‘Punch and Judy politics’: North Devon MP responds to Trade Bill vote critics

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby and Liberal Democrat spokesman Alex White have clashed in a war of word

North Devon MP Selaine Saxby and Liberal Democrat spokesman Alex White have clashed in a war of words after she voted against amendments to the Trade Bill. - Credit: Archant

North Devon’s MP has defended her votes on recent controversial Trade Bill amendments and said she would always vote for the best interests of her constituents.

Political rows have brewed around the country after a majority of Conservative MPs voted with the Government and against amendments put forward by the opposition.

They sought to ensure all future trade deals were first scrutinised by parliament, to ‘protect the NHS’ and to ensure food standards were maintained.

The opposition claimed this could mean the NHS was ‘for sale’ and lower food standards could lead to the importation of alleged inferior quality food such as the much-publicised ‘chlorine washed chicken’ from America.

Ms Saxby, along with most Conservative MPs, voted against the amendments, but has strongly denied the NHS would ever be ‘on the table’ in any trade deal, and said that ‘current import standards will prevent the importation of inferior food products such as chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef’.

She said was responding after receiving a large amount of correspondence from constituents concerned about the trade bill.

In an open letter, Alex White, Liberal Democrat spokesman for North Devon said: “The bill you [Selaine Saxby] voted for means parliament won’t even get a say in any future trade deals, meaning our NHS could be offered away to the highest bidder.

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“It means our farmers are sold down the river, following on from your vote against the amendment to the agriculture bill [that sought to protect farmers and food standards]. The Government promised to ‘take back control’, but instead they’re doing the complete opposite.”

He claimed she was ‘Westminster’s delegate in North Devon and not North Devon’s voice in Westminster’.

But Ms Saxby repeated the Government’s manifesto and said the NHS, its drug prices and services were not on the table, saying: “It was absolutely not about the content of future trade deals and the future of the NHS, and it is misleading to claim otherwise, and this amendment was therefore unnecessary.”

She added: “I always vote in what I believe to be the best interests of my constituents.

“I do understand why people question why I would not vote for certain opposition amendments but they rarely, if ever, propose something that would make the bill better. We are, after all, making law and not ‘virtue signalling’ for the benefit of social media.

“If an opposition amendment were thought to be beneficial to any bill then it would be considered for adoption by the Government.

“In general, opposition amendments are put forward so that Government MPs will vote against them, giving the opposition a stick with which to beat the Government and its MPs with.

“This is often the way with Punch and Judy politics which we are all guilty of at times.”

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