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Exiting the European Union (Agriculture)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:47 pm on 1st October 2019.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 3:47 pm, 1st October 2019

I am delighted to be here for the second of our four statutory instruments. I want to push the Minister a bit further. He did not manage to answer one of the things that I slipped into the first SI. What is the process of accountability? As we do not have the Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill enacted, we do not yet have the office for environmental protection. I ask again politely what and who is going to provide the sort of testing regime that is now talked about in these five conflated SIs? They are largely about wine—oenological; it is good to get that on the record. It is important that we know that someone somewhere will be able properly to scrutinise labelling and to test what is coming in. Currently, as far as I know, this happens seamlessly across the 28 countries, of which we are one. It will not be seamless when we have left because the wines that come from the EU will go through whatever process the Minister is going to explain to me in a minute.

I am not saying that at the moment there is a clarity because I, for one, do not know exactly how wine is tested to see that what people are buying is safe and what they think they are buying in terms of the proof and the quality, and that the labelling tells us what the wine is and where it came from so that people know what they are drinking. I just push the Minister politely to ask what process the Government have put in place for these interim arrangements?

I know this is about transition. Maybe we shall just turn a blind eye for a time, and let come in what comes in—although someone will have to account for the tariffs, if and when we get to that stage, because the EU will put tariffs on our goods and services and we will put tariffs on EU goods and services. It would be interesting to know what the Minister has, through his Department, been able to do. Presumably, such work has been going on for the last n number of months, since we have been discussing all these statutory instruments. Following the delay—again we are at the final hurdle, or maybe not—the reality is that somebody somewhere must have this all ready to go from 1 November.

I politely push the Minister, given that we have not yet got the office for environmental protection, with all the different tentacles that it will have, to undertake such work. The response may be that we have our own Food Standards Agency, but at the moment a lot of that work is subsumed into that of the European Food Safety Authority, so someone needs to have this type of capability, and it would be good to know who, and when they will come into play.