Trade Agreements: Environmental and Animal Welfare

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th November 2018.

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Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 12:00 am, 29th November 2018

What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for International Trade on maintaining environmental and animal welfare standards in future trade agreements.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

Ministers and officials from DEFRA regularly meet their counterparts in the Department for International Trade to discuss a wide range of trade issues. The Government are clear that future trade agreements must work for consumers, farmers and businesses in the UK. We will not water down our standards on food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection as part of any future trade deals.

Photo of Helen Goodman Helen Goodman Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I begin by congratulating DEFRA on the contribution that it has no doubt made to the excellent Government document on the implications of Brexit. In the section on agri-food we see that a no deal could produce a 35% reduction in competitiveness, and even the Prime Minister’s estimates predict a reduction of 7%. So will the Minister confirm today that we will not allow unfair competition from imports from countries that produce to lower standards?

Photo of Zac Goldsmith Zac Goldsmith Conservative, Richmond Park

My hon. Friend will be aware of the overwhelming support for a ban on the export of live animals after we leave the European Union, and I know he has great sympathy with that position. Can he confirm that under the terms of the withdrawal agreement that would still be possible?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

Yes, and we have a call for evidence on that.

Photo of Paula Sherriff Paula Sherriff Shadow Minister (Mental Health and Social Care), Shadow Minister (Mental Health)

I recently met the lovely children in the reception classes of St John’s infant school in Dewsbury. They have written to the Secretary of State because they have been learning about the poaching of elephants and rhinos and they are really concerned about it. Can the Minister say something today to reassure them so they know we are taking action on this?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

It is good to hear that the children at St John’s school are taking a keen interest in this. We are taking strong action through the Ivory Bill, and I congratulate the Environment Minister, my hon. Friend Dr Coffey, on the work she is doing to take that forward.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Will the Minister ensure that under any future trade agreements it is a requirement that food imported into the UK be produced to at least equivalent standards to those required of our domestic producers?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

Yes—again, we will ensure that we do not water down those standards. I am sure that later in these questions we will hear from the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, my hon. Friend George Eustice, who is doing a tremendous job in taking the Agriculture Bill through the House.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said in its report on the Agriculture Bill that the Government should put their money where their mouth is and accept an amendment stipulating that food products imported as part of any future trade deal should meet or exceed British standards relating to production, animal welfare and the environment. I have tabled such an amendment; will the Minister undertake to accept it in order to keep Frankenstein foods off the tables of families the length and breadth of these isles?

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), Government Whip

I know that amendments have been tabled, and they will be properly considered on Report.