THERE were “extraordinary” scenes at Westminster on Tuesday as the Conservative chair of the Food Committee vented his fury over UK Government failures to the Tory minister providing evidence.

Neil Parish launched a strongly worded attack on Immigration Minister Kevin Foster over labour shortage problems in the agriculture and butchering sectors.

Parish expressed his fury that the Home Office had not acted on advice from the Migration Advisroy Committee that butchers should be added to the shortage occupation list to avoid needless slaughter of animals.

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Thousands of healthy pigs are being killed every month in the UK at the moment, primarily because of a labour shortage linked to Brexit.

“I thought Brexit was about encouraging production in this country, not discouraging it. This is down to labour shortages. All I want you to say is that you are looking at these things and that you will take action quickly in the future,” Parish told the minister.

But Foster argued that adding butchers to the list would lead to cheap labour.

Parish, becoming increasingly frustrated, accused the minister of hiding behind process.

“The industry has been in to see you all through last year, and last year you had advice from this advisory committee to grant these new jobs on the shortage occupation list,” he said.

“You resisted it and so, therefore, there hasn’t been the butchers available, and we have slaughtered pigs on farm and there is a lot of poultry being slaughtered on farm – and there has been a huge waste, not only to the farmer but to food in general.

“I really don’t know why don’t you take it more seriously, rather than just having your blasted processes that you have in the Home Office that take forever and you prevaricate and prevaricate and the situation gets worse?

The National:

“It is no wonder the industry get so worked up over where you are. I was expecting you at least to come in here and have some degree of the fact that ‘we may have made some mistakes, we may not have listened when we should have done’, but instead of that, you come in here as though everything is right with what you have done. I would say to you quite clearly, it is not.”

SNP MP Richard Thomson described the scenes at the committee as “extraordinary”, with the Tory MP attacking the Tory minister demonstrating how far the Government is away from finding solutions.

“If this had been the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, no one would doubt that we would have seen action long before now,” he added.

“There can be no doubt that the only way for Scotland to finally rid itself of the ongoing chaos and corruption that has engulfed Westminster is to become an independent nation.”

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Dave Doogan, the SNP’s agriculture and rural affairs spokesperson, hit out at the Home Office’s attitude towards the farming industry’s challenges.

“Ambivalent indifference from the Home Office is exactly what Scotland’s farming industry has become accustomed to, however the arrogant superiority of the Whitehall bureaucracy took me and other members of the select committee by surprise,” he said.

He went on: “The grudging commitment to extend the 12-month seasonal agricultural workers pilot to 36 months is welcome, however I have asked the Home Office to make this a rolling 36 horizon to give greater certainty to the industry which the Minister has agreed to look at.”