Amendment 236A

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 10:00 pm on 23rd July 2020.

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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.