George Eustice grilled over involvement in policies that benefit his family farm

18 April 2021, 12:24 | Updated: 18 April 2021, 19:41

By Seán Hickey

The Environment Secretary was cornered over his involvement in enacting Government policy which directly benefitted his family farm.

As public anger grows over the Government's handling of the lobbying scandal involving David Cameron and Rishi Sunak, Tom Swarbrick spoke to the Environment Secretary George Eustice on the ethics and morals of lobbying in Westminster.

Trevaskis Farm is where Mr Eustice grew up, and while his brother and sister run the operation, the Environment Secretary noted that he is a "trustee of a discretionary will trust" which has shares in the farm.

"Have you ever lobbied in their interests?" Tom wondered. Mr Eustice denied this, but noted that "they receive a very small amount" from the Common Agriculture Policy.

Tom moved onto the British Lop, a pig found on the Eustice farm that gets significant support from the agriculture bill. "About a third of the total national population are to be found on Trevaskis farm," Tom noted.

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"There was an MP who tabled amendments to the Agriculture Bill to make clear that supporting genetic diversity was one of the purposes of the bill, and secured meetings at Defra."

"That was you." Tom revealed.

Mr Eustice defended his actions: "It is important we recognise genetic diversity and the importance of that," adding that his decision was from a morally sound place.

Mr Eustice's family farm is home to one third of the population of British Lop pig (not pictured)
Mr Eustice's family farm is home to one third of the population of British Lop pig (not pictured). Picture: PA

"Do you think it's a bit close though?" Tom wondered. "A third of these very rare pigs are found on a farm, a farm that you grew up in and have a shareholding in and that you want to sequence the genetics."

The Environment Secretary maintained that his actions were above board. "Is it right to do the wrong policy because it is an area you have an understanding and you know about?"

He added that "the reason you disclose your interest" when acting on topics you know about is to "not to stop you from doing things you should do."

"If you're a shareholder you stand to benefit from the betterment of this farm," Tom pointed out, but Mr Eustice maintained that his actions were above board.