Clause 4 - Multi-annual financial assistance plans

Part of Agriculture Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:00 pm on 12th October 2020.

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Photo of Dave Doogan Dave Doogan Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Agriculture and Rural Affairs) 8:00 pm, 12th October 2020

In following Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, I will try not to resort to impolite comments such as that which he directed at Caroline Lucas. He could not see the embarrassment on his colleagues’ faces when he made that comment.

I rise to speak in favour of amendment 16. The clarion voice of the people is at issue here and it is our responsibility as MPs to convey the horror with which our constituents view the Bill and its in-built opposition to their ambitions for food safety that respects the environment and safeguards the welfare of our animals.

The people of Scotland have spoken clearly in rejecting the Bill and its aims, and Ministers would do well to listen. If the Minister is listening for the voice of Scotland, I can assure her that she will find it over here on the SNP Benches, not over there on the Tory Benches. Scottish Tory MPs do not even speak for Scottish Tory voters, 95% of whom backed calls for food standards to be maintained, according to Which? People are asking why the Tory Government and the majority of their Back Benchers do not listen to the people—[Interruption.] That includes those who are chuntering from a sedentary position right now. Perhaps if the risk was of chlorine-washed chanterelle mushrooms or hormone-injected foie gras, Tory Ministers would have less of a deaf ear than the one they have turned to those of us who are happier dining on chicken fried rice and mince and tatties.

So much for taking back control, the newly independent, yet strangely impotent UK cannot specify the standard of food we will import going forward: John Bull under the heel of Uncle Sam right enough. That pitiful transatlantic asymmetry rings truer now than at any stage in Anglo-US history. The Tory Government have demonstrated in the most humiliating and unedifying way possible that nothing will get in the way of a US trade deal—in and of itself a highly questionable negotiating position.

The Government have betrayed civil society across these islands and ignored valid evidence and well-documented concerns about the Bill and its shoddy back door, leading to a food standards horror show. The will of the people of these islands is ignored by a Government who have purposely allowed the DIT tail to wag the DEFRA dog on food standards.

That highlights a betrayal that will take some beating—all in the name of breathing life into the Brexit myth of no global trade without Brexit. Meanwhile, Mercedes, Zara, Airbus, Heineken, Volvo and L’Oréal all sell big from within the EU to the US without the need for European Governments to betray their populations and farmers through the food that they produce and feed to their children.

The Government are capable of listening to industry as we saw during covid, when they listened intently to the supermarkets about food supply and to the private supply chains about food distribution. So why will they not listen to farmers on this issue? Farmers have been very clear on matters of provenance, the risk to their business of an any-price trade deal, and the supply of seasonal labour.

Why do the Tory Government seem to hold our farmers in such contempt? The question is rhetorical. We all know that it is because of the twin Tory totems of Brexit and immigration, which, for the hard of thinking, are one and the same thing. On a post-Brexit trade deal, the DIT speaks for Government. The Home Office speaks for Government on immigration, specifically their disastrous approach thus far to access to seasonal labour from abroad. No wonder many are beginning to ask what exactly DEFRA speaks for.

If the Government persist in proscribing the most basic protections for our food supply from the Bill, no amount of watery, weasel words will hide the simple fact that a Government that cannot act as guarantor for the food we eat cannot act as guarantor for anything. Scotland is taking a different route.