Import of agricultural goods after IP completion day

Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 1:54 pm on 13 May 2020.

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“(1) After IP completion day, agricultural goods imported under a free trade agreement may be imported into the UK only if the standards to which those goods were produced were as high as, or higher than, standards which at the time of import applied under UK law relating to—

(a) animal welfare,

(b) protection of the environment,

(c) food safety, hygiene and traceability, and

(d) plant health.

(2) The Secretary of State must prepare a register of UK production standards, to be updated annually, to which goods imported under subsection (1) would have to adhere.

(3) ‘Agricultural goods’ for the purposes of this section, mean—

(a) any livestock within the meaning of section 1(5),

(b) any plants or seeds, within the meaning of section 22(6),

(c) any product derived from livestock, plants or seeds.

(4) ‘IP completion day’ has the meaning given in section 39 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.”—(Simon Hoare.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 2—International trade agreements: agricultural and food products—

“(1) A Minister of the Crown may not lay a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 that contains provisions relating to the importation of agricultural and food products into the UK unless they have first made a statement confirming that—

(a) the agreement contains an affirmation of the United Kingdom’s rights and obligations under the World Trade Organisation Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement, and

(b) any agricultural or food product imported into the UK under the agreement will have been produced or processed according to standards which are equivalent to, or which exceed, the relevant domestic standards and regulations in relation to—

(i) animal health and welfare,

(ii) plant health, and

(iii) environmental protection.

(2) A statement under subsection (1) shall be laid before each House of Parliament.

(3) Before the first statement under subsection (1) may be made, the Secretary of State must by regulations specify—

(a) the process by which the Secretary of State will determine—

(i) that the standards to which any agricultural or food product imported into the UK under a trade agreement is produced or processed are equivalent to, or exceed, the relevant domestic standards and regulations in relation to animal health and welfare, plant health and environmental protection, and

(ii) that the enforcement of standards in relation to any product under sub-paragraph (3)(a)(i) is at least as effective as the enforcement of the equivalent domestic standards and regulations in the UK;

(b) the “relevant domestic standards and regulations” for the purposes of subsections (1)(b) and (3)(a)(i).

(4) The Secretary of State may make regulations amending any regulations made under subsection (3).

(5) Regulations under subsection (3) or (4) shall be made under the affirmative procedure.

(6) In this section—

“international trade agreement” means—

(a) an agreement that is or was notifiable under—

(i) paragraph 7(a) of Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, part of Annex 1A to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or

(ii) paragraph 7(a) of Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, part of Annex 1B to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or

(b) an international agreement that mainly relates to trade, other than an agreement mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) or (ii);

Minister of the Crown” has the same meaning as in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975;

“World Trade Organisation Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement” means the agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, part of Annex 1A to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time);

“WTO Agreement” means the agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation signed at Marrakesh on 15 April 1994.”

New clause 3—Groceries Code Adjudicator

“The Adjudicator established by the Groceries Code Adjudicator Act 2013 shall be responsible for ensuring compliance with Part 3 of this Act.”

New clause 4—Agriculture: duty to promote exports—

“(1) The Secretary of State must take steps to increase opportunities for any person carrying on agriculture to export an agricultural product.

(2) Steps under subsection (1) may include measures to seek to secure the lifting of any—

(a) ban on export of an agricultural product,

(b) tariff or other form of barrier to trade,

(c) excessive regulation, or

(d) controls at national borders, local content rules or other barrier to entry for an agricultural product.

(3) The Secretary of State must, no later than twelve months after Royal Assent has been given to this Act, lay before each House of Parliament a report setting out measures taken under subsection (2) and the impact of such measures.

(4) The Secretary of State must within twelve months of laying a report under subsection (3), and once every calendar year thereafter, lay a report setting out measures taken under subsection (2), and the impact of such measures, in the period since the previous such report was laid.

(5) In this section—

“agricultural product” shall mean anything produced in the course of carrying on agriculture, and

“agriculture” shall have the meaning given in section 22(6) of this Act.”

New clause 5—Application of pesticides: limitation on use to protect human health—

“(1) The Secretary of State shall by regulations make provision for prohibiting the application of any pesticide for the purpose of agriculture near—

(a) any building used for habitation,

(b) any building or open space used for work or recreation, or

(c) any public or private building where members of the public may be present including, but not limited to, schools, nurseries, and hospitals.

(2) Regulations under this section may specify a minimum distance to be maintained during the application of any pesticide between the place of application and any place under subsection (1)(a) to (c).

(3) For the purposes of this section—

“agriculture” has the meaning given in section 15(6), and

“public building” includes any building used for the purposes of education.

(4) Regulations under this section are subject to affirmative resolution procedure.”

This new clause would have the effect of protecting members of the public from hazardous health impacts arising from the application of chemical pesticides near buildings and spaces used by the public.

New clause 6—Import of agricultural goods after IP completion day (No. 2)—

“(1) After IP completion day, agricultural goods imported under a free trade agreement may be imported into the UK only if the standards to which those goods were produced were as high as, or higher than, standards which at the time of import applied under UK law relating to—

(a) animal health and welfare,

(b) protection of the environment,

(c) food safety, hygiene and traceability, and

(d) plant health.

(2) The Secretary of State must prepare a register of standards under UK law relating to—

(a) animal health and welfare,

(b) protection of the environment,

(c) food safety, hygiene and traceability, and

(d) plant health which must be met in the course of production of any imported agricultural goods.

(3) A register under subsection (2) must be updated within seven days of any amendment to any standard listed in the register.

(4) “Agricultural goods”, for the purposes of this section, means anything produced by a producer operating in one or more agricultural sectors listed in Schedule 1.

(5) “IP completion day” has the meaning given in section 39 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020.”

This new clause would set a requirement for imported agricultural goods to meet animal health and welfare, environmental, plant health, food safety and other standards which are at least as high as those which apply to UK produced agricultural goods.

New clause 7—Coronavirus emergency food plan—

“(1) The Secretary of State must, within six months of Royal Assent being given to this Act, prepare and lay before Parliament a document (a “coronavirus emergency food plan”) setting out measures to address the impact of coronavirus and coronavirus disease, and action taken in response, upon the supply of food.

(2) The coronavirus emergency food plan must assess and address—

(a) the matters listed in section 17(2);

(b) the following matters—

(i) the incidence of hunger, malnutrition and food poverty measured (a) nationally and (b) by local authority area;

(ii) the level of demand for emergency food aid and the adequacy of services to meet that demand;

(iii) the availability, distribution and affordability of nutritious and healthy food;

(iv) the ease of access to nutritious and healthy food across different socio-economic groups and communities;

(v) the functioning of the food supply chain, including stock levels of individual food items and any cross-border issues impacting upon the import and export of food; and

(vi) the level of any financial assistance provided by a public authority to farmers, growers and the fishing and fish processing sectors as a result of coronavirus or coronavirus disease.

(3) The plan may take account of information provided in response to a requirement under section 25 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 (power to require information relating to food supply chains), subject to the restrictions on the use and disclosure of information set out in section 27 of that Act (restrictions on use and disclosure of information).

(4) In this section—

“coronavirus” means severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2;

“coronavirus disease” means COVID-19 (the official designation of the disease which can be caused by coronavirus);

“financial assistance” means assistance provided by way of grant, loan, guarantee or indemnity, and any other kind of financial assistance (actual or contingent).”

Member’s explanatory statement This new clause would require the Secretary of State lay before Parliament a coronavirus emergency food plan, within six months of Royal Assent.

New clause 8—Duty and regulations governing agricultural and horticultural activity—

“(1) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to establish a regulatory framework relating to agricultural and horticultural activity for or in connection with the following purposes—

(a) the management of land or water in a way that protects or improves the environment;

(b) supporting agriculture and horticulture businesses in enabling public access to healthy food that is farmed in an environmentally sustainable way, including food produced through whole farm agroecological systems;

(c) public access to and enjoyment of the countryside, farmland or woodland and better understanding of the environment;

(d) the management of land or water in a way that maintains, restores or enhances cultural or natural heritage;

(e) improving public health;

(f) the management of land, water or livestock in a way that mitigates or adapts to climate change;

(g) the management of land or water in a way that prevents, reduces or protects from environmental hazards;

(h) the protection or improvement of the health or welfare of livestock;

(i) the conservation of native livestock, native equines or genetic resources relating to any such animal;

(j) the protection or improvement of the health of plants;

(k) the conservation of plants grown or used in carrying on an agricultural, horticultural or forestry activity, their wild relatives or genetic resources relating to any such plant; and

(l) the protection or improvement of the quality of soil.

(2) Regulations under subsection (1) must include provision about the standards to which activity for or in connection with all of the purposes in subsection (1) must conform.

(3) Regulations under subsection (1) may include provision about enforcement, which may (among other things) include provision—

(a) about the provision of information;

(b) conferring powers of entry;

(c) conferring powers of inspection, search and seizure;

(d) about the keeping of records;

(e) imposing monetary penalties;

(f) creating summary offences punishable with a fine (or a fine not exceeding an amount specified in the regulations, which must not exceed level 4 on the standard scale);

(g) about appeals;

(h) conferring functions (including functions involving the exercise of a discretion) on a person.

(4) Regulations under this section are subject to affirmative resolution procedure.”

See explanatory statement for Amendment 30.

New clause 9—Duration of provision in relation to Northern Ireland—

“(1) Section 45 and Schedule 6 expire at the end of 2026.

(2) Regulations made under paragraph 8(1) of Schedule 6 (power to modify retained direct EU legislation relating to public market intervention and private storage aid) cease to have effect at the end of 2026 (so that any amendment made by them ceases to have effect and any enactment repealed by them is revived). But see subsections (4) and (5) for saving provision.

(3) Otherwise, subsection (1) does not affect the continuation in force or effect of any regulations made, or other thing done, by virtue of Schedule 6 before the end of 2026.

(4) Despite subsections (1) and (2), paragraph 7 of Schedule 6, and regulations made under paragraph 8(1) of that Schedule, continue to have effect in relation to any period which ends after the end of 2026 and for which DAERA is giving, or has agreed to give, financial assistance under paragraph 7 of Schedule 6.

(5) Subsection (2) does not affect the lawfulness of anything done in accordance with retained direct EU legislation as modified by regulations made under paragraph 8(1) of Schedule 6 before those regulations cease to have effect.

(6) DAERA may by regulations make transitional, transitory or saving provision in connection with this section.

(7) The provision which may be made by virtue of subsection (6) includes provision modifying primary legislation, retained direct EU legislation or subordinate legislation.

(8) Regulations under this section which contain provision modifying primary legislation (with or without other provision) are subject to affirmative resolution procedure.

(9) Other regulations under this section are subject to negative resolution procedure.”

This new clause is designed to introduce a sunset clause so that provisions relating to Northern Ireland are timebound, whilst allowing suitable time for the for the development of bespoke legislation within the next Assembly term and taking into account disruptions in future planning as a result of the Covid19 crisis.

New clause 10—International trade agreements covering agricultural goods: standards and approval—

“(1) A Minister of the Crown may not lay a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 unless the agreement meets the conditions in subsections (2) and (3).

(2) The condition in this subsection is that the agreement prohibits the importation into the United Kingdom of any agricultural product unless the standards to which that product was produced were as high as, or higher than, standards which at the time of import applied under UK law relating to—

(a) animal welfare,

(b) protection of the environment,

(c) employment rights, and

(d) food safety.

(3) The condition in this subsection is that—

(a) upon conclusion of the negotiations on the agreement, the text of any element of the agreement which concerns trade in agricultural products has been laid before Parliament,

(b) the House of Commons has approved by resolution a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown which approves the text of any element which concerns trade in agricultural products, and

(c) the House of Lords has debated a motion in the same terms as that approved by the House of Commons.

(4) A motion under subsection (3)(b) shall be framed in terms which permit amendment.

(5) For the purposes of this section—

“agriculture product” shall mean any product which falls within an agricultural sector listed in Schedule 1 or which is derived from any such product,

“international trade agreement” means—

(a) an agreement that is or was notifiable under—

(i) paragraph 7(a) of Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, part of Annex 1A to the agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation signed at Marrakesh on 15 April 1994 (the WTO Agreement) (as modified from time to time), or

(ii) paragraph 7(a) of Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, part of Annex 1B to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or

(b) an international agreement that mainly relates to trade, other than an agreement mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) or (ii);

“Minister of the Crown” has the same meaning as in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975.”

New clause 11—Mandatory labelling of animal products as to farming method—

“(1) The Secretary of State shall make regulations requiring meat, meat products, milk, milk products and egg products (including those produced intensively indoors) to be labelled as to the method of farming.

(2) The labelling required under subsection (1) shall be placed on the front outer surface of the packaging and shall be in easily visible and clearly legible type.

(3) Regulations under subsection (1) shall (among other things) lay down—

(a) the labelling term to be used for each product;

(b) the conditions that must be met for the use of each labelling term.

(4) Regulations under subsection (1) may exclude from the labelling requirement products containing meat, meat products, milk, milk products or egg products where the total proportion by weight of one or more of these items in the product is less than fifteen percent.

(5) Regulations under this section are subject to affirmative resolution procedure.”

This new clause would require the Secretary of State to make labelling regulations that require meat, meat products, milk and milk products, and egg products, including those which have been produced intensively, to be labelled as to farming method. Eggs are not included as legislation already requires eggs to be labelled as to farming method.

New clause 12—International trade agreements: agricultural and food products (No. 2)—

“(1) A Minister of the Crown may not lay a copy of an international trade agreement before Parliament under section 20(1) of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 unless the agreement—

(a) includes an affirmation of the United Kingdom’s rights and obligations under the SPS Agreement, and

(b) prohibits the importation into the United Kingdom of agricultural and food products in relation to which the relevant standards are lower than the relevant standards in the United Kingdom.

(2) In subsection (1)—

“international trade agreement” means—

(a) an agreement that is or was notifiable under—

(i) paragraph 7(a) of Article XXIV of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, part of Annex 1A to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or

(ii) paragraph 7(a) of Article V of General Agreement on Trade in Services, part of Annex 1B to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or

(b) an international agreement that mainly relates to trade, other than an agreement mentioned in subparagraph (i) or (ii);

“Minister of the Crown” has the same meaning as in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975;

“relevant standards” means standards relating to environmental protection, plant health and animal welfare applying in connection with the production of agricultural and food products;

“SPS Agreement” means the agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, part of Annex 1A to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time);

“WTO Agreement” means the agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation signed at Marrakesh on 15 April 1994.”

New clause 14—Carbon emissions: net-zero and interim targets—

“(1) When considering the provision of financial assistance under sections 1(1) and 1(2) of this Act, the Secretary of State shall ensure that the likely impact of that funding is compatible with the achievement of any emissions reduction target set out in subsection (2) or (3).

(2) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to—

(a) set an emissions reduction target for the net UK carbon account for agriculture and related land use for the year 2050 which is at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline, and

(b) ensure that the target is met.

(3) The Secretary of State must, within six months of this Bill receiving Royal Assent, publish interim emissions reductions targets for agriculture and related land use that align with budgetary periods as they relate to carbon budgets.

(4) It is the duty of the Secretary of State to ensure that the net UK carbon account for agriculture and related land use for a budgetary period does not exceed any interim emissions reduction target published under subsection (3).

(5) The Secretary of State must, within twelve months of this Bill receiving Royal Assent, publish a statement of the policies to be delivered in order to meet the interim emissions reduction targets published under subsection (3).

(6) In this section—

(a) “net UK carbon account” shall have the meaning given in section 27 of the Climate Change Act 2008, and

(b) “budgetary periods” and “carbon budgets” shall have the meaning given in section 4 of the Climate Change Act 2008.”

This new clause would set a target of net-zero green-house gas emissions for agriculture and related land use in the UK by 2050 at the latest. It would place a duty on the Secretary of State to publish interim emissions reduction targets – and policy proposals to ensure those targets are met.

Amendment 26, in clause 1, page 2, line 9, at end insert—

“(aa) supporting agriculture and horticulture businesses in enabling public access to healthy food that is farmed in an environmentally sustainable way, including food produced through whole farm agroecological systems.”

This amendment would add to the purposes for which financial assistance can be given that of ensuring access to healthy food produced sustainably including through whole farm agroecological systems.

Amendment 27, page 2, line 13, at end insert—

“(ca) improving public health;”

This amendment would add “improving public health” to the list of purposes for financial assistance given under clause 1, with ‘improving public health’ defined in Amendment 29.

Amendment 3, page 2, leave out lines 19 and 20 and insert—

“(g) protecting or improving the management of landscapes and biodiversity through pasture-fed grazing livestock systems including the conservation of native livestock, native equines or genetic resources relating to any such animal;”

Amendment 2, page 2, line 25, at end insert—

“(k) protecting or improving the health, well-being and food security of citizens.”

Amendment 18, page 2, line 25, at end insert—

“(k) establishing and maintaining whole farm agroecological systems.”

Amendment 36, page 2, line 25, at end insert—

“(k) supporting upland landscapes and communities.”

Amendment 28, page 3, line 6, at end insert—

“‘environmentally sustainable way’ means in a way which employs factors and practices that contribute to the quality of environment on a long-term basis and avoids the depletion of natural resources.”

This amendment defines “environmentally sustainable way” for the purposes of clause 1(4) and Amendment 26.

Amendment 29, page 3, line 12, at end insert—

“‘improving public health’ includes—

(a) increasing the availability, affordability, diversity, quality and marketing of fruit, vegetables and pulses,

(b) reducing farm antibiotic and related veterinary product use, and antibiotic resistance in harmful micro-organisms, through improved animal health and welfare,

(c) providing support for farmers to diversify out of domestic production of foods where there may be reduced demand due to public concerns over issues such as health, environment, and animal welfare, and

(d) reducing harm from use of chemicals on farms, and reducing pesticide residues in food;”

See explanatory statement for Amendment 27.

Amendment 19, page 3, line 17, at end insert—

“‘whole farm agroecological systems’ include any whole enterprise system for farming or land management which is designed to produce food or fuel while delivering environmental and social benefits, and may include organic farming.”

Amendment 4, in clause 2, page 3, line 27, at end insert—

“(2A) In every case such conditions shall include the following restrictions to the eligibility of a recipient of financial assistance—

(a) financial assistance may only be made to individuals or groups of individuals, natural or otherwise, operating land where the predominant use is agricultural as defined by section 96(1) of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986; and

(b) financial assistance may only be made available to individuals or groups of individuals, natural or otherwise, who are—

(i) in occupation of or with rights of common over the land for which the financial assistance is being claimed;

(ii) taking the entrepreneurial risk for the decisions made in relation to the management of the land for which the financial assistance is being claimed; and

(iii) in day-to-day management control of the land for which the financial assistance has been claimed.”

Amendment 30, page 3, line 27, at end insert—

“(2A) Financial assistance may not be given to any person who is not compliant with standards set out in regulations made by the Secretary of State under section [Duty and regulations governing agricultural and horticultural activity].”

This amendment and NC8 provide a duty for the Secretary of State to set baseline regulatory standards governing agricultural and horticultural activity, which must be met by any recipient of financial assistance.

Amendment 17, page 3, line 33, at end insert—

“(4A) Financial assistance may only be given for or in connection with a purpose under section 1(1) or (2) if the owner of the relevant land takes the action described in subsection (4B).

(4B) The action is that the owner of the relevant land will not restrict access for any person on any inland waterway or lake which forms part of that land for the purposes of open-air recreation, if and so long as the person—

(a) exercises that right of access responsibly, and

(b) observes any restrictions which are imposed in—

(i) section 2 of,

(ii) Schedule 2 to, or

(iii) Chapter II of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

(4C) A person does not exercise a right of access responsibly if their conduct while exercising that right is not in accord with the provisions of any code of conduct issued under section 20 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

(4D) For the purposes of subsections (4A) and (4B), “relevant land” means land which includes the land or premises on which the activity for which financial assistance is given under section 1(1) or (2) of this Act takes place or is to take place and includes any inland waterway or lake.”

Amendment 42, in clause 3, page 4, line 18, at end insert—

“(e) development of a target or targets for the uptake of Integrated Pest Management based upon agroecological farming practices, including organic farming, and a robust system for monitoring progress towards such targets.”

This new amendment would enable the Secretary of State to set and monitor progress towards targets for the uptake of Integrated Pest Management based on agroecological farming practises, including for organic farming, in order to ensure that financial assistance granted under the Agriculture Bill is meeting its objectives in terms of environmental outcomes.

Amendment 5, in clause 4, page 5, line 14, at end insert—

“(d) set out the budgeted annual expenditure to be used to achieve each of the aforementioned strategic priorities for the plan period.”

Amendment 6, in clause 8, page 7, line 40, leave out “2021” and insert “2022”.

Amendment 1, in clause 16, page 12, line 42, at end insert—

“(ba) making provision for future contributions to existing rural socioeconomic schemes;”

This amendment would safeguard the availability of financial provisions to continue the socioeconomic programmes under Rural Development Programmes in the event of delays in the introduction of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

Amendment 23, in clause 17, page 14, line 20, leave out “five years” and insert “year”.

This amendment would make the Secretary of State’s report on food security annual instead of five-yearly.

Amendment 24, page 14, line 27, at end insert—

“(ba) food poverty and progress towards achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goal on hunger, malnutrition and food poverty (SDG 2);”

This amendment would add food poverty and progress towards the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 to the matters to be covered by the report.

Amendment 25, page 14, line 32, at end insert—

“(f) food insecurity.

(3) For the purposes of this section “food insecurity” means a person’s state in which consistent access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money and other resources at times during the year.

(4) Before laying a report under subsection (1) the Secretary of State must—

(a) consult the Scottish Ministers, the Welsh Ministers, the relevant Northern Ireland department, and such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate, and

(b) have due regard to international best practice on food insecurity, including but not limited to the United States Household Food Security Survey.

(5) A report under subsection (1) must include—

(a) an assessment of trends in food insecurity, broken down by different parts of the United Kingdom and different regions of England, and

(b) a summary of actions to be taken in areas of high food insecurity by the UK Government, the Scottish Government, the Welsh Government or the Northern Ireland Executive.

(6) In this section—

“parts of the United Kingdom” means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

“regions of England” has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This amendment would add food insecurity to the matters to be covered by the report.

Amendment 7, page 14, line 32, at end insert—

“(3) As part of the report, the Secretary of State must set out food security targets and specify and implement any actions required to ensure that those targets are met.”

Amendment 8, in clause 18, page 15, leave out lines 2 and 3 and insert—

“(a) there is an acute or chronic disturbance in agricultural markets or a serious threat of an acute or chronic disturbance in agricultural markets caused by economic or environmental factors, and”.

Amendment 31, in clause 27, page 23, line 15, leave out “a specified person” and insert “the Groceries Code Adjudicator”.

This amendment is intended to ensure that the role of regulating agricultural contracts is given to the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s office.

Amendment 32, page 23, line 23, at end insert—

“(8A) The Groceries Code Adjudicator Act 2013 is amended, by inserting after section 2 (Arbitration)—

‘2A Fair dealing: determination of complaints alleging non-compliance

(1) If a complaint relating to alleged non-compliance is referred to the Adjudicator under section 27(8)(a) of the Agriculture Act 2020, the Adjudicator must determine the complaint.

(2) In determining any allegation of non-compliance under subsection (1), the Adjudicator must act in accordance with any regulations made under subsection (1) of section 27 of the Agriculture Act 2020 which make provision for investigation of complaints, imposition of penalties or a requirement to pay compensation, as specified by subsection (8) of section 27 of that Act.’”

This amendment would specify the process to be followed by the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s office in determining a complaint made under the Agriculture Act 2020.

Amendment 33, page 23, line 25, after “any” insert “competent and appropriate”.

This amendment is intended to ensure that the role of regulating agricultural contracts is given to a body which is competent to undertake qualitative assessments; for example, the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s office.

Amendment 34, page 23, line 26, after “provide for a” insert “competent and appropriate”.

This amendment is intended to ensure that the role of regulating agricultural contracts is given to a body which is competent to undertake qualitative assessments; for example, the Groceries Code Adjudicator’s office.

Amendment 38, in clause 33, page 30, line 44, at end insert—

“(2A) The scheme must be made by 1 April 2021.”

Amendment 39, in clause 42, page 38, line 28, leave out subsections (4) and (5).

Amendment 12, in schedule 3, page 50, line 15, leave out “may” and insert “must”.

Amendment 11, page 50, leave out lines 25 to 36 and insert—

“(3) A request falls within this subsection if—

(a) it is a request for—

(i) the landlord’s consent to a matter which under the terms of the tenancy requires such consent, or

(ii) a variation of the terms of the tenancy, or

(iii) the landlord’s consent to a matter which otherwise requires such consent.

(b) it is made for the purposes of—

(i) enabling the tenant to request or apply for relevant financial assistance or relevant financial assistance of a description specified in the regulations, or

(ii) complying with a statutory duty, or a statutory duty of a description specified in the regulations, applicable to the tenant, or

(iii) to secure either or both of the full and efficient farming of the holding or an environmental improvement, and”.

Amendment 13, page 51, line 34, at end insert

“, or

(d) a scheme of financial assistance in whatever form introduced by Welsh Ministers;”.

Amendment 16, page 54, line 20, at end insert—

“Succession on death of tenant

21A In section 35, leave out subsection (2) and insert—

‘(2) In sections 36 to 48 below (and in Part I of Schedule 6 to this Act)—

“close relative” of a deceased tenant means—

(a) the wife husband or civil partner of the deceased;

(b) a brother or sister of the deceased;

(c) a child of the deceased;

(d) a nephew or niece of the deceased;

(e) a grandchild of the deceased;

(f) any person (not within (b) or (c) or (d) or (e) above) who, in the case of any marriage or civil partnership or other cohabitation to which the deceased was a at any time a party, was treated by the deceased as a child of the family in relation to that marriage or civil partnership or other cohabitation;’”.

Amendment 15, page 54, line 20, at end insert—

“Succession on retirement of tenant

21B In section 49, leave out subsection (3) and insert—

‘(3) In this section and sections 50 to 58 below (and in Part I of Schedule 6 to this Act as applied by section 50(4))—

“close relative” of the retiring tenant means—

(a) the wife husband or civil partner of the retiring tenant;

(b) a brother or sister of the retiring tenant;

(c) a child of the retiring tenant;

(d) a nephew or niece of the retiring tenant;

(e) a grandchild of the retiring tenant;

(f) any person (not within (b) or (c) or (d) or (e) above) who, in the case of any marriage or civil partnership or other cohabitation to which the retiring tenant has been at any time a party, has been treated by the latter as a child of the family in relation to that marriage or civil partnership or other cohabitation;’”.

Amendment 14, page 54, line 24, at end insert—

“Termination of tenancies of 10 years or more

22A Before section 8 insert—

‘7A Termination of tenancies of 10 years or more

(1) Where a farm business tenancy has been granted for a fixed term of 10 years or more without any provision for the landlord to terminate the tenancy on a specific date or dates during the fixed term, the landlord may serve notice to quit on the tenant of the holding using the provisions of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 Schedule 3 Parts I and II in accordance with the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 Schedule 4 and all Orders introduced as mentioned in that schedule in respect of the following cases—

(a) Case B

(b) Case D

(c) Case E

(d) Case F

(e) Case G

(2) In addition to any compensation required to be paid to the tenant by the landlord following the termination of a tenancy using Case B, the landlord shall pay additional compensation to the tenant at an amount equal to ten years’ rent of the holding or attributed to the part of the holding upon which notice to quit has been served at the rate at which rent was payable immediately before the termination of the tenancy.””

Amendment 10, page 55, line 19, at end insert—

“Requests for landlord’s consent or variation of terms

25A Before section 28 insert—

‘27A Disputes relating to requests for landlord’s consent or variation of terms

(1) The appropriate authority must by regulations make provision for the tenant of an agricultural holding to refer for arbitration under this Act a request made by the tenant to the landlord where—

(a) the request falls within subsection (3), and

(b) no agreement has been reached with the landlord on the request.

(2) The regulations may also provide that, where the tenant is given the right to refer a request to arbitration, the landlord and tenant may instead refer the request for third party determination under this Act.

(3) A request falls within this subsection if—

(a) it is a request for—

(i) the landlord’s consent to a matter which under the terms of the tenancy requires such consent, or

(ii) a variation of the terms of the tenancy, or

(iii) the landlord’s consent to a matter which otherwise requires such consent

(b) it is made for the purposes of—

(i) enabling the tenant to request or apply for relevant financial assistance or relevant financial assistance of a description specified in the regulations, or

(ii) complying with a statutory duty, or a statutory duty of a description specified in the regulations, applicable to the tenant, or

(iii) to secure either or both of the full and efficient farming of the holding or an environmental improvement, and

(c) it meets such other conditions (if any) as may be specified in the regulations.

(4) The regulations may provide for the arbitrator or third party on a reference made under the regulations, where the arbitrator or third party considers it reasonable and just (as between the landlord and tenant) to do so—

(a) to order the landlord to comply with the request (either in full or to the extent specified in the award or determination);

(b) to make any other award or determination permitted by the regulations.

(5) The regulations may (among other things) make provision—

(a) about conditions to be met before a reference may be made;

(b) about matters which an arbitrator or third party is to take into account when considering a reference;

(c) for regulating the conduct of arbitrations or third-party determinations;

(d) about the awards or determinations which may be made by the arbitrator or third party, which may include making an order for a variation in the rent of the holding or for the payment of compensation or costs;

(e) about the time at which, or the conditions subject to which, an award or determination may be expressed to take effect;

(f) for restricting a tenant’s ability to make subsequent references to arbitration where a reference to arbitration or third-party determination has already been made under the regulations in relation to the same tenancy.

(6) The provision covered by subsection (5)(e) includes, in the case of a request made for the purpose described in subsection (3)(b)(i)), conditions relating to the making of a successful application for assistance.

(7) In this section—

“appropriate authority” means—

(a) in relation to England, the Secretary of State, and

(b) in relation to Wales, the Welsh Ministers;

“relevant financial assistance” means financial assistance under—

(a) section 1 of the Agriculture Act 2020 (powers of Secretary of State to give financial assistance),

(b) section 19 of, or paragraph 7 of Schedule 5 to, that Act (powers of Secretary of State and Welsh Ministers to give financial assistance in exceptional market conditions), or

(c) a scheme of the sort mentioned in section 2(4) of that Act (third party schemes), or

(d) a scheme of financial assistance in whatever form introduced by Welsh Ministers;

“statutory duty” means a duty imposed by or under—

(a) an Act of Parliament;

(b) an Act or Measure of the National Assembly for Wales;

(c) retained direct EU legislation.’”

Amendment 40, in schedule 4, page 56, line 21, at end insert—


Products falling within the table in Part XVII of Annex 1 of the CMO Regulation, but excluding any entry in the table for live animals”.

This amendment adds “pigmeat” to Schedule 4. Clause 35 enables the Secretary of State to establish marketing standards in relation to products that “fall within a sector listed in Schedule 4”. Sectors listed include beef and veal, poultry and poultrymeat, milk and milk products, and eggs and egg products, but not pigmeat.

Government amendments 20 to 22.

Amendment 9, in schedule 5, page 61, leave out lines 25 and 26 and insert—

“(a) there is an acute or chronic disturbance in agricultural markets or a serious threat of an acute or chronic disturbance in agricultural markets caused by economic or environmental factors, and”.

Amendment 37, in the title, line 17, after

“with the WTO Agreement on Agriculture;” insert

“to require animal products to be labelled as to farming method;”.

This would amend the long title to enable the Bill to require the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring animal products to be labelled as to farming method.

I call Simon Hoare, who is asked to speak for no more than eight minutes.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker.

As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, I welcome this Bill. It is the first piece of agricultural legislation to come before our country since 1947, and what a glorious opportunity it is to set out what is important to us both in what our policies should be and how we can help to shape and lead future thinking.

The events of the past few weeks have given our country pause for thought as we have evaluated what is important to us—what we value, what we stand for, who we are. While covid has presented that as an opportunity, this Bill does the same with regard to agriculture: what does a global Britain in a non-membership of the European Union world look like? Just as this country has been a trailblazer against female genital mutilation, modern slavery and the trade in ivory, so I believe we can be in our high standards that prevail in agriculture today with regard to animal welfare, food production, agricultural practices and environmental standards. So important are these issues that they were writ large in the Conservative party manifesto of only December last year. Every Minister—the Prime Minister, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary and others—when questioned on these important issues before, during and after the referendum campaign has asserted their absolute, cast-iron guaranteed support for them.

Our farmers and food producers work under those high standards of regulation willingly. They understand their importance and the consumer confidence that they bring. They understand that they add value to the provenance of our food and drink exports. I was therefore not very pleased to have to table new clause 1. The thrust that lies behind it says, in essence, that any food product imported into the United Kingdom under a free trade agreement should be raised to standards either equal to or greater than those that prevail within the UK, and that the Secretary of State should annually update a list of standards. That would not force countries that have entered into an FTA with us to change all their practices. It would simply be up to producers to work out if they were not hitting our standards and then, if they wished to access our lucrative markets, to change their practices in order so to do—the ordinary operation of the market.

My new clause is not about stymieing free trade agreements, and neither is that in the name of my hon. Friend Neil Parish—we understand the huge potential benefits that can accrue from them. But this is not about firing the starting gun for a race to the bottom. There is no merit in deliberately setting out in Government policy the creation of an unlevel playing field. Food imports to this country would be cheap for no reason bar the fact that they were raised to lower standards. Anybody can look at a variety of websites and realise some of the pretty horrendous ways in which livestock is raised in a number of countries across the world. We should shun that and be a beacon for excellence and high standards.

Those cheap food imports would remain cheap only while there was a viable scale of domestic production to create some sort of viable competition. As soon as it was choked off or choked down—reduced to a scale no more than meeting the artisan market or a farmers’ market—those prices would start to rise, and we would have lost our agricultural sector. I represent the constituency of North Dorset, where agriculture and farming is absolutely pivotal. My manifesto in the 2015, 2017 and 2019 elections was very clear that I would speak up and stand up for farmers, understanding the importance that they play in our economy.

The new clause is not anti-free trade or anti-American, but pro our standards being a beacon and pro ensuring that there is a future for our agricultural sector and for our consumers to purchase securely and safely. The new clause has attracted support from across the House and from both wings of my party: people who voted to leave the European Union and people who voted to remain. Anybody trying to dress this up as some sort of closet attempt to remain within the European Union does so at grave peril.

The new clause is also supported by a host of radical crypto-anarchic organisations: the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; the Country Land and Business Association; the Soil Association; that well known anarchic group the Wildlife Trust; LEAF—Linking Environment and Farming; the Tenant Farmers Association; the National Farmers Union; and, worst of all, that Leninist organisation the Woodland Trust.

This is not a crypto-communist move against capitalism; it is about trying to create a level playing field. It is not a coercive approach to those who might enter a free trade agreement, but an invitation to meet our standards if they wish to trade. If one accepts that food production and food security are important, it would require an incredibly brave Minister of the Crown, and an incredibly brave Parliament, if our farmers came to us and said, “Look, we are just about on the brink. You will have to lower our standards and change our regulations in order to allow us to compete.” I do not want to see that, and nor does my party.

Our Prime Minister takes animal welfare very seriously, as do the Farming Minister, my hon. Friend Victoria Prentis, and the Secretary of State. However, most countries in the world value their food production, value their food security, and seek out and adopt policies in order to ensure that they have a viable future. New clause 1 does just that, and I hope that either the Minister will be in a position to accept it this afternoon, or we will see what the House has to say about it later.

Photo of Luke Pollard Luke Pollard Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will speak to the amendments that stand in my name and that of the Leader of the Opposition. Food policy has been overlooked and sidelined in our politics for far too long. Empty shelves, crops underwater in flooded fields, food bank growth and the growing obesity crisis demand that it enjoys more of our focus in the next decade than it had in the last. I want to see a greater focus on the quality and resilience of the food that we eat and the quality of the air that we breathe. Our new focus on food is for life and not just for coronavirus.

I place on record my heartfelt thanks to all the food heroes—the hidden heroes—who have kept the nation fed throughout the coronavirus crisis. From the fishers and the farmers, the distributors and the drivers, the processers and the pickers, to the shelf stackers and the supermarket workers, these people are finally getting the recognition that they deserve as key workers. The pay, conditions, pensions, protections and political focus on them must now follow. In declaring my interest, may I remind the House that my little sister is one of those key workers, as a sheep farmer on her farm in Cornwall?

At the very heart of this debate today is a very simple question, which Simon Hoare mentioned in his opening remarks. What kind of country do we want to be—one where farm standards are a pawn in a trade deal with our values traded for market access, or a nation that says Britain is a force for good in the world and upholds our high standards for food grown locally and food imported alike? At a time of climate crisis, we must choose to rebuild a better, greener, more sustainable and fairer Britain than we had before.

The path ahead of us is uncertain, but we must learn the lessons of those who came before us. We must not trade away the values that make us British and make us proud to be British: high environmental standards in food production; decent pay for those who tend our fields—at least, they should be paid well; animal welfare standards that increase, not slide; and a determination that we will never, ever again be held hostage by our inability, by choice or natural cause, to feed ourselves.

The Agriculture Bill is not a trivial matter; nor is food production. The Bill will fundamentally change the system of farm support, so it deserves our attention. However, an Agriculture Bill without a focus on food is an odd beast. It almost entirely omits food, and therefore does not even begin to solve all the problems that the virus has both caused and revealed. I would wager that the Environment Secretary and the farming Minister did not have the whip hand in the timing of this Bill, and that it is down to Downing Street and its free marketeer agenda, seeking to see off a rebellion of Tory MPs rightly unhappy and uneasy about leaving the door open to imports of food produced to lower standards, that we are here today on a contentious piece of legislation in the middle of a national crisis.

The new clauses in the names of the Chairs of the two Select Committees—the hon. Members for North Dorset and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish)—and those in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and me all seek to do one very simple thing, which is to put Government promises into law. The promise from the Conservative manifesto says:

“In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”

These words are meaningless unless they are backed up by law. The amendments today reflect a cross-party concern that the promises of high standards will not be kept unless they appear in black and white in the Bill. The right place to deal with farm standards is a Bill about farming. Indeed, the Leader of the House has just said from the Dispatch Box that he is about delivering on the manifesto and that this is essential. I agree on this point: those standards are essential, and they must be delivered on in law.

I suspect the Minister will shortly say that the subjects of these amendments would best be dealt with in the Trade Bill. I disagree with her on that and, unfortunately, so do her own Government. It seems the Government’s trade team are arguing that the Trade Bill is actually not for setting up trade architecture. They argue that it is a continuity Bill for rolling over existing agreements that Britain is a party to as part of the EU, so we will need another trade Bill that has not been published, written or designed yet to deal with matters such as democratic oversight of trade deals. There is zero chance, as the Minister knows, of such a Bill appearing or passing before the 31 December deadline, so we come to the necessity of this issue being dealt with in this Bill, where it can be discussed and implemented ahead of the 31 December deadline. It must not be parked or lost in the long grass of future Bills that have not yet appeared.

These amendments are being opposed, to my mind, simply because they would make it harder to have a trade deal with nations for which lower food and farm standards are the norm. The inescapable truth of Ministers refusing to put these sensible amendments into law is that allowing British farmers to be undercut by cheap imported food is part of the Government’s plan, and it should not be. Labour has tabled the amendments because we will not allow British farmers to go out of business because they are being undercut by cheap imports that would be illegal if they were grown or produced in the UK.

There is no urban-rural divide on high farm standards or on animal health and welfare, no divide when it comes to wanting high environmental standards preserved and no divide between feeders and eaters when it comes to food safety and food quality. This Bill is, by and large, a reasonable Bill.

DEFRA officials and Ministers have worked hard to get the detail right, but the political handcuffs placed on the Environment Secretary and his Ministers to tie them to oppose these reasonable, sensible, necessary and essential amendments betray the bigger political agenda at play here. Both the Environment Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Victoria Prentis, who has responsibility for farming, have good agricultural pedigree, and I am reassured that those with experience are at the helm of the Department, but if orders are coming from the Department for International Trade, they have my sympathy for being caught in the invidious place of choosing between what is right and what they are told to do.

The inevitable deregulatory pressure from poorer quality food will put pressure on Britain to slash our high standards so that farmers can compete; it risks a race to the bottom. That risks the animal husbandry and the environmental gains Ministers have committed themselves to. If Ministers are to protect only the standards for UK producers and do not set bars for foreign producers to meet in order to sell into the British markets, the path ahead for our farmers will be a dark one. We know that if only some of our farm standards are protected in legislation, in reality none of our standards are protected.

The Bill already includes a provision on food security reports on this challenge. The expected five-year frequency of publication does not match the annual barometer that it needs to meet. It is because the virus has shone a spotlight on the fragility of our food supply system that we are proposing that a food security report is published within six months of this Bill becoming law, focusing on the food supply problems highlighted by the virus: the fragility of supply, concerns over agricultural labour supply and the nutritional value of food parcels for those who are being shielded. Ensuring that food parcels are nutritionally balanced and culturally appropriate is necessary to ensure that those who are being shielded can receive the benefits of a good diet and not be compelled to head out to the shops to ensure that they can eat healthily, as that would defeat the purpose of this in the first place.

The nutrition of the nation is a national priority for Labour. That is why this amendment also stands in my name, and it does so proudly and distinct from party politics. However, the shortage of food and the rising incidences of food poverty scream out and demand our rational consideration of the causes of the crisis. I hope the Minister will adopt that amendment, as the Bill needs a greater focus on food, which the amendment would provide. The amendments on food standards are what our farmers are asking for, what the public expect and what was in the Conservative manifesto. I ask the Minister to back those amendments, recognising that Labour MPs, Conservative MPs, farmers and environmental groups all stand united here. I hope she will do the right thing and ensure that food poverty is addressed and that farm standards can be upheld proudly, ensuring that no farmer is undercut in future trade deals.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I should start by declaring my interest: my family has farmed on the Oxfordshire- Northamptonshire border for many years, and I am also a keen smallholder. This is a very important moment for agriculture in this country. This Bill is the first of its kind for more than 70 years and it will allow us to shape farming for the future. This Bill is about farmers, and sets out a framework policy for rewarding them as they produce food and provide public goods.

I thank all Members who have tabled amendments. I apologise if the hybrid nature of the debate prevents me from engaging fully with every point—it is not ideal. I am, however, reassured that the Bill has been thoroughly scrutinised by not one but two Public Bill Committees. I am keen to continue to engage with Members across the House as we develop the details of the policies. I must also record my thanks to those who have worked so hard to ensure that we have all been fed in these frightening times: farmers, manufacturers and retailers. They are food heroes, and they have worked together and struggled on despite workforce shortages and social distancing measures. I hope that a lasting legacy of this pandemic is that we all think a little more about where our food comes from.

The feeding the vulnerable taskforce, which I chair, has worked hard to ensure that those parts of society on whom this crisis falls the hardest can access food. On Friday, we announced £16 million of funding for food charities. Measures in this Bill would have been very useful two months ago. I commend in particular the powers in clauses 18 and 19, which would have made it easier and quicker to support farmers during these difficult times. Under Clause 17, for the first time, the Government will have a duty to take a regular, systematic view of our overall food security at least every five years, giving time to observe trends. That is not to say that we have to wait five years between reviews at all. The majority of data covered will, of course, be available between reports, and we certainly have no intention of waiting until the end of the five-year period to publish our first report. That report will, of course, take into account what we have learnt from the current pandemic.

This is a domestic Bill. It is not about trade. However, I have heard colleagues across the House—I am sure I will hear them again this afternoon—voice concerns about the effect of future trade agreements on UK agriculture. Some are concerned about a reduction in standards, particularly those for animal welfare. Others are concerned that there will not be a level playing field between our products and those coming from abroad.

Like the rest of my colleagues on this side of the House, I was elected on a very clear manifesto commitment—one that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has reiterated since—that in all our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. This Government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure that any deals live up to the values of our farmers and consumers. We are keen to ensure that parliamentarians, consumers and businesses have access to the information they need on our trade negotiations. Trade talks with the US opened formally last Tuesday. Ahead of that, the Government set out the negotiating objectives and associated documents, and a similar process will be replicated in the coming months as we do the same for deals with Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

I am grateful for the continued contributions of the National Farmers Union and others who sit on our expert trade advisory group, which helped shape this trade policy and feeds straight into the negotiating team. I assure the House that we are actively exploring how to build on that industry participation.

I reassure colleagues that all food coming into this country will be required to meet existing import requirements. At the end of the transition period, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will convert all EU standards into domestic law. That will include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in beef. Nothing apart from potable water may be used to clean chicken carcases, and any changes to those standards would have to come before this Parliament. We will be doing our own inspections to ensure that those import conditions are met.

While we all want to support British farmers, if passed, the well-meaning amendments would have unintended consequences. The supply of food would be significantly disrupted if goods that meet our current import standards were blocked. New clauses 1 and 2 would affect UK exports to countries with whom, as part of the EU, we currently have trade agreements. I am concerned that the extra conditions in the two new clauses could result in countries refusing to enter into continuity agreements. For example, accepting new clause 2 would risk whisky exports worth £578 million. Another example is the impact on potato exporters. Some 22% of potato exports went to countries with whom a continuity agreement has not yet been signed.

If the amendments were passed, an assessment of our current UK production standards, followed by an assessment of all relevant standards in a third country, followed by an assessment of how those compared with UK legislation and UK production standards would be required to make sure that any FTA complied with them. That would all have to be done by the end of December.

I understand that Members want to ensure safeguards for our farmers. However, I have serious concerns about the unintended consequences of the amendments for our producers and exporters. Our manifesto commitment is clear that the Government will support farmers and protect our standards. All the rules, regulations and robust processes are already in place for that.

On labelling, I am looking forward to hearing from my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch on her labelling amendment. I understand that she will be championing consumer choice in the domestic market, which is very important. Other colleagues, including my right hon. Friend Esther McVey, and my hon. Friends the Members for Totnes (Anthony Mangnall) and for West Dorset (Chris Loder), have asked us to explore whether labelling approaches could be used to differentiate products that meet domestic production standards from those that do not. This would include exploring mandatory labelling. Any scheme could not be devised until we have completed the transition period and would of course need to recognise World Trade Organisation obligations, but I assure Members from across the House that this is something we will consider closely and on which we are prepared to consult.

We all hope that UK food producers will benefit from increased export opportunities as we open up foreign markets. For example, in the last year, we have seen the lifting of a 20-year ban on the export of UK beef and lamb to Japan. Our “Food is GREAT” campaign targets consumer audiences abroad and is boosting global demand for our food and drink.

I turn now to amendments relating to financial assistance. I defy anyone to maintain that the common agricultural policy was good for either environmental protection or the productivity of British farming. It has held us back. It has paid those with more land more subsidy, regardless of what they did with it. It has favoured some parts of the industry over others. We are really keen that that changes now. We have an exciting opportunity to reset and plan for the future.

Passing the Bill will give farmers and land managers a clear direction. In England, it will enable us to deliver direct payments, simplified countryside stewardship schemes and productivity grants next year. I assure Luke Pollard that that is why this Bill is top of the queue. The gradual seven-year transition will allow farmers and land managers time to prepare for the new environmental land management scheme, which is currently being tested. Upland farmers, for example, will be well placed to benefit from it. We will also create a UK shared prosperity fund to address the needs of rural businesses and communities. Delaying the start of the agricultural transition to 2022 would just delay the many benefits of moving away from direct payments. To provide reassurance again, for 80% of farmers, our maximum reductions for 2021 will be modest at under 5%.

Improving the health of our environment as set out in the “25 Year Environment Plan” is a priority. The measures in the Bill will help us to combat climate change, but the Bill is not the place for targets. Environmental land management will be critical in helping us to deliver against our legally binding target to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. We recognise that for these policies to be effective, they need to be properly funded. In our manifesto, we committed to maintain current agricultural spending for each year of this Parliament. Of course, this is a framework Bill, and this is only the beginning. I look forward to working with colleagues across the House and with groups such as the NFU to develop the policy that will flow from this legislation.

I turn now to amendments tabled on agroecological farming practices, and on reducing the use of pesticides. We are already testing how ELM can support farmers to take a whole-farm holistic approach. We have 50 tests and trials in progress, with many more planned before the national pilot starts in 2021. We are considering innovative solutions such as integrated pest management, which aims to reduce pesticide use on farms. We absolutely agree that pesticides should not be used where that use may harm human health, and we have a robust regulatory system in place to ensure that.

I turn now to the many benefits that the Bill will bring farmers in the devolved Administrations. Clause 33 tackles an unfairness in the red meat levy system and will allow the levy collected from animals that have crossed a border for slaughter to be returned to where the animals were reared. The levy boards are working very hard to devise a scheme, and our aim is to have one in place by April 2021. New Clause 9 is for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister to consider. I understand that he has no plans, at this stage, to introduce a sunset clause. The UK Government will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations. I reiterate our commitment to consulting with the devolved Administrations on our proposals for regulations to be made under the WTO clauses.

I turn to the amendments on fairness and transparency in the supply chain. No decisions have yet been taken on the subject of the appropriate enforcement body. We are exploring options with the industry first before designing the enforcement regimes and appointing a regulator, but I will keep the House up to date on that.

I turn to the amendments on tenancies. Tenants should be able to benefit from our new payment policies, and we will continue to work closely with the industry—we had a large consultation last year—as we develop these policies further.

Finally, three minor technical Government amendments have been tabled in the name of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State at the request of the Welsh Government. These are needed in order to bridge the gap until new powers are provided by Welsh legislation in the Senedd.

The Bill provides a framework for an exciting future for farming. It will ensure that those who produce our food are properly rewarded, and that farming efficiently and improving the environment will go hand in hand in the future. I very much look forward to working with colleagues across the House to develop the environmental land management policies, and to working out how they will work not only on the ground, but above and beneath it.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

I will speak to amendment 39, which is in my name.

This is a strange beast of a Bill—a hybrid that covers reserved and devolved competences, and a Lazarus that has had to rise again after that odd election in December. It now looks as if it will be the first UK Bill to be passed under the new hybrid procedures, and therefore the first UK legislation to be passed using electronic voting—so even Westminster can look a bit modern when it needs to. Perhaps electronic voting and other good developments might be retained after this pandemic is over.

Of course, the Bill is only needed because we are leaving the EU, so it is a case of cauterising a self-made wound. The Bill will pass because farmers—our food producers—need to be provided with the support they need to keep going. I will say it again, because it bears repeating: farmers are good stewards of the land; they take good care of it. It is, after all, one of their biggest assets, and it is essential to their ongoing businesses and livelihoods. Good farmers manage the land well and improve it.

I urge the Government to offer farmers more immediate support to help them get through this crisis, so that they can come out the other side with working farms and productive land. There might even be opportunities for them to use this time to innovate—to adapt their farming and business practices to a new model with an eye to future operations. We recently passed legislation that set up a new payment system. I do not see any reason why the Government should not use that to support farmers now.

We have a few choice selections on the amendment paper, and the SNP will be backing sensible improvements to the Bill. We support writing the need for high standards in imported foods into the legislation, and will be voting for that. It is of great concern to farmers, fishers and other food producers that any low-quality, mass-produced, low-price rubbish from elsewhere might be allowed to flood the market and squeeze them out. Our food producers have high-quality, high-standard and high-welfare products that provide consumers with excellent nutrition. We would be doing the food producers, the end consumers and the retailers a disservice if we allowed those high-quality products to be squeezed out by any low-quality products that have to be, for example, dipped in bleach to kill pathogens before they are dumped on the shelves. It is also a massive concern for consumers, who do not want to see their choices shut down by low-grade products.

Save our farmers, save our cooking and save our families. We must support continued high standards in animal welfare, plant hygiene and end product quality. Do not dump rubbish in our kitchens and on our plates. Let us have standards on imported food that are as high as the standards on food produced on these islands. I noted the Minister’s commitment in her speech to maintaining those standards, but I cannot understand why it is not on the face of the Bill. I look forward to her explaining that a little further later, because I am afraid that her explanations were not sufficient for me.

We also support the principles the shadow Secretary of State has written into new clause 7. Food poverty in these wealthy nations was always a disgrace, but the pandemic has brought that inequality and inhumanity into sharp relief. Action is needed to address that. I can only hope that the Government take that under advisement and look to extend the principle in the long term. People should not go hungry, or have to rely on charity to feed their children; decency and humanity are not too expensive.

Public Health Scotland looks at the effects of poverty on health, including food poverty, and analyses possible solutions as part of its work. I would imagine that Public Health England must be doing something similar, so the preparation for this would not be as big a task as it might seem, and Scotland might also offer a template you can adapt to serve England better. The “Fairer Scotland” action plan seeks to address gross inequalities. Recommendations from an independent working group on food poverty informed the creation of a fair food fund, which is now part of a larger fund investing in communities. A large lesson from that is that you cannot address food poverty properly unless you address poverty properly, and you have to roll back austerity fully if you are going to do that. You also need to ensure that there is nutritious and untainted food available, which brings us back to the principles underpinning the need to keep import standards high. There is not, however, a recognition of the devolved Governments in the amendment and it is a devolved competence, which leaves us unable to support it.

I turn now to the amendments we have lodged, including mine on import standards. I want to mention the timeous commencement of the proper operation of the red meat levy. I understand that the boards themselves are in agreement about the way forward and have been for some time, and it is incumbent upon the Government to accommodate the ambition they are showing by making sure that the machinery of the scheme is up to scratch and ready to rock ‘n’ roll as soon as possible. Scotland’s farmers have already waited far too long to get their money back so that their investments can support their businesses. I note the Minister’s commitment on this, but we will be continuing to press the Government on their commitment to April delivery.

The amendment I would like to put forward for a vote today is a bit technical. It is explained in some detail and at length in Holyrood’s Sewel memo, or legislative consent memorandum to give it the fancy title, if anyone needs the background, but it concerns the reporting to the WTO. My amendment 39 addresses the concerns in the Sewel memo and would remove the scheme that renders the devolved Administrations subject to the whims of the Secretary of State. It is surely a central principle of devolution that the devolved Administrations should be free to operate in devolved policy areas without interference from the UK Government. As the Bill currently stands, the power to determine how farming support is treated for the purposes of WTO reporting, and therefore the ceilings in each classification of support, are reserved to the UK Government rather than the devolved Administrations, which will still be tasked with providing the support to farmers. I must stress that this is a new reservation; it is a centralisation of function that does not currently exist, so I urge Members to support amendment 39 to remove that from the Bill.

I am conscious that we have a restricted timetable for these proceedings, so I will end my contribution there.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Thank you. I am now introducing a time limit of five minutes, and advise hon. Members speaking virtually to have a timing device visible.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate. Given covid-19, I want to pay my great tribute to all the health workers across the country, and also the food producers, farmers, deliverers and those who process the food to get it into our shops and to consumers. It has never been so important to have home production and good-quality food in this country. It is not only farmers and growers who want that; so do the supermarkets and other retailers and the consumers. We are all working together to deliver higher and higher standards, better welfare and better environmental conditions.

The whole raison d’être of the Bill is to move us in the direction of higher welfare and environmental standards, looking after our land and soils, holding back water and having better flood protection—all of this working together. But farming, and especially commercial farming, needs to be able to produce food and to do so competitively. As Government and Opposition Members have said, there has never been more of a need to deliver sustainable, good, affordable food in this country than there is today.

I very much support new clause 1 from my hon. Friend Simon Hoare and, naturally, new clause 2, which is in my name and the names of the EFRA Committee members. This is about having equivalence of production on imported food, so that it is WTO-compliant, and it is very much about getting very good trade deals in future. I want to see British lamb and more cheese go into America. I want to see everything being exported to America, and I am very happy to have imports from America in a new trade deal, but they cannot undercut our present production methods and animal welfare.

I will say this clearly to the Americans: if we look at American poultry production, we see that they use chlorine wash for about 25% or 30% of that—for the lower end of their production, where the chickens are more densely populated and there are much poorer welfare and environmental conditions—to literally clean it up so that is safe to eat, and of course, in doing that, they reduce the cost of production, but they also reduce the welfare of that poultry. I would say clearly to the Secretary of State for International Trade that she should spend her time going out and dealing with a trade deal that has equivalence and making sure that we export our very important animal and environmental welfare. And I would say to the Americans, “Why don’t you upgrade your production? Why don’t you reduce the density and population of your chickens? Why do you not reduce the amount of antibiotics that you are using, and then you will produce better chicken not only for America: it can also come into this country?”

Let us not be frightened of putting clauses into the Bill that protect us, with the great environmental and welfare standards that we want the whole Bill to have, and that farmers want to have. I think we all accept that the common agricultural policy has not been a huge success. Therefore, we can devise a better Agriculture—and food—Bill, and that is what we have to remember: agriculture is about food, and it has never been more important than now to have high-quality food. If I get the opportunity, I will most definitely push new clause 2 to a Division and I will most definitely support new clause 1. There are also Opposition new clauses that I am also prepared to look at, because I think we have to make this Bill good. It is no good being told, “Don’t put it in the Agriculture Bill; put it in the Trade Bill.” When we try to put it in the Trade Bill, it will be out of scope. We are being led down the garden path—we really are —and it is time for us to stand up and be counted.

I want great trade deals. I am not a little Englander who will defend our agriculture against all imports—quite the reverse. I think competition is good, but on a level playing field that allows us to produce great food and allows our consumers to have great food, and makes sure that we deliver good agriculture and environment for the future.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Labour, South Shields

I would like to speak to amendments 23 to 25 and record my support for new clause 7. That I am speaking to these amendments should come as no surprise to the House since they are the contents of my Food Insecurity Bill.

Since 2017, I have been pleading with the Government to introduce a simple, cost-neutral measurement of food insecurity into the household surveys that they already conduct. Each time hunger is raised in this place, various Secretaries of State and Ministers have denigrated statistics from charities, researchers, food banks and colleagues, claiming that the figures are not robust enough or that the information is not reliable enough to inform Government policy. Denying the accuracy of the data or simply turning a blind eye allows them to pretend that the problem does not exist, but it does, and it is only by knowing the true scale of UK hunger that we can start to mitigate it.

When I introduced my Bill, the United Nations had estimated that 8 million people in the UK were food insecure—that is 8 million people who could not afford to eat and who did not know where their next meal was coming from. More than 2,000 food banks that we know of have become an embedded part of our welfare state and are the only port of call for those experiencing the harsh and unforgiving welfare state cultivated by this Government.

From 2017 to 2019, Government obfuscation in refusing to implement this simple measure—against a backdrop of rising levels of hospital admissions for malnutrition, a resurgence of Victorian diseases such as rickets, and reports of children attending school hungry—sent a clear message to the millions struggling on this Government’s watch that their pain, their hunger and their poverty were not priorities. The Government’s continued assault on the social safety net and inaction on low-paid insecure work reinforced to them that they simply did not matter. But they do matter.

When the Agriculture Bill came to the House in October 2018, we were presented with a Bill concerned with agricultural markets and our food chain, but it omitted the end of the supply chain—the consumers—and, more importantly, the impact of food insecurity on them. Now, we are seeing some incremental steps, with the proposal of five-yearly reporting on food security but, crucially, not on food insecurity. I do not mind admitting that I am a little confused, but not surprised, by the Government’s incoherent approach. Since April 2019, the Government have carried out a food insecurity measurement, as outlined in my Food Insecurity Bill. Therefore, it should not be a massive leap for them to agree today to enshrine in legislation what we are proposing, because in essence they are already doing it.

Here we are, three years after I introduced my Bill, in the middle of an horrific pandemic that has seen 1.5 million people report that they have gone a whole day without food, half a million children who rely on free school meals receiving no substitute whatever, and those in the shielding category reporting that they have yet to receive a government food parcel. We have heard just recently, about public sector pay freezes—in other words, more austerity will be the reward for those who have given so much for all of us throughout this crisis.

This measurement deserves a place in our legislation. In a country as rich as ours, no one should go to bed hungry or wake up hungry. We need to know where this is happening, how this is happening, and why this is happening, so that we can stop it. I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept our amendments, because that would show the millions who have gone hungry, the millions who have joined them in recent months and those who, sadly, will continue to join them, that this Government are not beyond contrition and, eventually, are ready to take the growing levels of hunger on their watch seriously.

Photo of Owen Paterson Owen Paterson Conservative, North Shropshire 3:00, 13 May 2020

It is a great pleasure to be called to speak in this debate. I draw attention to my entries in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, as I come from a long family of farmers, have interests in farming and food production, and represent a very successful rural constituency producing some of the finest food in the world, with absolutely top-class farmers and food producers.

I strongly welcome the Bill, and look forward to it going through today. It will free us from the constraints of the common agricultural policy, which held us back for many years—it will let us give freedom to farmers. When I was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, time and again farmers said, “Get out of our hair!” The Bill will allow farmers to concentrate on what they are good at, which is producing food. I entirely echo the comments made by the Minister and others earlier in the debate about the tremendous efforts of farmers and food producers to cope with the extraordinary circumstances of corona.

The first thing I want to say is that there is no conflict between wanting to have freedom for farmers and wanting free trade around the world. I see a great opportunity for farming to benefit from any free trade deals. That is absolutely clear. There is a narrative out there that the sad price of free trade arrangements will be some sort of cost to the farming industry. I just do not buy that.

We have huge export opportunities—the Minister touched on exporting beef to the United States, which must be worth over £60 million over three years. When I was at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs we began to get beef on the bone back into Hong Kong, and there are enormous opportunities. For example, in the lamb industry, China and America are neck and neck as world leaders in lamb consumption. They each consume twice as much as France or Germany, so there are great opportunities for our exporters. Given the constraints we experienced under the common agricultural policy, I really see opportunities with new technologies—CRISPR gene editing and so on—to enable us to catch up.

There are some interesting figures from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Against a metric of 1 in 1961, the EU is still producing a given amount of food at 0.55; we are at 0.43; the world is 0.29; and the world leader is 0.03. That is the lesson—if we free up agriculture, people can take advantage of the benefits of free trade and technology.

Turning to the new clauses, I take exception to the proposals from my hon. Friends the Members for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish). We agree on many issues regarding oversight, but I do not agree with this. We already have high standards, and the Minister has made it clear that we are not going to reduce those standards. The new clauses are unenforceable. Let us take the great vexed issue of chlorinated chicken. As my hon. Friend for Tiverton and Honiton said, people do not use very much chlorine—they use pathogen reduction treatments, which have been cleared by the US, the EU authorities and by Codex Alimentarius. When we look at the regulations, we see that stocking densities are similar to those that pertain in Europe. The outcomes on health grounds are better. Americans eat roughly twice as much chicken as Europeans, and their outcomes on campylobacter and salmonella are significantly better.

What would we do if this condition went through? It would completely block any hope of a US free trade deal, with catastrophic consequences for large parts of our economy. Would we go after the individual chicken plant? Would we go after the state? Would we go after the whole US nation, which would come straight back and say, “Sorry guys, our product is healthier.” It would be much better if we resumed our full seat on the Codex Alimentarius Commission on food standards, on the OIE on animal welfare, which is important to many citizens, and on the international plant protection convention on plant health, working with allies and pushing to improve world standards.

When I was at DEFRA I went to New Zealand and was struck by the fact that, freed up, it had reduced massively the number of sheep but increased the volume of meat exporting while conforming to religion protocols for minorities. Everything that it exported to the middle east was stunned before slaughter. We talk about standards a lot. What goes on in many of our slaughterhouses does not bear inspection. I challenge Members to look at videos—or, better, go along—and they will be horrified when they see what many of our livestock go through. Much of this volume of material is not required by minorities—it is absolutely fine to provide it for them—but we could copy New Zealand. We could work with it at a high level, pushing for higher standards. I am afraid I do not support the amendments, but I do support the Bill.

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Paterson. First and foremost, I want to put on record my thanks to the local farming community in my constituency and to farming communities up and down the country, as they have been vital in helping to maintain the food supply to communities throughout the land in this crisis. Many farmers are anxious about their health, and are concerned about family members and the welfare of their workers. Too many farmers have unsold produce going to waste, as supply chains—restaurants, hotels, caterers and cafés—have had to close because of the crisis. Dairy farmers in my constituency have been hit particularly hard. I know that Members across the House have lobbied the Government to do whatever it takes to support those farmers, and I certainly welcome the announcement of a hardship fund as a step in the right direction. I look forward to the Minister’s response on that.

I want to highlight three areas of concern that need to be improved at this stage of the Bill. Importantly, the concerns are highlighted by those at the chalkface of our agricultural economy: the National Farmers Union, the custodians and users of our countryside, and the consumers of our British products. First, the Bill must ensure that specific provisions in future trade deals require agricultural imports to meet our environmental, animal welfare and food standards. I raised the matter with the previous Secretary of State, and I will raise it again with the current Secretary of State. As Members across the House have said today, that needs to be enshrined in law. British produce must be a global gold standard, and a race to the bottom will have serious consequences for our farmers, our health and our global reputation.

Secondly, the current national and international pandemic has shone a bright light on the importance of food security. While I welcome the fact that the Bill requires the Government to report on the state of the nation’s food security, the current timescale of every five years is too long. The National Farmers Union rightly argues that the Bill should be strengthened to include annual reports on food security, and there should be clear requirements relating to the degree of the nation’s food security derived from domestic production and a clear commitment to prevent any further decline in self-sufficiency.

Finally, as somebody who is keen to maximise access to our countryside, I welcome the provisions that would enable funding for farmers who support public access. However, that is by no means a guarantee that the payments will deliver new paths or make existing paths more accessible. What assurances can the Secretary of State give the House and my constituents that that will happen?

Photo of Neil Hudson Neil Hudson Conservative, Penrith and The Border

It is a great pleasure to speak in this debate on such an important Bill—the first new Agriculture Bill in many years. I welcome the Bill and want to outline the key areas and then move on to amendments that would tighten and improve it.

The principle behind public moneys for public goods is sound, and it is excellent that animal health and welfare and environmental protection and management are clearly articulated as public goods. It is welcome that food production and security are recognised within the Bill, and that the Secretary of State is able to help support improving agricultural productivity. The covid-19 crisis has thrown into sharp relief the importance of food security and the need for the UK to be able to produce sustainable, local and accessible food for its population. The Bill’s requirement for the Secretary of State to produce a status report on food security every five years could perhaps be reviewed to make it more frequent. As we move to this new way of paying farmers, I stress the need for a smooth transition of payments so that there are no cliff edges. The Government have guaranteed the same level of payment over the duration of this Parliament, but it is important, as direct payments are phased out, that farmers are given the time and security to adapt to the new system.

Moving on to the amendments, as a member of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee I am happy to support new clauses 1 and 2. As a vet, it will come as no surprise that I am passionate about animal health and welfare, and it is so important that we uphold our high standards. I was proud to stand in Penrith and The Border on a Conservative manifesto that said:

“In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”

These amendments to the Bill will ensure that any imports are equivalent to or, indeed, exceed our domestic standards. We can send out the message to our future trading partners that if they want to trade with us, they need to meet the standards that the people of the UK insist upon. That will benefit not only our own farmers and animals but, ultimately, farmers and animals around the world.

Now, some Members will say today that that will complicate trade deals, but I do not hold with that. In the Department for International Trade and the Foreign Office we have the best negotiators and diplomats in the world. In any negotiation there is give and take and, as has been seen with Brexit in recent months, anything can be achieved.

Provisions on animal welfare have been included in free trade agreements, such as those between the EU and Chile and South Korea, and in fact that led to improved slaughter standards in Chile—an important animal welfare improvement. Welfare at slaughter is only part of the story. Members will say that the WTO rules will guarantee welfare standards at slaughter, which is good, but we all know that much more needs to be considered earlier in an animal’s rearing and transport.

I have heard the argument that the amendments will compromise trade deals with the developing world and Commonwealth partners, but that too can be solved. I am proud that our Government allocate 0.7% of national income to international aid. It would be an excellent use of some of that budget to export British expertise and training to help farmers in the developing world to raise their animal husbandry and farming standards. The UK can be a beacon.

I wish to address the chlorinated chicken debate, which is—if Members will forgive the mixed metaphor—a bit of a red herring. Chlorinated chicken is rightly banned in the UK and EU. Some say that the disinfection process is safe, but it may not be the panacea. A 2018 study published by the American Society for Microbiology reported that the chlorination process was not 100% effective at killing food-borne pathogens and merely led to their being undetectable in the lab. But that ignores the true reason why we should not import such products: this carcase-disinfection process merely covers up and tries to mitigate substandard animal welfare standards in the rearing of poultry.

To conclude, I welcome and support this excellent Bill, but very much hope that Members will join me in supporting the amendment to protect and uphold our high animal health and welfare standards. I see this as an opportunity to raise animal welfare and food-production standards both here and around the world. We should seize it.

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (North of England) (Northern Powerhouse), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Food and Rural Affairs) 3:15, 13 May 2020

It is a pleasure to follow my constituency neighbour, Dr Hudson. I support much of what he said.

We support the spirit of the Bill, especially the movement to reward farmers for public goods. Today, the Government can introduce one of the most successful changes in agricultural policy in history. Equally, today could be remembered for one of the most catastrophic disasters. The principles are good, but the real value of the Bill will be determined in its implementation.

Farmers in Cumbria and throughout Britain could fall at the first hurdle if the Government insist on beginning the phase-out of the basic payment scheme from next January, long before its replacement is ready. Universal credit is the example of what happens when a good idea is introduced in a hasty, penny-pinching, cloth-eared way. I want to spare the Secretary of State the ignominy of being the person responsible for doing the same with the new environmental land-management scheme. Even more, I want to spare our farmers the hardship, spare our environment the damage and spare our people the loss of British food-producing capacity. In the end, it will cost less to do the right thing than it will to do it badly.

The Government’s plan is to remove 50% of basic payments by 2024, costing farmers 46% of their net income, yet the new scheme will be fully rolled out only by 2028. There are currently 89,000 basic payment claimants; how many of those farms do we expect to survive the long period during which their incomes are slashed before a replacement is ready? It is obvious that the disruption will be huge, undermining the good purposes of the Bill. We cannot care for our environment, guarantee food production and deliver public goods if, by 2028, we have allowed hundreds of farms to close by accident. The answer is a no-brainer: do not phase out basic payments until the environmental land-management schemes are ready. The Secretary of State must listen to farmers on this issue before it is too late.

The ultimate public good that farmers provide is, of course, food. Those empty shelves in March and the disruption to the supplies of imported food must be a wake-up call. Almost 50% of the food consumed in the UK is now imported, compared with 35% just 20 years ago. Successive Governments have contributed to us sleepwalking into a real problem when it comes to food security.

We will suffer a huge blow if the Bill fails to impose import standards, which is why I tabled new clause 10 and will support other amendments of similar intent. We must protect our British standards on food and food production. That will not be possible if Ministers allow the market to be flooded with food produced at a lower standard than we would tolerate here. Let us be clear: if Ministers will not accept amendments ensuring that Britain does not compromise these standards in trade deals, they are clearly saying to British farmers, “Please give us the freedom to sell you out in trade negotiations.” Britain has the best standards in the world, and they will be completely irrelevant if we allow Ministers to strike trade deals that lead to imported goods with lower production, animal welfare, environmental and labour standards.

For us in south Cumbria, the landscape of the lakes and the dales is a breathtaking public good—although, given that we have one of the oldest and most vulnerable populations in the country and the third highest covid infection rate, I strongly urge people not to rush to visit us here until it is safe to do so, at which point we will welcome them with open arms. These landscapes are of global significance. As a UNESCO world heritage site, they underpin, in normal times, an economy worth £3 billion a year. Their contribution to the heritage of our country, its economy and the nation’s wellbeing are astounding, and it is our farmers who are responsible for stewarding and maintaining those landscapes. Will Ministers commit to there being criteria within the environmental land management scheme for payments for aesthetic maintenance and for heritage, especially in the uplands?

Finally, I urge Ministers to ensure that the good principles of the Bill are reflected in wise and effective practicalities. I am convinced that this Bill will be seen as truly historic, but it is up to the Government to ensure that it is for the right reasons.

Photo of Julian Sturdy Julian Sturdy Conservative, York Outer

I start by drawing Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I want to speak in support of new clause 2, new clause 1 and amendment 6. Like other Members, I very much support the broad thrust of the Bill, which has been much improved over time. The revised text, which we debated on Second Reading in January, now recognises the importance of food production and food security, funding to support innovation and productivity improvements, and the proper financing of environmental provisions.

However, the laudable aims of the Bill will come to nothing if the Government do not secure fair terms of trade for UK producers. The new public money for public goods and innovation funding model has to be considered together with the Government’s broad trade policy. Having the right framework for British agriculture is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the future prosperity of the sector, which is why I warmly endorse the amendments proposed, which seek to provide a concrete guarantee on future import standards.

Our producers have worked and invested for decades to raise our standards, and that could easily be lost if they are set at a structural disadvantage by our allowing in a flood of low-quality imports produced with poorer animal welfare and environmental standards, which could ultimately cause economic damage to British agriculture and the social fabric of our rural communities. There is also the risk of environmental damage across the globe if the UK became more reliant on imported produce.

The climate change angle will be increasingly important. UK farmers have a key role to play in our progress towards the 2050 net zero carbon target, as British agriculture accounts for 9% of national emissions, but that opportunity could be wiped out if we allow the importing of food produced overseas in a far more carbon- intensive way—for instance, bringing in Brazilian beef grazed on former rainforest land.

I do not believe that these amendments would damage our ability to strike reasonable trade agreements, so I do not agree with what the Minister said at the start of the debate. The whole argument on standards in trade deals is not unique to this country. We should be looking to base much of our trade on the exchange of quality products. Trade deals should be about the desirable goods we can offer to overseas consumers, not just the market access that they can seek to gain from us. UK agriculture has a huge amount to offer in that regard, already earning the UK some £22 billion a year and representing 6% of overall exports.

I also strongly support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh, which would delay the start of the transition to the concept of public money for public goods from the basic payment scheme to 2022, rather than 2021. This would allow the transition to run more successfully and much more smoothly by giving producers more time to restructure their businesses in order to provide those all important public goods. Though DEFRA’s approach is evolutionary, as everyone has said so far, this is still a big shift for British agriculture, and I believe the Government want UK producers to make good decisions, not hasty ones, during the transition. They should therefore give them time.

The amendments I have touched on all have powerful arguments behind them in the best of times; for me, those arguments are substantially strengthened by the new landscape that coronavirus has created. The current situation demonstrates the value of maintaining a strong UK food sector, so that our national food security does not depend on long international supply chains, which have proven fragile in such periods. The outbreak has also showcased the importance of small-scale and regional supply chains that can be relied on for food and drink when all else fails.

I hope the Government will listen to the arguments behind the amendments, and I look forward to hearing their response.

Photo of Carla Lockhart Carla Lockhart DUP, Upper Bann

I thank the Secretary of State for his work in progressing the Bill to this stage.

No Member needs reminding of the importance of a sustainable UK agriculture industry and of our own food security. Amid the covid-19 crisis, it is the UK’s farmers who are feeding the nation. We owe them not only our thanks for working day and night to provide us with food but a future that is economically viable, that ensures farmgate prices are fair and that supports them as they face growing challenges, be they market driven or environmental.

Agri-food is one of Northern Ireland’s greatest economic assets, sustaining approximately 100,000 jobs and bringing an added value of almost £1.5 billion to the Northern Ireland economy. That underpins our need to ensure a sustainable platform moving forward. We must protect those jobs and this cornerstone of our economy, and to do so we need to ensure that the Bill not only allows for the continuation of financial support for farmers but offers protection.

With those two core tenets in mind, my party and I broadly support new clauses 1, 2 and 6. We need to protect our farmers and consumers from cheap imports that do not meet the standards we demand of our farmers. The standards that British farmers work to come with significant cost implications. They ensure that our food is safe and our environment is safeguarded for future generations, while our animal welfare standards are exemplary. Speak to any British farmer: their desire is to maintain these standards—indeed, they want constantly to develop and innovate so that they always ensure that best practices are adopted. In our opinion, it is a major failure of the Bill that it does not enshrine standards for the future. We must not sacrifice these standards, which we demand of our own farmers, on the altar of free trade. That must be rectified.

I also wish to speak directly to the amendment tabled by my colleagues the hon. Members for North Down (Stephen Farry), for Foyle (Colum Eastwood) and for Belfast South (Claire Hanna). I, like my colleagues, am a devolutionist. The Northern Ireland Assembly debated and agreed a legislative consent motion on 31 March. In that debate, my party colleague, Edwin Poots, Minister for Agriculture, stated that he did not support a sunset clause. That was the agreed will of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

With that in mind, and given the respect we ought to afford the devolution settlement on this and other matters, we will not be supporting the amendment. We do not believe the Northern Ireland Assembly requested it.

Indeed, adopting the amendment and imposing such a timeline could leave a legislative gap, leaving our Minister with no legal authority to issue agricultural support payments, which currently total some £300 million, to Northern Ireland farmers. Such a situation would spell disaster for our farmers, particularly in the context of challenging farm-gate prices.

As we move forward with the Bill and with a new post-Brexit agricultural platform, we need to ensure that financial support remains in place for the future, and I urge the Minister to seek further guarantees from the Treasury on that. I would also be keen to see how rural development is to be supported. We must not lose the support being given to farmers for environmental schemes. Let this Bill and those that will come from the devolved Administrations be the first steps in a new era for British farming and our agrifood sector. Let us be fair to our farmers on standards and import tariffs. There is a slogan in Northern Ireland, “no farmers, no food, no future”, and it encapsulates perfectly the importance of getting this right.

Photo of Robbie Moore Robbie Moore Conservative, Keighley 3:30, 13 May 2020

Before I begin, may I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests? The Agriculture Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape our farming sector for the better. I would like to spend the short time that I have discussing the proposed amendments on food imports and standards. I have given immense thought to these amendments over the last few days, but I have also been thinking back to just a few years ago when I was lucky enough to travel across the globe undertaking a research project specifically looking at the global ag sector, and the one thing that came across to me loud and clear above all else was just how small a dot the UK is considered to be by others on the world stage when it comes to influencing the global ag sector. I am also aware of our lack of any previous real penetration into global food markets. However, this country is now on an exciting new course, in which we can forge our new food export opportunities, and I believe that our agricultural industry can truly exert real influence on the global stage in promoting high animal welfare standards and ensuring that the high environmental bar that our farmers passionately adhere to is also met abroad.

As we consider the Bill, we need to look ahead to a new future. The question that I have been mulling over is: what is the best mechanism to ensure that our domestic agricultural industry thrives and is truly sustainable long into the future while also being able to show real leadership on the global stage by promoting abroad the high animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards for which we are recognised? We have a truly credible sector producing some of the finest food the world has to offer, and I want to see our farming industry thrive with food production at its heart. That means ensuring strong market opportunities, both here and abroad.

The phrasing of the amendments definitely seems attractive, and I totally agree that the aspirations behind them are profoundly correct, but if we included them in the Agriculture Bill, which represents domestic policy, would they be workable on the world stage and would they be enforceable? After seeking advice from my right hon. Friend the Environment Secretary, I have been informed that they do not adhere to the World Trade Organisation sanitary and phytosanitary agreement. Likewise, the wording of the amendments leads to uncertainty as to how the traceability measures would be enforced in countries abroad.

I reiterate that I am entirely in agreement with the aims of the proposed amendments—namely, to create a thriving domestic agricultural industry that it is not undercut by cheap foreign imports, while maintaining and promoting high animal welfare, environmental and food standards abroad. If the amendments are not workable through domestic policy, other mechanisms for achieving all those aims must be sought, rather than the inclusion of a blanket protectionist approach. That strategy could, in the long term as we go forth and emerge on the world stage, have unintended negative consequences for the long-term prosperity and sustainability of the British farming sector, as securing export markets for food produce may be harder to achieve. An early example of the opportunities that we have seen for British farmers is the lifting of the ban on UK beef exports by the US, creating a market for British farmers worth more than £66 million over the next five years.

As a country, we are on the cusp of opening up new and exciting export markets to our UK farmers. Such trade deals can be used to influence the world with our high animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards. Yesterday, we heard my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Trade issue from the Dispatch Box an explicit reassurance that we will not lower our food imports standards as a result of the ongoing US trade deal. Seeking further reassurance, I personally spoke to the Prime Minister this morning. He assured me that our strong animal welfare, environmental and food safety standards will not be compromised, and I accepted his reassurance. None the less, I look forward to seeing those reassurances being upheld.

Let us think big and long-term for our UK farmers by opening up opportunities and making sure that our UK sector is known internationally and not as a dot, which is what I found a few years ago.

Photo of Catherine McKinnell Catherine McKinnell Chair, Petitions Committee, Chair, Petitions Committee

This is an important piece of legislation. It has huge consequences for how we are going to feed our nation and protect our environment, and, as many colleagues have set out, there is a lot to support in it. However, my constituents have huge concerns that the Bill does not go far enough to ensure our high standards for food, animal welfare and protection of the environment and climate that we all value.

The Bill would not do enough to prevent imports of food that do not meet those high British standards, and it would be devastating news for British farmers, who would be left at risk of being undercut when they are doing the right thing to produce good quality food and to protect our environment. That would make a mockery of the value that we place on those standards. I urge the Government to listen to the concerns of the public and support Labour’s amendments today, which would enhance this Bill and provide important protections for British farmers and the standards that we all value.

I want to turn to food insecurity and the difficulties that some of the poorest families in my constituency are facing during this crisis—a crisis that has exacerbated the pressures that many people are already facing in trying to feed their families. The continuing problems with free school meal vouchers are now familiar to all of us, yet the Government have failed to get a grip on the problem. Just this morning, another school in my constituency contacted me to say that, again, its vouchers were late. Staff faced similar problems last week. They worked over the bank holiday weekend in their own time for the children who need that support. It is a common story across schools: far too many staff are listing endless problems in trying to use a system that is clearly not fit for purpose. When they try to make contact to address the problems, the helpline is permanently engaged and their emails go unanswered.

Although I know that we needed to put in place a system quickly to get food to those children, the decision not to put the contract out to tender was a poor one. I urge the Government to get a grip on this situation, because it is just unacceptable that children are being left to go hungry and families are being left without the most basic support to enable them to feed their own children. Across the board, too many people are falling through the gaps and are unable to access the food and supplies that they need. Much of that support is dependent on supermarkets—whether it is access to delivery slots or the pricing of their food. Analysis by the Office for National Statistics last month showed that the price of high-demand food and sanitary products has risen by 4.4% since the lockdown measures began. Will the Government put supermarkets on notice that any profiteering from this situation will not be tolerated?

I wish to finish by highlighting the need of kinship carers, too many of whom are finding access to food a challenge. These are people who have stepped up to do the right thing by the children they are raising, and they face unique challenges. Many kinship carers are elderly grandparents, often with long-term health conditions, raising children who have often experienced trauma and have health challenges of their own. The cross- party parliamentary taskforce on kinship care, which I chair, conducted some research into this group and has recommended that the Government work with supermarkets to ensure that kinship carers are included on the priority list for supermarket deliveries. Is that something that the Government can consider urgently?

In conclusion, we have a huge opportunity in this Bill to protect British farming, to maintain high food and environmental standards and to support the most vulnerable in our communities. Let us not waste it.

Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

The Minister, in her introductory remarks, referred to various provisions in the Bill that will devolve more power and responsibility to the Welsh Parliament. She also referred to her family’s long history of farming in Oxfordshire and other counties. I would like to explain to her how concerned I am by this moving of additional powers to the Welsh Parliament, because I represent a border community. As Cardiff and London move further and further apart, we have already seen huge additional complications and problems for our farmers on the border in dealing with sometimes highly different and contradictory legislation emanating from both Parliaments.

One classic example is the crisis that we are facing in Shropshire of bovine tuberculosis on an unprecedented scale. We killed 47 cows in Shropshire in 1997 as a result of bovine TB. Last year, it was more than 2,000. My farmers are going through a crisis of untold proportions. Some of my farmers have land on both sides of the border, and bovine tuberculosis unfortunately does not respect national frontiers, so the devolution process is very difficult for my farmers.

Secondly, my understanding of the Bill is that subsidies will end for English farmers in seven years’ time, but not for Welsh farmers. Again, that is a devolved matter. My question to the Minister is how my farmers, whether chicken or dairy farmers—or farmers of anything that we produce in Shropshire—are meant to compete against their Welsh friends and counterparts across the border when they still have the subsidies but we do not. That is a real concern to me.

I have come here specially today, in person rather than over the internet, to look the Minister in the eye and ask her to take these genuine concerns from border communities into consideration. I would like her to create a taskforce in her Department to look at and evaluate the impact on farmers who operate in border communities and to assess how they can remain competitive, and have a level and fair playing field, with this ongoing divergence between Cardiff and London.

I also wish to speak on new clause 1. interestingly, Robert Newbery, who represents the National Farmers Union in my constituency, and many others—including my association chairman, Dan Morris, who is a cattle farmer—are asking me to support my hon. Friend Simon Hoare and my hon. Friend Neil Parish, the Chairman of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. They rightly feel that we have some of the best standards not just in Europe but across the whole globe, and they want guarantees enshrined in law that there will be a level playing field.

I am always amazed by the amount of investment that our farmers have had to make in order to comply with these standards. It is absolutely mind-blowing. I spoke for 30 minutes today to Guy Davies, a farmer in Little Ness who produces 5 million chickens a year, and in addition uses the chicken manure to generate over 9 million kW of electricity, which can power up to 2,000 homes. He wants me to support the new clause.

In the little time that I have left, if the Minister wants me to back her rather than going with my hon. Friends, she really does need to explain when she winds up just what guarantees we will have to take back to the NFU and others who feel so very strongly on this matter. According to the president of the NFU, this is the most important Bill since 1947. It is a landmark Bill, and I would like to pay tribute to all the Shropshire farmers who contribute so much to my community.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Shadow Minister (Transport) 3:45, 13 May 2020

I wholeheartedly support new clause 1 and the other amendments seeking the same outcome: that there should be no lowering of standards on food safety, the environment and animal welfare as a result of any future trade deals, no undercutting of British farmers and no race to the bottom. Simon Hoare and I had more than a few differences of opinion when we first served on the Agriculture Bill Committee in the last Parliament—unlike him, I was allowed back for the second one too—but on this issue we are utterly on the same page. The same goes for Neil Parish, on whose Select Committee I served in the last Parliament. I thought that he made a very good speech.

As time is limited, all I will say is this: it has been made abundantly clear that no one—not the farmers, not the environmentalists, not the public, not the consumers and not even Tory MPs—trusts the Government’s verbal assurances on this. It is not enough for the Minister to say that it will not happen; we want it in writing, enshrined in law.

I also support amendments on better labelling, procurement, baseline regulation, and fairness and transparency in supply chains, and the Opposition amendment on food security, which calls for a statement to Parliament every year so that we can end the scandal of food poverty. During the current crisis, organisations such as Feeding Bristol have done a tremendous job in my home city, trying to ensure that everyone in lockdown can get the essential food supplies that they need, and that no one, including children who no longer attend school, goes hungry. The voluntary sector has been brilliant, but our children should not have to rely on charity.

I will focus on amendments 18 and 19, which are tabled in my name. I thank the Landworkers Alliance for its work with the all-party parliamentary group on agroecology, which I chair, and for all that it has done to promote the amendments. I have had many emails from constituents in recent days urging me to back my own amendments, which I am obviously more than happy to do. Agroecology is a cause whose time has come. This pandemic has brought home to many people how dysfunctional our relationship with the natural world has become, with overconsumption, unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, a food system that is broken, and birds and wildlife disappearing from our countryside and gardens.

I urge Members to read a recent report, “Feeding the Nation: How Nature Friendly Farmers are Responding to Covid-19”, which includes a quote from a farmer from Northern Ireland. He says:

“The current crisis provides people with time to reflect on the importance of food and farming to all humanity…Our food can only be sustainable and bountiful if it’s produced in harmony with the environment and wildlife.”

The Bill goes some way towards creating a better approach to farm subsidies and rewarding nature-friendly farmers. Despite being an ardent remainer, I will not shed a tear for us leaving the common agricultural policy. I broadly support the public money for public goods approach, but my concern is that it will allow farmers to cherry-pick.

What we need is a whole-farm system approach, so that across the farm, not just on the margins, farmers are using agroecological methods, focusing on getting the best from the whole landscape. Such measures include protecting soil health through no-till farming, which not only boosts food production but helps to sequester carbon; using integrated pest management rather than toxic pesticides; and protecting habitats and promoting biodiversity, so that we see a return of nesting birds, pollinators and beneficial insects to our countryside.

I will finish with another quote from a farmer in that nature-friendly farming report. He says:

“This crisis has made it very clear that we have lost the resilience in our food and farming system, with value being placed on ‘cheap’. This has led to degraded soils, diminishing wildlife and imports of lower food safety and farming standards. We need to shift back to a more sustainable, mixed farming system for resilience across the board.”

That is what my amendments seek to achieve, and I hope that the Government will listen.

Photo of Nicholas Fletcher Nicholas Fletcher Conservative, Don Valley

While my constituency is primarily known as a former mining area, agriculture has always played an essential role in the local economy of Don Valley and continues to do so. Consequently, as the Government have confirmed that there will be no extension to the transition period, this Bill is more necessary than ever, and its passage today will provide farmers and many other individuals in my constituency with reassurance on several issues.

I appreciate that Members in all parts of the House are concerned about environmental sustainability in food production, as can be seen in the Opposition’s amendment 26. Yet this amendment is wholly unnecessary, as clause 1(4) already outlines that the provision of any financial assistance by the Secretary of State to agricultural businesses would have to take into account whether such assistance would encourage food production in an environmentally sustainable way. I am pleased with the addition of this requirement, as it will ensure that the often wasteful aspects of the common agricultural policy will become a thing of the past.

Furthermore, I am pleased that clause 17 will require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament at least once every five years on food security in the United Kingdom. This is particularly relevant at this moment in time. Like so many of my colleagues across the House, I have had dozens of concerned constituents email me about the lack of food in shops as a result of the panic buying that we unfortunately witnessed last month. Some were even scared that the UK would run out of food. Yet I am concerned that the Opposition’s new clause 4 would add such a large number of requirements to the Secretary of State’s reporting that the original purpose of clause 17 would be lost. I appreciate that the new clause is designed to encourage the consumption of healthy food, but clause 17(2)(e) already states that the data put forward by the Secretary of State will include statistics on

“food safety and consumer confidence in food.”

This would inevitably touch on aspects relating to the nutritional value of food and consumers’ confidence that the food available to them was healthy to consume.

This has been a robust debate and I have appreciated the diverse range of views that have been expressed across the House. I end simply by stating that this Bill has my full support and will ease some of my constituents’ environmental and food security concerns.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

This may be an agriculture Bill but it is also one of the most important environmental reforms in decades—a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the way that land is managed in this country for the better.

Frankly, the dry phrase, “public money for public goods”, does not really convey the importance of what we are seeking to safeguard through clause 1 of this very important Bill: the air we breathe into our lungs every minute of the day; the precious soil that nurtures the crops that feed us; our rivers, streams and waterways; our hedgerows and wildflower meadows; our ancient woodlands and our rolling hills; the stunning country- side that is one of the greatest treasures of this United Kingdom we are lucky enough to call home. Of course, the “public goods” covered in the Bill also include the civilised and compassionate treatment of animals and the struggle to protect our planet from climate change.

To make a success of these reforms, we need, first, to give proper weight to food security. I was pleased to see this added to the Bill during my time as Secretary of State. Secondly, these reforms must be properly funded. I fought to secure a Conservative manifesto commitment that farm support would be maintained at current levels in every year of this Parliament. Bitter experience shows how hard it is to deliver change on this scale in the context of a shrinking budget.

Thirdly, we need sufficient time for a managed and orderly transition to ELM. If the Government want to stick to their seven-year timetable, I am afraid that we will need to see more detail very soon on how ELM will operate. Fourthly, in designing ELM we need to get the right balance between, on the one hand, ensuring that the schemes are widely accessed by farmers, including upland farmers, and can be delivered in practice; and, on the other hand, ensuring that significant, measurable, positive outcomes are delivered in relation to crucial public goods.

In this Bill, we are setting out on a path that has been closed to this Parliament for nearly half a century. Successive Governments have pushed CAP reform, but generally returned empty-handed from the Council tables in Brussels. Replacing the CAP means that we can deliver a better, brighter, greener future for farming in England, but we will not be able to realise that vision if we expose our farmers to unfettered competition from US imports produced to lower standards of animal welfare and environmental protection. We are already asking a great deal of farmers as we phase out basic payments. They will face even greater challenges if the negotiations with the EU do not initially deliver a free trade agreement. If we add in the complete liberalisation of trade with US producers, that would be a hit from which many livestock businesses would not survive. The aftershock would be felt in all four corners of our United Kingdom because of the centrality of livestock farming to communities in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and of course the north of England too.

The Conservatives were elected on a manifesto with commitments on animal welfare and the environment which are more far-reaching than any before in the long history of our party, but allowing unrestricted imports from jurisdictions with far weaker rules would mean offshoring carbon emissions and animal cruelty, not reducing them. If we are to keep our promises on the environment and on the decent treatment of animals, they must be reflected in our trade policy and in the Bill this afternoon.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Madam Deputy Speaker, I would have loved to have been with you this afternoon in the Chamber, but I am not allowed to be with you. I cannot look you in the eye, but I am here speaking up, I hope, for my constituency of Huddersfield, where we do have farms and farming. We are, of course, the centre for the great Syngenta, one of the leading agricultural science companies in the world. It used to be owned by my old employer, Imperial Chemical IndustriesICI. It is now owned by ChemChina, which is an arm of the Chinese Government.

Things are changing. What the Bill is about, and why I support the amendments that have been tabled, is getting the balance right, across parties, between having good-quality food for our constituents and our children to feed the people of this country and our need for a secure supply chain. Nothing has taught us more about supply chains than the recent coronavirus scandal and the terrible deaths that have been caused by it. The fact of the matter is that we have to have secure food supplies.

Only recently, there was a leaked document—I have to say from the Government side—that said, “Why do we need a farming sector any longer? Why don’t we do what we do with everything else and get the cheapest possible deal in the global supermarket?” That is not the answer. We now know that we must have not only a vibrant farming sector but one that is compatible with a highly skilled and well managed industry. It also needs to be compatible with a diverse and bountiful countryside in which species are not being eradicated and where industrial agriculture does not destroy habitat.

I believe that this is Hedgehog Awareness Week. That is no laughing matter. When I was a young person it was very common to see a hedgehog in a garden. They have almost been eliminated in our country, as have many bird species, through an industrialisation of agriculture about which we must all be wary.

It would be wrong in this debate not to say that farming is under threat from the unscrupulous practices of many of our supermarkets. Getting that relationship between farming, the retailer and the supermarkets is extremely important. It is easy to say that our farming is the best. Our farming, where it is good, is very good indeed, but it is not perfect. We have a lot to learn from experience around the world, and not only in terms of high science, good management, good skills training and paying people well who work on the land. The fact of the matter is that we have to get the balance right between all those competing goals.

I am not someone who gets carried away with campaigns, but I hate the fact that we are eliminating the lovely British badger. I believe that that is a wrong-headed, contrary to science campaign, and we should all deplore that.

There must be a right balance between the countryside, the environment and high-quality agriculture, as well as the opportunity for young people who want to become farmers to get hold of some land and get started. Very largely, the push for local authorities to sell off their land during the recent austerity has meant that many young farmers do not have that opportunity. There is much to go at beyond this Bill. Let us all do it together.

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford 4:00, 13 May 2020

As a parliamentary hedgehog champion, it is a pleasure to follow Huddersfield’s very own Mr Tiggy-Winkle, Mr Sheerman.

I rise to speak to new clause 11 and amendment 37, tabled in my name and supported by colleagues, relating to the mandatory labelling of products with their farming method. Much of what we have heard already aims to put high animal welfare standards at the heart of this Bill. For the Committee stage, I tabled other amendments, including on labelling with the method of slaughter, but due to the truncated proceedings I can only raise one today, and trust that the Lords will consider others when the Bill passes to them. I hope the Government will be sympathetic to new clause 11 and amendment 37, given that they were first proposed in a previous incarnation of the Bill by the now noble Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, who is responsible for this legislation when it continues its passage in the upper House. Knowing him as well as I do, I doubt very much that a red box has changed his deeply held beliefs on animal welfare.

I believe that, ultimately, consumers are best placed to drive improvement in animal welfare standards because consumer demands and changing behaviours force the agriculture and supermarket sector to adapt. The substantial shift away from caged to free-range eggs is testament to this. At present, more than half of egg production in the UK is free range, with more and more restaurants and supermarkets phasing out their use and sale of caged eggs as public demand changes. I would argue that the legislation that required eggs and egg packs to be labelled with the farming method has undoubtedly helped to accelerate this change and that extending it to other products simply follows.

I firmly believe, now we have left the EU and as we prepare to exit the transition period, that the Agriculture Bill, along with the Environment Bill, provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that British agricultural standards are the best in the world. We can and should go beyond the current European framework and set a new standard for animal welfare. Greatly improved labelling for farming methods can be the first step in improving the availability of more ethically sourced food for a changing consumer market.

My new clause and amendment require the Secretary of State to make regulations regarding the labelling of meat, milk and dairy products as to farming method. At present, consumer demand is being impeded by lack of clear information at point of sale about how meat and dairy products have been produced. Therefore, British consumers are largely in the dark.

Plenty of consumer research has been carried out that shows an obvious want among the British public for clearer labelling to identify the farm system used to produce the food that we put on our plates. I am not sure I have heard any good reason why we should not label better, so I am hoping that the Government will either accept the amendment, or reassure me that they agree with the principle and will bring it back in an acceptable form in the Lords. There is nothing to fear from clearer, better labelling, especially as we have heard in other areas of this debate about the desire to set a new global standard for our agriculture sector.

Finally, I commend the work that has been achieved by colleagues at DEFRA. I believe that this Bill will go a long way to improving standards in the UK, but I think we need to trust the consumer and allow consumers to have the information that will drive their decisions about what they purchase. I hope that the Minister will look at my new clause sympathetically and accept it.

Photo of Rosie Winterton Rosie Winterton Deputy Speaker (First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I shall now suspend the House for 15 minutes, returning at 4.20 pm.

Sitting suspended.

On resuming—

Photo of Jonathan Edwards Jonathan Edwards Shadow PC Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Intervention), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 4:20, 13 May 2020

I want to speak on three key themes that intertwine with the amendments and new clauses that we are considering: first, the need to protect domestic food supplies; secondly, the need for joint decision making over the new British state internal food market; and thirdly, trade policy as it will apply to agriculture.

On our economy and food supplies, the current pandemic has exposed long-ignored issues, including our dependence on imports. Now is the time to rethink, reset and rebuild our food supply from the ground up. The regrettable long-term withdrawal of both the British and Welsh Governments from food policy has allowed our food retail industry to become ever more concentrated, so that just four companies now control 70% of the UK food retail market. The oligopoly of several large food retailers has given them unprecedented power to dictate ever lower prices to farmers, continually sapping the financial health of domestic agriculture and expanding an ever wider trade imbalance that undermines our food security. In short, a complete U-turn is needed in agricultural policy to promote food production. Central to that should be the development of local processing capabilities, so that we can help to build a stronger local economy where people can buy local produce more directly.

Following the debate since the EU referendum, it is plainly obvious that the proponents of leaving the EU have given little thought to its consequences for the British state. My preferred policy would have been to remain in the single market post Brexit—a luxury available to the six counties of the north of Ireland, but not Wales—and then there would have been no need for me to make this point. However, in leaving the single market, a new internal market will need to be created for Scotland, Wales and England in order to facilitate the free movement of goods, not least agricultural products. I am sure that, as time goes by, businesses in my constituency and across Wales will start asking why they cannot have the same access to the European single market as Northern Ireland. However, I digress.

The key issue that faces us now is how the new Welsh, Scottish and English internal market will be governed and regulated. I have little doubt that, due to the centralising tendencies of Westminster, British Government Ministers believe that that will be a matter for them and them alone. I remind the British Government, however, that Wales and Scotland have moved a considerable way in recent decades, and the people of our respective countries will not take kindly to the sidelining of our national Governments and national Parliaments. After all, during the EU referendum, Brexiteers were promising Wales a “bonanza” of new powers. To avoid the destructive contradictions caused by Brexit, it is clear that the British state needs to be restructured. Joint decision making between those constituent parts of the British state within the new internal market would be an obvious way of creating some stability.

I turn to trade policy. There is a complete absence in the original Bill of any commitment or means of upholding Welsh and British farming production standards in international trade negotiations. As UK negotiators are reportedly finding out in their deliberations with the US, every one of the 50 states has the right to impose conditions in their trade deals, so as to protect their respective core economic interests.

Welsh agriculture is the bedrock of our food and drink industry, worth nearly £7.5 billion in 2018. A core component of that is overseas trade, particularly with our European friends and allies, where nearly three quarters of all Welsh food and drink exports were destined in 2018. This trade underpins the employment of over a quarter of a million people in Wales. Trade in foodstuffs is therefore a national strategic imperative for my country.

Unrestricted, cheap, poor-quality imports threaten to not only damage the immediate vitality and strength of our domestic food sector, but also pose wider challenges to our environment and our rural economy. As things stands when it comes to trade policy, Wallonia, a region of Belgium, will have more influence over European Union trade policy than Wales will have over UK trade policy. The checks and balances in the EU, the US and other trade blocs are not intended to create problems. They are there to ensure coherence to trade policy.

We are fully justified in our concern in Wales. The absurdity of current British Government trade policy means that trade negotiations with the US are given equal billing to those with the EU, despite their own figures indicating that it would take 60 deals with Trump to make up for what will be lost as a result of a botched Brexit transition phase. Again, Northern Ireland’s farmers will be protected as they will effectively remain in the EU customs union. The British Government seem to think they can leverage concessions from Europe by holding parallel talks, but President Macron, as usual, has completely outmanoeuvred the British Government by saying plainly that if the UK pursues a US deal and agrees to the importation of cheaper, lower-standard food, they can forget the trade deal with the EU.

In closing, my message to the British Government is this: stick as close to the EU as possible and create joint decision-making structures between Wales, Scotland and England over internal market and trade policy. I fear, though, that ideological zealotry will trump my advice. Diolch yn fawr.

Photo of Mark Garnier Mark Garnier Conservative, Wyre Forest

I want to talk about new clause 1, which is in the name of my hon. Friend Simon Hoare, and new clause 4, which has not been selected but was tabled by me. New clause 4 seeks to make the Secretary of State a trade champion for the British agricultural industry. Although the Department for International Trade is absolutely the lead Department on negotiating free trade deals and trade promotion, trade promotion is of course a whole-of-Government exercise. It is incumbent on every Department to ensure that they promote at all times the fantastic products that we want to export to the entire world. I want to put a marker down for the whole of Government that they must be there to promote British exports.

Turning to the specifics, new clause 4 looks at several issues, and we need to get deep into the weeds of what the Department for Environment, Food and Rural actually does when it comes to food exports. One of the most important parts of exporting and, indeed, importing food is ensuring that foodstuffs are of a sufficient quality. Irrespective of the market access and tariffs that we secure in a trade deal, every country needs to allocate a licence to ensure that any food product class is sufficiently safe for their own consumers. For example, when people want to export food to the UK, DEFRA, through the Food Standards Agency, will license imports of sanitary and phytosanitary products.

When we are trying to export products, it is important that DEFRA works hard with licensing agencies in other countries to ensure that the audit of our producers and the audit of our regulators are done in such a way as to ensure that those licences are expedited as much as possible. They can take three years to get done, but we need to be doing things far quicker. From time to time, we get a problem whereby licences will be withdrawn, and we saw that with British beef over the years after Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease—mad cow disease. It is only in the past few years that we have seen the French lift their ban on British beef and the Americans lift their bans on British beef and lamb, and that came decades after CJD was a problem. That is a second area where the Secretary of State at DEFRA must do everything they can to lift such bans to ensure that we get proper market access.

Furthermore, other countries have local laws that may create problems. A good example of that is Thailand, which has perfectly acceptable religious views on alcohol and requires that alcohol is not promoted on the bottle. However, if someone is trying to sell a bottle of 21-year-old malt whisky, the law could interpret that as being a promotion of the product, rather than just a statement of fact that it is a very good whisky. We managed to resolve that problem through the Department for International Trade, as it turned out, but the point is that we need to ensure that we try to break down those inadvertent barriers to entry at every level.

Although new clause 1 is incredibly well intentioned, and my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset stands up enthusiastically for the interests of farmers, I am afraid that it is rather misguided. Apart from anything else, it goes against the World Trade Organisation laws. In seeking to ensure that standards are maintained within the UK, it misses the point that standards are defined as outcomes not process. That is a problem as we particularly interested in outcomes. The process of ensuring that we have good animal welfare is laudable and important and quite extensive for our producers, but the outcome is ensuring that our consumers are not poisoned by food, which is an important point. I completely sympathise with the objectives of the new clause, which looks to help farmers, but it would end up setting a barrier for ourselves. We would introduce a process-based regulation, rather than an outcomes-based regulation under WTO terms. What we must do is support our farmers by promoting exports. We need the Secretary of State to report back on an annual basis, but we do not want to create other barriers, which new clause 1 would introduce.

Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 4:30, 13 May 2020

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to my amendments this afternoon, and to support several others.

My new clause 5 would help to rectify the absence of anything in the Bill to cut pesticide use. This is a really serious omission, given the harm that pesticides cause to insect life, including bees and pollinators, and to other wildlife, as well as the risks to human health. New clause 5 would require the Secretary of State to take steps to protect members of the public from the hazardous health impacts of pesticide use—for example, by specifying a minimum distance between where a pesticide is being applied and public or residential buildings. We do not need to look hard to find evidence of the so-called insect apocalypse, and the serious risks of pesticides to humans and nature. Recently, a call from more than 70 scientists urged the phase-out of pesticides as a “no regrets” immediate step, stating:

“There is now a strong scientific consensus that the decline of insects, other arthropods and biodiversity as a whole, is a very real and serious threat that society must urgently address.”

On human health, pesticide cocktails are of particular concern, as they can be far more harmful than individual pesticides, yet our own regulatory system only assesses the safety of one chemical at a time. There is also the exposure of rural residents to pesticides applied to nearby farmland. The lack of anything on pesticides in the Bill is even more disturbing given the Government’s dubious stance on the precautionary principle: refusing to transfer it fully into UK law and refusing to legislate against the risks of a US trade deal undermining it.

My amendment 42 is on the sustainability and resilience of agriculture more widely. It complements amendments 18 and 19 on agroecology tabled by Kerry McCarthy, which I strongly support. Amendment 42 would enable the Secretary of State to set and monitor progress towards targets for the uptake of integrated pest management based on agroecological practices, including organic farming. This would help to ensure that the catch-all clause on productivity payments does not undermine environmental objectives.

This week, a leaked copy of the EU 2030 biodiversity strategy revealed proposals for at least 25% of farmland to be organic, alongside a wider uptake of agroecological practices, a 50% reduction in pesticide use and cuts to mineral fertiliser use. On Second Reading, the then Secretary of State claimed that leaving the EU meant a greener future for British farming, where the UK would apparently do so much better for wildlife and the landscape. If that is to be reality and not just rhetoric, we need an Agriculture Bill that matches or goes further than the EU proposals on pesticides, agroecology and organic farming.

In response to covid-19, some argue that we should downplay nature and sustainability, and dial up food production. But that would risk doubling down on a food system that is contributing to what scientists last month called a

“perfect storm for the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people”.

One example is forest loss driven by rocketing demand for vast quantities of soya that is then fed to pigs and chickens, including in the UK. Agroecology is our route out of a dangerous dead-end debate that pitches food security, environmental protection and public health against each other. We can and must do much better than that.

Finally, my new clause 14 would go some way to fixing the Bill’s worrying lack of attention to the climate emergency. Having highlighted regulation as a gaping hole in the Bill on Second Reading, I strongly support new clause 8 in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, and am pleased that it includes specific provisions on climate. New clause 14 would complement that by setting a target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions for agriculture and land use in the UK by 2050 at the latest. That is much too late in my view, but I hope that the Government will pick this up. It would also place a duty on the Secretary of State to publish interim emission-reduction targets, as well as policies to ensure that those targets are met.

The Committee on Climate Change has said that “strengthening the regulatory baseline” is an essential step that the Government must urgently deploy to meet climate goals, so I hope the Government will support not just specific climate targets for agriculture, as new clause 14 proposes, but rigorous policies to meet them that place equal emphasis on biodiversity and public health. The climate emergency is just one reason why Ministers must say no to business as usual and yes to a resilient, re-localised and regenerative food and farming system. My amendments would go some way towards putting those things at the heart of the Bill.

Photo of Liam Fox Liam Fox Conservative, North Somerset

I wish to speak against new clause 1. A real issue needs to be dealt with: the high levels of regulation imposed on UK farming can and do add to increased costs for UK farmers. High standards can be an advantage in two ways: first, in what they say about the United Kingdom and our attitudes to animal welfare; and secondly, when it comes to exporting, when we can show to those who want to buy British agricultural produce that it is produced to very high standards—that was a huge advantage to me on a number of occasions when I was Secretary of State for International Trade.

The best way to help our farmers is to have a proper cross-governmental strategy to improve UK farming exports. The proposed changes do not deal with that particular problem, but they do create a number of others. There are three main unintended consequences: the first is the damage to our reputation for observing international treaty law; the second is that the proposals would damage our ability to conclude our current free trade agreements, and potentially future ones; and the third is that they make a mockery of our current negotiating position with the European Union.

First, the new clause is not compatible with WTO rules. Food safety and related issues are anchored in WTO law. Only the slaughter of animals is covered as a welfare issue in the sanitary and phytosanitary agreement. There is nothing that the Government will do to undermine food safety standards in this country, and to suggest otherwise is a complete red herring in this whole debate. It would be a fine start to Britain’s independent trade policy outside the European Union if we were to begin by finding ourselves in conflict with the very rules-based trading system that we believe to be necessary.

Secondly, the new clause would damage the chances of our completing our current free trade agreements. I can say from personal experience, in my discussions with the United States, that the US would walk were the proposals to become law in the United Kingdom, and it would be swiftly followed by others—the Australians, the New Zealanders and those involved in the comprehensive and progressive agreement for trans-Pacific partnership would be unlikely to take kindly to it. They do not want the incorporation of UK rules to become a prerequisite to trading agreements with the United Kingdom.

There is an additional problem: it is about not just our current FTAs but our ability to conclude future FTAs with developing countries, which simply cannot afford to have the same level of animal welfare standards as we enjoy in a country as wealthy as the United Kingdom. It would be a great pity if, after all the work we have done to promote development, we unintentionally undermined it by agreeing to this change.

Thirdly, the new clause makes a mockery of what we are doing in our negotiation with the European Union. We are currently telling the European Union that we cannot accept the introduction of rules made outside our own country as a precondition of trade with the European Union—the so-called level-playing-field approach—but that is exactly what the new clause would do in relation to everybody else. I can imagine nothing that would bring greater joy to the bureaucrats of Brussels than the UK scuppering its free trade agreement with the United States on the basis that we were insisting on a level-playing-field agreement that we have categorically ruled out in our dealings with the European Union.

I wish to go slightly beyond the content of the proposals to the wider consequences. I worry about what some of the proposed changes say about the signals we would send as a country and our approach to free trade in general. It is worth pointing out—because almost no one seems to have noticed—that global trading volumes went negative in the fourth quarter of 2019. Before covid, global trade was on a downturn, with inevitable long-term economic consequences. Since 2010, the world’s wealthiest economies—the G20—have increased and increased the number of non-tariff barriers to trade: in 2010, they were operating around 300; by 2015, they were operating around 1,200.

There is a bit of environmental law here, a bit of consumer protection here and a bit of producer protection elsewhere. It all adds up to a silting up of the global trading system. Why does that matter? It matters because it risks the progress we have made in the past generation of taking a billion people out of abject poverty through global free trade. It is not morally acceptable for those countries that have done very well out of global trade to turn to the others that are still developing and pull the ladder up in front of them. We have benefited from a global open trading system. It is not only economically sensible, but morally the right thing to do to ensure that that free trade continues.

Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Labour, Erith and Thamesmead

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I served on Bill Committee and I have been contacted by a huge number of constituents, so I am enthusiastic about ensuring that the Government listen to the suggestions put forward by the people most affected by this Bill. There are huge insecurities throughout agriculture right now, with it anticipating new opportunities and challenges arising from leaving the European Union. Parliament is having to consider the Bill without knowing what those challenges will be and what our future relationships with other countries will look like. These insecurities have been highlighted by the sector for some time, and covid-19 means that the public have more recently been faced with these insecurities and the issues relating to the resilience of our domestic food supply chain. Closed restaurants, empty supermarket shelves and restrictions on imported food were issues that did not enter the public’s mind until just a few weeks ago. We should use the experience of this crisis to guide policy to build future resilience for our food and environmental security.

Many farmers and businesses in the agricultural sector will be facing unexpected financial hardship because of covid-19. Having witnessed the fragility of our domestic supply chain, we must ensure that the Bill includes provisions to support the domestic industry throughout the rest of the crisis. We must also consider practices our industry and consumers may be exposed to if our domestic industry cannot sustain the food supply following this and we have to look more to outside sources. With new trading agreements yet to be made, now we have the perfect opportunity to ban unfair trading and unethical practices. The Bill should ensure that food imports are produced to the equivalent environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards as those required of producers in the UK. The Government should also ensure transparency in our future supply chain, so that consumers are able to make ethical decisions for themselves and that the UK agriculture sector is prioritised over international imports. British farmers must not be subject to a system where they are undercut by food produced to lower standards and then imported into the UK. British consumers must not be subject to food with lower nutritional value, unaware of how their food was farmed.

This Bill has an opportunity to have a positive impact on farmers, business, the wider public and the environment if we get it right. That is why I was pleased to see so many contributions to the Bill Committee and why it is important that we include suggestions that will mean that the Bill has much more of a wider impact. The Ramblers, Britain’s largest walking charity, has asked that this Bill includes a requirement for landowners in receipt of public funds to fulfil their legal duty to keep public rights of way. I am supporting that suggestion from Ramblers, so that my constituents have the opportunity to explore nature and have access to a free way to stay active. That is just one way in which the Bill can support farmers to support the wider public. After two months of lockdown, I am sure that all Members from across the House, and the UK public, can appreciate the importance of access to nature and nutritional food. We have pulled together as a country throughout the crisis, and we should use this momentum to continue to support one another.

I am pleased to be able to speak on the Bill, to support workers in the agriculture industry, who are important but often overlooked keyworkers in the crisis. It is essential that a future trade agreement protects British farmers and consumers, and that is why I support Labour’s amendment. I hope that the Government have heard the important contributions we have heard, and take the opportunity today to legislate to protect the UK agriculture sector, and make use of our suggestions, which will have a positive impact on the wider public.

Photo of David Johnston David Johnston Conservative, Wantage 4:45, 13 May 2020

Here in Wantage I can hear cows mooing as I speak, so the debate is relevant to my constituency.

Beginning with imports, it is fair to say that across Wantage and Didcot we have first-rate farming—Brimstone farm in the west of my constituency is one example. The food that is produced and the environment, agriculture and welfare standards are extremely high. A number of my farmers would like me to support some of the proposals that we are considering, particularly new clauses 1 and 2. I thought hard about that, and was pulled in that direction, but in the end I decided not to do so. Even if that provided short-term help—I am not sure that it would, even if it were compatible with World Trade Organisation rules, and I am not sure that that is the case—in the long term it would not help exports from the great farmers here and across the country. There is a five-year requirement to report on food security. That is a minimum requirement, but I hope that we will hear about food security much more regularly.

In my judgement, public money for public good, is one of the most exciting parts of the legislation. We will change entirely the system for paying farmers, and we will be able to do so in a way that helps to protect the environment. Farmers are the natural custodians of the environment, and measures that enable us to support them to improve air, soil and water quality as well as biodiversity are a hugely welcome development. Maybe—just maybe—it will help to reduce farmers’ average age, which is 60 at the moment. They find it difficult to persuade their children and grandchildren to take on their work. This may be a step to help encourage others to maintain the land for the great purposes that support our efforts on climate change. In future, some people may try to minimise the food production aspect. I hope that that does not happen, because that should not be regarded as a contrast to efforts on the environment. These are mutually beneficial things that we can do together in the Bill.

Turning to exports, I voted to leave the European Union, and was surprised to be told that that meant that I believed in a closed society, rather than an open one. On the contrary—I wanted an open society that was open to more than just the EU. I would like to see British products in countries around the world, and I hope that we will do everything that we can to ensure that that is the case. I think that there is an opportunity on food labelling at the end of the transition period, so that we can clearly define and consistently apply food labelling that demonstrates and signals to the world the high standards that we have in this country.

There is undoubtedly more that we can do to promote our exports. We have the “Food is GREAT” campaign. I hope that we turbo-boost that in the coming years. Finally, I want to make sure that we remember small farms, because this is a tremendous opportunity for our farms, and I hope that we will support them in their contracts and by promoting their goods, so that they too can benefit from this groundbreaking legislation.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

We now go to Angus and Dave Doogan—[Interruption.] I beg your pardon. I am grateful to Members in the Chamber for correcting my mistake. We go to North Devon—[Interruption.] We go to North Down, and Stephen Farry.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance, North Down

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; that was an interesting tour of the UK—from Scotland to the south-west and finally to Northern Ireland.

I want to speak primarily to new clause 9 in my name and those of the hon. Members for Foyle (Colum Eastwood) and for Belfast South (Claire Hanna) and others; to new clause 1, of which I am a co-sponsor; and to new clauses 2, 6 and 10, which are very similar.

By way of context, I stress the importance of the agri-food sector to the Northern Ireland economy. It represents about 10% of all activity, which is considerably higher than the UK average. Furthermore, the profile of agriculture and associated industry in Northern Ireland is different from that of the UK as a whole; we have a much higher profile of smaller farmers in particular. The Northern Ireland sector is based around quality rather than scale, and standards are critical and are a matter of pride to all stakeholders.

I passionately believe in an open and liberal international trading system, and we had that with our membership of the European Union and its trade deals with the rest of the world. Trade cannot be conceptualised in simplistic terms or around outmoded 19th-century economic thinking. Environmental, food safety, animal welfare and labour issues are now all vital considerations.

It is also important to acknowledge the unique situation in which Northern Ireland finds itself from the implementation of the Ireland-Northern Ireland protocol. That is of course the inevitable out-working of Brexit and in particular the decision of the UK Government to rule out a softer Brexit based around the customs union and single market, and therefore the ongoing need to ensure an open border on the island of Ireland and protection of the Good Friday agreement. Northern Ireland will consequently remain aligned to large aspects of EU regulation. Furthermore, there is ongoing uncertainty as to how Northern Ireland will interact with EU trade policy and also UK trade policy going forward, with the risk of being marginalised in both respects. Obviously, in the all-Ireland context, matters such as food safety and environmental considerations need to be aligned.

On the substance of new clause 9, I acknowledge that post Brexit there is a need for an initial UK-wide framework to provide breathing space in policy and payments, but there is a sunset clause in the Bill for some measures applying to Wales, and Scotland has already indicated its intention to shape its own policy. This Bill was conceived and drafted prior to the New Decade, New Approach agreement and the welcome restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland, but there is no sunset clause for the application of schedule 6 to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is therefore out of step with other devolved nations, yet, paradoxically, it is Northern Ireland that needs the greatest scope to shape policy to fit its particular circumstances, not least given that protocol.

The Bill provides for the local Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister to amend provisions by regulation, but most Members will appreciate the different processes and scope to enact them through primary legislation and regulation. Northern Ireland is at risk of losing the capacity of the much more rounded and participative process that comes from full legislative consideration. There is a broad range of farming and environmental stakeholders who deserve the opportunity to engage more fully in the development of policy.

In the Minister’s opening comments, she indicated that matters covered in new clause 9 were largely for the devolved AERA Minister. However, I have already explained the difference between action by regulation and by primary legislation. Carla Lockhart stated that the local Minister was happy with the Bill and the Assembly had already passed a legislative consent motion, but that Minister was only one voice and his views are not representative of the majority of Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly. The LCM was passed by the Assembly in anticipation that it could still pass its own bespoke legislation, and, importantly, the agriculture and environment Committee in the Assembly has expressed its support for a sunset clause.

Any sunset clause would run to 2026, which would provide ample time for local measures to be put in place; there would therefore be no risk. It would be a strange thing if the Northern Ireland Assembly did not want to shape policy in an area of its own competence.

Photo of Marcus Fysh Marcus Fysh Conservative, Yeovil

I support the Bill overall. I think it is great for agriculture. It is a landmark Bill, and I thank my local National Farmers Union and local farmers for the engagement I have had with them over many months now.

I do, however, want to speak against new clauses 1 and 2, for which some NFU representatives have been encouraging MPs to vote. While there are good intentions—clearly I want to do what I can to support and help create opportunities for farmers up and down the country, including in south Somerset—the new clauses would in fact be damaging to their long-term interests and the long-term interests of the country. I will say a few things about the reasons for that and address some of the things that my hon. Friend Simon Hoare said. He said that he wanted us to be a beacon for standards around the world, and I agree with him, but I believe that we can champion higher standards much better if we are not a trade pariah, which we would be regarded as if we banned imports on a blanket basis, as the new clauses would effect. I am also, as is my hon. Friend, pro consumer safety, and it is important to understand that we will not be reducing import standards. We will have the Food Safety Agency to ensure that our products are safe and that our consumers are kept safe.

I am pro farmers’ opportunities, and we have a lot of scope to increase the work that the Government can do to help farmers to market their products and develop new innovative products. I understand that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking at a new grant scheme to help with some of that. There are also the opportunities from trade itself, which are large. My hon. Friend said that he was pro food security, and I also support such a thing, but part of that is about having diversified supply chains, and that is exactly what would be damaged by the new clauses, which could effectively create a blanket ban on imports at the whim of the Government or of a food safety agency. I do not think that is in our interests either.

The bottom line is that we are not going to let standards slide, as the shadow Minister said was his fear. In fact, my right hon. Friend Dr Fox made the point that our high standards are often a very good marketing feature for our export products around the rest of the world. Being able to do these deals around the rest of the world is critical. At the end of the day, the new clauses, if passed, would interfere with our ability to sign new trade deals and to roll over the existing ones that we have with the EU. It would put us outside of the scope of our WTO agreements, and we would be that trade pariah.

I will finish by saying a couple of things. My neighbour and hon. Friend Neil Parish said that he wanted lots of US exports. That simply would not happen under a trade deal, as he said he wanted, if the new clauses were agreed, because there would not be a trade deal.

Finally I want to address my hon. Friend Dr Hudson. He had heartening faith in our trade negotiators, and I agree that we have some great trade negotiators who will fight hard for us and for our farmers. I will do what I can to aid the negotiators in that process of fighting for farmers, but I am afraid that however good they are, if the new clauses passed into law their ability would not make any difference; there would simply be no trade deals with any other nation. With that, I thank all the farmers of south Somerset for their support through this process.

Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Rural Affairs) 5:00, 13 May 2020

I am happy to be able to make my observations on the Bill, its process and the material considerations at stake. As an MP representing a Scottish seat, I will necessarily keep my references confined to the narrow, yet vital, provisions that affect constituents in Angus and more widely in Scotland.

The Bill and its passage through Parliament afford us another example of the straining construct that the UK Parliament increasingly reveals itself to be. This is principally a Bill to provide legislative guidance, a regulatory framework and sector-specific support for English agriculture, yet here we are—MPs from all four nations of the United Kingdom—invested in its passage through this place. A far better proposition in recognising and respecting the devolved nature of agriculture would have been for the Government to table an English agriculture Bill under the EVEL—English votes for English laws—procedures so valued by Government Members, and a further agricultural co-operation Bill, which could have been agreed by consent with the devolved Administrations, with competencies over budgets, food standards, the single market in the UK, animal welfare, environmental protections, and crucially of course, trade, but that ship has well and truly sailed.

That being the case, I must turn to the provisions of the Bill, or in fact, the absence of a key provision that most concerns stakeholders in the agricultural sector: the standard of imported agricultural produce to the UK. Representatives of farming, consumer, environmental and animal welfare organisations across the United Kingdom have been crystal clear on this point. Parliament must take this opportunity to ensure that the Bill introduces vital safeguards for the maintenance of high standards of production on food imports, founded in statute, mandated by law and applying no more than that which is applied to producers of food in the domestic market.

During this period of unprecedented turmoil in our history, farmers and food producers have ensured that the cycle of food production has continued no matter what. That is the calibre of this industry and the people who work within it. We owe it to them in this context, and referencing the generations of food production before it, to ensure that our farmers are not undercut by lower standards of imports that result from some future trade policy.

This import standards issue is a matter of unparalleled concern within the industry, and moreover, it enjoys political support from across all parties in this House—a rare thing indeed. It is not a new issue either and it has been prevalent throughout the course of the Bill. Ministers have been asked many times by Members to consider it. What is concerning is that when I and other right hon. and hon. Members ask this question about standards of imports, we receive the same response from the Secretary of State as we did from his predecessor in the role, Theresa Villiers: that the Government are committed to high standards of production within the UK. That is a hollow and unconvincing yet very telling response to a question that nobody is asking, and it speaks to tension between the Department for International Trade and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that Members must circumvent today.

An early casualty, if we fail to act, will be the outstanding egg producers of these islands. It is a success story within food production that an industry that receives no subsidies provides countless farms with their egg cheque every month—so vital to the cashflow of seasonal enterprises such as farming. Yet, if the Bill fails to uphold their high standards of production on imports, they will face unparalleled if not insurmountable challenges in competing with foreign imports of egg products, dried and liquid, that could be produced to horrifically low animal welfare standards before ending up in unwitting consumers’ food products here. Scottish and UK farmers and producers are not asking for any special deal or to be protected from cheaper products of the same or higher standards. The industry in Scotland and across these islands is well able to compete on the world stage. All they are asking for is that the competition is fair and on a level playing field. For this reason, I will be voting to introduce this most basic of provisions to the Bill in the interests of consumers, environmental protection and animal welfare.

Photo of Julie Marson Julie Marson Conservative, Hertford and Stortford

The Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of agriculture in the United Kingdom, including how we farm, how we feed people and how we make farming sustainable for this generation and the next. It also comes at a time when we are fundamentally reassessing our trading relationships across the world, and at a moment of crisis when expansion of our international trade is essential to our recovery and future prosperity. The Bill, as it stands, opens the door for our farmers to the opportunities for growth that international trade brings, and with that it goes some way to addressing the regional imbalance of opportunity and wealth that this Government and I want to focus on.

Farmers in my constituency and across the country already sell exports to Europe worth about £24 billion, and the Bill sets a template for expansion into other regions, which will mean that members of our farming community will be able to compete abroad as never before. They will sell more of what they already sell, and enter new markets so that they can sell more of the same products and new products too. To bring the narrative back to how extending British farming into global markets will directly boost growth, it is just simple maths that growth leads to more jobs, and with that, better jobs. Growth in trade will create new opportunities in places that may have been left behind. It will help to keep local talent at home and attract new talent from afar, and the levelling up of society in every region of Britain will take one more step forward.

I support the aspirations of farmers in Hertford and Stortford who want to sell into foreign markets, and I want farmers and consumers to be clear that I support their desire for the highest food and animal welfare standards, as do the Government. We are leaving the European Union and the CAP, and we must be able to negotiate and sign meaningful trade agreements. We must resist calls for the protectionism that will squander opportunity, and not try to force dynamic alignment from others with us in the UK. Apart from anything else, it was those rigid rules that played a large part in our vote—my vote—to leave the EU, so what message would we be sending if we tried to enforce them ourselves now?

Concerns around the safety and standards of food in the UK have been addressed in the Bill. The same stringent standards that we are all used to and wish to see upheld will still apply to meat sold here, including those that exclude chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef. I want to reassure farmers and consumers in Hertford and Stortford that I will always support the highest environmental standards and celebrate the fact that farmers are the custodians of our wonderful countryside. I support the highest standards of food production and animal welfare here and around the world. I also support a principle of clarity in food labelling, to enable consumers to make informed choices about what products they buy.

I will always champion our wonderful UK farmers, producers and products. I will support the Bill, as I am satisfied that our food standards and safety are protected, and I want to see farmers in my constituency benefit from different markets, more product opportunities and a greater distribution of wealth and opportunity across the country. This is an opportunity to renew British farming and add vigour to our global aspirations. It is an opportunity to secure more resilient food supply chains and set global standards for sustainability through international co-operation and leadership.

Photo of Geraint Davies Geraint Davies Labour, Swansea West

What we should be doing in this Parliament is protecting our farmers, our food security, our food standards, our climate, our environment, our public health and our workers, but the Bill falls short on all those counts. The reality is that Britain is gripped by a once-in-100-years pandemic that has taken the lives of 33,000 people, yet this reckless Government refuse to extend the transition period in which we are required to get a deal with the EU, and indeed with the US. This puts all our interests at risk.

Members will know that something like 44% of our trade goes to the EU—in Wales three quarters of our food goes there—and that the United States is a very tough negotiator. It is interested in low-price, often substandard food that may be forced on us unless we ensure in this Bill that we secure the highest standards possible to limit what can be negotiated. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has confirmed that chlorinated chicken must be part of a post-Brexit UK trade deal. We have heard talk about hormone-impregnated beef. Basically, we are at risk of importing food below the standards we currently enjoy and torpedoing the opportunity to have a meaningful EU trade deal, which is of much greater significance than the US trade deal—something like 60 times more. It is important that we ensure environmental standards are built into trade deals and into Bills such as this one. If we do not build those food and environmental standards into our law, and they are not subsequently in trade deals, then when we try to increase our environmental and food standards we will be taken to an international court by Trump and others, and we will be unable to move our standards upwards.

On climate change, there is great concern about nitrogen fertilisers producing nitrous oxide, a powerful greenhouse gas used in cattle feed for indoor intensive farming, particularly in the United States. We do not want that here. We should rule that out. We should put that into our trade deal and into the quality controls we put in the Bill. More trade further afield with the US will be bad for climate change in any case, and we know the US does not respect the Paris agreement. We need to use Bills such as this one to protect our food standards and ensure that those standards go into trade deals.

It is interesting that the Bill does not mention air quality, despite the fact that DEFRA argued that agriculture was a more important source of particulates for air pollution than diesel. We know that during the lockdown, PM2.5 and NOx have actually gone down: PM2.5 went down by 10% and NOx by 40%. We know that ammonia is a precursor of secondary particulate pollution; in other words, even though we are using our cars less, we still need to ask what we should do about delivering World Health Organisation standards, particularly as we now know there are significantly more covid deaths in areas with air pollution. That is a great big hole in the Agriculture Bill.

On migration, there are limits on the number of people who can come over here and pick our fruit and vegetables. The Agricultural Wages Board in Wales—it was abolished in England—should be extended to England to support rural workers’ wages. On protecting workers, it is critically important at this time that the workers in food production, abattoirs and food processing have proper PPE, testing and social distancing. We already know there are a massively disproportionate number of those people dying from covid. Again, the Government have neglected that situation.

In conclusion, we need to put food standards centre stage. I will be supporting the amendments. We need to ensure the EU deal is the right one, which means extending the transition period. We need to ensure that the environment and climate change are centre stage, and they need to be part of the trade deals. We need to protect our workers and all our interests in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I now call Daniel Zeichner to wind up for the Opposition and ask that he speaks for no more than eight minutes.

Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

It is a pleasure to be able to continue to debate these vital issues with the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Victoria Prentis. We had many hours in Committee.

This Bill has been a long time coming: almost two and half years since it was started, with three Secretaries of State and two Prime Ministers. It seems a world away from when it was launched back in October 2018. Some things have not changed, however. The climate crisis, finally properly recognised by this Parliament last year, remains more than pressing. There is much in this Bill on which we can all agree. We welcome the improvements on the first version, but, as the debate this afternoon has shown, we still think that there is room for improvement and that there are some fundamental points of disagreement.

We can all agree that we want to use public money to drive a more environmentally friendly farming system and help farmers to make that transition to a destination, which many of us would like to see, based on agro-ecological principles, recognising the need for good soil health and wise and sustainable use of water. Those points were very well made by my hon. Friend Kerry McCarthy, who has been campaigning on these issues for many years, and by my hon. Friend Geraint Davies.

We would also hope that most could see the sense in a coronavirus emergency food plan, which we suggest in new clause 7, particularly given that I am sure the Government will want to implement as quickly as possible the ideas coming out of the work that is being done on the now much-needed national food strategy. We should also be able to agree that the new Environment Bill can set the context for tackling the climate crisis, although I am sorry to say that the Government sadly declined to use this Bill to set the net zero targets so badly needed to make progress in agriculture.

We can also mostly all agree on wanting to raise animal welfare standards. It is often much more a question of how we do it. Although we appreciate that this is a framework Bill, we are disappointed that the Government rejected our attempts to strengthen standards in many areas through amendments in Committee. We strongly agree on the principle of moving to a system of public money for public goods, but as the lengthy and detailed discussions in Committee around environmental land management schemes showed—I am sure the Minister will remember them—there is much still to be resolved, and we share the concerns of many in the farming community about the financial uncertainties that lie ahead. The debates about the purposes to which public money should be put were a genuine attempt to flesh out and develop some fundamental issues. The tension between avoiding undue bureaucracy and ensuring positive environmental outcomes is not always easy, as some Members referred to earlier, but the opportunities are hugely exciting, and we will engage constructively in the iterative process promised by the Minister.

I must say, though, that all that agreement is worth nothing when it is distorted by a dash to remake our relationships with the rest of the world and to put in place new trade relationships in a hurry. We do feel that this is being done in the wrong order. The Environment Bill and the food strategy should have been determined first, but we are now driven by a timetable to replace the basic payment system and get those new trading relationships in place. It is on that new system in particular that agreement dissolves; it is that issue that divides this House fundamentally. The question of whether potential imports should meet our food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards has been at the heart of the arguments about this Bill from the beginning, and I shall return to that later.

Some sections of the Bill have drawn less attention today, but as recent events within food supply chains have shown, there is clearly, in our view, scope for improved regulation. Some of the issues in the dairy industry are long-standing, and any industry suffering the shock of losing a major part of its market overnight will struggle. None the less, pictures of farmers having to discard milk are testament to the need for reform, and there are other parts of the food production system where power imbalances distort the situation. That is why we and others continue to press for an extended role for the Groceries Code Adjudicator. A number of our amendments continue to make that case. I noted the characteristically robust comments from my hon. Friends the Members for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) and for Weaver Vale (Mike Amesbury) about the dairy industry, and also from my hon. Friend Abena Oppong-Asare, who sat on the Bill Committee. They all made points about the need to secure our food supply system.

We also supported amendments in Committee on helping tenant farmers with access to financial support schemes, and we are slightly disappointed that the Government have not taken those forward. I hope they might look closely at amendment 1, tabled by Neil Parish, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, on ensuring that funds available previously through regional development schemes remain available, particularly for small farmers. That point was strongly made to us by the Landworkers Alliance. We do share worries that the emergence of different financial support systems across the devolved nations could create significant distortions and problems in future, perhaps creating particular challenges for farmers in England—we heard reference to that from some speakers today. Hopefully, many of these points will be pursued as the Bill goes through the Lords.

The two issues on which we seek Divisions this evening are the fundamentals. Our new clause 7 has been spoken to eloquently by many colleagues, and the crisis has shone a light on pre-existing problems of hunger, poverty and food insecurity in our country. The new clause would give us a chance to tackle them as the country would expect.

We heard some powerful contributions from colleagues earlier in the debate. My hon. Friend Mrs Lewell-Buck has, of course, been campaigning on food insecurity issues for many years, and my hon. Friend Catherine McKinnell very powerfully described the shambles around the free school meals voucher system, which many have suffered from in our constituencies.

All the positive aspects of the Bill that I have referred to will be meaningless, however, if our farmers face imports from countries that apply lower standards. We all know that, in a delicious irony, it is clear that the current Secretary of State shares our view because, in his brief absence from the Government Front Bench last year, he tabled a comprehensive set of amendments to guard against that problem. He now, of course, has to disown that position and fall back on the promises that other colleagues in Government are offering. Good luck with that. This is his chance to be true to the 62 organisations who wrote to the Prime Minister in January, making this very point. They have written again this week to MPs. It is an extraordinary coalition—unprecedented, probably—of environmentalists and farmers united in a common cause, and we know that many Conservative Back Benchers actually agree with them.

An unusual vote is coming up—the first virtual vote on a real issue of substance. New clauses 1, 2 and 6 all seek to achieve the same thing—to safeguard our environment, our high food safety standards and our high animal welfare standards. Labour will support them all but, given the political arithmetic, the decision rests with Conservatives. I am still hopeful that at the last minute the Government will see sense and we will see a conversion, but if not, I hope that Conservative Members who are voting at home will think hard before they cast their vote. This is important.

The Minister assures us that our high standards will be translated into UK law. I have to say we had a debate about this in Committee and, as ever with things legal, we are not convinced that the position is so clear. How much better to put it into law tonight. We all want a transition to an environmentally friendly and sustainable food and farming system, and our pledge on this side is to work constructively with the Government to bring that about. We believe the best way to do it is to be proud of our high standards, not to undermine them, and to challenge others to meet them. On that basis, I seek support for our amendments.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means 5:15, 13 May 2020

I now call Minister Victoria Prentis to wind up for the Government. I ask that her speech lasts no more than 10 minutes.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed the debate this afternoon. I do not think that that is just because it is my first time out of the house for some weeks. We have heard from passionate colleagues on both sides of the House—colleagues who are passionate about farming, food and food security. We have heard from distinguished former Secretaries of State. We have heard from farmers. We have heard from those from farming families. We have heard from many Members who represent farming constituencies. We have heard from a vet, and we have heard from a number of colleagues, some mentioned by Daniel Zeichner, who love both food and food security. We also heard, indirectly, from the cows of Wantage.

I would like to take this opportunity to reassure Members that the Government understand the importance of agriculture to the nation. I know that British farmers are the best in the world. The Bill will ensure that they receive the support that they need to give us the food that we need and enjoy; to protect and enhance our beautiful rural landscape; and to ensure the health of the wider rural economy.

We have had a robust debate, which was well-intentioned on both sides. I need to reiterate at this point that there can be no question of sacrificing the UK livestock or other farming industries for the US trade deal. To the contrary, it is our view that a US trade deal is perfectly compatible with a thriving UK farming industry and very high standards. We have heard mention of the dreaded chlorine-washed chicken several times, and I would like to reassure the House that under existing regulations, which we will put into English law at the end of this year, chlorine-washed chicken is not allowed, and only a vote of this House can change that.

I think I also need to restate that the Government are willing to commit to a serious and rapid examination of what can be done through labelling, to reassure colleagues. It may well be that that would help colleagues to understand that we do intend to promote high standards and high welfare across the UK market. I agree that we must consider the case for consumer choice more fully when we look at this in some detail. I agreed earlier in the debate, and reiterate now, that we will consult on this at the end of the transition period. It is important that we look at how it would affect both the industry and consumers, and indeed retailers. I am keen to take that forward.

I thank my predecessor—now the Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend George Eustice—for making the Agriculture Bill such a great piece of legislation. We will hear from him later, on Third Reading. I would like to gently tease the hon. Member for Cambridge about this. Isn’t it great that we have a Secretary of State who stands up for high standards of British farming; and isn’t it great that this framework Bill, and what has been said by our trade negotiating teams, and indeed by the Prime Minister and in the Conservative manifesto, again and again has reassured that champion for high standards in farming, who is behind this Bill, as I am sure he will tell us very shortly?

I am very grateful to the members of the Public Bill Committee for their diligent scrutiny. It is fair to say that this Bill has evolved, and indeed improved, during its passage through the House. I am so sorry that many of them have not been able to speak in this debate, but I think that given the hybrid nature of the proceedings we have had a pretty good go at discussing the issues that, as the hon. Member for Cambridge said, concerned the Committee.

I would like personally to thank especially our Parliamentary Private Secretaries to the Department. They have been towers of strength at a difficult time, when it is difficult to communicate with colleagues in a way that we would like to and are used to. I express my thanks and gratitude to all the civil servants who have worked on the Bill, especially Nathalie Sharman, the Bill manager, who is in the Box this afternoon.

I thank, more widely, those across the four nations who have worked hard on the Bill to get it to this stage. During the work that we have done in the taskforce for feeding the vulnerable over the past four months, we have worked very closely with my colleagues across the four nations, and I hope that we can continue with that spirit of co-operation as we take these policies forward.

I would also like to thank the Clerks and the House authorities for helping us to make history as the first Bill to be voted on using electronic voting. I hope I have not spoken too soon, Madam Deputy Speaker, and that it works!

This is, as we have said many times, a framework Bill. We have a long, long way to go, and many tests and trials, before the agricultural transition period comes to an end in 2028. I would like to reassure farmers that the Government will support them and ensure that consumers will continue to have access to great-quality British food to eat. We very much hope that that will mean consumers from all over the world.

Farming is more than a job. We must cherish the deep personal connection felt by those who farm the land to the soil and landscape they care for, and build upon it in the reforms that we make. This Bill gives us that framework for the future for farming and for our countryside outside the EU. It will allow us to reward public goods such as environmental improvements, it will support investment in technology and research to improve productivity, and it will help our farmers to produce the high-quality food that they are renowned for and that we all so enjoy eating. I commend this Bill to the House.

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

I now call Simon Hoare to wind up, and ask that his speech lasts no longer than two minutes.

Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee

Thank you very much, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I, too, am grateful to all hon. and right hon. Members from across the House who have spoken in the debate. It has been of noteworthy interest that Members representing both rural and urban constituencies have spoken with knowledge and passion on this.

Let us be absolutely clear: this is the Bill to set out these priorities. In previous iterations, we were told that the previous Trade Bill was not the vehicle and the Agriculture Bill was not the vehicle—in which case, it seems that we are going to try to travel without any form of vehicle at all. That would be rather foolish, so this does need to be in the Bill to give certainty, to give power to the elbow of our negotiators, and to say that the British Parliament thinks that these issues are important and is prepared to stand by them.

That said, there is, as the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, Daniel Zeichner, said, much similarity between new clauses 1, 2 and 7. With the leave of the House, I will withdraw new clause 1, in order for the House to have the opportunity to vote on new clause 2. I think the merit of new clause 2 is that it is a Select Committee-authored amendment. I believe that when the other place comes to deal with the Bill, that will carry some weight in their deliberations. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the clause.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

5.30 pm

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Questions necessary to bring proceedings on consideration to a conclusion (Order, this day, and Standing Order No. 83E).

Photo of Eleanor Laing Eleanor Laing Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Before I put the first Question, I confirm that the final determination is as follows. Remote Divisions will take place on new clause 2, new clause 7, amendment 39 and Third Reading. The Question, That Government amendments 20 to 22 be made, will not be subject to a remote Division.