As the only sitting vet in the Commons, I am uniquely experienced to chair the EFRA Committee
Just a few days remain until an important decision is made – the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee chair election.
While many may not appreciate the importance of the occasion, the air we breathe, the things we eat and the world around us are not niche concerns for a welly-wearing class – they are universally crucial topics.
With more than 25 years of professional experience as a veterinary surgeon, an active track record sitting on the EFRA Committee and representing one of the UK’s most rural constituencies, I am uniquely positioned to chair the Committee through the dramatic changes that await the agricultural sector to support the communities that depend on it. I fully appreciate the importance of the role and humbly ask that my colleagues put their faith and trust in me.
As the only sitting vet in the Commons, my own political journey began when I oversaw some of the mass culls that came to represent the 2001 foot and mouth crisis. Provoking some of the most distressing and moving moments in my life, these experiences ultimately propelled me into politics. I want to ensure such devastation is confined to the history books.
Responsible for issues such as air quality and water pollution, DEFRA’s decisions have wide-ranging impacts felt across the UK, in towns and cities and not just its rural regions. Therefore, I feel it is important to work collegiately cross-party to independently scrutinise decisions fairly but robustly. Advising where advice is needed and giving credit where credit is due.
We need to be able to make urgent calls when DEFRA is required to act quickly – as we did with critical workforce issues, spiralling fertiliser costs and the pig culling crisis.
Food security has been on my agenda since day one
I am an active member of the EFRA Committee. I have triggered a number of inquiries, including rural mental health, movement of animals across borders and marine mammal conservation. I have spoken up for our food producers and champion animal welfare. Given the major changes facing the farming sector, continuity on the Committee will be crucial to scrutinise DEFRA moving forward.
I represent the rural constituency of Penrith and The Border, containing some of the UK’s richest farming heritage, as well as the Lake District National Park and many sustainable development projects. Consequently, I have regularly championed EFRA matters in the Commons and understand the uniquely challenging issues facing businesses and families in the UK’s harder-to-reach areas.
My priorities include: increasing food security in the wake of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine; promoting rural mental health; protecting our environment; improving animal health and welfare, such as clamping down on puppy smuggling and animal theft; and improving flood defences and resilience as extreme weather events become more frequent.
Food security has been on my agenda since day one. I’ve already been heavily involved in the EFRA Committee’s work on the subject and have spoken on this in Parliament on numerous occasions, so I’m now pleased that the issue is being given due concern. If elected, I will take serious and immediate action.
I come from an evidence-based clinical and scientific background where I have learned to channel a diversity of opinions towards positive and proactive solutions that work for people on the ground.
I have significant professional experience in chairing committees from higher education to clinical and scientific committees. I promise to work together with stakeholders to increase accountability and secure an ambitious future for DEFRA and our country.
Regardless of who is elected, independent cross-party scrutiny is a cornerstone of British Parliamentary democracy, and I hope my colleagues feel the weight of the occasion.
Dr Neil Hudson is the Conservative MP for Penrith and The Border.
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