Political parties show support for poultry trade in pre-election meeting
The three main political parties have committed to supporting the British poultry industry after the general election in May, but agreed that the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) budget would be cut.
Representatives from the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats attended an assembly meeting organised by the British Poultry Council (BPC) and Elanco, the global animal health company, where it was outlined how the individual parties will address food security, government, specific poultry industry priorities and science and innovation.
The participants were George Eustice MP (Conservative – Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Farming, Food and Marine Environment), Huw Irranca-Davies MP (Labour -Shadow Minister Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Roger Williams MP (Liberal Democrat – Member of the EFRA Select Committee).
All three parties agreed austerity was here to stay and the Defra budget will be cut, whoever who is in government after the election.
Utilising science and technology was a strong theme, which all three parties agreed would help the industry grow.
Eustice noted the importance of new husbandry technology, welfare science and genetics to maximise production efficiencies and the continued use of science to maximise processing capabilities.
Irranca-Davies highlighted Labour’s intention for a scientific “referee” to balance the social sciences and public concerns.
Meanwhile, Williams commented on his party’s science-led philosophy, support for genetically modified foods and its intention to safeguard the science budget.
Eustice confirmed that the government was considering changes to the compensation scheme in the aftermath of the 2014-2015 bird flu outbreak.
For Labour, Irranca-Davies, said both the timeliness and funding of the secondary cleaning and disinfection needed to be reviewed.
And Williams considered that, ultimately, Defra should have a reserve power to force such a clean-up
The hotly-contested TTIP negotiations, which 82.5% of BPC members were concerned could undermine the industry, were also discussed, with all parties saying any agreement should work in favour of the UK industry.
Irranca-Davies stated that TTIP must not lead to a drop in standards and that the US was a tough negotiator, which put the onus on the EU side to remain robust in the discussions.
Meanwhile, Eustice, Davies and Williams pledged commitment to delivering a Food Crime Unit, despite differences in what they believed the remit of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) should be.
Labour is actively considering returning some of the FSA’s previous responsibilities, such as labelling, food governance and international trade.
Eustice believed the split of responsibilities remained the right approach, as labelling needed to be within a Ministerial department.
For Williams it was important that the Food Crime Unit had real teeth, so as to prevent a repeat of the horsemeat scandal.
Andrew Large, chief executive of the British Poultry Council said he was grateful to all three participants for their candour in answering the poultry industry’s questions. “It is clear that all respondents have a high opinion of the UK poultry sector and its importance in ensuring the UK’s food security in the years to come.”
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