MPs are calling on the Government to tighten the safeguards on the sale of land-based educational assets in light of the proposed disposal of Newton Rigg College campus and farms.

The cross-party MPs on the House of Commons EFRA Committee are also warning of a skills crisis without Government investment, after they learned that the number of specialist independent land-based colleges has fallen by almost 80 percent in the last four decades.

The 12-strong committee, which also includes Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border, has further asked for confirmation about the details of the transfer of Newton Rigg that have caused controversy locally and urges the Government to help facilitate a 'reasonable solution' to the college's future.

Dr Hudson said serious questions had been raised over the details of owner Askham Bryan's planned exit from Newton Rigg: “We were disappointed in the evidence Askham Bryan gave us, both orally and in writing, with attempts to deflect responsibility away from themselves.

"We note that they agreed they have a moral obligation to the learners and rural community of Cumbria to ensure a smooth and fair transfer of Newton Rigg to potential future providers.

"We are today calling for Government to confirm whether or not Askham Bryan are within their legal rights to dispose of the College land and assets.

"If they are, we are asking Government to ensure that they live up to this moral obligation so that we can secure a long term future for land-based education delivered here in Cumbria.”