Amendment 98 (to Amendment 97)

Agriculture Bill - Report (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 22nd September 2020.

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Viscount Trenchard:

Moved by Viscount Trenchard

98: After Clause 42, in subsection (1), leave out “as high as, or higher than,” and insert “which (a) are equivalent to or exceed”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment and the other in the name of Viscount Trenchard to Baroness McIntosh’s amendment would ensure that the Trade and Agriculture Commission would establish criteria which would ensure that United Kingdom standards comply with WTO rules.

Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative

My Lords, in moving my Amendment 98, I will speak to Amendment 99, both of which are amendments to Amendment 97 in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh. Once again, I thank my noble friend Lady Noakes for adding her name in support of my amendments.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh seeks to require the Trade and Agriculture Commission to retain UK standards, which means EU standards. She does not refer in her amendment to the importance of conforming to WTO rules or to the benefits of being free to decide our own regulations.

I believe that standards are not two-dimensional, high or low, but that equivalent outcomes for regulations on animal welfare, the environment, and food and plant safety may be achieved through the adoption of a less cumbersome, more proportionate regulatory system.

My noble friend, and the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, in his Amendment 101, seek to strengthen the powers of the Trade and Agriculture Commission. I believe that this is not necessary, for the reasons given by my noble friend the Minister on 28 July, when he said that he is

“committed to ensuring that trade agreements do not compromise our high standards and will continue to take into consideration the views of relevant stakeholders across the food supply chain on the impact of trade deals. A range of established stakeholder groups is already in place to advise the development of government policy on trade.” —[Official Report, 28/7/20; col. 197.]

Since then, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Trade has set up 11 new trade advisory groups, including the agri-food trade advisory group. The purpose of my amendment is to ensure that if your Lordships’ House were to support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh, it would then be amended to require adherence to WTO rules.

If I may, I will also refer to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, about the Food Standards Agency in a previous debate. He mentioned that there were 400 cases per year of salmonella in the United States, and implied that this showed how awful—I think he, or another noble Lord, used the word “vile”—American food standards were. I think this is a bit of an overstatement: the incidence of salmonella in the United Kingdom, adjusted for our population, is actually about 20% to 25% higher than in the United States. Further to that, the incidence of campylobacter in the United Kingdom is five times higher than in the United States. Therefore, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for the Food Standards Agency to advise against importing American chicken, which obviously presents much less of a risk to the consumer than chicken produced in this country, where poultry farmers are forbidden to use treatments such as peracetic acid, which is used in the US.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh has not indicated that she wishes to divide the House; she said that she wants to hear what other noble Lords and the Minister have to say. I, similarly, would therefore like to wait to hear what the Minister is going to say—my noble friend Lady McIntosh has the benefit that I must make a decision before her.

Photo of Baroness Henig Baroness Henig Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 8:15 pm, 22nd September 2020

I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. I put my name to Amendment 97 and support other amendments in this group because, while I supported the establishment of the Government’s current Trade and Agriculture Commission, I wanted it to be set up on a more permanent basis, rather than simply operate as a six-month ad hoc body. Again, I am listed twice in this group. I am not sure whether this is good or bad, or what somebody is trying to tell me, but “I shall say this only once”. I will, hopefully, be reasonably brief.

I agree 100% with the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, who said in Committee that a Trade and Agriculture Commission should be established on a permanent basis, that it should report to Parliament regularly and that

“it needs to have its advice acted upon by the Secretary of State.”—[Official Report, 28/7/20; col. 164.]

I very much welcome the considerable detail and structure, set out in Amendment 101, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, regarding how such a commission would operate.

We heard in Committee that similar bodies exist in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and that such an indispensable, independent voice, which mediates between farmers and consumer interests in their Governments, can advise on trade and agricultural matters and, indeed, on trade mandates and treaties. They have been found to be extremely useful. Why not, then, set up such a permanent body in the United Kingdom? I am only guessing, but perhaps this Government want to keep as much as possible of the decision-making in these areas in their own hands and veiled in secrecy. That is why such a committee, reporting to Parliament, needs to be written into the Bill, and I hope many noble Lords will support Amendment 101, if not Amendment 97. The reason why, in some ways, I prefer Amendment 101, now that I have seen it, is that it is a more comprehensive version of Amendment 97.

The noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, talked about food standards in America. It so happens that I have just been reading Bill Bryson’s latest book, on the body, and he has done a lot or research on food standards in America and has gathered a lot of evidence. He describes how food problems and related illnesses in America derive from American food production—he describes it as a hidden epidemic. I have to say to noble Lords that his research into this area seemed, at least to me, to be more comprehensive than that of the noble Viscount. Of course, we may differ on that matter.

In conclusion, I hope noble Lords will resist putting forward superficial historical arguments to oppose these amendments. I gently remind the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, who I regret is not in his place, that one of the central threads of the Corn Law debates was the potential economic gain to be achieved by pursuing free-trade policies at a time when Britain was the workshop of the world and British workers, who were working incredibly long hours for very low wages, needed access to cheap food to keep going. I hope the noble Lord has not given us a vision of the future under this Government.

Perhaps the noble Lord also overlooked the fact that the present Government are actually sacrificing substantial economic benefits by leaving the EU —the destination, of course, I remind noble Lords, of 50% of British exports currently—in their purist pursuit of national sovereignty. This seems to me, as a modern historian, to be very different from the rational economic policies pursued by mid-19th century British Governments. As I might have said to a student in one of my seminars in a former life, “Debating skills, first rate; historical arguments, perhaps rather less impressive”.

Photo of Baroness Hodgson of Abinger Baroness Hodgson of Abinger Conservative

I am delighted to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. I support Amendment 97, so ably moved by my noble friend Lady McIntosh and supported by the noble Baronesses, Lady Ritchie and Lady Henig. I concur with the point my noble friend has already made regarding this amendment: we need fair competition and a level playing field. As we know, none of us, particularly farmers and those involved in food production, wants to be undermined by cheap imports of substandard produce and husbandry from other countries.

The announcement of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission under the Department for International Trade was timely during the previous stage of the Bill. The Minister stated that it will

“shape the future of trade and agricultural policy in our current negotiations and in those to come”.—[Official Report, 28/7/20; col. 198.]

It will also provide advice to help promote our agenda at the WTO and other international fora, including on international standards for animal welfare and environmental protection, and to advance and protect consumer interests and those of developing countries. I add my voice to the calls for this commission to be permanent and to have a legislative footing, rather than be a six-month flash in the pan. It must be both truly independent and accountable, and its recommendations must have weight and be given true consideration by the relevant Secretaries of State. I was also pleased to see that there is a specific working group looking at standards, including animal welfare standards.

In Committee, I mentioned the concerns surrounding stocking densities of meat products and the amount of antibiotics pumped into them to keep them healthy, not just in the US but in other parts of the world where we know even less about production methods. I hope the Minister will feel able to accept this amendment.

Photo of Baroness Noakes Baroness Noakes Conservative

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendments 98 and 99, in the name of my noble friend Lord Trenchard. I will not spend any time going into the substance of whether the Trade and Agriculture Commission should be extended in time or scope beyond the arrangements that the Government have already made. I support the Government in this and will not support those amendments. The Government have been clear on their policy, as my noble friend Lord Trenchard explained, and I believe that that should be enough for Parliament.

As with the earlier group—when we debated Amendment 93 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester—if we have to have something in this Bill, which I hope that we do not, it should be drafted to reflect our post-EU place in the WTO as a full member again. It is those standards that should be driving international trade of all kinds, including agriculture and food products. The WTO is the place to argue for standards rather than using a parochial approach that might well put us at odds with the WTO, as has happened with the EU. For this reason, I will support my noble friend’s Amendments 98 and 99 if he chooses to press them.

Photo of Lord Curry of Kirkharle Lord Curry of Kirkharle Crossbench

My Lords, Amendment 101 is in my name; it is not dissimilar to Amendment 97, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. My interests are as recorded in the register. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans for supporting this amendment. I also thank the Minister for his open door, his willingness to make time available and his helpfulness throughout the passage of this Bill. His graciousness, tolerance and patience are very much appreciated.

I have been reflecting on what UK agricultural history will record in the chapter titled, “Membership of the European Union”. This has effectively now ended after more than 40 years. It just happens to span most of my farming career. One constant concern was what we termed “the level playing field”, which always proved to be rather elusive. We believed, perhaps mistakenly, that other member states knew how to game the system and we were committed to the rules of cricket. We are now entering the next important chapter of agricultural history and we will be trading on the global playing field. The purpose of this amendment is to try to avoid being bowled a googly from an experienced spin bowler to an unsuspecting batsman on a poor wicket.

I compliment the Government for establishing the Trade and Agriculture Commission. It was a very welcome decision and I look forward to the report it has been commissioned to deliver by the end of the year. While we are debating this Bill, the commission are researching the fine print of WTO rules. I absolutely agree that those rules should be what determine our trade policy. They are researching what is possible and what is not and what good trade deals might look like. By the time they complete their investigations and research, we will have established a wealth of knowledge on the subject. My challenge is, why, having established that resource, would one send them all home for Christmas, never to be seen again? The logic of retaining that valuable knowledge—that talent—to scrutinise future trade deals to make sure that they comply with the standards and terms in their initial report is obvious. I am disappointed that the Government have resisted the pressure to give the commission an ongoing role.

This amendment has the wholehearted support not only of the farming unions of the United Kingdom and of the CLA, but of animal welfare groups, the environmental bodies and, very importantly, the British public. Rarely in my limited experience has a single amendment had such widespread support. Many of the comments made in the debate on the group of amendments beginning with Amendment 89ZA, led by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, apply to this amendment.

Let me counter the accusation that this is a protection measure, that this is an amendment that will create a barrier to trade. This is absolutely not the case. We have no choice but to negotiate trade deals. I too am delighted that the Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, has a deal with Japan over the line. She, together with the Defra Secretary, has already established the Trade and Agriculture Commission to provide guidance on the standards and principles that should apply to imported food. This amendment is to ensure that these are applied and adhered to when the deals are agreed.

I speak for all stakeholders in saying that we want to raise the standards that apply to all globally traded food. If I might use another metaphor: all the boats rise on the tide of improving global standards. I would like to further this line of reasoning from a slightly different, more holistic approach. This is a framework Bill, as has been clear from the outset. We have debated at length what should be eligible for support—particularly through the ELM scheme—as well as who should be eligible, and how improvements in productivity might be encouraged and fair dealing obligations in supply chains be protected.

The commercial reality is that farmers and land managers in this new era—this new chapter—will generate income from three main activities: they will produce food and, potentially, energy; they will have alternative enterprises, including the provision of services which will add value to their businesses—over 50% are doing this already; and they will, I hope, participate in the ELM scheme. The majority of income for the majority of farmers will come from growing food. So their returns in the marketplace will still have the biggest single influence on the viability of their businesses, even with the investment in ELMS.

We have a unique opportunity to transform the management of the countryside through the ELM scheme. We can clean up the water and the air, help restore habitats, create valuable ecosystems, improve soil quality and enhance our natural capital. We can continue to improve our animal health and welfare. I am also sure we can deliver the ambition of the NFU to achieve net-zero carbon emissions from agriculture by 2040—10 years ahead of the national target. We can do all this by, I hope, investing a few billion pounds of taxpayer funds each year through the ELM scheme and delivering excellent value in the process.

However, we will not deliver these essential outcomes if our market is undermined by cheap food imports produced to lower, unacceptable standards. I will give noble Lords one stark example. Through significant investment in management systems, buildings, infrastructure and data capture, UK farmers have reduced their antibiotic use in farm animals by 50%—by half—in four years, and progress continues on the journey to reduce it even further. In the United States, antibiotic use is still at least twice that of the UK and up to five times more per animal in some species. We can help set the bar for global standards, giving our consumers and those in our export markets the confidence that the UK is a leading influence.

I conclude by asking: why would we put all this progress at risk by not making the simple change set out in this amendment? It places on the Trade and Agriculture Commission the responsibility for expressing its opinion on individual trade deals, the equivalence of the production standards, and how standards will be monitored in countries from which we import food. Importantly, this amendment requires the Secretary of State to lay reports from the Trade and Agriculture Commission on each trade deal before Parliament. This is a key feature of the amendment. I look forward to the response from the Minister and hope that he will accept this amendment. Depending on that response, I may wish to test the opinion of the House.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Liberal Democrat 8:30 pm, 22nd September 2020

My Lords, I very much support the amendment, the purposes of which have been so well articulated by the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle; I was pleased to add my name to it. The noble Lord clearly sets out the progress that has been made, and the need to ensure that that is sustained and not undermined.

In Committee, I subscribed to and supported a similar amendment in the noble Lord’s name. On that occasion, I quoted from a letter which the president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland, Mr Andrew McCornick, had sent to MPs during the passage of this Bill in another place. It was admittedly before the Government announced their Trade and Agriculture Commission; nevertheless, I believe that the sentiments expressed are still relevant and worth repeating.

Mr McCornick wrote

“it is vital that future trade deals do not curtail our ability to grow our reputation as a nation of provenance and quality by undercutting domestic production with imported produce, with which we cannot compete on price and production method.”

This amendment is drafted in similar terms to the one tabled in Committee, but there is a crucial difference. We have heeded the concerns expressed during the debate in Committee about the short life of the Trade and Agriculture Commission which was proposed then. So this amendment proposes a continuing existence for the commission, after producing its important primary report, to make recommendations to the Secretary of State to promote, maintain and safeguard current standards of food production through international trade policy, including standards relating to food safety, the environment and animal welfare. This continuing role may be achieved by the Secretary of State prescribing further functions for the Trade and Agriculture Commission after its initial report is published, and in any event, because the TAC will have a continuing responsibility to report on any trade agreement negotiated by the Government, to consider its impact on the trade of agri-food products and to assess its impact on the ability of the Secretary of State to promote, maintain and safeguard standards of agri-food production, including in relation to food safety, the environment and animal welfare.

The amendment would give the commission an explicit additional duty to advise Parliament on all trade deals and how they would impact on food and farming standards. That is one of the reasons the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland has indicated that it would encourage support for the amendment.

I shall conclude by giving two compelling reasons why this amendment should commend itself to Parliament, and an equally good reason why it should appeal to the Government. While providing for the Trade and Agriculture Commission to make recommendations, the amendment gives a key role to Parliament to consider recommendations as well as to determine Motions on the Government’s response to them—so Parliament would have a direct role.

Secondly, the provisions in relation to the new trade treaties supplement the rather limited role given to Parliament under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 in relation to the ratification of treaties. Both bring back more control to Parliament. As for the Government, the amendment would help them to secure their pledge set out on page 57 of their 2019 manifesto:

“In all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards.”

It seems to me that this is a win-win situation all round.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

My Lords, I am pleased to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Curry, in supporting this amendment. Indeed, it is the only amendment tabled on Report which has my name attached to it. I shall be brief.

The point encapsulated in the last two speeches is very important. The National Farmers’ Union of England and Wales, the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland and the Ulster Farmers’ Union, which I worked very closely with when I was the farming Minister in Northern Ireland, all support this amendment. It is also supported by the CLA. That is incredibly widespread support that should enable the Minister to grab it with both hands. It cannot be anything but good for the Government to have the kind of support from the farming community that an amendment such as this carries.

Before I make my other comments, I want to respond to the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard, who was kindly paying attention, or partly paying attention, to what I said in the previous debate. What I said was that in the United States of America, over 400 people a year die of salmonella. You can get the figures from the Centers for Disease Control. I did not say that they all died from eating chicken. What I also said was that nobody has died from this in the UK in the past 10 years. There may have been one case, but there was a dispute about it.

So it is not a question of looking at populations. The number of deaths in America is huge. Per head of population, food poisoning cases in the United States are 10 times higher than in Great Britain—although I did not go into that. People in America die from salmonella, but here it is not a cause of death. That is the difference, and the point I was making.

This amendment is very important for providing the checks and balances for what is a somewhat haphazard Government. I am not criticising the Minister or his team in this respect, or indeed the Bill team, but it is a haphazard Government, and this would provide checks and balances. The Government cannot rely on the existing structure. For example, I do not think that the Food Standards Agency is resourced or has the overall competence to get involved in the details of trade deals, as the proposed commission would. Of course, bodies such as the FSA and Food Standards Scotland would advise the commission, but the commission would have the main role.

It is also quite important that Amendment 101 not just involves but respects the primacy of Parliament, which Amendment 97 clearly does not. As I read that amendment, it seeks to give a veto over trade deals, and that cannot be right. I shall not recite the contents of Amendment 101, as that would be quite wrong. However, proposed new subsection (4)(d) in Amendment 101 is quite useful. In fact, I think that the Minister himself would probably quite like a list of the existing powers of the Minister, as it would be useful to know. Basically, we would like to know which powers they have got that they are not using. The powers are spread throughout a massive amount of legislation and it would be useful to have a list of them so that we could check which ones they are not using. Proposed new paragraph (f), which ties in with paragraph (c), would make the monitoring of imported foods—something that will not be easy—practical and workable.

We also have to remember that the EU does that for us now. The EU, on behalf of the member states, sends inspectors all over the world to check that farms and food factories are safe and of sufficient quality to supply the EU. We will have to repeat all that ourselves, and therefore it is very important that we have a system for monitoring the situation.

On the efficiency of UK agriculture—I am speaking from memory here—I think that the UK is so efficient in producing milk from dairy cattle that, if the rest of the world replicated our systems, there would be less than half the number of dairy cattle in the world. In other words, we are very efficient, and if we could spread that technology around the world, we would have fewer dairy cattle, less methane, less pollution and much more efficient production.

In short, on the idea of a standing rather than a temporary commission, a standing commission would consist of consumers, traders and producers, and it would instil far more confidence than the six-month commission that the Government have set up. The Minister and his team would be very wise to embrace Amendment 101.

Photo of The Bishop of St Albans The Bishop of St Albans Bishop

My Lords, I too will speak on Amendment 101, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, to which I have added my name. The previous three speakers have more than adequately spelled out why it makes a great deal of sense, so I can limit my comments.

The Government, through the joint letter from the Environment Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Trade, have assured us that standards will not be compromised as part of trade negotiations. Furthermore, I am reassured by the breadth of experience among the agri-food trade advisory group. However, welcome though these developments are, fundamentally they lack the legally binding requirement that properly guarantees that Parliament will have recourse to ensuring that our standards are not diluted.

We all recognise the value of our agricultural standards in promoting the well-being of consumers, producers and the environment. As part of the Government’s ambition to conclude new trade deals, compromises will be required, but it is imperative that they do not encroach on our standards, which must remain a red line. The amendment seeks to turn verbal and written guarantees into a comprehensive legal mechanism that combines independent expertise with parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that the necessary measures are taken to protect our agricultural sector, the environment and, above all, consumers.

This amendment echoes the recommendations of the Government’s own independent review into developing a national food strategy, which states:

“The Government should adopt a statutory duty to give Parliament the time and opportunity to properly scrutinise any new trade deal.”

It also advises that impact assessments be

“published well before the ratification of any trade agreement, to allow appropriate parliamentary scrutiny.”

By extending both the mandate and lifespan of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, I believe the correct balance of independent and parliamentary oversight would be established to truly assess the consequences of future trade deals for the agriculture sector and, if need be, the potential avenues for a course to ensure that measures are taken to uphold our standards. I hope the House will support Amendment 101.

Photo of Lord Randall of Uxbridge Lord Randall of Uxbridge Conservative 8:45 pm, 22nd September 2020

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the four signatories—proposers and seconders—to Amendment 101, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle. I support this amendment and added an amendment to it because I wanted to ensure that this Trade and Agriculture Commission had full representation from some of the people who should be on it. I notice that my noble friend Lord Naseby has added another amendment. Actually, I am not sure that my amendment is necessary; it was more to point out the lack of representation in these areas.

In the previous Division, I supported, some what reluctantly, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester. I did not do so because I doubted, even for one moment, the sincerity of my noble friend Lord Gardiner—I have immense respect for him—but I have been around politics for a while now, and I know that all parties can change manifesto commitments and find some way out of them. Sometimes it is more difficult to explain how they have changed them; for example, I remember a Conservative manifesto pledge about the expansion of Heathrow—“no ifs, no buts”—and that soon changed. I will not get on to that hobby horse at the moment, but I am saying that, despite assurances, things can change.

Therefore, I will address this amendment’s extension of the remit of the Trade and Agriculture Commission beyond the short period for which it has been set up. I believe it was set up because the Government needed something to try to quell those who were anxious about where the Government were going. I do not think it went far enough. We just sent something back to the Commons, having agreed the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and—from my 12 years’ experience as a Whip in the other place—I think there is every chance of it being overturned.

However, as has been said, the Government have a wonderful opportunity; as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, put it, what is not to like about this amendment? As we heard, it has the support of the NFU, the CLA, environmental bodies and that well-known left-wing organisation the Mail on Sunday. Therefore, this is not some bearded environmentalist’s amendment; this is something that I think the public would like to see as a matter of reassurance. The Government could take credit for accepting this amendment—or tabling their own modification—to reassure the country that we will not be sacrificing our standards to gain a particular trade benefit. Of course those trade deals are incredibly important, but not at any price.

I urge my noble friend on the Front Bench to have a good look at the amendment and to think that if the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, puts it to the House, I will be supporting him. I am sorry to say to my noble friend Lord Naseby that I will not be pressing my own amendment, but we ought to look at some sort of compromise that will sort out this remaining issue.

Most of the time when I have spoken, it has been about the environment and so forth. This is one issue where I am fully supportive of farmers and their livelihoods.

Photo of The Earl of Dundee The Earl of Dundee Conservative

I agree with my noble friend Lord Trenchard on the question of criteria to ensure that UK standards comply with WTO rules. However, in this grouping my main consideration is the composition of the Trade and Agriculture Commission itself. So far, the suggested membership comprises larger industry representation and experts covering quite a narrow group of issues. It does not take in those for environmental matters, climate, pesticides, food safety and other public interests; nor does it those from small and family farms. Consequently, arising from current proposals for this type of restricted TAC membership, there is the worry that problems raised by the public and farmers’ organisations would not be sufficiently addressed, the public interest thereby becoming neglected and even undermined.

That is why Amendment 104 in my name seeks to broaden the composition of the TAC to make it more representative and effective, hence the proposal that its membership instead should look after a much wider field of public interest. That would include animal welfare; climate; pesticides; food safety; hygiene and traceability; agricultural livelihoods; the protection of the environment, including forests; and fair trade with developing countries. I am sure the Minister would agree that this might be a better way to proceed.

Photo of Lord Trees Lord Trees Crossbench

My Lords, I support Amendment 101 in the name of my noble friend Lord Curry of Kirkharle. The Government are well aware of the great concerns shared by farmers, the veterinary profession—of which I am a proud member—animal welfare and environmental bodies and, above all, the public about maintaining standards in food, animal welfare and the environment as we embark on negotiating trade agreements in a global market where standards and prices vary greatly and low prices may correlate with low standards, environmental exploitation and, indeed, human exploitation. We must set a threshold of high standards to our global trading partners and, to use a familiar term, level up where necessary.

I hear the Government’s repeated assurances that standards will not be compromised but assurances, to use an old English proverb, butter no parsnips. I regret to say that I am still unconvinced by the Government's arguments explaining their reluctance to incorporate a commitment to standards in this Bill. I also still wonder at the inconsistency of a situation where there is a determination to maintain a legally dubious ban on chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef but not to provide our trade negotiators with minimum requirements for much more significant animal welfare, public health or environmental concerns.

That said, the establishment of the Trade and Agriculture Commission is to be welcomed, and the Government are to be commended on this pragmatic step. The commission incorporates much expertise and has been given important goals. But—I am sorry that there is a “but”, and it is a big one—born in July, the commission will be dead by December, which is hardly enough time to grow some feathers, let alone fly. With such expertise at its disposal, as we just begin to negotiate trade agreements—a process that will continue for years in a rapidly changing environment—would it not be wise to maintain the commission until it is clear that it is no longer required?

We understand that other existing bodies will ensure the maintenance of current standards. The Food Standards Agency has a proven track record of assuring food safety and I am confident that our food safety will not be compromised, partly because its independence is guaranteed in statute—as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in an earlier debate. But which body or bodies will be monitoring, auditing and inspecting, if necessary in countries of origin, animal welfare and environmental standards in the future? If it is to be the FSA, it will need much enhanced resources and expertise.

The recent trade agreement with Japan is welcome news, and we have been assured, in a letter from the noble Lord, Lord Grimstone, of 11 September, that

“we have maintained all existing protections for our high standards of … animal welfare”.

But in the World Animal Protection ratings for farm animal welfare legislation, Japan has a G, which is substantially lower than the UK’s rating. Japan has no specific legislation on animal transportation, the rearing of pigs, laying hens or chickens, and still permits sow stalls and conventional battery cages, in contrast to the UK, which prohibits sow stalls, veal crates and conventional battery cages for laying hens, and has extensive legislation on animal transportation. While the UK has legislation preventing the import of meat not slaughtered to UK standards, will that prohibition be maintained for all countries and, if so, how?

Echoing a question from my noble friend Lord Krebs in the debate on Amendment 93, which body or bodies are going to ensure animal products imported from Japan or anywhere else are produced to standards of welfare and husbandry, and with due regard to environmental standards, that are not lower than we demand of our own farmers? In reply to Amendment 93, the Minister said that we will repatriate audit and inspection capability hitherto provided by the EU, but I ask the Minister, who is going to carry out these vital audit and verification functions? Are they ready and fit for purpose? What about their independence?

This whole issue merits continuing oversight of welfare and environmental standards by an independent group of experts analogous to the Food Standards Agency. The BSE and other food crises demonstrated, historically, the need for and value of an independent body to oversee aspects of our food. It led to the creation of the Food Standards Agency. It separated the conflicted interests of Defra, which quite properly supports the producers and suppliers of our food, from the role of protecting our consumers. Surely it is in the Government’s interest and is a basic tenet of good regulatory process that these two functions—supporting providers and safeguarding consumers—be separated.

I have a last question. While the TAC is due to be wound up after it reports in December, the minutes of its first meeting in August show that it is considering the enduring need for a similar group or groups in the longer term. I ask the Minister, if the commission advises that it ought to have a continuing role or that a similar body be created with a similar role, will the Government give that genuine and serious consideration?

In conclusion, I strongly support this amendment to ensure that, for imported food products, there is an independent body of expertise in animal welfare and environmental standards to advise the Government on future trade agreements.

Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour 9:00 pm, 22nd September 2020

My Lords, I support Amendment 101 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle. It ensures that the Trade and Agriculture Commission that the Department for International Trade has established will not be toothless, transitory and a bit of a fig leaf. Your Lordships can hear that I am being rather less complimentary about the establishment of the commission than many other noble Lords. In my view, it defies description that it can be expected to carry out this valuable role in the time it has been given. I will come on to talk about the inadequacies of its composition.

We absolutely need the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Curry, to ensure that the commission has an ongoing, effective role in ensuring standards and holding the Government to account through all the successive trade negotiations, that it has that valuable, essential ability to report openly to Parliament and that Parliament has the opportunity to influence successive agreements.

I also support Amendment 102 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, which provides criteria for appointment to the commission. One of the reasons I am anxious about the nature of the commission is its reporting arrangements. At the moment it reports to the Department for International Trade and is a bit of a poodle body of that part of government.

I know the Minister will tell us that Defra is fully involved and working jointly with the Department for International Trade, but the impression I get is that the environment is very much an afterthought. There is only one environmental member of the commission, and there has been very little discussion of any environmental issues in the commission’s two meetings so far. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, has just admirably demonstrated how the arrangements for oversight of issues such as animal welfare and the environment are inadequate in its current construction.

I support the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, because it clearly lays out the criteria for membership of the commission and would help plug the gap that very much exists at the moment, in that consumer and environmental organisations and experts are, if not underrepresented, totally missing. It would mean that the commission has the right range of skills to go with the full set of teeth that the amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Curry, would give it. I think we should support both those amendments.

Photo of Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and I agree with her comments on the TAC. This group of extremely important amendments completes our debates on this issue. A large number of your Lordships have spoken knowledgeably and passionately on the subject.

During previous debates on this subject, many noble Lords reiterated the inadequacies of the Trade and Agriculture Commission as currently proposed. It is advisory only; there is no compunction on the Government to follow its advice or recommendations. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, asked the Minister whether the Government are satisfied with the temporary commission or whether an amendment to make it permanent would be better, so that it had some teeth and would therefore be able to respond to the first Dimbleby report.

There are no members representing the views of environmentalists or animal welfare or consumer groups. Can the Minister say how the commission as set up will inspire and maintain the confidence of the public, given that its chair referred to public concern over chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef as “alarmism”? Making such a statement does little to reassure the public of his independence.

Amendment 101 from the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, sets out how the TAC should be established and operate. This is very specific, and I will avoid making a Second Reading speech. It is bizarre that the Government do not wish the TAC to continue its work into the future. This amendment will not create a barrier to trade. The majority of farmers’ income will come from producing and trading food.

The noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, in his Amendment 102, seeks to correct the deficiencies of membership of the original commission and ensure a more inclusive membership. This is an amendment to the splendid amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle. The noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has similarly spoken to his amendment on membership of the TAC.

My noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness has reminded us of the view of the NFU in Scotland that the standards of our farmers should not be undercut by trade deal standards and should be safeguarded.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans made powerful speeches. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, reminded us that the NFUs of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, together with the CLA, all support this amendment, which respects the primacy of Parliament.

With a few notable exceptions, every speaker is in favour of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, which had enormous support during previous stages of the Bill.  Ensuring the TAC is independent, representative and has the necessary legislative backing is vital if it is to be successful.

This group of amendments is all about protecting farmers and ensuring that the public can feel confident in the food we buy and eat. I feel certain that the Minister understands the strength of feeling in the House on this issue. I trust that his response to the questions posed this evening will be positive, and that those of us concerned about this subject can be reassured. And I apologise for my croaky voice.

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)

This has been another good debate on another key issue in the Bill. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken on these amendments, which cover the key variances of opinion on approaches to food standards for imported product through the mechanism of a Trade and Agriculture Commission.

In Committee, I expressed anxiety about the approach of a Trade and Agriculture Commission, should this be the only way that UK food and production standards could be maintained as future trade deals are negotiated. From these Benches, we wanted to secure the enactment of the UK’s minimum level of food standards by enshrining it in legislation. That your Lordships’ House passed this measure earlier tonight has added to our confidence that the House of Commons is being asked to think again on this issue.

This allows us to approach these amendments with confidence that the Trade and Agriculture Commission could provide valuable insights and independent analysis on all trade deals concerning food standards, which would encompass the equivalents of production methods, welfare standards and environmental conditions that apply in the UK.

There are essentially two amendments from two very eminent Members of your Lordships’ House, although they are subject to further amendments. Amendment 97 is led by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering. She has come into the House from the Commons, having served as a very successful chair of the other place’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee. I pay tribute to the way she steered that prominent committee.

Amendment 101, also with amendments, is proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, and others. It has the backing of the National Farmers Union, which has been prominent in discussions throughout proceedings both here and in the Commons. The NFU could not team up with a better proponent for agriculture. The noble Lord, Lord Curry, spoke of his reflections on his career in agriculture. Over many years, he and I met at several key moments of agricultural policy developments. They might be designated as crossroads for agriculture. Here is another: he will probably say that he has met me too often.

While I commend the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, we much prefer the reconsidered amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, and I am grateful for the remarks of my noble friend Lady Henig in her summary of the situation. We will support Amendment 101 rather than Amendment 97, should that be pressed to a vote.

We welcome the developments that took place over the summer and I can signal that we will approve the amendment, with or without the further amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. Amendment 102 widens the representation on the commission and further enshrines its permanence beyond the temporary nature that was the Government’s very limited concession on this proposal. That amendment provides better clarity on Amendment 101 than Amendment 104 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Dundee.

The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, puts the commission on a statutory and permanent basis, with key powers to make recommendations to the Government and Parliament on all future trade deals. This key improvement should be taken back to the Commons for reconsideration, underlined by the widespread approval of this House. This key mechanism to adjudicate independently on trade deals is needed for consumer confidence and demanded by farmers, endorsed by all their unions in all parts of the United Kingdom. The NFU has secured the agreement of the British public through a petition signed by over a million people.

The potential loophole that exists for food that goes into the food service sector needs to be plugged by the commission. We would contend that your Lordships should return this amendment to the Commons with a powerful majority. The commission could build up considerable expertise that will be crucial for the future of food standards and an excellent resource in parliamentary scrutiny of future trade deals.

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 thank noble Lords for contributing to another thought-provoking debate. I will deal with the amendments as one because they are so interrelated.

As noble Lords will be aware, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 retains in law our standards on environmental protections, animal welfare, animal and plant health, and food safety at the end of the transition period. The independent advice of our food regulators, the FSA and FSS, and the rigorous processes they have developed, will continue to ensure that all food imports into the UK are safe and meet the relevant UK product rules and regulations, including imports under new free trade deals. A range of other government agencies, such as the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Health and Safety Executive and the Animal and Plant Health Agency, will ensure that the full range of standards and import requirements within their remits are upheld.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Trees, will remember what I said in response to an earlier group of amendments, but I will repeat it. The FSA has doubled the number of risk assessors since 2017. It can draw on the expertise of 100 scientific experts and support staff and has recruited 35 additional members to its advisory committees. It also takes into account wider consumer interests such as the impact on the environment, animal welfare and food security.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, also spoke about the Japan trade deal. The audit and verification function is currently being developed within Defra and will be in place and operational before the end of the transition period. All existing import standards will continue to apply to the new Japan trade deal, as they will for other trade agreements.

In addition, a range of established stakeholder groups is already in place to advise the Government on trade policy development. These include the DIT’s agri-food trade advisory group, which has a recently renewed membership of more than 30 representatives from the industry who will provide close technical and strategic advice to the Government as negotiations progress. This approach has been welcomed by these stakeholders as a way to input meaningfully into ongoing trade talks. Defra also continues to run various supply chain advisory groups, such as the arable group, the livestock group and the food and drink panel. These groups already provide valuable expert advice to help the Government develop trade policy and they will continue to do so.

In addition to this, the Government listened closely to valuable feedback from Parliament and stakeholders, most notably the NFU—of which I should declare my membership—to strengthen these existing arrangements. In July we established the Trade and Agriculture Commission, which operates under the auspices of the Department for International Trade. Defra is closely involved in this work and Defra officials are part of the commission’s secretariat.

I should also say that the Government have ensured that there is a cross-section of representatives across agriculture, animal health, international development, hospitality, food SMEs, retail and the environment. The Trade and Agriculture Commission will help shape the future of trade policy, both in our current negotiations and in those to come. It will also provide advice to help promote our agenda at the WTO and other international fora, including on standards for animal welfare and environmental protections, and to advance and protect consumer interests and those of developing countries.

The commission has already met five times and recruited additional representatives to working groups to assist in its work. There are more than 20 additional individuals sitting on three groups covering consumers, competitiveness and standards to provide even greater depth and breadth of knowledge to the commission’s work. This number will continue to grow. The commission is also fully open to evidence and input from any organisation or individual and will reach out as guided by its members and working group participants. Specifically, a stakeholder engagement exercise was recently discussed by the members, as the public summaries show. It is important that I should emphasise “the public summaries show”. The Trade and Agriculture Commission’s report will come before noble Lords at the end of year when the Department for International Trade presents it to Parliament.

With regard to Amendment 101, the established Trade and Agriculture Commission is fully free to consider and make recommendations on any of the issues laid out in the amendment, including on the need for other groups, trade policy measures or duties on government relating to the examination of trade agreements. Indeed, work is already under way considering these issues. The establishment of the Trade and Agriculture Commission and the wide inclusion of authoritative figures are testament to the fact that the Government recognise the need for advice on these matters and will listen.

I should also say that if, at a meeting held with my noble friend Lord Grimstone, the commission came forward and said that it needed somewhat more time to conclude its work, I have no doubt that both departments would look on that favourably.

I also note that Part 1 of Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy review has recommended a role for the Trade and Agriculture Commission, to define a set of core standards covering animal welfare, environmental and climate protections, which could be linked to tariff reductions in new trade deals. It is also worth noting that in the same recommendation the review reflected that broad legislation on the standards of imported products would create negotiability challenges. The independent membership of the existing Trade and Agriculture Commission has already started considering these recommendations and will report publicly with its view.

I should also say, particularly to my noble friend Lady McIntosh, that the working groups set up by the Trade and Agriculture Commission are equipped with appropriate expertise to consider in depth the recommendations of Henry Dimbleby’s report. They are examining all details thoroughly and, as I say, will provide a clear view.

With regard to Amendment 97, I note that the Trade and Agriculture Commission has been set up as an advisory board, not another regulatory body with a fixed term and a tight scope. This is a deliberate decision, which may not find favour with some of your Lordships, taken to avoid duplication of the work of our agencies. It is important that our established regulatory bodies continue to be a defining voice. The advice provided by the Trade and Agriculture Commission will be taken very seriously and the expertise provided will be essential to the development of trade policy.

In contrast to bodies foreseen in both amendments, the commission’s work is already under way and we do not have to wait until the Bill is passed. Moreover, its existence could not have come at a more opportune time, as our trade negotiations with the United States, Australia and New Zealand are live and it is perfectly placed to feed into the talks.

Throughout the passage of the Bill, we have heard from many noble Lords about trade-related bodies in other countries. I did look into this, and I would like to highlight the strengths of the government department, agencies and bodies that we have in this country which carry out a wide range of trade-related activities, including research, analysis and adjudication. Your Lordships will also be aware that the Government have recently set up 11 trade advisory groups, including one dedicated to agri-food to which I referred earlier. These groups have been designed to provide the blend of strategy and technical expertise necessary to support UK trade policy.

Some noble Lords have pointed to the US International Trade Commission as a model to be followed. However, the ITC has no direct policy-making or negotiation responsibilities and, unlike the Trade and Agriculture Commission, it does not have a food or agriculture-specific role, or provide advice on the policies that the US should adopt in trade agreements to protect standards.

The Government are committed to a transparent and inclusive trade policy. As your Lordships are aware, Parliament already has a clear scrutiny role under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010—CRaG—which provides parliamentarians with a period of 21 sitting days to scrutinise the final treaty text before it can be ratified.

International treaties cannot themselves amend domestic legislation. Should any changes to our law be needed to implement a future free trade agreement, legislation will need to be scrutinised and passed by Parliament. However, the Government have gone well beyond the statutory requirements of CRaG, in line with our commitment to transparency in our trade policy. We have provided extensive information to Parliament on our negotiations, including publishing our objectives and economic scoping assessments prior to the start of talks. We have continued to keep Parliament updated on negotiations as they progress, including close engagement with the International Trade Committee in the other place and the International Agreements Sub-Committee in your Lordships’ House.

At the end of negotiations, we will lay the final agreement text in Parliament under the CRaG scrutiny procedure for 21 sitting days, alongside an Explanatory Memorandum and a final impact assessment. In the case of Japan, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, we will also work closely with the International Trade Committee and International Agreements Sub-Committee so that those committees may produce an independent report on those deals. We believe that this approach strikes the right balance between respecting the UK constitution and ensuring that the Government can negotiate in the best interests of the United Kingdom, while also making sure that Parliament has the information and time it needs to scrutinise effectively the UK’s trade policy.

This is a key issue—I well understand that—and that is why the Government set up the Trade and Agriculture Commission. We have retained laws relating to imports and we have a range of statutory bodies whose members have experience and expertise. I think that, with those statements of mine as to the bodies, institutions and expertise that we have at our disposal, and, as I say, the way in which Parliament can scrutinise these matters, we have, in setting up the Trade and Agriculture Commission in the way we have, come forward with an arrangement which provides the clear advice that we desire for these trade deals, with a continuing statutory requirement of bodies of very considerable expertise.

It is for those reasons, and not because I dismiss the points that have been made—I know that some noble Lords will not want to accept the Government’s bona fides on their manifesto, which is why I said on an earlier group that it will only be when the trade deals are done that we can demonstrate, as we have done with the 20 already rolled over, that these standards have not been compromised—that I perceive that I will be able to satisfy your Lordships. But I can assure your Lordships, and I emphasise again, that the Government’s setting up of this Trade and Agriculture Commission was designed so that it did not duplicate or overlap with the work that statutory bodies have in place and will be fulfilling. So it is with all of those points in mind that I hope my noble friend Lady McIntosh will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates Deputy Chairman of Committees 9:15 pm, 22nd September 2020

I have received no requests to speak after the Minister, so I now call the noble Viscount, Lord Trenchard.

Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative

My Lords, I would like to thank everybody who has contributed to this debate, and the small number of noble Lords who have spoken in favour of my amendments. In particular, I would like to thank my noble friend Lord Dundee for seeing merit in my amendments—as indeed I do in his amendment. But I wonder why my noble friend has included the necessity to have representation of the public interest on fair trade with developing countries, without having it on fair trade with developed countries. Many—in fact, all—of the countries with which we are currently in trade negotiations are, I believe, developed countries. But I certainly congratulate him on his thoughts and ideas on that subject.

I also rather regret that I did not put down an amendment to Amendment 101, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, which seeks to do the same kinds of things as the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh, but goes somewhat further. That was a missed trick on my part; I had thought of putting down these amendments early in the process, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Curry, had not put down his amendment at that time.

As I said in my remarks, I am of the mind and the opinion that it is unnecessary to strengthen the powers of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, for the reasons that I mentioned. I am also persuaded by my noble friend the Minister’s explanation that the existing regulatory bodies and the new committees are well equipped to take care of the interests of your Lordships’ House in maintaining our high standards and regulations.

I regret very much that the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, is also silent on the need to conform to WTO regulations, because it is of the most extreme importance that this country should be a strong advocate and ambassador for free trade around the world, and should play a leading part in the WTO. If we start out also as a second outlier, like the EU has become, we will not be able to realise our potential as an influencer of the best emerging trade standards around the world in the future.

In these circumstances, and having heard my noble friend the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 98 (to Amendment 97) withdrawn.

Amendment 99 (to Amendment 97) not moved.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

I think we have had an excellent debate and I thank everyone who has contributed for their gracious remarks about all the amendments. Those who have spoken and who have put the amendments forward have gone to great lengths to consider the topic this evening and in Committee. Just to put my noble friend Lord Trenchard’s mind at rest—I am sure the Minister will confirm this—I cannot imagine for a minute that any Minister of the Crown serving Her Majesty’s Government would put anything forward that does not comply with World Trade Organization rules. We are, first and foremost, a nation that plays by the rules and abides by the rules and we have a good track record in that regard.

I would just like to express disappointment. I understand from the notes that came round that the Minister is prepared to answer a couple more questions if I raise them at this stage, and, if we are to vote on amendments tonight or at a later stage, I think this would be helpful to know. My noble friend listed again the bodies that look at food safety, but my concern is that we are continuing to confuse food standards and food safety. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, has done the House a great service this evening by pressing the Minister on which body will actually carry out the audits and inspections. I want to put that as a direct question to my noble friend, for the reasons the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, gave. If he is asking the Food Standards Agency to do this work, it is work that it already does when it is food coming in from third countries, as the EU and other countries will be when we have left.

I think there is a confusion here. My Amendment 97 is about food standards, animal welfare and all these other things, not whether they actually meet the food standards regulations that the Food Standards Agency applies. So, when my noble friend reels off a list of all the bodies that are going to be looking at food safety, I think we are missing the point. What we would like to have this evening is a reassurance as to why, in his view, Amendments 97, 101, 102 and others are not needed —because I have not been convinced. I am desperately worried that we are potentially going to put our farmers in a very difficult position, and our consumers when they are making choices going forward. So will he answer the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, about which body will carry out these audits and inspections and which body will uphold these standards?

My noble friend said that Parliament will have 21 days to scrutinise any free trade agreement, I presume, that comes before the House. What is the precise procedure? Is it CRaG or are we going to go further? What will happen in those 21 days that Parliament is being given to look at that? I hope that those of us who do not happen to sit on those Select Committees will be able to have a view. When do the Government intend to respond to the Dimbleby report? It is most unfortunate that we have had what I believe are very helpful recommendations from Henry Dimbleby—that the Trade and Agriculture Commission should take a holistic approach, should be independent, should be formed of experts, should be permanent and have a statutory basis—and I would find it very unsatisfactory if my noble friend were to say that we are not going to have a response even to part 1 before the Bill, and indeed the Trade Bill, have received Royal Assent.

My noble friend went to some lengths to say why we should accept what the status of the advice from the Trade and Agriculture Commission would be. I would be satisfied—and I am sure other noble Lords would be as well—if my noble friend would confirm that the advice would have the same status as that from the Migration Advisory Committee, which is followed by the Government more or less to the letter. That would be very helpful indeed.

I will conclude by saying why I think Amendments 97, 101, 102 and others that have been put forward this evening are necessary. We find ourselves in a very weak negotiating position, and I do not accept that either the advisory group on trade or the Trade and Agriculture Commission as currently formed are up to the job. That is why we have tabled the amendments this evening. We find ourselves with no one from this country having the trade and negotiating experience that we need. We have reached out to New Zealanders and Australians to perform that duty for us. So that is why, in my view, subject to what my noble friend says, we need to have a vote on some of the amendments this evening.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 9:30 pm, 22nd September 2020

My Lords, for the sake of the record, I will repeat for my noble friend my replies to the noble Lord, Lord Trees. I said that since 2017, the FSA has doubled the number of its risk assessors. It can draw on the expertise of 100 scientific experts and support staff, and it has recruited an additional 35 members to its advisory committees. In addition, I should say to my noble friend that it takes wider consumer interests into account, such as the impact on the environment, animal welfare and food security. I also said in my reply that the function of audit and verification is currently being developed within Defra and will be in place and operational before the end of the transition period.

I am not going to repeat my speech about the number and range of trade advisory groups and the people who have been asked to join the working groups on the Trade and Agriculture Commission. I said specifically that the wide inclusion of authoritative figures was a testament to the fact that the Government recognise the need for advice on these matters and will listen. I am surprised at the suggestion from my noble friend that this country does not have within its midst—because it does—people with great expertise in trade negotiations. That is why we want the Trade and Agriculture Commission to have within it people with a range of expertise. The commission was specifically asked to undertake this work in the context of there already being statutory bodies in place, and I think I have given, in very long and detailed responses to both this and an earlier group, details of the capability and the range of work that the FSA and other bodies will undertake.

On the arrangements for a commitment to a transparent and inclusive trade policy, I shall repeat again what I said, so that it is clear. Parliament has a clear scrutiny role under CRaG which provides parliamentarians with a period of 21 sitting days to scrutinise the final treaty text before it can be ratified. Those are the provisions that I set out. I also said that we would be going beyond the statutory requirements of CRaG. I shall not repeat the long passage I set out earlier, but we will set out the way in which Parliament will be informed and updated, and the way in which Parliament and the committees of both Houses will have a very considerable opportunity to opine on these arrangements.

On the national food strategy, I am sorry, but Henry Dimbleby has been asked to do a very thorough piece of work and he has been undertaking that. My noble friend may say that it is not satisfactory that his final report will not be available until the end of the Trade Bill, but I have no doubt that during the passage of that Bill, Parliament will have a lot to say—I am convinced that parliamentarians in both Houses will have a great deal to say. It does not mean that we should stop the Trade Bill because we are awaiting the very important final report from Henry Dimbleby. As I have already said, the Trade and Agriculture Commission has been asked to look into some of the early recommendations in Henry Dimbleby’s report. I have nothing more to say on the matter. I have explained why I think the Government’s bona fides are strong, but I sense that your Lordships will think to the contrary.

Amendment 97 withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Bates Lord Bates Deputy Chairman of Committees

We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 100. I remind noble Lords that Members other than the mover and the Minister may speak only once and that short questions of elucidation are discouraged. Anyone wishing to press this amendment to a Division should make that clear during the course of the debate.