Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Claudia Webbe Claudia Webbe Labour, Leicester East 8:45 pm, 12th October 2020

I have received hundreds of emails from residents in Leicester East who are gravely concerned about the future of food quality and environmental protections after we leave the EU. It is therefore crucial that this Bill includes legally binding guarantees that high UK food standards will not be cut in post-Brexit trade deals, whether with the USA or other countries that produce food to lower standards.

Despite their own 2019 manifesto commitment, the Government have so far refused to do that. The Government have repeatedly said that they will not weaken food standards as part of any trade deal, but they are refusing to make a legal commitment that would guarantee that. They insist that bans on lower-standard foods such as chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef have been carried over into UK law by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018, but the fact is that those bans can easily be overturned in secondary legislation without proper parliamentary scrutiny. The Government know that, and they are already under pressure from new trading partners, including the US, to allow lower-standard imports in trade deals.

It is all very well the Government opposing the lowering of food standards in the realm of hypotheticals, but when faced with a concrete opportunity to enshrine that in law, they refuse to act. As with NHS privatisation, the Government are repeatedly asking the public to blindly trust their promises, despite passing up the opportunity to support legal regulations to achieve their aims, rather than flimsy incentives. Based on the Government’s track record of privatisation and prioritising corporate profit over public health, I do not see why my constituents should believe them on this occasion.

I support amendments 1, 9, 11, 16, 17 and 18, which would strengthen the Bill in crucial areas such as food standards and environmental sustainability. I urge the Government to adopt those reasonable amendments, which are in line with their own stated aims. Otherwise, the Government must make clear today the reason why they want to drive down food standards and not support British farmers. During a climate and ecological emergency, it is imperative that we have a clear road map for agriculture to reach net zero carbon emissions, yet there are no targets in the Bill for the agriculture sector to achieve that. Across the board, this legislation fails to protect our food standards, our environment or the health of residents in Leicester and across the country.