Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 6:30 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 6:30 pm, 12th October 2020

As the right hon. Gentleman knows very well, the EU has been able to put welfare standards of various kinds and levels in different trade agreements over the years. That is a perfectly proper thing to do, as long as it is done in compliance with international law. The point I was trying to make—I apologise if I did not make it sufficiently clear—is that it would be unwise, particularly in the agreements we are seeking to roll over in very short form, to add a set of conditions that, to my reading at least, are not entirely clear and that are broadly drafted. It would be difficult to agree with the partners with whom we already trade as part of these continuity agreements a whole new set of conditions and, indeed, a method of assessing those conditions in very short order. That might well put them off agreeing a deal with us. That is my concern.

In summary, the tools we have to ensure high standards are, as I have tried to set out, many and varied. They are strong enough to protect standards, even under pressure. We have existing regulation under retained EU law, which is watched carefully and controlled by the Food Standards Agency. Parliament can scrutinise new trade deals, as indeed the Select Committee on International Trade is about to do for the Japan deal. Other experts, including those on the Trade and Agriculture Commission, can advise us on trade policy. Last, but by no means least, we have the buying power of the British consumer, who is increasingly committed to high standards of animal welfare.

We will carry out a serious examination of the role of labelling in promoting high standards and high welfare across the UK market. We will start to consult on that before the end of this year. That combination of measures will protect producers of high-welfare British food, while allowing us to import when we wish.

Turning to amendment 17 on emissions reduction targets—