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Import of agricultural goods

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Daniel Zeichner Daniel Zeichner Labour, Cambridge 12:15 pm, 5th March 2020

As ever, I am hugely grateful to the right hon. Member, whose drafting skills I would happily draw on in trying to improve the amendments. He will reflect that the new clause was sloppily drafted not by Opposition Members, but by the current Secretary of State. We are very happy to work with the right hon. Member on improving it, but I think he knows what was being referred to in those circumstances.

It seems to us that the Government are currently refusing to include in the Bill a ban on food imports produced to lower standards than our own. They have also dodged amendments to the Bill that were suggested previously by the current Secretary of State himself, which seemed to aim to ensure the exact same thing—banning the sale of animal products in this country that had been subjected to chemicals and processes that we do currently allow here.

What exactly has been going on? The Minister needs to come clean on this. The Secretary of State did not include these prohibitions either in the previous Bill or in the current Bill, even though he was the Minister in charge of both Bills. What came over him when he briefly left the Government? What conditions was he made to accept when he agreed to come back and then to become Secretary of State? Does this whole episode not show that, in his heart of hearts, he probably agrees with us that the only way to safeguard our animal welfare and food safety standards and to prevent our hard-pressed British farmers from being undercut by cheap, sub-standard imports, is to put these provisions in the Bill?

We believe that new clause 1 is the crucial amendment. It would not just strengthen the Bill but safeguard its core aims. We make no apology whatever about pressing it to a vote. I urge the Minister to listen closely to the unanimity of voices on this amendment and to recognise the need for this addition to the Bill. I appreciate that this is a tough moment for Government Members. As they vote, they must be aware that the future of many of their constituents is on the line. I want to safeguard their future, our countryside and our food safety.