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Wed, 21 October 2020

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The Conservatives cannot be trusted to protect British standards – they must be guaranteed in the Agriculture Bill

The Conservatives cannot be trusted to protect British standards – they must be guaranteed in the Agriculture Bill

The Conservatives have twice now voted against protecting our food, farming, animal welfare and environmental standards in future trade deals, writes Luke Pollard MP. | PA Images

3 min read

The Conservatives’ refusal to put British standards into law will mean more cheap, low-quality food being imported and put our farmers livelihoods in serious jeopardy.

The House of Commons will make an important choice today which will have significant ramifications for the future of our country. Are we going to continue to uphold high standards, ethical treatment of animals and environmental protections in all aspects of food production? Or are we going to risk the possibility of trading away our standards and our values to the highest bidder, putting lower quality food on our plates and wrecking our farmers’ livelihoods in the process?

At the last general election the Conservatives pledged that:

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

If it was good enough for the Conservative manifesto, it should be good enough for the Agriculture Bill. But now it has fallen to the Labour Party to try to force the Conservatives to deliver their commitment.

The Conservatives have twice now voted against protecting our food, farming, animal welfare and environmental standards in future trade deals.

If we do not put our high food standards into law, lower quality, less nutritional food will inevitably end up on our children’s plates

A lot has been said already in this debate about chlorinated chicken, but this does touch on a wider, more important point. If we do not put our high food standards into law, lower quality, less nutritional food will inevitably end up on our children’s plates. 

The first place food produced to lower standards will be sold is not supermarkets, it will go to restaurants, takeaways or as ingredients in pre-prepared meals, leaving consumers unclear about its origin or how it has been produced. 

Labour backs British farmers. We want them to produce the best food in the world, and be able to compete with farmers abroad on a fair and equal basis. But the Conservatives’ refusal to put British standards into law will mean more cheap, low-quality food being imported and put our farmers in serious jeopardy.

More than one million people signed the National Farmers’ Union’s petition to protect our standards.

As a response to this, the government promised to set up a new Agriculture and Trade Commission, which the Conservatives claim is enough to keep our standards and our farming industry safe. But it will not be enough. 

It must be made permanent, and required to produce a report on every trade deal to be voted on in Parliament, as in the Lords’ amendment supported by Labour. Without this, the Agriculture and Trade Commission is a watchdog without any teeth. But the most secure way to protect standards is to get a legal guarantee directly into the Bill.

 

Luke Pollard is the Labour MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport and shadow secretary of state for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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