Unlike many Members here, I have just one small farm in my constituency, but a large number of constituents have written to me expressing great concern about the implications of the Agriculture Bill, particularly if the Lords amendments are not incorporated. My constituents expect Parliament to scrutinise the detail of all trade deals, but Parliament is yet again to be cut out of full scrutiny and agreement on trade deals—a trend that is becoming something of a habit for this Government.
After listening to some Government Members, I really do wonder about their understanding of the dynamics of trade deals. Many of my constituents fear that the Bill and the Government’s approach to trade will open up our consumers to chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-impregnated beef and so on. The Minister said at the start of the debate that we should not worry about standards falling because British consumers will choose good-quality food, but as consumers we do not see the labels for much of our food, because almost half the food we eat is made up of processed ingredients or is catered and therefore hidden from consumer vision. As many Members have said, cheap imported foods with standards lower than the EU’s threaten the viability of many British farmers.
If the Government actually believed in the climate and environmental emergency that this Parliament declared a year ago, the Bill would set a clearer path for our farmers to reach net zero. Why do the Government not accept Labour’s amendment 17, which would set interim net zero targets for the agricultural sector?
If we do a trade deal with the US that has no conditions on animal welfare, our farmers will be at risk, because they will have to compete with low-cost agricultural mega-corporations, such as those US pork farmers still using sow stalls. To prevent the cruelty of practices such as sow stalls, we need a law which says that, in all trade deals, any imports must meet the same standards of animal welfare that British farmers are required to meet. Britain has historically often led the world on food standards, but sadly, this Bill means that our food quality is at risk, our farmers’ future is at risk, our environment and our climate are at risk, and the welfare of farmed animals are at risk. I support the Lords amendments.