Trade Bill - Committee (1st Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 21st January 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Byford Baroness Byford Conservative 9:15 pm, 21st January 2019

My Lords, I have not put my name to any of these amendments, but I am very sympathetic to them and, had they not been tabled, I think I would have tabled some. My difficulty, having sat and listened to our earlier debates, is that this is just a Bill to allow us to transpose existing laws into our UK law; it is not really looking forward to trading after that has happened. So I ask my noble friend, before I go into the particular detail I wish to raise: if it is not appropriate at this stage, when is it appropriate during the passage of the Bill? Because somewhere, it must be, and I am not quite sure as to where.

I shall take the amendments as they are and follow the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Judd. Perhaps I should declare, as others may, that we are in the farming industry, and while livestock is not our particular area, we produce grain that obviously feeds livestock, and therefore we do have a family interest.

On the question of the rollover and how long this will last, which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, raised very clearly, I ask my noble friend how long she sees this period carrying on for before we look to new deals.

The standards we set in this country are very high, and I believe it is quite right that they are so, but it is not surprising that many of my producer colleagues, particularly those who produce livestock meat and all that side, are very concerned about the long-term interests of their industry. They are quite fearful about imports perhaps coming in at a lower standard. One has to appreciate that, if that did happen in a big way, there would be many farmers who are producing food for us in this country who would not be there in the future. I think that the House has to get that under its belt. It is very easy to think that we can get food anywhere: we go into the supermarket and the shelves are filled. Yes, that is true, but we are dependent on so much of that coming in from abroad, so we need not to protect our industry but to understand the challenges it faces. I do not think producers are looking for special treatment, but they are looking to have that equal trading that many of us wish to see.

When I look at the CLA briefing—I declare that I am a member of the CLA and I was with the NFU earlier today—it says it wants to see exports of UK food outside the EU grow, and we would all support that. It thinks that free and fair trade between the UK and other markets outside the EU is a positive government ambition, and it supports any new free trade deals which meet that ambition. However, in seeking these trade deals it is imperative that equivalence of standards is met—that is what this debate is about—in order to prevent the undercutting of UK markets by the introduction of products that meet lower environmental or animal welfare standards. It believes that that would be very detrimental. Today I met NFU colleagues from East Anglia who were highlighting that.

Amendment 9, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, concerns environmental protections. This question is for her rather than for the Minister. Are we looking to protect the environmental standards that we have in this country, as opposed to the standards that they do not have in their countries at the moment? For example, is it acceptable to pull down rainforests to grow soya or other products, or should that be something which we have in mind ourselves as a detrimental step? So many aspects of the debate we are having tonight are hugely important, but I am not quite sure whether the noble Baroness’s amendment is seeking to protect UK standards as they are at the moment or whether she is thinking about international trading standards as well. There is a great difference between the two.