13 January 2000
Yeo reprimanded over pig remark

By FWi staff

SHADOW agriculture minister Tim Yeo has been forced to withdraw an accusation that Nick Brown misled MPs over the crisis in the pig industry.

Mr Yeo accused Mr Brown of taking too long to honour a promise to urge public authorities to ensure their pigmeat was produced to UK standards.

He said Mr Brown had taken four months and “a great deal of prodding” before he wrote to public authorities following a pledge made to MPs.

“You misled the House, or very nearly, on that matter,” Mr Yeo told Mr Brown during question time in the House of Commons on Thursday (13 January).

Mr Yeo was forced by speaker Betty Boothroyd to withdraw the charge after Mr Brown protested that misleading the House was very a serious accusation.

Mr Yeo said Mr Brown had told the House of Commons on 1 July that he had letters on his desk ready to ask public authorities to source UK-quality pigmeat.

But four months later, when questioned by Conservative MPs, Mr Brown had admitted that those letters had still not been sent, added Mr Yeo.

Mr Brown said that pig farmers had agreed that the letters should be sent in the autumn rather than in the summer, when many people were on holiday.

However, Mr Yeo attacked Mr Browns repeated refusal to compensate pig farmers for BSE-related charges imposed on the industry by the government.

“Britains pig farmers are losing 4 million every week, 25,000 jobs have already been lost and another 24,000 are set to go,” he said.

Mr Yeo said the Government was ignoring the facts when it should be defending the high welfare standards practised by British pig producers.

“Instead they refuse to act while pig farmers are forced out of business by a deluge of sub-standard imports,” he said.

It would be a “tragedy for our farmers, a blow to the rural economy and a defeat for the cause of animal welfare,” if the pig industry collapsed, he added.