This week Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey put forward his second amendment to the Agriculture Bill at Westminster, making clear that we shouldn`t let others reduce our food standards in the future.
Lord Empey said: “Following the failure of the House of Commons to agree an amendment that would not allow imported food products into the UK that are not of at least equal standards to those produced in the UK, I thought it essential that I would put an amendment to the Bill that would provide those safeguards.
“With the government, consumer bodies, processors, retailers and farmers having expended so much time, energy and money ensuring that UK food is produced to the very highest standards possible, why would we agree to allow much inferior food products, which are produced to a much lesser quality and standard into the United Kingdom to compete against our own superior goods?
“There is a huge gap in this Bill, there is an absolute need to ensure that the food products sold in the UK are of the highest environmental, food and animal welfare standards possible.
“We have committed not to reduce our high domestic standards. Therefore, our standards should not be undermined through trade deals. There is no point in us having world-leading standards in the UK if we do not expect trade partners to reciprocate. Allowing preferential access to food imports produced to lower standards will put many of our farmers at a competitive disadvantage and out of business.
“Not only will this be detrimental to our jobs in farming and food production, it will have a hugely negative impact on local production, this will effectively be turning a blind eye to poor animal welfare standards abroad and encouraging environmental degradation there. We will be giving up control, not taking it back.
“Any imported goods must be made to equivalent high standards as those in the UK before we give them easy access to our markets. That’s why I have tabled this amendment.
“No government should support the import of food produced to inferior standards than ours. This would be a serious neglect of their responsibilities to the farming community and also to the consumers.
“The travel miles required to import many goods would certainly not help our climate change policies and targets, concerns over the welfare of the farm animals and environmental practices should be to the fore of our decisions. We should not trade our high standards on the altar of cheap food. We must ensure imported goods are made to equivalent high standards before we give them easy access to our markets.
“We’re not reducing our standards, we shouldn’t allow others to reduce them.”
Member’s explanatory statement
This new clause would set a requirement for imported agricultural goods to meet animal health and welfare, environmental, plant health, food safety and other standards which are at least equivalent to or exceed those which apply to UK produced agricultural goods
Lord Empey’s 2nd amendment to the Agriculture Bill:
Insert the following new Clause —
“Import of agricultural goods after IP completion day
(1) After IP completion day, prior to the importation of any agricultural goods a
Minister of the Crown must have laid before Parliament a statement
confirming that agricultural goods imported under a free trade agreement may
be imported into the United Kingdom only if the standards to which those
goods were produced are equivalent to, or exceed, standards which at the time
of import applied under UK law relating to—
(a) animal health and welfare,
(b) food safety, traceability and hygiene,
(c) protection of the environment, and
(d) plant health.
(2) The Secretary of State must produce a register of UK production standards
which goods imported under subsection (1) would have to meet. Such a
register must be updated annually.
(3) “Agricultural goods” for the purposes of this section mean—
(a) any livestock, within the meaning of section 1(5),
(b) any plants or seeds, within the meaning of section 22(6),
(c) any product derived from livestock, plants or seeds.”