My Lords, I declare my family’s farming interests. I have read and reread the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. I have a couple of queries, so I have to ask whether he and my noble friend the Minister can help me.
My worry is this: the amendment would surely tie the UK Government to whatever the rate is at that moment and not look towards the future. There is no timeframe or limit on this, as far as I can see. My concern is whether this means that the negotiation would not allow for the improvement of the UK’s share in a particular agricultural tariff-rate quota. As a result, would the amendment close the door to meaningful discussions of recent changes to the UK share of a particular quota?
I heard what the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said. He is a great ambassador of long standing for standards and equality, and on fair trading for agricultural goods in general; I hope I am as well. He is quite right to raise the whole question of fair trade and the standards that are set for our producers. When we first discussed this last Monday—I think; I lose track of where we are at—we talked in great depth about the expectations of a product, how it is produced and the responsibilities and standards set.
I do not think I need to ask the Government to pay exceptional attention to the needs of the agricultural industry, but the noble Lord raises a very important point regarding sheep farmers in particular. Sheepmeat is not eaten as much in this country as it used to be, but it is exported widely. Trade with Europe is very important and I hope there will be trade beyond Europe, but I wondered whether he could explain the way the amendment is written, because I have apprehensions about it. Will my noble friend the Minister be able to explain? Maybe she does not share my slight concerns but I felt they were worth raising. The thrust of the amendment is right but I am not sure that the wording is.