Measures unveiled today by the European Commission to tackle unfair practices in the food supply chain are an important step forward, according to Conservative Agriculture spokesman Anthea McIntyre.

The proposed directive aims to protect farmers and suppliers from practices including the cancellation of contracts for fresh produce at short notice, late payments by retailers and by demanding more clarity in agreements.

It draws on the experience of the UK's Groceries Code Adjudicator, a position created in 2013 to re-evaluate the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers.

Miss McIntyre told MEPs today that she warmly welcomed the Commission's proposals.

She said:  "Farmers don't always get a fair price and they don't always get fair treatment. Processors and supermarkets are often those who take the lion's share of the profit when of course they wouldn't take any profit at all were it not for the raw commodity provided by the farmers.

"The UK adjudicator is a very good example of how to make progress in this area and I am pleased to hear the Commission has used it as a model.  When the system was set up one of the worst practices I came across was of farmers being charged by supermarkets for replying to customers who wrote complementing the quality of a product.  

"Proof of the effectiveness of the adjudicator is that the number of complaints and issues raised by farmers has reduced year on year."

Introducing the proposed directive today, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan confirmed the UK "had been specifically looked at in drawing up this proposal."

He added: "Companies have come into line as a result of the work of the groceries adjudicator."

Mr Hogan stressed the EU measures would complement, not replace, steps already taken by Member States.

Britain will remain a magnet for cutting edge research in agricultural techniques, a leading MEP told farming technologists this week.

Anthea McIntyre MEP also predicted that the UK government would put science at the forefront of future environment and agriculture policies.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative agriculture spokesman in Brussels, was addressing the Association of Agricultural Engineers in London on Tuesday.

She said that the recent government publication A Green Future had highlighted how scientific knowledge would be at the heart of any future regulation alongside a focus on Integrated Pest Management for a more holistic approach.

Miss McIntyre outlined her series of reports on harnessing emerging technology to improve productivity and environmental protection, and said:  "The UK is a global leader in science and innovation - these developments in precision farming are right on our doorstep.

"My region the West Midlands recently grew the world’s first entire crop using nothing but robot tractors and drones.

"This Hands Free Hectare, led by Harper Adams University and Precision Decisions, successfully grew a crop which was seeded, sprayed, monitored and harvested using off-the-shelf technology and open source software. This is the future for farming.

"We are in the early days of the big data and agri-tech revolution. I’m hoping that with the right regulation and political will, the big winners of this revolution will be the producers, the environment, small farmers and consumers."

Miss McIntyre said a promising sign for the UK in maintaining its status as a world leader in technology came last week when it was awarded more research grants than any other country, by the European Research Council in its 2018 Advanced Grants. These prestigious EU grants, she said, were worth a total of €653m.

“The results are a remarkable success for Britain, which comes out well ahead of other countries, both in the nationality of the successful scientists and in the location of the university or research centre where they will work.”

The UK took 66 of the 269 awards, followed by Germany with 42 and France with 34.

She said: “It is very reassuring, that despite Brexit, we clearly remain a favourite destination for top European research funds.

“The figures demonstrate the strength of UK science. When funds are allocated purely on excellence, as European Research Council Advanced Grants are, Britain emerges as Europe’s top scientific venue.

"Both the UK and EU have a huge stake in maintaining a very close relationship in research and innovation after Brexit. I hope we will continue with the same level of participation in European research programmes, as we currently have with Horizon 2020.”

Miss McIntyre also referred to the European Parliament’s new special committee on pesticides, set up in the wake of the reauthorisation of glyphosate, the widely used weedkiller.

She said: “Glyphosate has been proved to be perfectly safe and is so important in progressive farming techniques. Decisions need to be based on scientific evidence not political bias."



West Midlands Conservative MEP Anthea McIntyre has issued a statement on the arrest of Bangladesh's former prime minister:

She said: "As a member of the European Parliament with an interest in Bangladesh, I am following the case and imprisonment of former prime minister Begum Khaleda Zia with interest.

  "Every citizen of Bangladesh has the right to a fair trial process, where the judiciary must be free from political influence. It is important that citizens have the right to defend themselves before a impartial judiciary, whether this maybe a ordinary citizen or someone as distinguished as Begum Khaleda Zia .

"I will continue to follow this important case as part of my interest in South Asia affairs and I hope it will adhere to international human rights standards".


West Midlands employers will continue to need EU migrants post -Bexit - and MEP Anthea McIntyre is preparing a guide to help businesses secure settled status for their staff.

She outlined the plan at a Conservative business lunch which she hosted in Birmingham with fellow West Midlands MEP Daniel Dalton.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative employment spokesman in  the European Parliament,  said the West Midlands reported the fastest increase in employment in the UK last month.

She went on: "We also have a record number of job vacancies - and we rely on EU labour.

"About one third of migrant labour in the West Midlands is from the EU, totalling around 150,000 individuals."

She said that in the manufacturing sector, EU nationals made up 11% of the workforce regionally, while three quarters of manufacturing businesses employed at least one EU national: "Employers still need labour of all skill levels. 

"The government and the Prime Minister have been clear that we want EU nationals to be able to continue to live and work in the UK and we want to see the same deal for UK nationals in the EU."

She said a system of applying for settled status was planned to commence this autumn, which was intended to be swift, simple and straightforward and to cost no more than a passport fee.

An example from  the West Midlands was held up to MEPs as a model for corporate social responsibility during a debate in the European Parliament.

Anthea McIntyre said more and more companies were embracing the fact that they were part of their community - and she reminded them of an early example from her own region.

She told how chocolate giant Cadbury voluntarily developed Bournville - a model village on the south side of Birmingham – for their factory workers to live in. It was described as one of the nicest places to live in Britain.

Miss McIntyre, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, was speaking during a debate in Strasbourg on corporate social responsibility (CSR).

She said: "Cadbury really put social responsibility at the heart of their company’s ethos."

As Conservative employment spokesman, Miss McIntyre has spoken against any legislative imposition of CSR requirements and believes that true social and environmental responsibility involves going beyond a company's legal requirements.

She said: "Many companies are progressively integrating CSR into their company strategies on a voluntary basis and they should be welcomed and encouraged.

"It is not just a benefit to society; it benefits the company too, often helping them to compete in the labour market and to become an employer of choice.

"I would like to see the Commission and Member States promoting the voluntary take up of CSR initiatives. But let’s ensure that companies always retain the flexibility and freedom to shape their own CSR policies according to their specific circumstances and the needs of their employees."