds are better. Americans eat roughly twice as much chicken as Europeans, and their outcomes on campylobacter and salmonella are significantly better," he told MPs.
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."
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