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Trade Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:30 pm on 23rd January 2019.

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Photo of Lord Grantchester Lord Grantchester Shadow Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change), Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 9:30 pm, 23rd January 2019

Amendment 30 is a probing amendment. It may not be of great intent but it is of wide importance to rural areas and the food chain in general. Following on from my earlier amendment which sought to understand the rollover nature of EU trade agreements into UK law, this involves the protection of geographical names designating agricultural products that have been in existence for more than 100 years. This is where the Minister’s definition of “significant differences” will be most helpful.

At present, as an EU member state, the UK falls under three specific geographical product designations. The first is the protected designation of origin—PDO—such as that for Stilton cheese, of which I know the Minister is well aware, which is designated to cheese-making dairies in three east Midlands counties. Secondly, there is the protected geographical indication framework, such as for West Country beef and lamb. Thirdly and lastly, there is the traditional specialities guaranteed framework, such as for traditionally farmed Gloucestershire Old Spot pork. These co-ordinated efforts have given some of the UK’s most well-respected and internationally renowned produce the legal protection it deserves. From each corner of the UK, British produce of world-class quality with links to a certain area or using certain traditional methods has had its reputation enshrined, preventing outside manufacturers reproducing or passing off the product and selling it as a regional one. There is great concern that these protections will be lost post Brexit.

I ask the Minister: what is the status of the recent EU-Canada trade agreement that has been mentioned throughout our proceedings? The noble Lord, Lord Purvis, brought up this issue under Amendment 18, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, did so under other amendments. Under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade AgreementCETA—no UK geographical indicator was given protection and only two European indications were included. What was the role of the UK Government in negotiating this EU agreement? Will it be included in the rollover of EU agreements, or will it be challenged or disagreed to by Canada as a counterparty in any rollover? The ink is barely dry on this new agreement. What the Minister has said so far needs to be clarified further in this respect.

With the UK leaving the EU, the position of the food chain, including retailers, in rollovers, and the relative importance given to the issue by the UK Government, these matters will impact on the ability of UK products to be designated foodstuffs under the GI schemes. I understand that the Government wish to set up a UK register of designations after exit. Will these be exclusively British? Will it include the register under the EU scheme, including those products registered by non-EU producers who also use the scheme as a marketing tool, aiding their promotion within the EU? How comprehensive will this register be? It is important to recognise the high percentage of UK trade that goes to the EU. Will the UK Government seek to enable products designated on the UK register to be considered for inclusion on an EU register? Will the Minister confirm that reciprocal arrangements will be maintained without any sunsetting? She will recognise the importance of Welsh lamb exports to the economy of north Wales and the whole of Wales.

If I may, I have some further issues about which I would be happy for the Minister to write to me. First, there will be various transitional costs, such as branding and labelling. As changing labels is a resource-heavy activity, can she give reassurances that changes will be considered together in future regulations? Secondly, can she say what will be the resolution scheme or body that hears disputes? Will the future TRA adjudicate immediately on these PDO issues or will there be a role for the First-tier Tribunal, which presently presides over branding issues? These and other issues are not important for the proceedings tonight, but I merely flag up how essential it is to businesses, especially SMEs, to be aware and informed of the changes happening even on transition.

The Minister will be aware of the wide benefits that these designations bring to the food chain—the reduction of food waste, provenance and security for consumers, and the quality of the product—and export markets across the world, as well as the obvious financial and employment benefits. I would welcome confirmation that this amendment is among the objectives of the Bill and future trade arrangements, taking at face value the task of the Bill merely to transfer existing EU agreements into UK law. I beg to move.