A CUMBRIAN MP has asked the Government to close the loophole on Public Sector Food Buying Rules in order to uphold high animal welfare and food production standards.

Penrith and The Border MP, Dr Neil Hudson posed a question on public sector food procurement in a House of Commons question session to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Dr Hudson asked: “It is so important that we uphold our high animal welfare and food production standards both in international trade deals but also in our domestic public sector food procurement. The Government Buying Standards for food and catering services currently still provides an exemption for meeting these standards if it would increase costs. Can my Right Honourable Friend update the House on when the Government will close this glaring loophole, as we on the EFRA Select Committee have recommended?”

The Secretary of State for DEFRA, George Eustice, replied: “Well I thank my Honourable Friend for that and his passion on campaigning on these issues. We have made a number of improvements to Government procurement over the years, including introducing the so-called ‘balanced scorecard’ some five years ago. There is more that could be done and I will certainly look at great detail at this particular proposal that has come from him and the EFRA Select Committee.

Commenting afterwards, Dr Hudson added: “We cannot simultaneously keep high animal welfare and food production standards whilst compromising those standards in certain cases. Consistency is key. We should be very proud of our high animal welfare and food production standards that our UK farmers uphold. We can be a beacon to the world on these standards and it is important we set that example in procurement at home as well as in our international agreements. I will seek to follow up with the Secretary of State on this and am hopeful that the Government will be willing to move on it.”