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Import of agricultural goods

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 5th March 2020.

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Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 12:30 pm, 5th March 2020

I agree with much of what the previous speakers have said. New clauses 1 and 4 are grand in their way and I will support them, but we have to go further. I want to see the standards of the EU maintained, but perhaps that is for a different debate. However, it is possible to write it into domestic law that imports have to match the sanitary and phytosanitary standards of the WTO.

The WTO agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures is clear that science has to underpin the standards to protect human, animal or plant health. The agreement allows states to protect their food supplies and the imports of supporting products to the benefit of citizens. I know the argument will be that Ministers seek to protect citizens, but we do not know that that will always be the case. We should seek to ensure that citizens have the confidence to believe in this measure and in future Governments, and in the commitment to protecting foods and health. Citizens should also have the right to understand how Governments intend to do that and should have the ability to challenge them if necessary.

The SPS agreement allows standards to be set, so we should have them set. That would have allowed Ministers to assure the public that animal welfare and plant health would be maintained, and that imported food would be of a standard that we could rely on for health and the protection of life. As NFU Scotland recently pointed out, assurances around priorities in negotiations work only if the US upholds its side of the bargain. It stated:

“After all, there’s no point having a level playing field if the two sides are playing to different rules.”

I therefore support new clause 7.