AS the son of a hill farmer, I can assure R Henley, from Ryedale, and other Gazette & Herald readers that I will continue my strong record of standing up for local farmers in Westminster.

I have raised the need to maintain high food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards with ministers on many occasions, including several times of the floor of the House, and will continue to do so.

To correct a common misconception, the EU itself does not ban food products on the basis of standards. It does, however, ban certain products, such a chlorinated chicken and hormone-raised beef on safety grounds.

These restrictions will automatically be transferred into UK law when the transition period ends on December 31, 2020. The EU stipulates minimum food standards in its trade deals and the UK will take a similar approach in its trade negotiations.

As a result of the concerns raised by myself and many other MPs and the food and farming sector, the government has established a Trade and Agriculture Commission, which is to advise ministers on how to seize new export opportunities whilst ensuring animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined.

The new commission includes representatives from farming sector, retailers and consumers from across the UK and will be chaired by Tim Smith, former head of the Food Standards Agency.

Minette Batters, president of NFU England has also welcomed this approach describing it as a “hugely important development in ensuring UK farming’s high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection are not undermined in future trade deals.”

I am sure readers will welcome this recent news that UK beef exports will recommence to the US after a 20-year moratorium.

I know that this government will stand firm in other trade negotiations to ensure any deals provide new opportunities for North Yorkshire farmers and consumers.

Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton

Get voice heard

IN Ryedale we are currently spared the worst of the coronavirus epidemic. There are higher concentrations in York and Scarborough, but cases here are still rising.

Our country is one of the richest in the world, yet has suffered the highest level of excess deaths in Europe. The areas most at risk are deprived communities in northern England, which have been disproportionately hit by the austerity policy of the last 10 years, inflicting massive cuts at local level to health and social care provision.

But rather than strengthen local provision, the government’s response to the emergency has been to sideline and underfund local government public health teams, NHS laboratories and Public Health England regional health protection teams.

Instead of using on-the-ground experience of public sector experts, money for critical infrastructure has been funnelled into huge outsourced contracts to private sector amateurs and providers of unusable PPE. The £10bn test and trace system hailed by the Prime Minister as “world beating” is – months later – only managing to hit 10 per cent of its 24-hour turnaround target. Meanwhile, another £60m of taxpayers’ money has been handed out, without proper tendering, to private consultants.

The government ignored the advice of its SAGE committee experts and cynically exploited the epidemic as an opportunity to privatise the NHS by stealth and put tens of thousands of lives in jeopardy. US companies are waiting to move in, expanding the huge profits they already make from the most expensive healthcare in the world.

I have complained to our MP Kevin Hollinrake but mine is just one voice. If you want to save the NHS and its brave key workers who put their lives on the line, I recommend that you also write to let him know the strength of feeling in his constituency.

Dr Peter Williams, Malton