The NFU has expressed its ‘disappointment’ that outgoing Red Tractor chairwoman Baroness Neville-Rolfe voted against an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would have strengthened parliamentary scrutiny of future trade deals.
The union’s director general Terry Jones said Baroness Neville-Rolfe seemed to have ‘misunderstood’ Lord Curry’s amendment, which would place an obligation on the Secretary of State to consult parliament on the detail of trade agreements, and recommended an independent commission provide advice on negotiations.
The Baroness also voted against another amendment which would have banned low-standard imports from entering the UK.
She has since announced she will step down from her position at Red Tractor at the end of her three-year term on November 12, 2020, a decision which Farmers Guardian understands had already been made before the crunch vote.
In a statement, Baroness Neville-Rolfe said: “I have much enjoyed my time at Red Tractor and I believe it has made much progress over the last three years in achieving wider recognition of its certified standards covering food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection.
“I have always believed and made clear that upholding strong agricultural and food standards is in the best interests of British consumers, farmers and manufacturers.
“Recent comments suggesting I do not take that view are wrong and have only gained credence by ignoring clear statements by me to the contrary.”
Conservative Baroness Neville-Rolfe worked as a civil servant at the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from 1973 to 1992, before working for Tesco.
She was also a non-executive director at 2 Sisters Food Group for one year, before stepping down after accepting a position as a Government Minister.
Commenting on her decision to vote against the Agriculture Bill amendment, the NFU’s Mr Jones said: “The Curry amendment does not tie the hands of our negotiators, but it does improve parliamentary scrutiny of the deals worked out between the UK and other countries.
“Accordingly, we are obviously disappointed that Baroness Neville-Rolfe seems to have misunderstood the amendment, which seems entirely consistent with her previous public statements on trade and standards.
“Crucially, the campaign to protect our high standards of production has the backing of one million consumers and securing a long-term solution to this issue remains the NFU’s number one priority.”