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Protection of UK Food Standards

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:44 pm on 24th June 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 7:44 pm, 24th June 2020

I would like to start by thanking my hon. Friend John Lamont for securing this important debate. This is a subject that Members across the House are rightly passionate about, and not just Scottish colleagues—all four nations are well represented this evening. It has been good to hear from Northern Ireland, Coventry, the highlands and many other places in the course of the debate.

I am proud that I, with all my colleagues on the Government Benches, stood on a manifesto commitment that, in all our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. It is always good to hear about farms in my hon. Friend’s constituency. As a farmer’s son, he is well placed to champion Scottish farming and Scottish produce—I am not saying that only farmer’s children make good MPs, but it certainly helps. I know he feels that this is in contrast to those who have chosen to put nationalism before farming. I have fond memories of visiting his constituency and attending the ridings nearby, and I am pleased to hear that Kelso produce is being enjoyed around the world, even on the Orient Express.

I know that many Members were keen to get involved in this debate, and I look forward to speaking to them further about this important subject in the weeks and months ahead. Across the House, we are all united by a desire for British producers to sell their great produce around the world. The debate on how to promote high standards here while ensuring that we do not import goods produced to standards we find unacceptable is not new. It predates our departure from the EU and will doubtless continue well after the end of the transition period.

To tackle this issue, we require a comprehensive package of measures, one of which is, of course, regulation. I would like to reaffirm once again the Government’s commitment to upholding our high environmental, food safety and animal welfare standards as we leave the EU. The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Act 2020 will transfer all existing EU food safety provisions, including existing import requirements, on to the UK statute book after the transition period. Those requirements include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in domestic and imported products, and they make it clear that no products, other than potable water, are approved to decontaminate poultry carcases.

Transparency is also key to this debate. We are going into all our trade negotiations, including with the US, clear that our standards will be upheld in future deals. With regard to the US and other live talks, our negotiating objectives, economic assessment and updates from the initial round have been provided to the House. We will continue to provide further detail as we progress. It is a great pleasure to have my hon. Friend David Duguid here for this debate. The Department for International Trade and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are working closely together at the moment to promote British produce around the world.

All trade deals are also subject to the scrutiny procedures laid out in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, which means that once free trade agreements have been signed, they need to be laid in Parliament for 21 sitting days, alongside an explanatory memorandum, before they can be ratified and enter into force. There will be ample opportunities for scrutiny.