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Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 3rd February 2020.

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Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:30 pm, 3rd February 2020

I beg to move,

That this House, whilst recognising that on leaving the EU the UK needs to shift agricultural support from land-based payments to the delivery of environmental and other public benefits, declines to give a Second Reading to the Agriculture Bill because it fails to provide controls on imported agricultural goods, such as chlorinated chicken or hormone treated beef, and does not guarantee the environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards which will apply.

The amendment, which stands in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and others, would deny the Bill a Second Reading because it fails comprehensively to guarantee environmental protections and animal welfare standards in any post-Brexit trade deals. The United Kingdom’s history and identity are connected and integral to our countryside, to our farming and to our connection to the natural world. We are rightly proud of our high farm animal standards and our high standards of animal welfare and food hygiene. Today, I will ask some difficult questions about where the Bill takes us, voice serious concerns about the Bill and set out Labour’s genuine, heartfelt and reasonable concerns about a Bill that is silent on food imports produced to lower standards that risk undercutting the great British farmer.

What kind of country do we want to be? In which direction will Britain face in the future? Will our nation rise to the challenge of the climate emergency? Will we crash out of the transition period without a deal? Will we sell our values short for trade deals, especially with the United States? I have looked in ministerial statements for certainty and found plenty of words, but no answers—at least none that I genuinely believe. The Bill sets out a path to a wholly new system of agricultural support, and Labour backs many of its provisions, but as I will explain, legal protections to guarantee animal welfare, food hygiene rules, agricultural workers’ rights and environmental protections on the food we import are deliberately omitted from the Bill.