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Environment Secretary accused of 'hissy fit' in badger cull debate

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: October 26, 2012

  • Owen Paterson

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Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was last night accused of a “hissy fit” after he walked out of a heated debate on the badger cull.

Critics claimed the ministerial meltdown came before MPs voted by a large majority to stop the controversial cull.

The Western Daily Press told earlier this week how Mr Paterson pulled the plug on proposed pilot schemes to cull badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset this year.

He blamed bad weather this summer, the Olympics and Paralympics and the fact there are more badgers in each cull zone than had been thought.

Mr Paterson insisted the cull would go ahead next June, probably in the same two areas, but delighted opponents are now working to ensure it never happens.

Yesterday MPs held a long Commons debate, triggered by more than 160,000 people signing an epetition.

It ended in an overwhelming vote of 147 to 28 for a motion calling on the Government to abandon its plans completely.

Mr Paterson was there at the start, but other MPs said he suddenly walked out during a speech by Labour’s Iain McKenzie.

Labour’s Jamie Reed and Kerry McCarthy both tweeted about it, leading to anger among some members of the public following the debate.

Richard Bolton said: “How dare Owen Paterson walk out of the debate. Not only has it been ordered by us democratically in a system set up for this purpose… but he is one of the Ministers responsible for this debacle. You work for us Minister… get your butt back in your seat.”

Shadow health secretary Jamie Reed said Mr Paterson’s comment was “absolutely crystal clear”.

The senior Labour MP told the Daily Press: “He said ‘I can’t stand any more of this’ and it was picked up quite clearly by the microphone.

“I think it is completely up to any given Secretary of State to stay for as little or as much of the debate as they want.

“But where there is very real public interest, and given the heightened emotions on both sides, and the need for the Secretary of State to build a consensus to solve this problem for our farmers, it doesn’t help the policy if he has a hissy fit when he hears an argument he doesn’t like.”

Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy told the Daily Press: “He got very angry during the statement on the cull on Tuesday, and he got angry during Defra questions today.

“He was previously Northern Ireland Secretary, where it tends not to be so contentious, so I have never seen him under fire before.

“He has obviously got a real temper, and this was not whispered as an aside, he wanted to be heard.

“It was only the third anti-cull speech he had heard, and It is not really the way of doing things. It will be so, so difficult for them to go ahead with the cull next year, and the people who support it are going to be furious.”

Defra said it was a backbench debate and Mr Paterson intended to sit in for about 30 minutes, which he did, and Agriculture Minister David Heath would respond for the Government.

“So it would be wrong to say it was a snub, or that he stormed out.” However the spokesman said Mr Paterson was not denying he made the comments.

Mr Paterson was reported as saying he had to go for another meeting, did not storm out, but as he left he “might have joked about the ill-informed comments of the other side”.

Queen guitarist Brian May, a celebrity opponent of the cull, was in the Commons to hear Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh say it should now be scrapped.

It had already cost taxpayers more than £1 million. and the cost of policing would add to the final total.

But Somerton & Frome MP Mr Heath said bovine TB was the “pressing animal health problem in the UK” and the cost could be even greater if the Government did not act.

Former agriculture minister Sir Jim Paice said ministers and civil servants involved in the cull have been placed under extra security to protect against the threat from animal rights extremists.

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  • GilesB  |  October 27 2012, 12:56AM

    Jan Rowe is perfectly entitled to lobby the government as is any other private citizen. and Defra are perfectly aware of his involvement with Gloscon

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  • Charlespk  |  October 26 2012, 8:33PM

    Leaders of men are the people who get things done and make things happen. . It was hardly likely to be a social worker energised enough to get involved, organise and sort out the problem. . This problem is 20 years old and was caused by politicians

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  • Charlespk  |  October 26 2012, 7:59PM

    Only a badgerist would ask that question. . Whether to cull badgers should never have been made a 'political' decision. . The status quo and a worsening situation was never an option and it's not one farmers will any longer accept.

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  • eyeopener  |  October 26 2012, 7:39PM

    Had you listened to the debate yesterday, you would have seen the the speakers for and against the cull were on both sides of the house. Consequently it is futile to try and mix other issues such as "lowering welfare payments" into the mix. If you look at the Freedom of Information Request. I don't think Jan Rowe's intelligence was the issue. Read it again, if your not sure. "This time may just turnout to be the biggest mistake any government has ever made. This maybe the final straw." Sounds very dramatic, what next? The final straw before what?

  • 2ladybugs  |  October 26 2012, 4:38PM

    ?????Most people are against the cull!!!!!????? Ha!ha!ha!........it's good to see you still have a sense of humour. Keep smiling. :)) I must love you and leave you now as reports call..:((

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  • eyeopener  |  October 26 2012, 4:23PM

    @2ladybugs I think the lowering of welfare payments is another debate, it has yet to do anything but depress the retail sales of most European States and so fail to lift their economies. We could both persue that one for a long while and find that some pro-cullers were anti- lowering them and that some of those against the cull were pleased to see a reduction. "I also doubt the Government will worry too much about losing votes of any anti-cull people" As most of the public are against the cull, I think the government should be worried. Its a pity we cannot somehow synergise the feelings of those who are against with those who are for the cull to campaign for a reform of the farming industry. At present they are bing exploited by Big Business ie. the milk producers and the supermarkets. You pointed out last night the long hours they work to keep their farms going. What they are paid is hardly adequate recompense for that. "Has the debacle about Jan Rowe been sorted yet or is it still going through the wringer?" I suspect he is still being wrung :-)))

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  • 2ladybugs  |  October 26 2012, 4:05PM

    This may be the second coming as I submitted one comment but it appears to have gone down the tubes. So here we go again:((( @eyeopener...David Heath is hardly likely to worry about votes in the context of the badger cull as I feel the Lib/dems have slightly more problems than this. I also doubt the Government will worry too much about losing votes of any anti-cull people. Governments who take the unprecedented stance of lowering welfare payments have either committed suicide or gained many 100 thousands of votes from people who are fed up with subsidising people to sit at home while they work there b***s off to make ends meet. However the Government might be concerned if the farmers turn their backs on them. Has the debacle about Jan Rowe been sorted yet or is it still going through the wringer?

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  • eyeopener  |  October 26 2012, 3:31PM

    @2ladybugs "Anybody who is anybody would have had their chance to say why this wouldn't work." Sadly Anybody who is anybody did not their chance to say why this wouldn't work, because the government and Defra would only listen to the Bovine TB Eradication Advisory Group for England (TBEAG) The membershio of the Bovine TB Eradication Advisory Group has recently been made the subject of a Freedom Of Information Requestas shown below: From: David Miles 16 October 2012 Dear Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, It would appear that one of the major lobbyists, Jan Rowe, who is a major force within the NFU and is lobbying for the badgercull also happens to be a director of GlosCon, one of the companies licenced to perform the cull. It appears that Jan Rowe is lobbying on one side and will be making a financial profit on the other. In addition, as though this was not enough of a conflict interests, Jan Rowe also is on the advisory committee for bTB to DEFRA and is lobbying for the cull in that fashion as well. It appears that Jan Rowe has a hand in three segments of the badger cull process and that this is a clear conflict of interest. I therefore ask for exact clarification of the role that Jan Rowe has played in the advisory committee for bTB to DEFRA and Natural England and also what safeguards were put in place, by DEFRA, to ensure that the playing field was level and that Jan Rowe did not push any proposals to further his own goals Yours faithfully, David Miles The LACK of listening was such that 30 eminient scientists felt compelled to write to The Observer to make their opposition known. I fear you might be right when you say "don't expect a great change." That said David Heath will find it even harder next year in 2013 to ignore the electorate as the next election beckons.

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  • 2ladybugs  |  October 26 2012, 3:15PM

    @Muttley......Andrew George....stupid boy!!!!. Unfortunately he is one of those people I could quite easily place a custard pie in his face :((((

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  • 2ladybugs  |  October 26 2012, 3:10PM

    Yes at least the Telegraph or is it the Guardian/Daily Mail/Observer , can't remember which, allows you to preview and even then if you make a bloomer you can go back and edit.