A minister in the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has been told he is “living in a parallel universe” regarding the concerns of British farmers.

Labour peer Lord Foulkes of Cumnock reminded Lord Douglas-Miller of the “go slow” protest in Westminster on Monday that saw more than 100 tractors roll past the Houses of Parliament.

His comment came after the minister told the House of Lords that the Government is strengthening UK food security by supporting farmers and food producers.

Lord Foulkes said: “Did he not see 120 farmers driving their tractors up Whitehall honking and protesting?

“Weren’t we told that, when we left the European Union, everything would be okay for farmers? What’s gone wrong?”

Lord Douglas-Miller acknowledged that he “raises a good point”, adding: “I was only a little surprised that I didn’t see him out there when I went out to visit the protesters last night. He’s entirely correct, they did make a lot of noise.”

He continued: “The Government is supporting farmers across a whole range of areas, whether that’s technology, whether that’s science, whether that’s financial support, whether that’s productivity gain.

“We are going through a transition at the moment and that transition is to recalibrate and rebalance our food production and our environmental benefits in the countryside.

“The Government has been absolutely crystal clear that food production comes first and foremost in that battle.”

Farmers converged on Westminster this week to protest against “substandard imports and dishonest labelling” that they claim are threatening the UK’s food security.

The campaign groups Save British Farming and Fairness for Farmers of Kent are calling for an end to trade deals which they say are allowing imports of food produced to standards that would be illegal in the UK, undercutting British farmers and compounding difficulties faced by the industry.

Conservative peer Baroness McIntosh of Pickering asked the minister to “take this opportunity, against a backdrop of increasing challenges to self-sufficiency, of giving farmers and consumers alike an undertaking that any imported food and agricultural products will meet the same high animal welfare and environmental standards as food and agricultural products produced in this country”.

Top UK veterinarian and independent crossbench peer Lord Trees also pressed the Government on food standards in free trade agreements, asking whether they will set minimum standards for imported animal products “equivalent to those we demand of our own farmers”, so not to put British farmers at a “comparative disadvantage” and “undermine our food security”.

Lord Douglas-Miller responded: “I quite accept the premise that there is a significant change going on in the agricultural sector at the moment.

“This change was clearly signalled when we transitioned away from the (EU’s) Common Agricultural Policy and focused farming on delivering both food production and environmental goals through ELMs (Environmental Land Management).

“It is entirely understandable that farmers have concerns over this transition as it requires them to reappraise how they use the entirety of their land.”

He added: “Both Defra and the Government have been crystal clear that agriculture is at the forefront of any trade deals that we negotiate and we reserve the right to pause negotiations if progress is not being made – and we recently did this with Canada, which I know the President of the NFU (National Farmers Union) welcomed as a relief for farmers.

“All imports need to meet our food safety requirements and free trade agreements do not change our protections for food safety, animal welfare and the environment.”

The minister said: “UK food security remains consistently high and the Government continues to strengthen it by supporting our farmers and food producers.”