MONEY left unspent on agriculture should be used to help farmers hit by flooding, ministers have been told.

Steve Reed, Labour’s shadow environment secretary, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) should use a reported underspend to combat the impact of what he called the “wettest 18 months since 1836”.

All areas of farming – arable, livestock, poultry, horticulture and dairy – expect production to decrease following months of unexpectedly wet weather, the National Farming Union (NFU) has found.

The Labour intervention came as the Commons debated post-Brexit measures which help to phase out the European Union’s common agricultural policy and towards the new environmental land management scheme.

Mr Reed told MPs: “Such is the incompetence of this Government that they have failed to spend hundreds of millions of pounds of the support that was intended for farmers.

“Money that would make a difference to struggling farmers today, funds that should be in farmers pockets now, not sitting in Government spreadsheets.

“Why is the Government not using that money, over £220 million in the underspend, to offer help right now, to offer help to farmers who have been the most affected by this dreadful flooding during the wettest 18 months since 1836.”

Labour MP Mike Amesbury also raised concerns about flooding in his Weaver Vale constituency, with environment minister Mark Spencer responding: “That is why we introduced the support fund, which is now supporting those farmers that were affected, particularly in the east of England which I know doesn’t apply to Cheshire, to try and help those farmers.

“We are committed to extending that scheme to try and help people and we are certainly still in conversations with the NFU and with farmer groups to look at what more we can do to mitigate the impact that the season is going to have, because many of those farmers won’t feel the effect of that weather in their cashflow until this autumn.”

Elsewhere in the Commons, MPs also debated measures underpinning the Procurement Act, which Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart said “seizes the opportunity following Brexit, to develop and implement a new public procurement regime for over £300 billion pounds worth of public contracts”.

“These regulations bring to life and set out the practical detail necessary for the functioning of many of the act’s provisions,” he added.

Mr Burghart said the “landmark piece of post Brexit legislation” would help to benefit small, British-owned businesses to secure Government contracts.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Dame Nia Griffith said Labour would be supporting the motion but were concerned the Act “was a wasted opportunity to reform procurement”.

She said: “Unfortunately the Procurement Act when it comes into force in October of this year, will allow the same wasteful approach to emergency contracting rules that we saw during the pandemic, with friends and donors of the Conservative Party being given the first bite of the cherry, while decent, skilled local businesses were denied the same opportunity.

“Billions of pounds of public money wasted while excellent small and medium sized businesses were overlooked. Nothing in these draft regulations will address this concern.”