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 Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley Conservative 10:00 pm, 23rd July 2020

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.