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Trade Bill - Report (1st Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 6th March 2019.

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Photo of Lord Purvis of Tweed Lord Purvis of Tweed Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (International Trade) 4:15 pm, 6th March 2019

I am grateful for that. The point I am making is that the EU, with full UK support, has had a consistent position on the use of chlorine on chickens—that it should not be used to mask the lack of hygiene on farms and in slaughterhouses. The separate issue of the effect of its use on public health is, and always has been, a moot point which the European Union has always recognised, and that is why it has consistently commissioned a number of reports. The final conclusion from those reports, which the EU and the UK have relied upon, has come from the World Health Organization, which has said that, as far as the use of chlorine in agriculture is concerned, the current position is the one to be maintained, because the primacy is that the United States, as a policy, uses it to mask poor hygiene practices in farms and slaughterhouses. When it comes to trade and the trading of goods, that is the critical aspect, and that would be reflected in a trade agreement.

I was disappointed that the noble Baroness, Lady Manzoor, was not careful to say that the United States’ negotiating objectives would be only the start, when we have in the past, as a policy, categorically ruled out the importation of chickens that have gone through that process. It is black or white: we either maintain our position or adopt the American position. Neither can be finessed, and the Minister should have been categorical that we will not move from our position on the use of chlorine on chickens. That is why it was very disappointing that the Secretary of State blurred the lines and conflated its use with the process of surface-washing salad.

Some have therefore suggested, as the Secretary of State did, that animal welfare should not have a place in the trade discussions. Some have indicated that that is not permitted under WTO rules. I hope that the Minister will not say that when she responds to this debate, because the UK has a number of trade bans relating to animal protection that have been implemented as part of international obligations or agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. For example, the UK has had an import ban on products from endangered species, such as tiger skins, ivory and pangolins, dating back to 1975, 1989 and 2016. This has been a consistent approach by the UK. Furthermore, we have a number of trade bans which have been implemented across the EU and have never been challenged or tested, so they can remain in place. They include an import ban on fur produced from cats and dogs, which was implemented due to concerns about the killing methods used. All those indicate that we have a wide set of standards which need to be protected in the existing continuity agreements. However, I repeat that only a tiny fraction of them will have been agreed before exit day and therefore after exit day they might not be considered by the Government to be merely continuity agreements—they would be trade deals. That is why this amendment to correct some of the misleading statements from the Secretary of State needs to be made and why these standards need to be underpinned as we go forward.