The Welsh Liberal Democrats have today called for Fay Jones MP and Craig Williams MP to explain why they voted against a key amendment to the Agriculture Bill in Parliament last week.
The amendment, tabled by Conservative MP Neil Parish (Tiverton & Honiton), would have made the UKs current food and animal welfare standards, which are much higher than those of countries like the US, a requirement for any future trade deal.
Passing this amendment would have seen off any attempt to dilute these standards in exchange for a quick trade deal. Campaigners and farming organisations such as the National Farmers Union (NFU) supported the amendment.
The voting down of this amendment comes after many have expressed concerns at reports the UK is set to propose slashing import tariffs on lower quality US food imports in and effort to seal a free trade deal.
Both Fay Jones and Craig Williams voted with the Government at every stage of the Agriculture Bill’s progress through Parliament, including voting against this key amendment.
Jane Dodds, Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader and former MP for Brecon & Radnorshire, said:
“I am incredibly disappointed that both Powys MPs voted against this crucial amendment. Passing it would have protected Welsh farmers from low-standard food imports and shown that we truly back our farmers.
“The Conservatives can try and spin it all they want, but NFU Cymru and many others supported the amendment and what it was trying to achieve. By refusing to vote for it, Ms Jones and Mr Williams have left farmers across Powys vulnerable and uncertain about the future.
“Our farmers deserve better than to be sold out for a quick trade deal. They also need to know that their MPs will stand up for their interests, even if it involves going against their party.
"Warm words are not enough, we need to see that they mean it and follow through on what they say. I hope both will provide a full and upfront answer as to why they voted against this amendment.”
Cllr James Gibson-Watt, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Powys County Council, added:
“It’s deeply concerning to see Powys MPs refusing to stand up and back Powys farmers. Our MPs have a duty to stand up for our communities and do what is best for them, not simply what they are told to do by their party’s whip.
“I hope both will give their constituents a clear answer on why they voted as they did. So far all we have seen is Fay Jones saying she was concerned about the specific wording and a vague remark that this could affect existing trade deals.
“This fails to explain why the NFU backed it, and why more than 20 of her colleagues did too. I hope their response will contain more detail than what we’ve had so far.”
The National Farmers Union Cymru statement on the bill, and in support of the amendment, can be found here: https://www.nfu-cymru.org.uk/news/latest-news/nfu-cymru-responds-to-house-of-commons-agriculture/