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Three vie for Defra watchdog role

Three Conservative MPs are competing for election to chair the select committee that oversees the work of Defra.

The three seeking to lead the Efra committee are the previous chair Neil Parish (pictured) and fellow Tories Zac Goldsmith and Bill Wiggin.

None refer to Defra’s role in waste and resource management although Parish’s CV includes chairing an inquiry into food waste during the last Parliament.

Parish’s statement ahead of the MPs’ vote on 12 July says: “Under my chairmanship in the last Parliament, the Efra committee held the Government’s feet to the fire on a whole range of issues, from air quality to flood defences and rural tourism to the performance of the Rural Payments Agency.”

The MP for Tiverton and Honiton notes that no single department is affected by Brexit more than Defra. He argues that, as as a former MEP, he knows how Brussels works and dealt with the then French agriculture minister Michel Barnier – now the European chief negotiator for Brexit.

“I am keen to use this experience to scrutinise the Government’s stance on agriculture, tariffs, fisheries and EU labour throughout Brexit negotiations,” Parish said.

Goldsmith forced a by-election in his Richmond Park constituency in December 2016 by standing down over Government plans to expand Heathrow Airport. He lost to the Liberal Democrats but returned to the Commons in the last election with a majority of just 45.

In his statement, he says: “There is no doubt that few areas of policy will be more significantly affected by Brexit than food, farming and the environment. Those changes present big risks and big opportunities.”

Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, who also runs a small farm in the area, says he is standing because “I want to see far more attention and affection for this department as well as holding the Government to account”.

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