MPs have overturned measures aimed at protecting UK food standards in future trade deals, despite a Tory backlash.

They voted 332 votes to 279, majority 53, to disagree with a House of Lords amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would have required agricultural and food imports to meet domestic standards.

Peers had made the change to block the import of foodstuffs produced abroad with lower animal welfare standards, amid warnings over chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef entering the UK market from the US.

Farmers also protested against the amendment, with a tractor demonstration in central London.

Farmers were demanding food standards are upheld in post-Brexit trade deals.

Several Conservative MPs also outlined their support for the Lords amendment, with the division list showing 14 rebelled in an attempt to retain it. But it was stripped from the Bill following a vote on Monday.

The Government argued that existing protections are already in place and they have no intention of watering them down.

Speaking as Lords’ amendments to the Bill were considered, senior Tory Neil Parish said the legislation was heading in the right direction but the UK should be a “great beacon” on animal welfare and the environment when negotiating future trade deals.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee chairman said: “We have in our manifesto the commitment to both animal welfare and the environment.

“Would it not be right for the Secretary of State for International Trade to have the armour of having the backing of Parliament to say ‘I can’t negotiate away that particular part of the deal with you because it is written down in law’?”

For the Government, Environment Minister Victoria Prentis said the Government will not change the law of the land on import standards “under any circumstances”.

She told the Commons: “The fearmongering must stop tonight. We are not going to be importing chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef. That is the law of this land.

“This Government is not going to change it under any circumstances and we have said very clearly that in all our trade negotiations, we will not compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare or food standards. We have a range of tools to protect us, we have the existing regulation, we have parliamentary scrutiny which I detailed earlier, including the select committee which I for one think is significant.”

North Herefordshire MP Bill Wiggin said in the debate: “These amendments propose to put strict conditions in place when the EU negotiates a free trade deal, when we, as part of the EU, negotiated free trade deals with other countries, none of these restrictions were in place.

“If we impose strict food requirements, America will challenge and win at the WTO [World Trade Organization]. Now those opposite may rejoice at that, but the EU will not be able to accept these terms either.”

lThe Hereford Times will continue to bang the drum for the county’s farmers as part of our ongoing #BackingHerefordshireFarming campaign. To get in touch with a reporter call 01432 845885.