Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Bowie Andrew Bowie Conservative, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 8:30 pm, 12th October 2020

It is a pleasure to be called to speak in this vital debate, much of which has understandably focused on Lords amendment 16. I am sorry to disappoint the House, but being as unoriginal as I am I, too, will be restricting my remarks to that amendment.

I have the pleasure of representing a constituency in Aberdeenshire, which is, as I am sure the House will agree, home of the best beef, lamb, berries and cereals produced anywhere in the United Kingdom. Of course these Lords amendments have given me pause for thought, just as the amendments tabled by my hon. Friends the Members for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) and for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) did. I have listened to representations about the Bill—by email, phone, over social media, and in person yesterday at the door of the church—from farmers and food producers in my constituency. I want to put Scottish and specifically north- east farmers first—first in the queue to benefit from the trade deals that we are negotiating right now. In the next 30 years, the supply of food needs to rise by about 50% to meet the needs of a wealthier, growing global population. I do not want anything that would stand in the way of our high-quality, world-leading Scottish products reaching the shelves of consumers around the world.

In attempting to enshrine in law, as this well-meaning amendment would, that food imported to the UK

“be equivalent to, or exceed, the relevant domestic standards and regulations”,

we would put at risk our ability to sell our products overseas and put in serious jeopardy our ability to carry on importing many of the foodstuffs we do at the moment. We already import a large quantity of goods from developing countries. This includes products sold directly to consumers, such as bananas from the Dominican Republic, and goods processed into final products, such as tea from Kenya, coffee from Vietnam and cocoa beans from Ghana. We do all this under existing European Union rules, and as my hon. Friend Bill Wiggin pointed out, we should not even get started on Danish bacon.

None of the transition EU FTAs has exported domestic welfare production standards. This amendment would mean that the existing mandate for our European Union trade deal—a deal we all, goodness me, want to see succeed—would have to be altered. No current imports to the UK are required to meet our domestic production standards. It is precisely our high standards and high quality of produce that make our produce so attractive to the outside world. Because of that and because we believe in high welfare standards, the Government have given their commitment that in negotiating these trade deals, we will not allow our domestic welfare production standards to be in any way diminished. We will protect, defend and enhance our food safety, environmental and animal welfare standards, and we will actively seek to export these world-leading standards and our expertise to new partners around the world.

This country is a world leader on animal welfare and food production standards. We are champions, or at least should be champions, of free trade. These two principles are the foundation of what I believe global Britain seeks to be. These are the pillars of who we are. Therefore, for all these reasons, and because I support Scottish farmers and want to see our produce sold and enjoyed across the world, I cannot support the Lords amendments before us.