Amendment 236A

Part of Agriculture Bill - Committee (6th Day) – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 23rd July 2020.

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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.