Lib Dems deny Tory farm policy rift

Liberal Democrat farm spokesman Andrew George insists “all is coming together well” in DEFRA – even though his party has no ministers within the department.

Mr George, MP for West Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, said he had been developing a strong and effective working relationship with DEFRA ministers.

He issued the statement after questioning the Tory stranglehold on ministerial posts within DEFRA.

“I am delighted to be part of the coalition effort to bring two very distinctive parties together in the interests of these vital industries,” said Mr George.

“Creating a system to ensure that there is Liberal Democrat involvement in this important department is essential. Our work is progressing extremely well.

“Mutual understanding, respect and systems of joint working in consultation are developing very well.”

Describing reports to the contrary as misleading, Mr George added: “It is an inevitable hazard that there will be others trying to create a different story.”

Mr George said he was “reassured” that the Tories and Lib Dems broadly shared the same approach to the future of the Common Agricultural Policy.

“Whilst, I of course, regret that we do not have a Liberal Democrat within the department, I am confident that we can put party differences aside and work together for the good of the country.”

A decision to axe the Agricultural Wages Board – which Mr George has pledged to challenge – was made before his appointment as Lib Dem farm spokesman.

“Ministers know that I favour retaining enforceable regulations which will enhance rather than diminish the pay and conditions of agricultural workers.

“Whether we need an independent regulatory body solely for agriculture to enforce such regulations is not the priority; it is the protection that some of the lowest paid but hard working and skilled employees that I am keen to protect.

Mr George said he believed that ministers entirely understood his position.

And he said he “strongly supported” the government’s proposal to cull badgers in a bid to control bovine tuberculosis in cattle.

“I am delighted that our new working relationship is developing well and look forward to addressing the opportunities and challenges ahead, ” Mr George concluded.

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