The protection of the UK’s food standards post-Brexit is of great importance not only to British farmers but to British consumers as well. I don’t want the Government to water-down our food standards and remove the guarantee of quality that we currently have in order to secure a trade deal or for any other reason.
To this end, when the Agriculture Bill was presented to Parliament, my Opposition colleagues and I voted for New Clause 2 which would have required imported food to meet standards at least as high as those required for food produced in the UK. Despite cross-party support in Parliament and from many farming and environmental organisations, the Government voted down this amendment.
I therefore opposed the Agriculture Bill at its Second and Third Readings. However, the Government’s majority ensured that it passed, and went on to the House of Lords.
When this Bill returned to the House of Commons on 12 October, I supported the amendment made in the House of Lords to provide legal protection against the import of food produced to lower standards. Unfortunately, the Government voted to overturn it.
The Trade Bill offers another opportunity for MPs, and the Government, to enshrine in law the food standards that we enjoyed whilst we were members of the EU. However, given their track record in this area, I think that Conservative MPs will vote down any attempts to do this, giving Ministers carte blanche to trade our food standards away for corporate-friendly trade deals.
On the subject of trade deal scrutiny, I have long advocated for greater transparency around, and scrutiny of, trade deals. Indeed, when the Trade Bill was at the report stage in the House of Commons in July, I supported New Clause 4 (NC4) on Parliamentary approval of trade agreements.
This amendment would have provided for many of the elements of good scrutiny practice that a modern, confident, outward-looking country should have, including: a vote on negotiating mandates; consultation with the devolved Administrations; and a vote on trade deals by both Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately, the Government opposed NC4 and it failed to make it into the Bill.
Despite the Government’s steadfast opposition to trade deal scrutiny and transparency, and the maintenance of our food standards in law, I can assure you that my Opposition colleagues and I will continue to speak and vote in favour of these measures which I believe to be essential.