Amendment 236A

Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 9:00 pm on 23rd July 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Baroness Worthington:

Moved by Baroness Worthington

236A: After Clause 34, insert the following new Clause—“Agriculture carbon levy and carbon sequestration reward schemeWithin six months of the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must conduct a consultation on—(a) the introduction of a carbon levy for greenhouse gas emissions resulting from agricultural and land use activities in the United Kingdom;(b) the implementation of a payment scheme for farmers and connected persons with the objective of reducing and sequestering greenhouse gas emissions; and(c) the application of a carbon levy to imported agricultural products.”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment requires public consultation on: the introduction of an agricultural carbon levy, applied to greenhouse gases for which the agricultural and land use sector is responsible; introducing incentive payments that reward actions to mitigate and sequester carbon emissions; and the application of the levy to imported products.

Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Labour

My Lords, I am conscious that we are into our sixth session of debate on this Bill. I do not wish to detain the House unnecessarily, so I will be very brief. I am also very conscious that the remaining amendments in this group pertain to the marketing standards in organic products, while my amendment relates to the climate change impacts of agriculture. We had a very good debate last week when we looked at a group of amendments focused on climate change, and I certainly felt that there was strong cross- party support for a strengthening of the references to climate change in the Bill.

Agriculture makes up a significant proportion of the UK’s greenhouse gases, and I am sad to say that over the last 30 years that contribution to our greenhouse gas emissions has remained relatively unchanged. In 1990 agriculture was responsible for 58.9 million tonnes of greenhouse gases, and in 2017, the latest figures, the figure was 45.6 million tonnes. That accounts for 10% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The two most prominent gases for which UK agriculture is responsible are nitrous oxide and methane. Some 70% of the UK’s nitrous oxide emissions and 50% of our methane emissions arise from agricultural practices. These are both powerful gases in the short term, and we have seen very little change in the contribution that we have been making to the global climate risk from these sources.

My amendment would require the Government to start to consult on the introduction of a comprehensive policy to address these climate change causing emissions from agriculture. As I tried to convey last week, this should be seen as an opportunity for the sector. By implementing a very low-level carbon price in the sector, the Government would be able to implement a polluter pays principle, but, more importantly, through the gathering of revenues from those sources of pollution they would then be able to make payments, grants and rewards to farmers who took actions to reduce their emissions.

I believe that there is an interest in the Government in extending the use of carbon pricing, since it has had such a beneficial and successful effect in other parts of the economy. We have used a succession of different ways of carbon pricing in the power sector to unleash huge sums of investment into novel solutions. I have no doubt that the ingenuity of our farmers and land managers would be unleashed if we implemented a similar system of levying a small charge and then rewarding innovation in the sector.

The time is late and I will be brief. The consultation that we would require the Government to undertake would also look at the protection of UK practices by levying a similar carbon price on equivalent imported products. I am very grateful for being given this opportunity to speak again about the important subject of climate change. Agriculture, as we have debated previously—

Photo of Lord Alderdice Lord Alderdice Deputy Chairman of Committees

I think the noble Baroness has frozen. I call the noble Lord, Lord Carrington.

Photo of Lord Carrington Lord Carrington Crossbench

I tabled Amendment 247, which relates to marketing standards, after discussion with the National Farmers’ Union. It is important and appropriate to be clear about why we should have marketing standards for agricultural products. This is something that the European Union has undertaken, with our full support. It therefore follows that, on leaving the European Union, we too should ensure that the provisions for establishing marketing standards in the UK are clearly set out in the Bill.

The precise wording of the amendment is taken from the purposes in the common market organisation EU regulation 1308/2013. If the purpose of marketing standards is clearly defined then subsequent regulations could be brought in only for legitimate purposes, as defined in Clause 35. I would therefore be grateful if the Minister could give his reasons for departing from this previously agreed and acceptable wording, as set out in the CMO.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 248, 250, 251, 252, 254 and 266 in my name, some of which are supported by my noble friend Lord Holmes. I will speak also to Amendment 256 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

Agricultural products, especially animal products, should all be raised to and maintained at the highest possible standards. While the Government prefer to leave so much to consumer choice, good and informative product labelling on foods is absolutely essential. People deserve to have reliable information about the food they are eating that is rigorously tested and independently verified, and there should also be appropriate fines for misleading labelling.

Too much greenwashing and misleading information is put out by big companies and trade bodies, which trick consumers into thinking that things are healthier, happier or fairer than they actually are. This needs to be sorted out so that truly great producers thrive without false competition.

Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Conservative

My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 250, 251 and 252 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and Amendment 253 in my name.

As the noble Baroness said, there is tremendous and as yet largely untapped potential in labelling, not least in the use of QR codes. With technological advances, such codes contain so much information and have such positive uses for producers, consumers and indeed everybody in the chain. This takes me to the purpose behind my Amendment 253. It is in the marketing section of the Bill but is about more than that. It is about what we can do in agriculture and horticulture for all the products in this Bill, and speaks to products way beyond it in terms of the digital opportunity to drive efficiency and information for all in the chain.

When I speak of digitisation, I do not mean what is all too often the case, where a form gets put on to a database and that is called a digital transformation. That is doing nothing different; it is merely taking something on paper and putting it into electronic form. We need to consider what data is required, whether on welfare, provenance, ingredients, or the type of soil where the product was grown. What do we need, how can we then best collect it and at what stage of the production or supply chain can it be best provided?

Amendment 253 relates specifically to VI-1 forms for wine products to give a specific example but also to underscore the point that this is about all agricultural and horticultural produce. Indeed, it is about all goods and services. It could not have more resonance for the autumn and winter that we are about to go into. Currently, wines coming into the UK from Europe do not have to go through the VI-1 process or have lab tests. Given that 55% of the wine coming into this country comes from Europe, come 1 January, this is absolutely what will be required.

I am grateful for the background notes from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, which makes these points extremely clearly. It should be noted that the British wine trade is worth some £19 billion and provides 130,000 jobs. In fact, wine is the UK’s sixth-biggest export in the food and drink classification. We are a world hub for wine import and export. With this amendment, rather than just going for a form that would impose extreme levels of friction on the process, we have the opportunity for a digital solution: digital passports for wine coming into the country, leaving it and going anywhere in the world.

I point the Minister to the Chainvine project, which has amply demonstrated that this is not a theoretical possibility but a tried and tested reality. The project used new technologies, including distributed ledger technology, the internet of things and tracking and tracing products in real time—in this case wine from Australia all the way to the UK—to show us how digitisation can transform the way we do business and the collaborations with the producers, government departments, the FSA and HMRC. Would he agree that this possibility should be seriously considered by the Government?

In a Written Answer, the Government said that the cost to industry of VI-1 forms being introduced in January was negligible or nil. The reality is more like £70 million in costs for business, and over 600,000 forms. I know that the Minister is absolutely against red tape. Does he agree that in no sense do we want to introduce this cost and ridiculous red-tape bureaucracy on to this fabulous industry?

If this amendment is not accepted, we will be effectively increasing the price of wine and lowering the choice for consumers, and missing the opportunity of taking positive steps in a specific area to demonstrate how digitisation can transform how we do things, not just in agriculture but as a nation state. Will the Minister seriously consider Amendment 253 and the wider issues that it sets out?

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative 9:15 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, I am very pleased to support Amendment 236A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, with whom I agree that there is an appetite within the House to put climate change more to the front and centre of this Bill, although it is in Clause 1. She picks up on the point that I tried to make last time we discussed climate change, about making a payment scheme for the farmers, so that climate mitigation is what they are aiming for when they are farming. That is well covered in subsection (b) of her proposed new clause.

Turning to Amendment 253A in my name, I am grateful for the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. She has already underlined the importance of accurate food labelling, which I so agree with. My amendment makes provision for information on the greenhouse gases emitted during the lifecycle of agricultural products to be available to consumers at the point of sale, such as on packaging, and offers financial assistance for producers and accreditation bodies to compile this information.

There are three key points to bear in mind. About a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from food. On average, each person in the world causes six kilos of emissions every day because of the food that they eat. By 2030, only 10 years from now, we will need to halve our emissions. That will correspond to the average person causing three kilos of emissions every day for food. In assessing how the greenhouse gas figure is calculated, we must add up the greenhouse gas emissions from all parts of the food chain, including growing, clearing the land, processing, manufacturing, packaging and transportation, as well as cooking the food at home and disposing of any waste. That is not an impractical proposition. Some food is already labelled for greenhouse gas emissions, but this gives us all a role that we can play in tackling climate change. For most people climate change is too big a subject, and they feel they cannot actively contribute themselves. However, they can by changing their diet.

On labelling, I draw my noble friend’s and the Committee’s attention to our recommendation in our Hungry for Change report. In paragraph 324, we recommend that

“the Government should conduct a review of labelling on food and drinks products.”

We go on to say:

“The new regulations should be compulsory for all food manufacturers and retailers.”

It was for that reason that I included in my amendment the paragraph relating to provision of financial assistance for businesses towards the cost of providing that information. A lot of work has to be done on this, but it is a market for the future, and one in which everybody in this country can play their part.

The Minister has not warmly accepted any of my amendments, but I hope he will accept my recommendation that he and his officials read a book that is about to be published, called Food and Climate Change Without the Hot Air, by Professor Bridle of Manchester University. It will be published on 3 September, but advance copies can be obtained in August. It would be extremely useful if my noble friend, and particularly his officials, could read that book before Report, because I hope it will influence their thinking.

I commend my amendment on greenhouse gas labelling to the Government.

Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Lords), Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Lords)

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Earl, Lord Caithness. I wish to speak to Amendment 255, to which the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, have kindly added their names. It seeks to insert into Clause 35 a provision that is designed to protect the interests of the devolved authorities regarding the exercise of regulation-making powers concerning marketing standards in England that are conferred on the Secretary of State by that clause.

Clause 35(1) tells us that the Secretary of State may make provision about marketing standards with which the agricultural products listed in Schedule 4 must conform if they are to be marketed in England. The products listed in that schedule include milk and milk products, beef, veal—although, curiously, not lamb or wool—poultry and poultry meat, eggs and egg products, and fruit and vegetables other than olives. The list of matters that the regulations may cover is extensive, and that is leaving aside the points made by noble Lords who preceded me on this group. There are 14 matters on the list as it stands. They include species, plant variety, animal breed, the type of farming, the production method, the place or origin of farming, and restrictions on the use of certain substances and practices.

The clause makes it clear that the power to prescribe food standards extends to agricultural products that are to be marketed—I stress the word “marketed”—in England, not just to those produced in England. Nothing is said in the clause about where these agricultural products may come from, but it requires little imagination to appreciate the power may extend to agricultural products that are sent for marketing in England from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

We are told that Clause 52 extends to England and Wales only. It is odd, then, that the power does not cover agricultural products that are to be marketed in Wales as well as England. The Minister may be able to explain why that is so. If, as I suspect, the reason is that the standards to be applied to the marketing of agricultural products in Wales is a matter to be determined by Welsh Ministers, one wonders why Clause 52 does not say that Clause 35 applies to England only. But that is not the point that concerns me.

I am concerned that Clause 35 appears to overlook the fact that agricultural products marketed in England, listed in Schedule 4, may include things that have been produced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I do not have figures at my disposal, but we know that

“Northern Ireland sells more to the rest of the UK than to all EU member states combined” and that

“Scotland sells more to the rest of the UK than to the rest of the world put together.”

My source for that is the Business Secretary’s foreword to the UK Internal Market White Paper, published on 16 July. What is said there about Scotland must be true for Wales too.

Much of what comes to England from those other parts of the UK consists of agricultural products. To take just one example, it is common for farmers in Scotland who grow seasonal crops such as peas and raspberries to do so under contract to the supermarkets, which distribute them to serve the needs of markets throughout the UK, including England. There must be many farmers in Wales and Scotland, especially those close to the borders, who look to England as the place to take their goods to market. Because their business is agriculture, which is devolved, they must look to the Governments in Wales and Scotland to set the standards with which they must comply. The same is true for farmers in Northern Ireland. It cannot be assumed, then, that the standards set by the devolved Governments as regards species and farming methods will be the same as those the Secretary of State will think appropriate for markets in England.

This raises the crucial question of how Clause 35 is intended to fit in with the concept of a UK internal market. I appreciate that the White Paper to which I have referred seeks to meet the needs of marketing across the whole range of products that move around between our nations and that it was not produced by Defra. But the whole must include the sum of its parts, so I read its comments as applying to products for food as well as everything else.

We are told that under the plans in the White Paper, the UK will continue to operate as a coherent internal market, with a guarantee that UK companies—this must include farmers—can trade unhindered in every part of the United Kingdom. The White Paper states:

“If a baker sells bread in both Glasgow and Carlisle, they will not need to create different packaging because they are selling between Scotland and England.”

The principle of mutual recognition is explained further in paragraph 48 of the White Paper, which states:

“The fundamental aim of all mutual recognition systems is to ensure that compliance with regulation in any one territory is recognised as compliance in the other(s). For example, if a good produced in Scotland, and adhering to the Scottish labelling regulations, can be placed on the Scottish market, it can … be placed on the English and Welsh markets without the additional need to comply with English or Welsh requirements.”

With respect, it seems that Clause 35 as drafted does not address itself at all to the concept of a UK internal market, as explained in that paragraph. I suggest that it could do that in one or other of two ways. It could include a requirement that the Secretary of State consult with the devolved Governments when exercising the regulation-making power, which is what my amendment seeks to do. That would at least ensure that barriers were not erected to trade in agricultural products coming from elsewhere in the UK by accident or through a misunderstanding. Alternatively, exemptions could be written into the regulations for the English market to serve the needs of growers in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The other way might be to write into the clause a provision, such as that in the White Paper from which I have been quoting, stating that products grown there that comply with standards laid down by the devolved Governments could be marketed in England without having to comply with the English requirements.

I add that my amendment was conceived by me and not prompted by what I have read in the White Paper. It was drafted several weeks before the White Paper was published, but I am encouraged by what the White Paper says to suggest to the Minister that there is a real issue here, about the structure of the internal market in agricultural products, that needs to be thought through very carefully before the Bill leaves this House. Of course, I will listen carefully to what he has to say, but the issue seems so important to the working of the internal market that, depending on what he says, I may have to come back to it on Report.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative 9:30 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I am delighted to support Amendment 255 and I entirely endorse his comments. Subject to his decision, I would be willing to support a similar amendment on Report, if that is helpful at this stage.

I shall confine my remarks to the amendments in this group that relate to labelling and marketing, particularly Amendment 256 in my name. I am delighted to have the support of the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. I am very grateful to them for their support.

If this wording is familiar to the House and to my noble friend the Minister, indeed it should be. It is the form of words that was adopted by my noble friend Lady Fairhead during the Trade Bill, which I think was technically the rollover Trade Bill, that we debated a year ago but which then did not pass because of the general election. I was delighted that after some toing and froing and lots of debate in Committee, on Report my noble friend Lady Fairhead literally adopted this wording, so I therefore take it to be government policy. Obviously I have adapted it, taking advice, to make sure that it fits the remit of the Bill before us today.

I take great heart from the fact that my noble friend said again, in winding up a previous debate, that the Government will keep and raise our own environmental standards. What concerns me here is that we seem to be disadvantaging our own farmers and producers in two ways. One is that while we are keeping the same high standards that we currently have and possibly raising them even higher, we seem to be contemplating importing produce of lower standards in marketing, environmental health, animal welfare and hygiene. That to me is just not a Conservative thing to do; I cannot believe we are even contemplating it. That is why the thrust of my Amendment 256 is that the regulations within this clause cannot be used to make provisions that will have the effect of lowering animal health, hygiene or welfare standards for agricultural products below those established in the EU or the UK.

This is something that we are already familiar with, having been members of the European Union since 1973. I remember that in my days briefly in practice as a European lawyer we relied very heavily on the original Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome, which basically set out a limited number of exceptions to the free movement of goods, specifying that if it was deemed necessary on the grounds of the protection of the health and life of humans, animals or plants then under Article 36 an exemption could be applied for to prevent those products from coming into another European country from a neighbouring country or another member state. I see that that is now increasingly coming into trade deals that are negotiated multilaterally or bilaterally under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, so I am hoping that my noble friend will say that when it comes to the end of the transition period, this is where we will be.

I caution against something that Minister Prentis said in the other place: that the Government are considering consulting on mandatory labelling at the end of the transition period. Labelling seems very attractive. It is something that we looked at after the horsemeat scandal, because I am afraid that supermarkets were caught a little on the hop; they had not conducted a full test of the probity of the supply chain, and that is why we had the case of fraud and the passing off as beef, lamb and other products what was effectively horsemeat.

The difficulty is that labelling does not encourage people to eat home-produced meat, which is something we have discussed in the context of other clauses in the Bill. Another example I would give in this regard is what happened when we unilaterally banned the use of sow stalls and tethers. Technically, the Red Tractor label is meant to advise people that the pork, lamb and beef that we produce in this country—particularly, in this instance, the pork—is produced to those high standards. But that is not the basis on which people buy their food; they buy on price. It can have as pretty a red label as you like, but people will often still buy the cheapest cut of meat.

The other issue with labelling is this. How am I, as a consumer eating out in a restaurant or other catering establishment, to know that what I am eating is from this country and meets the high standards that the Government have asked our own producers to meet? This could create a two-tier system and mean that only those who can afford the higher prices of our home-produced food would be able to buy it.

As for what we are being told, I shall repeat again what the Minister, Victoria Prentis, said in Committee on the Agriculture Bill in the other place. She said that

“we are retaining existing UK legislation, and at the end of the transition period, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will convert on to the UK statute book all EU food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards. That will ensure that our high standards, including import requirements, continue to apply.”—[Official Report, Commons, Agriculture Bill Committee, 5/3/20; col. 372.]

As was helpfully pointed out to us by a letter from the Food Standards Agency, the difficulty with that—I will take as long as it takes here, because this is the crux of the Bill—is that those standards are enshrined in statutory instruments, so primary legislation is not needed to amend them; only a subsequent statutory instrument would be needed.

I hope that we can learn from previous mistakes and will seek to maintain the high standards that we have and ensure that we refuse to accept any standards lower than those that our own producers meet.

Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Labour

My Lords, I share some of the concerns that the noble Baroness has just raised, but I take a different view about the need for mandatory labelling of animal products. I shall speak just to Amendment 258, in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Trees and Lord De Mauley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, who will speak shortly.

On 29 June, Peers received an open letter from the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, which said:

“The Government has committed to a rapid review and consultation on the role of labelling to promote high standards and animal welfare, and remains committed to delivering informative food and drink labelling and marketing standards to protect consumer interests, ensuring that consumers can have confidence in the food and drink they buy.”

I welcome that, and I thank the noble Lord, but I would like the Minister to tell us, first, what the word “rapid” means to Defra. Will he give us the proposed timetable for the initial consultation and the review, and then for publishing the proposals that follow, and for making the necessary regulations? My amendment suggests six months from the passing of this Act—which I hope will mean March 2021—for the earlier steps, and 12 months for the regulations to come into force, in about September 2021. I hope that he will agree with that.

The regulations on labelling are urgent because, as a result of the new trade deals we are, we hope, about to receive—they are being negotiated—we shall shortly see new products coming on to our markets from overseas. People will, as the letter says, need to have

“confidence in the food and drink they buy.”

That means they need to be confident that those meet the high standards that we were promised, but which the Government would not, apparently, put into the Bill.

The Government say that they are concerned about tackling obesity, encouraging healthy food choices, making more use of local produce, reducing food miles, limiting carbon outputs and improving animal welfare—and I am sure they are. But if consumers are not given the information on the packet, how are they to know where it comes from, how it was produced or whether it complies with any of those objectives?

I am also afraid that if you do not give sufficient information then, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, has just suggested, consumers will simply select on price—some will do that anyway—and highest animal welfare standards considerations will simply not feature. The result will be that producers who meet high standards, which are usually more expensive, will simply go to the wall.

Consumers surely need to know the country of origin, particularly in these times. Amendment 254 from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, makes that point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, with great force in our debates on Tuesday. That does not mean simply where the chicken was processed, but where it was reared. They need to know the method of production. We already do it for eggs; we have free-range, barn-reared, organic and so on, but we do not do it routinely for milk, meat or egg products. We should. The consumer needs to know whether his meat comes from a feedlot, was intensively reared or was pasture-fed. Some people will not care—they will just go for the cheapest—but more and more people do care and are looking. They could be told simply in words or, with enough publicity as to what they mean, through symbols.

The method of slaughter matters too, and to some members of the public it matters a great deal. I accept that this Bill is not the place to argue for the abolition of non-stun slaughter, which I very much want to see. However, it is the place to argue that consumer choice matters. Whether you require meat slaughtered in accordance with the requirements of your religion or meat which has been pre-stunned before slaughter because you have animal welfare concerns, you want to know, one way or the other, from the label of the joint you pick up at the supermarket. You want “confidence”, to use the Minister’s word, that you have picked the one you want and are getting the type of meat you selected. Will the Minister share his timetable and plans for doing what Amendment 258 suggests?

Photo of Lord Tyler Lord Tyler Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Constitutional and Political Reform)

My Lords, I confine my remarks to Amendment 263 in my name and those of my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace, my noble friend Lord Bruce and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes.

This new clause seeks to secure exactly equal protection for traditional speciality food and drink products, for which the UK is famous and which have such economic benefits for particular areas, as is currently enjoyed under the EU geographical indications scheme. I am sure that there is shared enthusiasm in every part of the Committee for the success of this excellent scheme, not least since it was extended as a result of the initiative of British Ministers during the coalition Government.

I know that the Minister will be able to assure us that the protection of these products can continue within the UK. However, that is not the issue in question. I asked the then Minister for International Trade during Committee stage of the Trade Bill on 23 January 2019 for an explicit assurance that the GI protection would continue on exactly the same terms—that is, outside the UK—and was told that an amendment was unnecessary because this would be secured. In view of the vagueness of that promise, I repeated an amendment on Report on 6 March 2019 and withdrew it only when a firmer assurance was given.

Now it would seem that there may be another broken Brexit promise. According to newspaper reports:

“Cornish pasties could soon be made in France and still be called ‘Cornish’ after British Brexit negotiators failed to secure the same guarantees for British products in the EU … British officials argue that the Withdrawal Agreement calls for the current arrangement for existing GIs to be superseded by a free trade agreement.”

This threat becomes ever more alarming if, as the latest news of failing negotiations makes all too likely, we end up with the disaster of a no-deal outcome in just five months’ time. The dogmatic insistence of No. 10 to row back on even their very limited withdrawal agreement puts yet another obstacle in the path of British food and drink producers. The failure of the UK negotiators could result in a ludicrous situation in which proper Cornish pasties cannot be marketed from Cardiff, Cumbernauld or Cambridge but can be sold as Cornish by manufacturers in Cologne or Calais. Indeed, without any protection from the EU scheme and with no involvement in EU trade agreements in future, they could be passed off as Cornish in Canberra, Calgary or Cambridge, Massachusetts or in Truro in that same state.

I am, of course, especially exercised by the threat to genuine Cornish pasties, clotted cream and sparkling wine but my noble friends will be examining the effect on world-famous Scottish products. Others will argue for Melton Mowbray pies or Stilton cheese. This is a major issue. To add injury to insult, we are told that the Trump trade deal that No. 10 is so desperate for will require abandoning origin labelling. From the point of view of consumers, that will make matters worse. As other Peers have indicated, the whole labelling issue is contentious. While Champagne and Parma ham will continue to enjoy protection in Britain, failure to secure exactly the same reciprocal arrangements for our equally important speciality products in the EU and beyond would be completely unacceptable. I hope that Ministers will agree.

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 9:45 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, I commend the Minister for his role as honest broker, as he described himself earlier today, with the devolved Governments. He must take full credit for the working relationship that he has established. Sadly, though, he will not always be there. The history of what went before his time has influence, and the Government’s White Paper on the internal market raises a level of concern, hence my Amendment 263A.

I endorse many of the points made by my noble and learned friend Lord Hope of Craighead, who it is a pleasure to follow. For 20 years, the devolved legislatures have exercised legislative and executive responsibilities for environmental and public health standards relating to agricultural products produced and marketed in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Like the UK Government, they had to work within the framework of EU law, but this did not prevent them taking their own positions, for example, on GM crops or animal welfare. The Welsh Government and, indeed, the other devolved Administrations, have worked hard with the UK Government to develop common frameworks for the UK after transition ends to ensure that a level playing field is maintained while protecting devolved competencies. They have also urged the UK Government to engage fully with them on international trade negotiations, including the vital talks with the EU, to ensure that what emerges with regard to devolved issues such as agriculture is acceptable to them, since they have a responsibility and duty to implement international agreements.

As I understand it, these new internal market proposals are likely to disrupt, if not destroy, these efforts to develop a mature, respectful relationship between the four Governments within the UK. Thus, products that can be legally marketed in one part of the UK, whether they are produced locally or imported, can automatically be placed on the market in the other nations. In a no-deal scenario with Europe, despite opposition, new trade deals will be struck, but at what cost? The problem is far wider than hormone-injected beef or chlorinated chicken. Say, for example, the UK agrees to pork fed with ractopamine, which artificially increases muscle mass but can make animals aggressive, collapse and suffer organ failure. It is banned in Europe and China because it has been linked to heart problems and even poisoning in humans. The US allows double the somatic cell count in milk compared with the UK, thereby signalling lower quality and nutritional value, and it can indicate poor animal welfare.

In 2015, the data showed that 88% of the land area in Wales was utilised for agriculture, with 51% focused on livestock and 35% on livestock products. Some 29% of the UK’s sheep are within Wales, and 11% of the UK’s cattle, of which 60% in Wales are dairy. The Welsh Government have been updating their food legislation to ensure that the legislative framework in this area remains operable if the UK leaves the EU in a no-deal scenario. However, if US food regulations were allowed, this could price out Welsh farmers by flooding the market with lower-quality meat and milk, including school milk. This is a public health concern, quite apart from the threat to livelihoods.

We can expect strong and vocal opposition if Parliament legislates to allow such foods, because if these products are on the market in England, that will automatically mean that they can also be marketed and sold in Wales, even if Welsh legislation bans them. If my understanding of this is right, this will undermine the ability of the Welsh parliament—the Senedd—to exercise its given powers. Such a retrograde and centralising measure might appear to be designed to get the UK Government off the hook of having to listen to the devolved Administrations as they go about negotiating trade agreements and deregulating their own market, but any such approach will seriously undermine the union. This amendment is designed to prevent that. More immediately, I seek clarification of whether that really is the Government’s intention. I look forward to the reply.

Photo of Lord Wigley Lord Wigley Plaid Cymru

My Lords, I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and I agree very much with the points that she has made. They underpin the reason I added my name to Amendment 255, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who spoke earlier. The points made by the noble and learned Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, very much come together in the context of this amendment and this part of the Bill.

Earlier today, we started with a debate that was carried over from late on Tuesday evening. We discussed the relationship between the Governments of these islands, the way to secure a harmonious relationship within the UK single market and the need to get a framework for that purpose. The response that we got from the Minister to that debate, and particularly to the points that I raised at some length on Tuesday evening, was, quite frankly, non-existent. It is not good enough to say that we can have a semi-ad hoc working relationship between Ministers and that they will come together and sort things out. There has to be a formal framework.

I accept that the Minister, who replied to the earlier debate, might not be in a position to bring forward those proposals at this point, but in the light of points made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and others, I press him very strongly to give a commitment at the end of this debate that, between now and Report, the Government will seriously look at some practical working framework arrangement that can be agreed between the four Governments and that meets the sort of practical difficulties that have been pinpointed in this series of debates.

I believe it is important to get that sorted out now and not to find further down the road that we are in an almighty mess and that unnecessary tensions have built up which threaten to undermine the structures that we are currently so keen to construct for a harmonious working of the agricultural market within these islands.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

I am very pleased indeed to speak after the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley. This is a very wide-ranging set of amendments in this group: it covers food labelling, climate change and greenhouse gas labelling, marketing standards—including the importing of wine—and a geographical indications scheme. That is pretty wide-ranging, it seems to me.

However, I only wish to speak to Amendment 256 on standards. I have added my name to it and was happy to be able to support the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, on it because, as she said earlier, she and I—together with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones—pursued the issues of high-quality food and high standards of animal health, welfare and hygiene in the context of the Government’s Trade Bill last year. We were very pleased eventually to get a form of words agreed with the then Minister, which were included in the Bill. Amendment 256 is very much based on that amendment that was agreed last year.

Therefore, I am rather disappointed that we now seem to be back to square one, with the Government once again talking about the importance of high standards in these important areas but refusing to turn these words into any form of legislative commitment. We know how widespread and strong public support is across the United Kingdom for our existing high standards of animal hygiene, health and welfare and for high-quality foodstuffs. I could cite any number of public surveys on these issues, and they all show strong public support for the existing United Kingdom regime and high levels of opposition to cheap food imports from abroad reared without regard for animal health or hygiene and often, as we know, in extremely insanitary conditions.

It is not often that I have to tell the House that I have found myself in full sympathy with both the National Farmers’ Union and the Mail on Sunday. However, on this issue, I am at one with their campaigning and, clearly, so are well over a million of my fellow citizens, who have signed their petitions.

It is very clear to me—though I am sure the Minister will deny it—that the Government are pursuing two incompatible goals. They are expressing their verbal support for high food and animal hygiene and welfare standards, but at the same time they are pursuing trade deals with the United States and potentially other countries whose farm lobbies are working aggressively to open up new markets in the United Kingdom for their inferior but cheaper products.

I thought that the issues this raised were put extremely well by a Conservative former Cabinet Minister in the other place—again, I do not often agree with former Conservative Cabinet Ministers but, on this occasion, she said something that rang absolutely true. She said:

“Exposing our farmers to uncontrolled competition from lower-cost, lower-welfare imports would not only undermine our commitments on protecting the environment and on the compassionate treatment of animals, it would have a huge impact on the rural economy. There is a great risk that many livestock businesses could go bust across the country.”

I could not agree more and, in fact, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, said something very similar about Wales. Is this risk something that the Minister is prepared to countenance as the new agricultural framework takes shape?

A further serious issue for the Government in relation to standards has also just been raised. Northern Ireland, as we know, will remain in the EU’s single market and customs union, so its standards will be protected. However, Scotland is not in this position, much as it would like to be. There is no way that the Scottish Government will agree to any trade deal that allows for the reduction of existing food and animal welfare standards. The United Kingdom Government have the power to negotiate treaties, but they have to work with the devolved Administrations to implement those provisions, and I can see serious differences developing here, which would inevitably drag the devolved Administrations further away from London. Hence, I very much support Amendment 263A.

I fully understand and respect the Government’s determination to ensure that their ability and flexibility to negotiate trade treaties in the best interests of the United Kingdom is not undermined by legislative provisions. The noble Lord made that point in his letter to noble Lords after the Second Reading debate. Of course, the problem is that the great majority of people in England and the devolved Administrations do not believe that lower food and animal welfare standards are in the best interests of the country, and that is where the problem lies. This issue of standards is not going to go away; it will continue to be a big issue and I am quite sure we will return to it on Report.

Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated 10:00 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, whose speech was imbued with such enthusiasm—an enthusiasm and a content with which I agree. I support Amendment 256, which is in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, Lady Henig and Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. I hope that there will be a deal and that we will not have a no-deal Brexit. I am concerned about what Michel Barnier said today: that the UK and the EU were quite far apart on achieving that deal. In order to maintain our high standards of welfare, labelling and marketing, and animal health and hygiene, it is vital that there is a trade deal. Like the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig and Lady McIntosh, I do not want to see a situation where our imports are undermined by cheaper and inferior products from other countries, such as chlorinated chicken from the United States—which there are some suggestions about—or hormone-infused beef. I therefore ask the Minister to accept this amendment, to ensure that our high standards can be maintained and that that is replicated throughout the regions of the UK.

As I come from Northern Ireland, I refer to the the Northern Ireland protocol, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, which means that Northern Ireland will remain in the EU for agricultural products. It is, therefore, important that it adheres to the EU standards. It will be exporting to other regions of the UK and other parts of Europe. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, that Northern Ireland’s exports go, in the main, to Britain. Evidence-based research is available that that is the case. It is, therefore, vital that standards are maintained, that there is equality in those standards and that there is good-quality welfare and labelling.

The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, referred to our Select Committee’s report Hungry for Change: fixing the failures in food. I will reiterate what he said, because it is interesting. The findings of the review into labelling should form the basis of regulations to address both date labelling and the standardisation and simplification of front-of-pack traffic-light labels. The new regulations should be compulsory for all food manufacturers and retailers. I cast noble Lords’ minds back to the horsemeat scandal referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. Labelling was part of that problem and members of the EFRA Select Committee in the other place dealt with it. This proves the point that the highest possible standards of labelling and marketing, with due reference to animal health, hygiene and welfare standards in the quality of food that we produce are vital and must be adhered to. There should be no diminution or lessening of existing EU or UK standards.

Photo of Lord Trees Lord Trees Crossbench

My Lords, it is a pleasure to have added my name to and support Amendment 258, tabled by and introduced so superbly by the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu. I draw attention to my interests as previously declared in this Committee.

In 2018, the House of Commons EFRA Committee recommended that the Government should introduced mandatory methods of production labelling, which is the aim of the amendment. It is based on similar amendments introduced earlier in the other place by Conservative Members of Parliament and I know that this is a matter of much interest to the Government. Indeed, after the Second Reading of the Bill the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, noted

“The Government has committed to a rapid review … of the role of labelling to promote high standards and animal welfare”.

I welcome that statement very much and I look forward to progress.

Previous amendments and subsection (2) of this proposed new clause refer to methods of production labelling. While that is an important step, it is not always as easy to do in practice as it appears in theory. The term “free range”, for example, has been hugely influential in terms of boosting the sale of eggs from chickens kept free range, but it is not always easy to encapsulate complex rearing, feeding and husbandry systems in such concise and easily understood terms. That becomes particularly challenging with cattle rearing and maintenance. Currently in the UK, “grass fed” just means predominantly grass fed; that is, as little as 51% of the diet is grass based. Interestingly, I note that in the USA, it is mandatory for the term “grass fed” to be supported by an independently audited labelling system to indicate the actual percentage.

Another important consideration is that while input measures such as methods of production will influence welfare, the connection is not always as it may seem. For example, outdoor rearing sounds lovely, but there can be negative aspects to it such as exposure to certain parasitic diseases, just as there can be negative aspects associated with indoor rearing. I say that to emphasise that this issue is nuanced and complex. The amendment recognises that by referring not only to methods of production but also to welfare outcomes, which are increasingly being recognised as the ultimate and ideal way to categorise the welfare impact of different production systems. Of importance too in the amendment is the inclusion of method of slaughter, which has been called for by, among others, the RSPCA.

Labelling is not as easy or simple a goal as it may seem, but it is a goal worth achieving, and it is achievable with effort. After all, it is about giving the consumer choice. If the statutory protection of our high animal welfare, environmental and food standards is not to be put in place for imported food, labelling is potentially a very important means of ensuring that the consumer can determine whether the imported food they buy is produced to equivalent standards to our own. In this respect, I note with interest that Clauses 35 and 36 make provision for the certification of organic food products in the UK and overseas with the drawing up of regulations with respect to, among other things, the mitigation of climate change and the protection of the health and welfare of livestock. Imported products, in order to be designated organic, must comply with these standards.

Interestingly, of course, we do not have equivalent legislation for non-organic food products. The establishment of a similar certification scheme for non- organic products that is backed by statute for ethically produced food products that might be called, say, “UK quality assured” that would be available to UK and imported food products would be a major step forward. It could be developed in collaboration with existing food assurance schemes using labelling along the lines suggested in the amendment or revisions of it. That would not be as ideal as a blanket legal requirement that all imported food should meet certain standards, but it would comply with WTO rules and complement the proposed trade and agriculture commission. Are the Government considering such developments, and if not, will they do so?

Our consumers are increasingly knowledgeable and discerning about food matters, and we know that issues such as animal welfare and the environment are of huge importance to the public. There is very considerable demand for further information on these issues to be available with the food we buy or consume, when we buy or consume it. There is also an opportunity to develop a voluntary system of certified minimum standards recognised internationally, which I have mentioned above, and which would complement this amendment.

As outlined in this amendment, statutory labelling to describe the method of production, slaughter and/or welfare outcomes associated with all food products—of whatever origin—would help consumers make their own choice and would help to maintain high welfare and environmental standards.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley Conservative

My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Trees, I would like to speak to Amendment 258. On 25 June, the Government announced that they would consult on mandatory labelling provisions by December this year. This amendment builds on that verbal commitment, to mandate in legislation that the Government must report to Parliament, within six months of the Agriculture Act coming into force, how they will take forward mandatory labelling provisions, what they will cover and when regulations will be adopted. It sets a timetable of six months for the report and one year for the regulations to be laid.

At present, there is only one mandatory method of production labelling scheme, for shell eggs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said. This has been in place for 17 years and has been highly successful in driving up animal welfare standards, providing consumers with clear information on animal welfare provenance and helping British egg farmers.

In 2020, over 55% of British egg production is on free-range systems, up from only 15% when the scheme started in 2003. It is clear that, where other sectors have only voluntary labelling on methods of production —such as for chicken, pork meat, bacon and beef—consumers can experience difficulty choosing higher-welfare products, and farmers who wish to raise their standards are hindered in doing so.

This amendment would change that situation by asking the Government for a clear timetable on announcing the sectors and species they intend to bring into mandatory production labelling. Of course, this is particularly important as we seek new trade deals. Giving consumers clear information on provenance and production methods will help support UK farmers and raise standards. If imports of a product are permitted, consumers need to be able to choose to prefer or avoid certain methods of production. A mandatory labelling scheme provides this assurance and gives transparency in the market.

The six-month timescale proposed by the amendment for the Secretary of State to publish a report detailing proposals is broadly in line with present government commitments to produce such a report by the end of the year. Moving this forward swiftly would give producers and retailers time to plan for labelling provisions and allow a year before regulations need to be laid, giving them enough time to implement the provisions.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

My Lords, this is a very wide-ranging set of amendments. I feel slightly sorry for the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, because I thought her amendment was a good one with good points, but it seems to have been rather left behind by the debate.

If we are to keep up standards in agriculture, there will be costs, which the consumer will ultimately have to bear. If we do anything to undermine that, products simply will not be purchased in sufficiently high numbers for many of our producers to carry on.

I am not just repeating the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, in parrot-fashion: this is exactly what happened in the past. If your production levels are left behind and your prices are too high, people buy something else. It was called the great agricultural depression when the steam ship and a free market policy opened up the prairie and the pampas to production. Look it up: most British farmland was rough grazing.

So it is clear that, if we need to keep people in production, and to keep that production going, we need to maintain standards. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, said in conversation to me that everything has been too reasonable. Well, I give her all the encouragement to be as unreasonable as she likes on this one. I hope that the Minister will take away the need for it by agreeing to make sure that standards are kept. If they are not, I am afraid that we are going to have to readdress this issue at every available opportunity.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative 10:15 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, Clause 35 on marketing standards is an extremely important part of the Bill. It is odd at this late stage to add a lead amendment slotted in ahead of it containing a new clause on a carbon levy and a carbon sequestration reward scheme. I am against both new suggestions, particularly as part of this Bill. Adding some new idea without costing or analysis, albeit with the excuse that it is just a consultation, sets an unfortunate precedent and reflects badly on this House’s role as scrutineers of legislation. I am disappointed to see the suggestion coming from the Cross Benches, especially in the wake of Covid-19, as it would impose huge burdens on mainly small and struggling rural businesses. It also suggests a carbon levy on imports, which would put up consumer prices at a time when households will be under growing pressure and at risk of unemployment.

The lead amendment should be that in the name of my noble friend Lord Carrington. Amendment 247 tries to focus the extremely wide powers in Part 5 so that they are used to improve the economic conditions of production, marketing and quality of agricultural products, taking account of the expectations of consumers. This seems very sensible and I support him.

I will not delay the House at this late hour with my doubts about various amendments on labelling, except to say that in my long experience in the industry, here and overseas, politicians and other interests are much more interested in labelling than is the consumer whom we are meant to serve, and that there is not nearly enough evidence-gathering and research into the effectiveness of food labelling.

Finally, I agree that standards are important and help to support UK production, as we will discuss in the next group. However, the horsemeat scandal dates back to 2013. Lessons have been learned, and it should not be a driver for the wrong kind of new regulation.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I support the new clause in Amendment 263, which has already been spoken to by my noble friend Lord Tyler and to which I have added my name.

Before addressing the issue of geographical indication schemes, I will say a word about the related issue of countries-of-origin labelling and express support for the relevant provisions in Amendment 254 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond. My right honourable friend Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, recently raised this issue at Prime Minister’s Questions and received what might be interpreted as an encouraging response. Having drawn the Prime Minister’s attention to the fact that Orkney beef producers have their efforts to market a quality product undermined by the labelling legislation in this country, which allows beef from anywhere in the world to be labelled as “British beef” as long as it is packaged in this country, he asked whether in light of any future trade arrangements the Prime Minister would do something to close that loophole. In reply, the Prime Minister said that

“we intend to take advantage of the freedoms that we have—the freedoms that the British people have decided to take back—to make sure that Scottish beef farmers have the protections that they need.”—[Official Report, Commons, 17/6/20; col. 805.]

So this evening the Minister has the opportunity to indicate that the Government will indeed give Scottish beef farmers the protections that they need and to signal a willingness to use this legislation to close a loophole in country-of-origin labelling, thus giving confidence and reassurance to producers and consumers alike.

I would have thought there was common ground that geographical indication schemes bring market benefits to a considerable number of products. Scotland has 14 protected geographical indications. The NFUS describes some—the Scotch beef PGI and the Scotch lamb PGI—as being of strategic importance to Scottish agriculture’s output.

I assume that in future the starting point will be Article 54.2 of the European Union/UK withdrawal agreement of 19 October 2019. It provides that persons who under EU law are entitled to use the geographical indication or the designation of origin

“shall be entitled, as from the end of the transition period … to use the geographical indication, the designation of origin” concerned in the UK, and that they

“shall be granted at least the same level of protection under the law of the United Kingdom as under the … provisions of Union law”.

Can the Minister confirm how, with less than six months to go, that binding treaty obligation is to be implemented? Is there yet a United Kingdom register?

Of course, this ensures protection in the United Kingdom for a number of geographical indication products that are of importance to European Union countries and for UK produce currently given protection by these EU schemes. The object of this proposed new clause is to probe what continuing protection will be given to the United Kingdom’s geographical indications in the European Union and further afield after the end of the transition period. That is important, not least given the somewhat alarming reports referred to by my noble friend Lord Tyler.

In the Government’s response to a consultation paper on GIs published last year, Defra claimed that

“we anticipate that existing UK GIs will continue to be protected by the EU’s GI schemes after we leave the EU. This is because UK GIs are already protected by virtue of being on the EU’s various GI registers. That protection will continue automatically in the EU unless relevant entries are removed, which would require additional EU legislation.”

Can the Minister confirm that that remains the Government’s expectation, or are the kind of newspaper reports referred to by my noble friend founded and do they give rise to a matter for concern?

Moreover, GI protection has hitherto been afforded to UK products by way of free trade agreements with a large number of non-EU countries. In replying to the debate, can the Minister tell us how many rollover agreements have now been reached, what proportion of UK trade agreements with these countries represent and whether GI provisions have been agreed in each case?

That leaves the question of countries with which we have not yet managed to reach a rollover agreement or where there has yet been no EU free trade agreement to roll over. The USA springs to mind, where there is believed to be some scepticism of GIs in trade agreements. Will the Minister indicate whether the incorporation of GI protection for UK products will be a negotiating objective in any trade agreement with the United States?

Then, of course, there is the proviso of Article 54.2, which states:

“This paragraph shall apply unless and until an agreement as referred to in Article 184 that supersedes this paragraph enters into force or becomes applicable.”

On 2 April, the Financial Times reported:

The UK is pushing to water down its obligation to recognise valuable EU regional food trademarks for products like Parma ham and Champagne”.

Is that the case? Can the Minister confirm that, in the absence of any agreement by the end of the transition period or if the agreement does not amend the provisions of Article 54.2, the United Kingdom continues to be bound by those provisions as a matter of international law?

I am currently within six or seven miles of two distilleries—Highland Park and Scapa—and my son-in-law works for the Tullibardine distillery in Perthshire, so before concluding I wish to say a word about one of the most valuable protected geographic indications, namely Scotch whisky. It has been defined in United Kingdom law since 1933 and has been protected in a US federal code as whisky

“manufactured in Scotland in compliance with the laws of the United Kingdom” since the 1960s. Nevertheless, GI schemes have been of enormous benefit to the Scotch whisky industry. It is believed that the protection enjoyed in the United Kingdom as an EU GI is stronger than that provided under our domestic law. The provisions of the EU withdrawal agreement are therefore particularly important in that respect. It is therefore vital that the Minister makes it clear that the protection currently offered to UK GIs will be maintained through the EU withdrawal agreement or any further treaty agreement with the European Union and that, in seeking rollover agreements and other free trade agreements, GI protection, not least for Scotch, will be a negotiating objective. Sláinte.

Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Conservative

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace. I support what he said about ending the absurdity of allowing beef to be labelled as British or Scottish if it is merely packaged in this country. I cannot understand why that has ever been permitted. If it was something to do with EU law, we should change it as soon as we are free to do so. I also agree with him on the importance of Scotch labelling. He mentioned that it began in 1933. I am old enough to remember that in the post-war period Japan started producing its own, supposedly Scotch whisky. One brand sold under the label, “Genuine Scottish whisky made from genuine Scottish grapes”. I do not know how successful it was.

I will focus on the issue of labelling, which is behind a number of these amendments. In principle, giving information to consumers is a good thing, but the proposals in the amendments raise several issues. First, why does labelling need to be compulsory? If food producers have adopted high standards, it is in their interest to publicise this if they believe the public would be more attracted to their product if they knew it was produced to high standards. Of course, they often do so, as another noble Lord mentioned in the case of free-range eggs; some two-thirds of our eggs are now labelled “free range”. I suspect, however, that what is actually sought by some noble Lords is not positive labelling about the virtues of a product but negative or pejorative labelling, or simply labelling it as coming from a country of which they disapprove—usually America.

The second issue is: will voluntary labelling work? Will people choose products which are produced to a high standard rather than the less expensive variety? The sad truth is that less than 2% of the poultry that people buy is labelled as organic; for pigs, the figure is less than 1%, and for cattle, it is less than 3%. In general, people seem to prefer the least expensive product as long as it is safe for them to eat, and that is perfectly reasonable. It is all right for Members of your Lordships’ House to sneer at people buying on the basis of price, but a lot of people have to. Food is one of the biggest items of their budget and they want it to be available to them as cheaply as possible.

The third issue is: would compulsory labelling be compliant with WTO rules? Very probably not, although there are some doubts about that. Historically, under the GATT rules, there were cases which suggested that it would not. Some think that under the rules on non- tariff barriers there might be arguments for introducing some labelling. It seems to me rather unlikely that compulsory labelling would be permitted, particularly relating to imports.

Fourthly, if there is a health risk, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, suggested, we should not deal with it through labelling or banning imports. If a certain type of product is a risk to the health of the consumer, it should be banned. The health regulations rather than the measures in this Bill are the appropriate way of dealing with it

Fifthly, will labelling protect UK farmers, particularly from US products—which is clearly what a lot of noble Lords want to achieve? That clearly depends on what the label says. If the label simply gives the facts and says, for example, in respect of poultry that if it comes from the UK, the maximum density under which it may be produced is 39 kilograms per square metre, and if, for the US, the label says that its rules are that, for young poultry, it has to be less than 31 kilograms per square metre, which is significantly less dense than ours, and, for larger birds, a maximum of 43 kilograms per square meter, which is not very different from ours, I do not know that that will convince people that American standards are so different or so much worse than ours.

According to Compassion in World Farming, the UK has some 800 US-style mega farms, as it calls them —for example, warehousing 40,000 birds or 2,000 pigs. The largest UK farm houses 1.7 million birds and the biggest pig factory houses 23,000 pigs. We have large- scale farming in this country; we have smaller-scale farms too, and they compete successfully with the bigger farms.

We also import from countries in eastern Europe which have higher densities and less good standards than we do, and we compete successfully with them without tariff barriers or non-tariff barriers. And, of course, we allow imports from Brazil, Thailand and other countries, which I suspect have standards that are just as questionable as anything that people fear may come from the United States.

Looking closely at some of these suggestions, I have a feeling that they are motivated by protectionism. There are two kinds of protectionism: one is to protect the position of British farms, and it is perfectly natural that British farmers should seek to protect themselves; the other is simply an anti-American hostility that has pervaded many of the debates we have had on this Bill and on the Trade Bill, and I find that very regrettable. At the end of the day, we ought to be protecting British consumers on health grounds, enabling British producers—

Photo of Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 10:30 pm, 23rd July 2020

I remind the noble Lord of the pressure on time. This is the Government Whip speaking.

Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Conservative

Sorry—I shall finish in one second. And allowing consumers to buy on the basis of cost.

Photo of Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Deputy Chairman of Committees

I call the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie. No? I call the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, after which we will return to the noble Lord, Lord Bruce.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee), Chair, Consolidation, &c., Bills (Joint Committee)

My Lords, I wish I had the privilege of following the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, but I will be brief, in view of the lateness of the hour. I support Amendments 255, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and 263A, in the name the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff. The noble and learned Lord has clearly analysed the issues that need to be addressed in relation to the interrelationship of the Bill with the internal market proposals. The noble Baroness has eloquently spelled out the consequences of our failing to deal with that properly. Both amendments, therefore, are examples of what needs to be done if we are to respect the devolution schemes or change them to make them work better. Again, I pay tribute to the Minister’s efforts in this respect in relation to agriculture.

We must now concentrate on two matters. One is the way in which the internal market is to operate in relation to agriculture; the second is the structures needed. It is too late to begin on the internal market tonight, but I urge that when we return in September to consider the Bill on Report, we are in a position to look at the interrelationship of the Bill with the provisions to be put forward on the internal market. Also, as the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, spelled out so clearly earlier, we must have something to look at on the structures that are necessary to make this work. If we fail to do so, even at the eleventh hour, the consequences for the union will be dire indeed.

Photo of Lord Bruce of Bennachie Lord Bruce of Bennachie Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland)

I am not sure what happened there, but I am glad noble Lords can now hear me. I shall speak to Amendment 255, in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, which I would have signed had there been space to do so, and Amendment 263, in the name of my noble friend Lord Tyler, which I have signed, along with my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond. We have already had an important debate on devolution with specific reference to devolved issues throughout the Bill, and I very much appreciate the clear and valuable case made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, in Amendment 267, which I have also signed.

Amendment 255 requires the Secretary of State, when making regulations for England, to consult the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland Administrations and bodies that represent the UK farming industry. The scope of these regulations is a extensive and detailed, covering every aspect of agricultural production, processing, packaging, standards and distribution. Any significant changes could be very disruptive to the UK single market if it means divergence from practices in parts of the United Kingdom outside England.

Livestock production is more prominent in the devolved areas, especially in the more prevalent and less favoured upland farms. As I have pointed out in previous contributions, England is the main market for much of the produce from farms in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It matters, therefore, to Scottish and Northern Irish producers, that any changes to established practice and procedure do not interfere with farming methods and costs for non-English producers.

It also matters to English consumers if it disrupts or increases the costs of supply for markets to England. It would be invidious to single out individual companies, but I can think of a number in my part of Scotland whose main markets are in the south. The products are high-quality and well-received; indeed, the fact that the ingredients are sourced from quality Scottish farms is a key part of the branding. I hope that English Ministers would resist any measures deliberately designed to disadvantage farmers in the devolved areas, but lack of consultation could do damage unintentionally, to the detriment of producers and consumers throughout the UK.

Turning to Amendment 263, which I was pleased to sign, there can be no doubt that the protection of traditional speciality food and drink products delivers comparative advantage, which is of huge importance to our terms of trade. There are many parts of the world where the only visible expression of UK brands is Scotch whisky—where that is all you would know about the United Kingdom. It is one of our leading exports, if not the leading one. But there are many products that are distinctly British and that benefit from GI protection; so, are the Government resisting maintaining reciprocal GI arrangements, and if so, can the Minister explain why? The suggestion that EU GIs can be replaced by a domestic regime puts exports in an invidious position. Are there products from the EU 27 that the UK Government want to deny GI to? Do we want the freedom to designate English sparkling wine as champagne?

Over the years, battles have been fought to secure GI designation. Why should we now throw it to the winds? If we refuse to recognise established EU GIs, and it creates a conflict between our brands and theirs, it will sour the entire trade relationship. I support my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness and his powerful analysis of what the consequences would be. I urge the Government to accept this amendment.

Photo of Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Lord Palmer of Childs Hill Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, I am speaking against Amendments 254 and 258.

What concerns me is not the labelling of meat products, as it is right that, as far as possible, purchasers should know how an animal was killed. There is an increasing number of people who are against the slaughter of animals for food. I respect these views; however, what is being addressed in these amendments is an acceptance of people eating meat, but a desire to label as to the method of slaughter. I must say, a visit to an abattoir could easily make one a vegetarian.

What concerns me is that when the supporters of labelling make their case, there is often a concentration on whether the animal was or was not pre-stunned—in other words, a preoccupation with describing meat killed by kosher or halal methods. I have no problem with this labelling as long as it describes all methods of slaughter. I draw your Lordships’ attention to FarmWell’s proposal: a method-of-slaughter label with 12 categories. Three are electrical methods and two are gas methods; then, there is halal, halal pre-stunned, the Jewish shechita method, the non-penetrative captive bolt, the penetrative captive bolt, and, of course, lastly, being shot—the animal, that is, not your Lordships.

Where the bolt method is used, it should say whether it takes more than one attempt to kill or sedate the animal. If meat is to be labelled as humane religious slaughter, why not label when it is shot? Why not label that a captive bolt gun to the skull was used for cows and sheep? Why not label where chickens were shackled by their ankles and dipped in a water bath with an electric current running through it, which your Lordships should know does not always work, depending on the size of the chicken? Should labels also say whether pigs are herded into a room and gassed? A previous speaker has told the Committee about the numbers so killed. Then there is trapping and clubbing, but that is mostly by hunters. here are reputable reports on the failure rate of mis-stunning for the penetrative captive bolt for cattle as being 6.6% to 8%. The failure rates at the first attempt for non-penetrative captive bolt stunning and electric stunning could be as high as a fantastic 31%.

Some 2 million cattle, 8 million pigs and 9 million sheep and lambs are killed each year. The Jewish community slaughters only 90,000 red meat animals. Rounded to the nearest percentage point, I get 0%. Some 750 million birds are killed. The Jewish community kills a mere 500,000—that is a lot of chickens, but still not a lot.

Previous speakers—particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu—spoke very eloquently about labelling. She made an important point about labelling the country of origin. I certainly subscribe to labelling the country of origin for whisky. I like to think I can tell the country of origin, but maybe it should be labelled for others who cannot. When she went on to say that the method of production should be labelled, the only production method she mentioned, as far as I am aware, was whether it was pre-stunned or not. What I am trying to make clear is that I am against Amendments 254 and 258 but I am for labelling as long as it is comprehensive or not labelled at all.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, produced what I suppose could be a red herring, but it was actually horsemeat. Labelling horsemeat as beef or lamb is fraud; it is nothing to do with whether the customer has the choice.

If we are looking at labelling to stop cruelty, I am afraid that most abattoirs are really cruel. They try their best, but the electricity method of killing animals—mainly chickens—very often fails. The bolt system fails and they have to do it again. If we are labelling, can we just bear in mind that it should be labelling not specifically with regard to stunning and pre-stunning but for all forms of slaughter?

Photo of Baroness Altmann Baroness Altmann Conservative

My Lords, I support the aims of Amendment 256 in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, which was spoken to by so many noble Lords. I share the desire to ensure that our current food and animal product standards are not debased by our leaving the EU. I believe the Minister, who is one of our most outstanding and popular Ministers, may also have some sympathy with its intentions. I hope he will express that later.

However, my main remarks relate to Amendments 254 and 258. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Palmer. I refer in particular to the animal slaughter elements of those amendments and express my view that these elements—although perhaps well intentioned —could be damaging to the agriculture sector and, as my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe said, they are not generally desired by consumers.

I declare an interest as an observant Jew. Great care needs to be taken with labelling about animal slaughter. In my view, further regulation is unnecessary. All kosher meat is labelled as such. The UK religious Jewish authorities have always fully supported the idea that consumers have every right to know what they are eating, but I believe it is also important to make a distinction between even-handed, non-discriminatory labelling and proposals that may mislead consumers with a false impression that animals killed in one way or another will somehow not experience discomfort or that there is a readily agreed hierarchical structure for assessing the feelings of animals about to be killed.

Consumers can already access information, should they really want it, via existing labelling, with kosher or halal meat clearly marked as such, while meat from mechanically stunned animals is covered by labelling schemes such as Red Tractor. If true consumer information and disclosure is the aim—and I understand such aims—there would need to be a comprehensive labelling system to explain how each type of animal had been killed to provide the meat. I do not believe that there would be public support for this, but ensuring transparency would mean giving consumers the kind of proper information that was so vividly described by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer. All the mechanical methods of slaughter cause injuries of some kind to animals and birds before they are killed.

It is also well documented that stunning does not always work. With shechita, the knife cuts through in one go, causing a massive and immediate drop in blood pressure in the brain. That stops the blood flow to the brain and causes the animal to lose all awareness. Therefore, the blade effectively provides an immediate and irreversible stun and can also be described as a humane method of killing.

Most meat-eaters do not want to think of the animal being killed for the meat they are eating. I believe that we are fortunate to have a Government who do not discriminate against religious meat requirements, and I hope that my noble friend will agree that the animal slaughter elements of Amendments 254 and 258 are unnecessary and potentially discriminatory.

Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench 10:45 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, I, too, address myself to Amendments 254 and 258 and the issue of slaughter. Across the animal world, killing is done in ways that we do not like to think about. These amendments are a deliberate targeting of methods of slaughter of meat in the expectation that the consumer will read the label, understand it and be affected by it. No doubt there would be a campaign to persuade consumers not to buy certain products if regulations were made under these amendments. I want to draw attention to the selectivity in them.

This is a country in which fishing is a national pastime. It has recently been reported that even fish that are approved by eco-labelling schemes and sold in leading supermarkets have lived in grossly overcrowded cages and died slowly and painfully. Wild-caught fish are gutted or have their gills cut while fully conscious. Farmed fish are starved for a fortnight before they are killed. I have never understood how a kind person who enjoys fishing for himself can leave the fish to suffocate on the ground next to him. Trillions of fish not covered by these amendments suffer globally as a result of these methods of slaughter. In the UK, we shoot stags and pheasants for pleasure. Rabbits are killed for food by decapitation, breaking the neck and blows to the head. Millions of lobsters are killed every year by being semi- frozen and then thrown into boiling water, where they are left to thrash around for several minutes. Secret videos of horrors within UK slaughterhouses abound.

No doubt we will be told that stunning is humane and that non-stunning is not, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, has pointed out, it does not always work. Poultry slaughter is highly mechanised for speed rather than for the minimising of suffering, and it frequently goes wrong. According to the European Food Safety Authority, 180 million chickens and other poultry were killed in the most recent count using an insufficient electric charge. According to Compassion in World Farming, 1 billion chickens are ineffectively stunned in the EU each year, and millions of pigs that are stunned before slaughter with CO2 gas suffer.

My point is that our concerns should extend to all; they should not be crudely divided into stunning and non-stunning. The kosher requirement in this country is so tiny it is likely that many times more cattle were inadequately stunned, and therefore suffered, than were non-stunned and killed according to the kosher method. Consumers have every right to know what they are eating, but there should be honest, non-discriminatory labelling which should not deceive the consumer or insult faith communities. If you wanted to be comprehensive, every chicken leg would have to have a little booklet attached to it.

The European Commission’s Study on Information to Consumers on the Stunning of Animals in 2016 concluded that:

“for most consumers information on pre-slaughter stunning is not an important issue unless brought to their attention. However, this is an issue for a certain proportion of motivated consumers. It is by no means clear that consumers would actually act on this information if it were to be available.”

Its clear conclusion was that there is little accurate consumer understanding of the slaughter process. Kosher and halal meat is already labelled, so it is difficult to see a need for any further labelling. What then is the purpose of these amendments, in so far as they affect slaughter, because they are selective and pejorative in effect? They do not promote honest labelling, and they should be opposed.

Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative

My Lords, Amendment 247, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, seems sensible and I applaud his attention to economic conditions and to the expectations of consumers, as specified in the common market organisation regulation. I support his purpose, that regulations are only brought in for legitimate purposes.

I sympathise with my noble friend Lord Lucas in his Amendment 249, which seeks to explore the reasons why live poultry, poultry meat and spreadable fats are excluded from subsection (2)(j).

I am sympathetic, to a point, towards the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, which seek to increase the amount of information available to consumers by labelling and QR codes, but I expect that my noble friend will not want to go beyond what is proportionate and justified in terms of cost. For that reason, I prefer Amendment 258, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, which is the right way forward to deal with the animal welfare concerns which are often, misleadingly, confused with food standards.

I trust that the Minister will reject Amendment 256, in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, which would bind the UK to dynamic alignment with EU animal health, hygiene or welfare standards over which, even in this current implementation period, we have no influence whatever. As my noble friend knows, she and I are on opposite sides on EU alignment. I point out that these standards are not necessarily higher or lower—they are multidimensional. Her perceptions of standards do not take sufficient account of equivalence of outcomes.

Besides, we need to take up the opportunity that Brexit offers to improve our domestic regulatory environment. At present, the playing field for British cattle and sheep farmers is very uneven. Their French competitors receive €1 billion of voluntary coupled support payments every year. In the UK, the equivalent is a mere €39 million available to Scottish crofters. The threat to British beef is highly subsidised French and Irish beef, not American beef. Amendment 256 would make it much more difficult for the UK to enter into a good free trade agreement with the US and other third countries.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, is a tireless campaigner for higher animal welfare standards. However, Amendment 266 in her name would directly conflict with the aim of Clause 40, which is to ensure that the UK, exercising its rights as an independent member of the WTO for the first time since 1973, must be compliant with the Agreement on Agriculture. The UK now has a chance to establish itself as a global campaigner for free trade and it is important not to deny British farmers the opportunity to export high-quality products to markets such as the US, Australia and New Zealand. Does the Minister agree that the amendment would put the UK in violation of WTO rules in these and other areas where we do not have an EU protected sector, such as olive oil?

Almost 50 countries have made a submission complaining about the EU’s SPS rules, including many poor, developing countries as well as the major agricultural exporting countries. Those who argue that the UK should maintain its illogical ban on the import of chlorinated or even peracetic acid-rinsed chicken should answer three questions. First, would they not think it a good idea if the incidence of campylobacter in the UK could be lowered to the average level of occurrence in the US, a little over one-fifth of the level here? Secondly, are they aware that the American maximum stocking density for poultry, as my noble friend Lord Lilley explained, is broadly equivalent to our own? Thirdly, are they aware that the UK imports chicken from Poland —an EU member state—Thailand and Brazil, in all of which poultry stocking densities are higher than those found in the US or the UK?

Finally, I turn to Amendment 263, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, which requires the Government to seek an agreement for the continued protection of UK speciality food and drink products. The Government announced in February last year that they will set up their own geographical indications scheme in fulfilment of our WTO obligations. Does my noble friend think this amendment would help him achieve his objectives?

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, this group of amendments covers a wide range of areas that relate to standards, labelling and speciality foods, and to how the market will operate after transition, not least in the different parts of the United Kingdom. There are some very important amendments here.

This section of the Bill is full of words such as “may”, not “must”, and in some places noble Lords are seeking to rectify this. This is extremely important if we are to maintain the standards that the Minister says we will have now that we have left the EU and will not compromise to do trade deals.

Amendment 236A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, the first amendment here, is slightly different from others in this group, most of which seek to maintain standards. The noble Baroness is seeking to move standards forward to address climate change. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, in Amendment 253A also takes up climate change issues.

The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, wishes to ensure in Amendment 247 that reasons for regulations should be, as now in the EU, clearly defined as necessary—as one would certainly hope they would be.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, was commendably brief, emphasising the importance of labelling for full transparency and proposing smart labelling, animal welfare and traceability. The noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, adds wine in his Amendment 253.

Crucial in this group is Amendment 254 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond. Here they have scooped up key points in this permissive section to make it into a provision which says that Ministers “must” take action. So much in this Bill is permissive and does not specify what “must” happen. They seek to specify here that origin, transportation and method of slaughter should be transparent to consumers, but I note that my noble friend Lord Palmer and the noble Baronesses, Lady Altmann and Lady Deech, are concerned about this.

Then there are the amendments ranged around the country. Amendment 255 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, supported by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Thomas, and my noble friend Lord Bruce, would ensure that the Secretary of State consults the devolved Administrations and other bodies on regulations relating to marketing standards and the nature of the potential internal market in the UK. Amendment 263A from the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, also explores the balance in devolution and the risks of trade deals agreed by the UK Government which might be unacceptable and destructive, for example in Wales, damaging the union itself. The Minister was going back to think about devolution. He will need to examine this as well.

We now come to an extremely important amendment. It is because we are dealing with “may” clauses that we need Amendment 256 from the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, which specifies that these provisions should not have the effect of reducing animal health, hygiene or welfare standards below those currently of the UK or the EU. I note that she has adapted this extremely important amendment from the Trade Bill. I know that the noble Lord keeps reiterating that standards will not fall. In which case, putting this provision into the Bill will be, and must be, totally straightforward. The noble Baroness, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig and Lady Ritchie, made completely unanswerable cases. The noble Baroness, Lady Henig, is right to say that the issue of standards will not go away.

In Amendment 258, the noble Baronesses, Lady Mallalieu and Lady Bennett, and the noble Lords, Lord Trees and Lord De Mauley, are seeking more specification in labelling, including mandatory labelling for meat, milk and eggs, including those produced using intensive farming methods and slaughter. They lay down a timetable for this. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, is especially concerned whether products coming in as a result of trade deals will indeed be at the standard that the Government claim, and that there should be transparency for consumers, including those for whom religion dictates that meat, for example, fulfils various requirements. Nevertheless, Amendment 256 is stronger than Amendment 258.

Amendment 263, in the names of my noble friends Lord Tyler and Lord Bruce, my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, took us in another important direction. That amendment requires the Government

“to seek an agreement for continued protection of UK speciality food and drink products.”

This is yet another area where we seriously risk losing out from leaving the EU. We have granted this protection to EU specialty foods but seem to have failed to secure the same guarantee for British regional products on the continent, including Scotch whisky, Cornish pasties, clotted cream and so on. Those guarantees strengthen their market position. Is this really the case? My noble friend Lord Tyler and my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace certainly made their case powerfully. However, given the quote from the Prime Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, must find it easy to grant this amendment.

What will happen in new trade agreements? In all these amendments, a common theme runs: British agriculture is at risk in this new environment where the identity of its products and high standards may be undermined and undercut as we seek trade deals with countries beyond the major market of the EU. Those standards matter. I therefore look forward to the Minister’s response to this variety of amendments.

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) 11:00 pm, 23rd July 2020

I thank all noble Lords for their amendments in this group on marketing standards. The large number of amendments reflects many thoughtful contributions around the scope of the provisions in Part 5, Clauses 35 to 37. As previously, I declare my agricultural interests as recorded on the register. I congratulate my previous colleague and noble friend Lady Worthington on leading the group with her late amendment, Amendment 236A, on a consultation regarding the climate change impacts of agriculture. It is forward-looking and under proposed subsection (a), agriculture needs to be aware of its emissions if it is to become subject to a carbon levy on greenhouse gas emissions. However, a lot of analysis needs to be provided beforehand.

Agriculture takes its responsibilities seriously. As a member of the Tesco supply group, my carbon footprint of business operations is measured and assessed annually. I was happy to encourage and explore how accurate measurements from the initial development of the Dairy Roadmap many years ago could tackle this challenge. However, it will take many years of analysis to fully understand what is happening behind the statistics and how robust they may be. It is easy to overemphasise the role of agriculture in climate change, but that does not lessen the recognition of the need for agriculture to play its part in reaching net zero by 2050, mitigate its carbon footprint in its energy use and mitigate GHG emissions from the livestock sector with innovative schemes to redirect them to more positive outcomes.

Similarly importantly, agriculture can fulfil the desire to mitigate climate change through payments for schemes to reduce other industries’ and general impacts, as well as providing carbon sinks and upland water storage to reduce flood risk. The noble Baroness also makes a good point in the last aspect of her amendment, concerning drawing attention to the effect of food purchases from overseas and the need to recognise the impacts of their agricultural systems and production methods.

The noble Baroness’s amendment is echoed by Amendment 253A in the names of the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. This amendment and Amendments 248, 250, 254 and 258 concern labelling and providing information to the consumer. Matching on a label the food contained within with an accurate description that does not mislead the consumer is heavily prescribed in legislation. Consumers are arguably the most well informed about food that they have ever been.

I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, on their Amendment 250, which suggested the use of quick-response QR codes as a way of supplementing physical labelling with additional digital content. This is perhaps something that Defra could look at as a way of bringing in the extra subject matter these amendments would provide to the consumer, be that carbon footprints, welfare standards, transportation methods, or methods of production and slaughter.

Traceability is already part of the food chain operations concerning livestock products. Labels are already challenged for space. On the regulatory side, it is important that we have clear rules that can continue to evolve as the information required becomes more sophisticated. To answer these demands fundamentally, altering existing requirements should proceed only on the basis of proper and widespread consultation with producers, the supply chain and the consumer to ensure an appropriate balance.

Consultations form the basis of Amendment 236A, as discussed, as well as Amendments 263A—in the name the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay—and 255, to which my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch has added her name. The latter two are concerned with proper consultation with the devolved Administrations. I appreciate and thank the Minister for constantly reminding the House that his department has developed the Bill’s proposals in full consultation with the nations of the UK. However, we remain concerned about the quality of that dialogue. The areas of devolved competence also remain the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and were expressed by my noble friend Lady Wilcox of Newport in the debate on an earlier grouping of amendments concerning provisions with regard to Wales.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked questions about the operation of the internal market in food across the UK. Amendment 256 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, my noble friend Lady Henig and others is concerned that regulations and provisions may have the effect of lowering production standards below those already established in the EU and UK. We agree with this, and this is why we will be introducing amendments later to enshrine production standards in law around Amendment 271. The immediate priority is to ensure that the Government do not use their suite of delegated powers to water down the EU-derived provisions that consumers have demanded over so many years.

Amendment 247, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, seeks to enshrine the wording of the CMO regulation—EU Regulation 1308/2013—into the legislation. The Explanatory Note to the Bill signifies that the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 does that. The pertinent EU Council regulations are listed. But may I ask the Minister whether food information to consumers directives—FICs—notably Regulation 1169/2011, on labelling, are included in the list provided, and therefore also covered by the withdrawal Act?

The list of EU Commission-delegated acts covers the various product sectors, including wine, the subject of Amendment 253, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. I thank him for highlighting the importance of the wine trade. These Commission-delegated regulations under the withdrawal Act also include country of origin, protection of designation of origin, geographical indicators and traditional terms—the subject matter of Amendment 263, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler. He and I had independently tabled similar amendments to the Trade Bill last year, when the noble Baroness, Lady Fairhead, confirmed the Government’s commitment to continue implementation of these PDO and PGI schemes.

Can the Minister reconfirm that, and also confirm that this will be a key part of the future trading relationship that the UK seeks with the EU? Producers in this country will be keen to understand whether this will be an agreement with the EU covering mutual recognition of brandings that will require only one application to apply in both the UK and the EU. The adding of value to local specialisms is a crucial element in encouraging niche products to be protected by branding IP. This encourages skills, pride and prestige in rural entrepreneurship.

Finally, I commend the diligence of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, in her examination of Clause 32, inserting traceability of animal produce into the context of the devolved Administrations in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006, in her Amendment 248. Cross-referencing to other pieces of legislation can be very confusing. I thank her also for Amendment 266, which returns us again to the key concern of animal welfare standards, this time under the WTO provisions of the Bill. Under WTO rules, this will be very difficult.

The noble Baroness’s Amendment 248 seems potentially to contradict the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in his Amendment 249, concerning poultry. I await the Minister’s resolution of this, and his many responses to all the issues that have been mentioned under this group. I wish him good luck.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My Lords, what an interesting discussion we have had. I will start with Amendment 236A. We have already debated the topic of climate change extensively. Robust measures to address climate change are already in place through other legislation. The Government recognise the importance of reducing emissions. The clean growth strategy and the 25-year environment plan set out a range of specific commitments further to reduce emissions from agriculture, including through environmental land management, strengthening biosecurity, controlling endemic diseases in livestock and encouraging the use of low-emissions fertilisers. Defra is exploring a number of policy mechanisms to contribute to achieving net zero by 2050 from its sectors, including by reducing emissions from farming practices.

Clause 21 of the Environment Bill will also establish the Office for Environmental Protection, which will be responsible for matters relating to climate change where these are included in the environmental improvement plan—currently the 25-year environment plan—and in environmental law. The Government agree whole- heartedly with the aim of implementing a payment scheme for farmers and land managers, with an objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sequestering carbon.

Turning to Amendment 247, Clause 35(1) has been drafted to provide more flexibility to update the marketing standards than the existing EU rules, which allow for amendments to be made only in prescribed circumstances, such as improving the economic conditions for the production, marketing and quality of agricultural products, taking into account the expectations of consumers.

Keeping these restrictions would not give us the flexibility needed to tailor the standards to meet the demands of our domestic farmers, retailers and consumers, and would limit significantly our ability to improve and modernise the standards and to ensure that they are appropriate for the domestic agriculture sector. Before any changes are made to the marketing standards, we will engage with stakeholders and consult publicly to ensure that the needs of farmers, retailers and consumers are met. Marketing standards form part of food law and are covered by the duty to consult contained in Article 9 of EU Regulation 178/2002.

Turning to Amendments 248, 251, 252, 254 and 256, all food is subject to the general food law contained in Regulation 178/2002, and all food destined to be placed on the market must comply with Regulation 1169/2011 on food information to consumers—a point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. Traceability of all products of animal origin is already required under existing legislation. This can be found in Article 18 of Regulation 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002, which lays down the general principles and requirements of food law. This will become retained EU law via the powers in the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. There is no intention for these requirements to be reduced at all.

Clause 35(1) already allows the introduction of marketing standards for animal identification and traceability labelling. The Clause 35(2)(d) power in relation to labelling can be used to make rules on origin for marketing standards. There are more extensive labelling rules on origin in the food information regulations, which require the origin of meat to be indicated on the label.

All animals, whichever system they are kept in, are already protected by comprehensive and robust animal health, welfare and environmental legislation. The Animal Welfare Act 2006 makes it an offence to cause any captive animal unnecessary suffering or to fail to meet the welfare needs of the animal. The Welfare of Farmed Animals (England) Regulations 2007 set down more detailed rules for farmed livestock, further supported by species-specific welfare codes.

At the end of the transition period, all EU food safety, animal welfare, and environmental standards will be retained and form part of our domestic law, including all existing import requirements. Any changes to existing legislative standards would require new legislation to be brought before Parliament. The Government have absolutely no intention of watering down welfare standards and will continue to take action to improve these standards. We will not lower standards or put the UK’s biosecurity at risk as we negotiate new trade deals. The Government are committed to improving animal welfare standards and will be consulting on improvements to the regulations on animal transportation later this year.

Turning to Amendment 253A, general food labelling rules are set by the 1169/2011 regulations on the provision of food information to consumers. These already require, for example, nutrition information to be provided in specific formats and allergen and ingredients information to be provided to consumers. Following the transition period, and in accordance with the National Food Strategy, we have the opportunity to review these labelling rules to ensure that they best meet the needs of UK consumers and producers. When more reliable metrics on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts become available, which can be shown to drive better decisions by consumers, or more effectively drive the costs of negative externalities up the supply chain, we will certainly look at including them in the review.

I turn to Amendment 258. At the end of the transition period we can look at options for voluntary as well as mandatory approaches to labelling. They could include defining commonly used voluntary terms where they would be preferable and ensuring that they are used consistently in protecting consumers who seek to make those choices. Clause 35(2)(g) allows us to define new marketing terms covering method of farming, including slaughter. The Government have committed to a serious and rapid examination of the role of labelling, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, referred—I nearly said “my noble friend Lady Mallalieu”. Defra is currently writing the consultation and will launch it by December this year.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, asked about a UK ethical standard. We are not currently looking at an ethical standard that would compete with well-established ethical standards such as the RSPCA Red Tractor on organic standards with which we believe consumers are already familiar. Consumers are already protected in relation to these standards because any food with such labels must be produced to the stated standard.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, asked about a loophole relating to beef that is packaged in the UK being labelled as “British beef”. That loophole has been closed since the application of the beef marketing regulations. Regulation 1337/2013 provides for other meats as well. The origin of the meat has to be declared and has to relate to at least where it was raised and slaughtered. If it claims an origin, it has to be born, raised and slaughtered in that country.

I now turn to Amendment 250. Quick response codes can be a useful way of communicating information to consumers, and this is something that we can consider when amending the marketing standards in the future, after appropriate stakeholder engagement and consultation. Should it be deemed appropriate to introduce QR code labelling for marketing standards products, the Clause 35(1) power will allow for that.

On Amendment 253, the administration of maintaining marketing standards of imported wine products, including the digitisation of wine importation data and documentation, is included in the current scope of Clause 35(1). The scope to replace VI-1 forms with an electronic document is also covered under retained EU law, specifically Article 27 of the retained EU delegated EU Regulation 2018/273.

Turning to Amendment 255, I have to say that with three noble and learned Lords posing questions on this, I hope they will forgive me if I first study Hansard and look at the point carefully. The point I want to make is that the powers in Clause 35 have been extended at their request to Welsh Ministers and to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs in Northern Ireland and are set out in Schedules 5 and 6. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, talked about the White Paper and mutual recognition across the United Kingdom. On 16 July, the Government published a White Paper setting out how the UK internal market could operate following the transition period and launched a consultation on key aspects of our proposed approach. This will run for four weeks. We will be engaging closely with our devolved Administration colleagues and other stakeholders over the coming months and we will listen carefully to their views. The UK Government are fully committed to the Sewel convention and the associated practices for seeking consent set out in devolution guidance notes.

On the Government keeping the devolved Administrations informed about any early thinking on possible policy changes to marketing standards through discussions on the common agricultural policy framework, I can confirm absolutely that the aim is to ensure effective co-ordination and dialogue between all the Administrations on how any changes to legislation in one part of the UK may affect other parts. I do not have the time, but I would absolutely endorse not only as a unionist but as a practical person that an internal market within the United Kingdom is imperative and is in the mutual interests of everyone who lives in the United Kingdom.

Turning to the noble and learned Lord’s concern about consulting interested stakeholders, there is a duty to consult in existing legislation, Article 9 of Regulation 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002, which lays down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishes the European Food Safety Authority and lays down procedures in matters of food safety. It will be retained EU law via the powers of the EU withdrawal Act.

I have an issue—and at this time of night I hope it is not me—but it transpires that I have already replied to Amendment 263A in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, because it was put down as being in the first group today as well as in this one. I have looked at this and it is most extraordinary: Amendment 263A is down in both. So I hope the noble Baroness will look again at my comments. The best thing I can say is that we absolutely recognise the importance of working with the devolved Administrations. A framework will focus on consensus-based decision-making but will also include dispute prevention and resolution mechanisms. This was with particular reference to the development of food information for consumers, fish labelling and a food compositional standards common UK framework.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, asked about agreements. As of 31 January 2020, when the UK left the EU, we had successfully concluded and signed trade continuity agreements with 48 countries. This accounts for £110 billion of UK trade in 2018, which represents 74% of the trade with countries with which we were seeking continuity before the withdrawal agreement was signed. The UK Government are setting up new domestic schemes that will provide protection for GIs after the transition period.

I should say, in referring to Amendment 263, that we fully expect all 88 geographical indications from the UK to remain protected in the EU after 31 December this year. GIs are very important to the UK and the Government, and we will establish robust GI schemes at the end of the transition period. What the UK is doing in negotiations with the EU is preserving its right to set its own GI rules in future. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, also asked about GIs in a US deal. The UK mandate for a US trade deal on GIs is to ,

“maintain effective protection of food and drink names in a way that reflects their geographical origins, getting the balance right for consumers to ensure they are not confused or misled about the origins of goods, and have access to a competitive range of products.”

I am being reminded of the time. I will look at all the questions that have been asked. I know there have been quite a number; it has been a varied debate. I hope, given the points that I have made, that the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, will feel able to withdraw her amendment tonight.

Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Conservative

My Lords, I have two quick points for clarification, if I may. First, could the Minister confirm from the Dispatch Box that GI schemes have not already been wittingly or unwittingly traded away in the EU deal? Secondly, on the VI-1 forms, it seemed to me that he was saying that we will not be looking to impose a VI-1 paper-based regime come 31 December. Is it right that we will not be seeking to have such a scheme when we leave?

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My Lords, I have been very clear that the Government are determined to work in support of all the 88 geographical indications from the UK, which will remain protected after the end of the transition period. I will have to let my noble friend know about VI-1 forms, but there is scope to replace them and that is covered under retained EU law. I am afraid I do not know the timing of that matter.

Photo of Baroness Worthington Baroness Worthington Labour

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his characteristically thorough and detailed response, and for his patience despite the late hour. This has been a fantastically varied and wonderful debate from which I have learned a huge amount. I echo the words of the noble Baronesses, Lady McIntosh of Pickering and Lady Mallalieu, that ultimately, although labelling is hugely important, consumers tend to purchase on price. When we think about how to tackle environmental standards and the huge risk of climate change, internalising a carbon price into this sector will unleash investment and help consumers to make the right choices. However, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 236A withdrawn.

Schedule 3: Agricultural tenancies

Amendments 237 to 246 not moved.

Schedule 3 agreed.

Clause 35: Marketing standards

Amendments 247 to 256 not moved.

Photo of Lord Alderdice Lord Alderdice Deputy Chairman of Committees 11:30 pm, 23rd July 2020

My Lords, we now come to Amendment 257. I remind noble Lords that anybody wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division should make that clear in the debate.