Public procurement on the agenda as MP visits NPA chair

NPA chairman Richard Lister stressed the need for the Government to play its part in championing British food after we leave the EU when hosted a visit from his local MP, a close advisor to Michael Gove, on Saturday.

Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton and Michael Gove’s Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) spent much of Saturday morning at Mr Lister’s farm near Thirsk, in North Yorkshire, discussing all things pigs and particularly the implications of Brexit for the sector.

During a far-reaching discussion, they talked at length about public procurement and the opportunities Brexit brings for the Government to source more British food.

“He was every interested in this subject,” Mr Lister said.  “I said the pig industry had always felt let down by the Public Procurement Regulation (PPR) in the way it was written to enable Departments to buy on cost rather than to British standards. That needs to change if the Government is realistic about using Brexit to highlight and build on our high production standards.”

During his Oxford Farming Conference speech in January, Mr Gove acknowledged that Defra and other Government departments had not been ‘the champion we need to be for British food and farming’ and pledged to do better on public procurement

During his MP’s visit, Richard also highlighted other opportunities the industry envisages from Brexit, including potential new export markets and possible new streams of support under a domestic agricultural policy.

He also outlined some of the industry’s biggest concerns, including the need for continued tariff free access to the EU and the threat posed by cheap, lower standard imports. He stressed the industry’s desire for the Government to do its bit to maintain and improve national border biosecurity and reiterated the pig sector’s concerns over future access to EU labour, as laid bare in an NPA survey last year.

Mr Hollinrake, who is already well versed in many of the topics discussed, listened to the concerns raised and promised to take them back to Westminster.

Richard said: “It was altogether a good visit and we are grateful to Kevin for giving us a good hour and a half of his time. He was very receptive and it’s always worthwhile when our local MPs, particularly if they happen to be an advisor to the Secretary of State, actually come onto the farm to get an understanding of how the big political issues affect us at the coal face.

“We look forward to working with MPs like Kevin and the Ministers directly involved to help ensure we get a good deal for the pig sector as the Brexit negotiations unfold.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.