As the UK government continues its journey across the ‘sunlit heights’ of Brexit in search of a waiting list of countries that, the Leave campaign has claimed, will force a way to our door to do business with us, last week I met with representatives from Beef and Lamb New Zealand commercial.
This meeting has its origins in my going public with my suspicion that a UK Government Minister has used a debate in the House of Lords to promote the benefits of New Zealand lambs over what is produced closer to home.
Lord Hannan of Kinsclere and the UK government’s international trade secretary, Lord Johnson of Lainston, stated during a debate in the House of Lords that New Zealand mutton is “better for the environment” than domestically produced mutton.
Formerly a Conservative MP in the European Parliament, Lord Johnson only entered the House of Lords in October last year and co-founded Somerset Capital Management with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP who is a fellow Conservative son-in-law.
He also donated over a quarter of a million pounds to the Conservative Party.
To date, it is the usual career path for junior UK government ministers (see Lord Ufford’s profile of the Scotland office, although his donation to his party was less than £150,000).
It is inconceivable that someone appointed months ago as Minister for the Promotion of the United Kingdom and therefore the Business Interests of Scotland stands in the dispatch box of the House of Lords promoting New Zealand lamb at our expense, claiming that it is better for us. the environment.
Now, I have no doubt that New Zealand farmers take a lot of pride in their produce, especially the lamb, which they are famous for.
But the truth is, they don’t need people who are ministers in the UK government to promote their products for them – they have bodies like Beef and Lamb New Zealand to do just that.
I have absolutely nothing against lamb from New Zealand – it’s a high quality product and I wish them all the best – but part of my job is representing my constituency interests and in these matters my focus will continue to be on promoting quality Scottish produce, be it lamb or beef or whatever .
Something those standing at the dispatch box might well make to remember.
There are some challenges common to both Scottish and New Zealand farmers of course, and these were touched upon during my meeting with Beef and Lamb New Zealand.
China and the UK joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership and what this might mean for the meat markets in Scotland and the UK is just one area of concern.
Lord Johnson also found time last week to reply to my letter of January challenging him about his comments about locally produced lambs.
The minister was keen to “clarify” his observations and emphasized that he was “proud of the quality” of the locally produced lamb.
Well it should have been.
The Minister has also invited me, perhaps a little timidly, to meet with him and I will certainly take this opportunity in the near future in my wider role as spokesperson for the SNP Westminster Group on International Trade.
You may also be sure, however, that fine food and drink produced in the Northeast will also be on my agenda.
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