Consideration of Commons amendments & Ping Pong (Hansard) & Ping Pong (Hansard): House of Lords
Tuesday 20th October 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Agriculture Act 2020 View all Agriculture Act 2020 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 141-I Marshalled list of Motions for Consideration of Commons Reasons - (16 Oct 2020)
Commons Reasons
Motion A
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 1, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 1A.

1A: Because environmental objectives will be considered when setting out strategic priorities for giving financial assistance.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con)
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My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will speak also to Motions C, C1, F and F1. At this juncture, I should declare my farming interests, as set out in the register.

I start by once again acknowledging the work of your Lordships in the scrutiny of the Bill. These debates have provided a valuable opportunity to clarify the Government’s agenda of reform for agriculture in this country.

Turning to Amendment 1, I agree wholeheartedly with the intent behind the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. The strategic priorities of multi-annual financial assistance plans drawn up under Clause 4 will most definitely consider those objectives and those of future environmental improvement plans.

I turn to Amendment 11, and Amendment 11B proposed in lieu by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, in Motion C1. The exacting process of scientific assessment applied to all pesticides specifically addresses the situation of those living near to where pesticides are applied. The Health and Safety Executive is the regulator covering the safety of chemicals, including pesticides. Staff working on pesticide assessments are scientists who specialise either in one part of the risk assessment, such as the fate and behaviour of pesticides in the environment, or in interpreting the specialist findings to reach conclusions on a product’s safety. No pesticide is allowed on to the market unless these scientists are satisfied that it poses no threat to the health of those living near farmland where it might be applied. This assessment process applies to all new pesticides, and the safety of existing pesticides is regularly reviewed.

Some noble Lords are concerned that the Government could face a gap in powers at the end of the transition period. I want to reassure your Lordships that that is not the case. We have the powers needed in this area. Section 16 of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 allows the Government to make regulations that prohibit the use of pesticides in certain specified areas. Section 17 of the same Act allows the Government to make codes of practice providing practical guidance on pesticide use. Other powers include Article 6 of Regulation 1107/2009, which allows the designation of areas where the use of plant protection products containing a particular active substance may not be authorised.

A wide range of monitoring activities takes place to ensure compliance with legal requirements, and intelligence- led enforcement action is taken where problems are identified. The Official Controls (Plant Protection Products) Regulations 2020 provide additional powers to enable the responsible bodies to operate proactive controls, targeting enforcement where it is most needed.

I turn to Amendments 17 and 17B, and Motion F1 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. The Paris Agreement was ratified by the United Kingdom in 2016 as a sign of its continued commitment to climate action and reductions of CO2 emissions across the world. The Government are bound by it as an international environmental law treaty. The Climate Change Act 2008 set targets in domestic law, which were strengthened to include an obligation for the Government to ensure that the net UK carbon account is 100% lower than the 1990 baseline by 2050.

In previous debates, the Pensions Bill has been given as a precedent for the inclusion of a reference to climate change on the face of a Bill. I looked into this, and the duty is placed on trustees or managers of occupational pension schemes, not the Secretary of State, who is already bound by these obligations. On Thursday 15 October, the Government published their response to the Committee on Climate Change’s Reducing UK Emissions: 2020 Progress Report to Parliament.

Amendment 16B requires the Secretary of State to lay a strategy outlining policies that will be taken towards net zero. I am therefore very pleased to confirm that our response to the Committee on Climate Change includes a new commitment to publish a comprehensive net-zero strategy ahead of COP 26, which will be a wide-reaching and cross-departmental document, making the most of new growth and employment opportunities across the United Kingdom. This will raise ambition as we outline our path to hit our 2050 target. I beg to move.

Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I oppose the Commons deletion and commend Amendment 11B, which proposes a revised version of what was Clause 38 in the Bill as it left this House.

I thank the Minister for his explanation, and for his courtesy, throughout this discussion and when meeting me yesterday, but I am afraid that he has not yet convinced me. I appreciate that many in this House do not regard this issue as important enough to be dealt with at this late stage in the Bill’s passage, but the Bill will define the future practice of agriculture in this country. We are dealing with agriculture’s relationship with nature, the environment, the food trade and so on, but it also must be about its relationship with those human beings who live and work in our countryside alongside that agriculture. Too many of those rural inhabitants have had health effects from exposure to pesticides, which have been and remain a serious threat to their physical quality of life. They deserve at least the limited and straightforward protection which my amendment provides by requiring the Government to regulate the distance between them and pesticide operations.

There have essentially been only three arguments from the Government against this principle. The first is what the Minister has just said: that the EU authorisation process nowadays ensures that even repeated exposure to the application of legally authorised pesticides cannot lead to serious health effects. I regret to say that medical reports and evidence from rural residents, some of which noble Lords will have seen, suggest substantially otherwise. Noble Lords will also recall the powerful speech on Report by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, on the medical issues that residents and others affected by pesticide poisoning have suffered.

I accept that there have been significant changes in EU pesticide authorisation, but they are not sufficient. One of the easiest and most obvious ways to prevent such exposure from causing health effects is to ensure that the exposure to crop spraying is at a prescribed minimum distance from where people are most likely to be: in their own homes, their children’s schools, and so on.

The principle of my original amendment continues to be supported by many in this House, if not all, including my original co-sponsors the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, of the Liberal Democrats, the noble Lord, Lord Randall, of the Conservatives, the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb for the Greens, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff. However, perhaps it was phrased a little loosely. The main objection in the other place by the Defra Minister, Victoria Prentis—she used slightly overstated terms—was that it would close every field to pesticide application. That was never the intention, so we have deleted the wording which gave rise to that objection and taken out what was originally subsection (1)(b). The only open spaces referred to now are those that are part of education or healthcare facilities. That should deal with the substantive objections that were made from the Government Benches in the Commons.

The other objection, repeated by the Minister just now and in the wording of the Commons reasons, is that Ministers already have these powers. I have two comments on this. There is a key word in my amendment —“must”. If Ministers did have these powers, they have not used them. This amendment would require them to produce draft regulations and to submit them to the usual consultations, and then to both Houses. At the last stage, and in correspondence, Ministers argued that they had possessed these powers since the EU directive in 2009 and the transposition of that in 2012. The Minister has just said that they have actually had these powers since the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985. There is no specific reference there to distance or to residential property—there is a brief reference to healthcare facilities—but even if Ministers are right, and they do in general terms have the right to prescribe distance, why have they not done so in the eight years since the transposition of the EU regulation, and in particular since that 1985 Act? If they are claiming that they already have those powers, they must explain to the House why they have not used them. If we do not pass my amendment indicating that they must introduce such regulations, we may have to wait another 35 years for rural residents to be protected.

I give notice—I should have done so at the beginning —that, unless I hear something different from the Minister, I intend to press this amendment to a Division at the end of this debate.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
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My Lords, I speak to Amendment 17B, which would create a new clause for a strategy to reduce emissions from agriculture, having regard to our national and international obligations, and requiring an interim strategy for 2030 commensurate with meeting our 2050 net-zero target.

This is a clearer and simpler version of Amendment 100, which we passed by a 49-vote majority on Report. I have since had a further opportunity to reflect on the Minister’s detailed response to my amendment, and I am also grateful for the meetings that he has arranged before today, and the promise of a future meeting. I have also read with interest what the Minister in the other place, Victoria Prentis, had to say about our amendments.

At the heart of our disagreement is whether individual government departments should be required to spell out how they are going to meet their share of the obligation to deliver net zero by 2050. In the debate on the Bill last week, the Commons Minister said:

“If we are to achieve the UK’s net zero target, emissions reductions will be needed in all sectors. Not setting sector-specific targets allows us to meet our climate change commitments in the best and speediest way.”—[Official Report, Commons, 12/10/74; col. 74.]

Of course I agree that emissions reductions will be needed in all sectors, but I fail to see how this can be achieved unless you precisely set sector-specific metrics and outcomes. If not, you end up with precisely the criticisms levelled by the Committee on Climate Change, which said that the voluntary approach in agriculture has not worked, and that there is no coherent approach to emissions reductions in agriculture at present. The result, as noble Lords will know, is that our agricultural emissions have stayed static, at about 10% of the total, when we should be playing our part in driving emissions down. Given that the Climate Change Act was passed in 2008—12 years ago—we have quite some catching up to do. This is why our amendment introduces the concept of a strategy to be published for staged progress to be delivered by 2030. Given that we seem to have made little progress in agriculture in the first 12 years, this interim strategy seems all too necessary, otherwise we risk getting close to 2050 and realising it is too late to take deliverable measures to meet our target.

On Report, I referred to the 2020 report of the Committee on Climate Change, which helpfully sets out some recommended measures that would put us back on track to deliver on our target. I am now grateful to the Minister for drawing my attention to the publication last Thursday of the Government’s response to that report. It is a considerable response that sets out the Government’s approach nationally, but also department by department, for delivering net zero.
I welcome the Government’s recognition of the urgency of the situation. As it says in the introduction:
“To limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, we need to halve global greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade.”
The challenge is there. I also welcome the following acknowledgement regarding agriculture:
“While farming processes inevitably create GHG emissions, there remains potential for reducing emissions and increasing sequestration of carbon in land and plants.”
It is this challenge that our amendment seeks to address, so I am pleased that the Government’s report to the CCC echoes our concerns and begins to outline ways in which this might be achieved.
Our concern all along has been to tie down the Government’s good intentions on climate change into deliverable policies for which they could be held to account. We still believe that linking the provisions for climate change in Clause 1 to our amendment would make that essential link. However, the Minister has previously argued that the right place for this is the Environment Bill, and that is the thrust of the Government’s response to the report.
We have debated the role of the Environment Bill many times, and, of course, there is always a danger that we will simply kick the can down the road and never fully resolve this issue. As noble Lords will know, there is a lot riding on the Environment Bill, and the Natural Capital Committee has already been critical of the lack of meaningful metrics in the 25-year environment plan, which would be the vehicle for measuring progress on agricultural emissions. Nevertheless, I accept that it will provide another opportunity for bottoming out Defra’s contribution to the climate change effort, so I do not apologise for pursuing this issue again. It is important that our sector plays its part in delivering net zero, and we believe that the strategy set out in Amendment 17B, whether in the Agriculture Bill or the Environment Bill, is a means of delivering this.
Since this is the only opportunity I have to speak on this group, I will add a few words on the amendment of my noble friend Lord Whitty. When we debated this issue, there was considerable support for this amendment. However, a few noble Lords and, indeed, the Minister argued that spraying of the kind described should not be happening because there were regulations in place to protect the public from spraying in adjoining areas. What these arguments fail to recognise is that, despite current regulations, dangerous spraying is still taking place, and there are enough reports to show that this is more than just an isolated incident.
The UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, published in 2017, highlighted the fact that chronic exposure to agricultural pesticides is associated with a range of diseases, including cancer, sterility and developmental disorders. It drew attention to the fact that those who live near crop fields are particularly vulnerable to exposure to these chemicals. It seems that the current regulations and their enforcement are inadequate, so I hope the Minister will acknowledge the urgent need for the Government to review and update the effectiveness of these regulations and the associated code of practice. Otherwise, as I hope is becoming clear, this issue will not go away, and we will come back to it again and again. I look forward to the noble Lord’s response.
Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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The following Members in the Chamber have indicated that they wish to speak: the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Krebs. I will call them in that order. I call the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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I wish to speak briefly on Amendments 1, 11A, 17 and 17B. I have a question for the Minister on Amendment 1, to which the Commons has disagreed. In Committee and on Report, I stressed that it is extremely helpful to have some guidance on what the environmental objectives are going to be, particularly as I understand we only heard very late in the day what the interim arrangements will be from January 2021. This gives farmers quite short notice as to what the new objectives are going to be for claiming

“financial assistance during the plan period.”

Therefore, if my noble friend is not minded to support the amendment to which the Commons has disagreed, it would be very helpful if he would set out what benchmarks farmers are being asked to observe in the new payments scheme, which will be until such time as the new ELM scheme comes into effect.

I still have the difficulties that I rehearsed at earlier stages about Amendment 11B, and I hope my noble friend will clarify matters in summing up. My understanding is that all new and existing pesticides are very heavily regulated, but this amendment does not have regard to the fact that railways and many other transport systems rely heavily on the use of pesticides, which do not come close to being dangerous to human or public health. If adopted, this amendment would prevent them being used as they are. My noble friend referred to this in summing up the debate on the original amendment to insert after Clause 34 the new clause on pesticides. It would be very helpful to understand that.

The problem I have with Amendment 17B—I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, has gone to great lengths with it—is the underlying assumption, also inherent to her introductory remarks, that it is farmers who are causing the problem. I would like to have much more regard held for, and tribute paid to, farmers because they are part of the solution, not part of the problem, as I think Amendment 17B indicates.

I emphasise the role that farmers and landowners can play, in a very big way, in sinking carbon under the new financial assistance schemes by rolling out projects such as the Pickering Slowing the Flow scheme. That will, I hope, have private funding from water companies as well as farmers, landowners, the Environment Agency, Defra and other bodies. I am quite excited about these new possibilities and a little conscious that this amendment seems to blame farmers rather than recognising the positive role that they play.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, In the other place, my honourable friend the Minister, Victoria Prentis, criticised some of our amendments because they were badly drafted. That shows a huge weakness in the Government’s argument. Our amendments are not necessarily badly drafted; we produce them, they are agreed by the House and, if the Government accept the principle of them, they get redrafted properly. That is the function of this House; it is not our function to be lawyers. However, the Government are being unnecessarily obstructive and intransigent on this Bill, and that is a huge sadness because they are alienating a lot of farmers and those who live in the country who see them as unnecessarily reluctant to accept any improvements to the Bill.

The Minister thanked us for our work, but our work has counted for nothing—despite the many hours we spent on this Bill, there has been just one small movement by the Minister. It seems to me that our work is not appreciated, or, if it is appreciated, it is certainly not acted upon.

My noble friend waxed lyrical about our scientists and their control of pesticides. How we miss the Countess of Mar. Many times, I listened to an Agriculture Minister on the Front Bench in this House, telling her that the scientists had said that sheep dip was safe, when clearly it was not. The Countess finally won her battle on this. So, I say to my noble friend, it is not surprising if one is a little sceptical of what the Defra scientists are saying.

As rightly mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, some pesticides, fungicides and insecticides, applied wrongly by farmers, are a hazard to health. The briefing that I have received says that the Government do not wish to accept the amendment because they have an integrated pest-management policy which will be a critical part of a future farming policy, giving farmers new tools to protect their crops. There is absolutely nothing in there about the health of human beings. I have talked to a lot of farmers who spray fields; they are not all in the same category as those on the farm of my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach. He made excellent points at an earlier stage, but there are those who spray in the wrong conditions, who are rushing to get a job done and not carrying out the work as they should. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is absolutely right. If the Government have these powers, why have they not been used? That is a critical question, which my noble friend has to answer.

I support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, on climate change. It is not blaming the farmers. Farmers have a hugely important role to play. In fact, the Scottish Government entered into consultation today with Scottish farmers and crofters to tackle this precise issue of climate change. There are huge opportunities in the way that one can feed stock, for instance, that would reduce methane emissions. This is not having a go at farmers but wanting to work closely with them. I rather like what the noble Baroness said, asking the Government to “turn good intentions into policy”. That is all this amendment is asking; I hope it succeeds.

Lord Carrington Portrait Lord Carrington (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my agricultural interests as set out in the register, together with my membership of the National Farmers’ Union. I want to speak against Amendment 11B on pesticides, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. This is a very broad and vaguely drafted amendment. It would be extraordinarily damaging to agriculture in this country and would add nothing of value to the existing regulatory regime; I urge its rejection.

As we have already heard, and according to some 100 experts at the HSE and the Expert Committee on Pesticides, the UK operates one of the strictest regulatory regimes in the world and pesticides are licensed only after extensive research. There is already a strict code of practice and incidents of harm and non-compliance are investigated. If there is a complaint, it is investigated. Operators must have the appropriate qualifications, and equipment is regularly tested under various protocols and assurance schemes.

Banning or limiting the use of pesticides would have devastating implications for food and crop plants, massively reducing the volume and quality of UK food, making large parts of farming economically unviable and thereby encouraging imports of food grown by overseas producers using the same pesticides that we are trying to ban or limit.

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak very briefly in support of Amendment 17B in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. She referred to the government response to the Climate Change Committee’s latest annual report, published earlier this month. I took a close look at it this morning to understand what the Government said about reducing emissions in agriculture. It comes in two parts. In the main body of the report there is helpful reference to various strategies and plans—for example the ELMs, the clean growth strategy, the 25-year environment plan, Henry Dimbleby’s national food strategy and the clean air strategy. That all looks very promising: plans are in place to tackle the problem of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. However, I am afraid that the annexe, containing the detail of Defra’s response on agriculture and greenhouse gas emissions, looks as though it was drafted by Sir Humphrey Appleby. Let me quote a few phrases. The Government are: “looking at ways”; “considering a broad range” of options; “investigating mechanisms”; and “establishing expert groups”.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, said she hoped that the can was not being kicked down the road. The brief example I have just quoted from the Government’s response to the Climate Change Committee’s report highlights the danger that we will always be setting up groups and considering options. As far as I can see, the response does not give a single example of a concrete thing that the Government will do right now to meet the 2050 net-zero target, including the contribution from agriculture.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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Does anyone else in the Chamber wish to speak? No? I call the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I support the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones. In my view, both are vital to our own safety: to the protection of our countryside, our health and our environment. As we know, pesticides are not benign. They are applied to our crops to kill insects and any other creature that might be around at the time. It is natural behaviour—if you deny the natural world its own food source. However, pesticides do not just kill the creatures that are feeding on the crops. They also damage us. Numerous studies document the associations between exposure to pesticides, increased incidence of respiratory problems, cardiovascular and renal diseases, as well as the ageing phenomenon, not to mention many cancers. If you are an ordinary member of the public who happens to live near a field, or a school kid in a playground that borders a field that is being intensively farmed, you are open to being occasionally sprayed by pesticides.

Let me give a tiny example. I used to live with my husband in a house that bordered an intensively farmed field. One day at the end of the year, when it was being sprayed to kill the cover crop, the wind changed. I kid you not: within an hour, the entire herbaceous border on to which the spray had come was lying in a muddy heap. It was completely destroyed. Any thought I had that there was anything healthy about these products vanished at that point.

Some 22,000 chemicals are registered and in use in Europe. In December 2018, high quality checks had been completed on 94 of them; half were declared unsafe. There are many large out-of-court settlements involving Bayer, the company that has taken over Monsanto. This leads many people to believe—cynically, some noble Lords might say, but I do not think so—that it is suppressing evidence of the chemical links between lymphomas and other common cancers. We have to protect the population from these serious and damaging chemicals. Without a doubt, we need strong mandatory levels for the areas in which they are sprayed.

I believe—and this takes me straight on to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones—that farmers have very little choice at the moment in the way that they farm. The common agricultural policy, which thankfully we are coming out of, has paid people per acre, and therefore the striving has been to produce as much as possible, probably of monocrops. The result has been, since the “green revolution” after the war, the incredible use of more and more pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers. These have had the result of weakening our soil to the point that the World Health Organization has said that, across the world, we probably only have 60 harvests left. The soils are now working only if they are given chemical additives. The amendment from the noble Baroness is therefore vital, because there are many other ways to farm. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and I found when we were doing our Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and Environment, a more healthy way of farming is also a more healthy way of eating.

Climate impacts are being felt across the world—you have to be blind not to see it—and our food supplies are going to be affected. We cannot keep our heads in the sand about it. Here, we have seen soil erosion, more flooding and coastal land inundation. We have also seen extreme weather—we have had it in the last year. We really cannot afford to wait. The proposed new clause provides that, by 2030, we have to start reducing emissions from agriculture, first, through better care of the soil, lower livestock emissions and reducing fertiliser; and also, crucially, by storing carbon in the land—so we need to plant trees. Soil sequesters carbon much better than anything else if left to its own devices. We must protect it, along with peat bogs.

There is so much that farmers can do if they are given the right incentives and the direction. However, we must have a target to ensure delivery. If we are to meet our Climate Change Act target for 2050, we have to get to 50% by 2030. If we do not, it will be too much for the world to take on. That means that the policies that we need must be laid down in this Parliament and the next—but primarily in this one. This amendment will complement the existing clauses in the Bill for financial support and for climate mitigation and adaptation, and it will confirm the Government’s commitment to strong action, at a time when we will be hosting COP 26 next year.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for re-tabling his Amendment 11B as Motion C1, with some modifications. This is a really important issue. Unless they are extremely foolhardy, those who are spraying pesticides have protection in the form of personal protective equipment and respirators, and they will be in filtered tractor cabs during their work. Rural residents and communities have absolutely no protection at all from the cocktail of toxic chemicals sprayed on nearby crops.

We have in past years not acted on harmful substances being used in agriculture until it is too late for some people who have suffered extreme health problems. I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, for mentioning sheep-dip, and to the noble Countess, Lady Mar. Now is the time to make this change. The other place did not feel that it was necessary, saying that existing legislation was protection enough. I do not agree. The 2009 European regulations on pesticide use have not yet all been implemented. Those relating to dwellings are not scheduled to be carried over after 1 January next year. The Government are now quoting the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 to deal with the gap. That legislation is 35 years old and had not been referred to during previous stages of the Bill, nor in discussions with officials. At the same time, there is evidence of serious harms from pesticide chemical exposure resulting in out-of-court settlements due to cancers.

This proposed new clause is crucial for securing the protection of rural residents and communities from agricultural pesticides, especially the most vulnerable groups, such as babies, children, pregnant women, the elderly and those who are already ill or disabled, none of whom should ever have been exposed to these toxic chemicals in the first place. The petition to the Prime Minister and the Defra Secretary calling for this proposed new clause to be included has over 12,000 signatures, the majority of which are from affected rural residents. The petition has been supported by several prominent figures including Hillsborough QC Michael Mansfield, the Prime Minister’s own father Stanley Johnson, Jonathon Porritt, Gordon Roddick and the Defra non-executive board member Ben Goldsmith, among others.

All the arguments have been made previously. I remain convinced that this amendment should be on the face of the Bill as the only way to properly protect the public. If the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, wishes to test the opinion of the House, we will support him.

I turn now to Amendment 17B proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, in Motion F1. Again, the ethos of the amendment has been thoroughly debated in all previous stages of the Bill. This is a matter which has moved rapidly up the political and non-political agendas. The country has signed up to the Paris Agreement, and the Committee on Climate Change has thrown its weight behind moving towards achieving the country’s 2050 target. As I have previously said, an interim target of 2030 is vital to monitoring progress and ensuring delivery. Agriculture has an important part to play in reducing emissions.

I have not yet read the Government’s response to the Committee on Climate Change, but I am very disappointed by the news that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has brought to us about what it says. It is not just we unelected Lords who are concerned about this; the public are very concerned about climate change and the effect it is having on our land and shores. Sir David Attenborough wants us to act; the Duke of Cambridge wants us to act. We must act to give a strong message to the Commons that they must act now—not in 40 years’ time, but now. This amendment should be on the face of the Bill.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to cover these important points in a little more detail. It has been a very interesting debate. I start by referring specifically to Amendment 11B. I have already set out that the Government have the powers we need to maintain and develop appropriate regulations. I raised the 1985 legislation only because there was concern in your Lordships’ House that there was a gap. I have made it very clear that there is no legislative gap, and indeed there is scope for the Government to act through that legislation. I thought it was only responsible to raise that as the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, had suggested in a meeting that there might be a gap. I was doing what I thought was my best endeavours to advise your Lordships that there was no legislative gap.

Before answering some of the questions, I should also say that the Government are committed to the continued development of the regulatory system for pesticides. We will therefore be consulting later this year on a comprehensive update of our national action plan. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, was seeking reassurance on that point. There is continuing work. I say to noble Lords that I think the work undertaken by the noble Countess and others is the reason why certain pesticides which were previously used are no longer authorised. That is the point of the system. I was surprised to hear my noble friend Lord Caithness refer to Defra scientists. The Health and Safety Executive is an independent regulator with over 40 years’ experience. Those are the people who we rely on. I am not a scientist, and I think that we all rely on that specialism. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, mentioned, no pesticide is allowed on to the market unless the scientists are satisfied that it poses no threat to the health of those living near farmland where it might be applied. I repeat that that assessment process applies to all new pesticides and the safety of existing pesticides and is regularly reviewed.

I should also say, because I have looked into pesticide monitoring, that there is very considerable monitoring, including the National Poisons Information Service and the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme. The pesticides usage survey monitors the use of each pesticide chemical on each crop. Those schemes collect and consider information on possible incidents. In particular, the National Poisons Information Service collects inquiries and reports from medical professionals and reports its findings. Those are considered by the Health and Safety Executive and the UK Expert Committee on Pesticides to see whether there are implications for particular pesticides or for the regulation of pesticides in general.

With the work and the experts we have, I do not think it is reasonable to suggest, and I think this is why the other place also took this view, that there are no controls or regulation on the use of pesticides. I have emphasised that absolutely we have more work to do. Indeed, the consultation will commit us to supporting farmers in adopting the principles of integrated pest management, helping to ensure that pesticides are used only where strictly necessary.
The point here is that we want to have them with precision farming and integrated pest management so that we deal only with the pest. The noble Lord, Lord Carrington, was absolutely right: we must have safe agriculture and safe food, but we also have to produce food. I am an amateur gardener, and all I can say is that there are times when we have to use applications if we are to remain having food. Obviously, it needs to be applied properly. If misused, it will cause damage, and we must bear down on that, but I say genuinely to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, because I respect what he and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, have said to me, that the mechanism by which these matters are tested is strong and robust and we have expertise. Some of the points raised relate to issues and cases in other countries.
On the issue of climate change and Amendment 17, the Government take this matter extremely seriously. I have the recommendations to Defra, so I would like to take the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, to one side afterwards and say that I do not think he is very generous to the 155 pages of the document and the 10 pages of recommendations in it specifically about Defra. I have noticed, because he challenges, some key targets and work that is being undertaken. One of them comes from Clause 1(1)(d), providing the power to give financial assistance for the purpose of
“managing land, water or livestock in a way that mitigates or adapts to climate change”.
In addition to committing to a net-zero strategy, the government response to the Committee on Climate Change recommendations included the Defra chapter, as the noble Lord said, including several actions that we will take through ELM, as well as through the £640 million Nature for Climate fund, the clean air strategy, the Nature Recovery Network and the England tree strategy. I should obviously mention, although we will come to it, the Henry Dimbleby’s national food strategy.
I agree with my noble friend Lady McIntosh that none of this will have its fulfilment unless we have a robust and positive relationship with the people who are custodians and stewards of the land. That is why the relationship that we need to forge through the Agriculture Bill and the environmental land management system is absolutely about that collaboration, because it needs to be their schemes, too. That is the way we will address all the things that we need to do.
My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked about benchmarks for farmers. The Government are committed to maintaining a strong regulatory baseline for the sustainable farming incentive, as well as ELM. As a farmer myself—I have declared my interest—I know that farmers are looking to the announcements that I hope will be forthcoming very shortly on arrangements for next year and thereafter.
I conclude by saying that, while we are ambitious about what can be achieved for the agricultural sector, we believe it is right that climate change is addressed as part of a wide-ranging, cross-departmental strategy that will help to ensure that climate mitigation and adaptation are embedded as priorities right across government. This is a national endeavour, but it is also a global one, and it is therefore right that all that we are seeking to do through this Bill to address climate change must be seen within the context of our national and international efforts.
I hope I have provided noble Lords with a bit more clarity on some of these important matters. As I say on pesticides, there is further work to do. The national action plan and the consultation on it will provide many opportunities to consider the points that have been raised. As I said, we have a system in place and the scientists are experts in these matters. I hope that has provided some clarity, because all the points raised are extremely important issues, and I hope that I have taken this opportunity to show how they will be progressed. I therefore commend the Motion.
Motion A agreed to.
Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, we come to Motion B. There is a mistake in the Marshalled List, but not one that affects our proceedings. Lords Amendment 9 was not after Clause 3; it was after Clause 17. I call the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner of Kimble.

Motion B

Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That this House do not insist on its Amendment 9, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 9A.

9A: Because it is inappropriate to impose a duty to publish a National Food Strategy.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The amendment raises the important issue of creating a healthy, more sustainable food supply chain. The Government have this aim in mind, and the Bill as drafted will allow us to reward farmers and land managers for adopting environmentally sustainable food production methods, and to support them to produce food in ways that make more efficient use of resources. Put simply, we are already doing this. The Government have commissioned an independent review into the food sector led by Henry Dimbleby. His interim report was released in July this year, and in the coming months your Lordships can expect a cross-departmental response to his report. It will include a full discussion on healthy food and the transformation of the food system.

The Government have made a firm commitment to publish a White Paper on food within six months of the final Dimbleby report, which is expected in the spring. This strategy will set out proposals that will aim to ensure that the food system delivers healthy, sustainable and affordable food for all. My officials have already established a cross-Whitehall working group for all relevant departments to discuss the development of the White Paper and to respond to the independent review. This will be overseen by a Defra director-general. We want to ensure that there is sufficient time to consider the findings and secure cross-government agreement.

I heard noble Lords loud and clear in earlier debates on this subject when they stressed the importance of creating an integrated policy on food. As your Lordships rightly warned, the problems that we face are urgent. We fully recognise this, which is why we are already working with the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure that improvements to public health are a core objective of government policy. On 27 July, the Government launched their new obesity strategy to set out practical measures to help to get the nation fitter and healthier, to protect people against Covid-19 and to protect the NHS. A coalition of partners is supporting delivery of the strategy through the Better Health campaign, which aims to encourage adults to change their lifestyle in order to attain a healthier weight.

On the availability of food, we already have under Clause 19 a duty on the Government to report to Parliament on the crucial subject of food security. The Government listened to the concerns raised in your Lordships’ House and have committed to a three-year frequency of report and to publishing the first report on or before the last day before Christmas Recess 2021.

The report will provide analysis on the subject of household food security under Clause 19(2)(d)—“household expenditure”. It will analyse the ability of consumers to access and afford a healthy diet for themselves and, most importantly, for their children. It will draw on guidance such as the Government’s own Eatwell Guide and from data sources as wide as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and our own national statistics in the Living Costs and Food Survey and the Family Resources Survey. The latter will include for the first time in the 2021 publication data from the responses to a group of questions from the Food Insecurity Experience Scale, a world-recognised measurement of household food security which the UK Office for National Statistics will also use for reporting under sustainable development goal 2: zero hunger.

I hope that those points, in which I have registered the essential work of the Dimbleby report and, candidly, all that we need to do across Whitehall to address an issue that we are seeing starkly in our country today, will persuade noble Lords not to press their amendments. I beg to move.

Motion B1 (as an amendment to Motion B)

Moved by
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

At end insert “but do propose Amendment 9B in lieu—

9B: Insert the following new Clause—
“National Food Strategy
Within 18 months of the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must publish a strategy that will set out proposals that will aim to ensure that the UK food system delivers healthy, sustainable and affordable food for all.””
Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introduction to this debate and for two very helpful meetings that we have had during the past few days. I also thank the Defra officials who attended along with the Minister and the Secretary of State, who was at one of the two meetings.

On this matter, I think that we are landing in a good place. My original amendment on Report, Amendment 58, which passed with a majority of 62, set out in detail what a national food strategy should include. The much shorter version which we are debating today simply sets out the key aims of the strategy, which are to ensure that, through the functioning of the UK food system, everyone in this country has access to a healthy, sustainable, affordable diet. The Minister has accepted these aims by repeating them in his introduction, so I am delighted with that and thank him for it.

Such a strategy, if implemented, will put an end to food poverty in this country, ensuring that the poorest people are able to eat healthily, which at the moment they are not. It will ensure that the shocking burden of dietary ill health, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity, is reduced or perhaps even eliminated. It will ensure that our food system is environmentally sustainable, so that we can enjoy our food knowing that its production has not silenced the song of the skylark, destroyed wildflower meadows, polluted rivers and heated the planet.

Of course, the devil will be in the detail. Will the food strategy really deliver the rosy vision that I have just painted? I do not expect the Minister at this stage to be able to commit to any detail, but I want to flag up three questions for him to consider. First, we already have a good idea about things that work and things that do not. We know, for instance, that healthy eating messages on their own are not enough. The 5 A Day campaign has not altered fruit and vegetable consumption one iota over the last decade. On the other hand, the soft drinks industry levy has had a dramatic effect on altering consumption of sugar in soft drinks. I hope that when the strategy is published it will learn from past failures and successes and not shy away from tough interventions where they are appropriate.

Secondly—and the Minister referred to this—the strategy will require co-ordination across many government departments. Past experience indicates that this will work only if led by a high-level ministerial group. The Minister said that the cross-departmental group would be led by a director-general from Defra, who I am sure will be an outstanding individual who will do his or her very best, but the Government should recognise that, if this is really going to happen and if there really is to be cross-departmental collaboration to deliver a national food strategy, it needs a ministerial lead.

My third and final point for the Minister’s consideration is on how we are to scrutinise and assess progress in delivering the national food strategy. I think that we would all agree that the Government should not simply mark their own homework, so they should in due course lay out exactly how we will be able to judge whether the food strategy is doing what it claims to do to deliver healthy, environmentally sustainable, affordable food for everyone. One possibility, for example, would be for the Government to produce an annual report debated in Parliament; another might be to give the job of scrutiny, assessment and making recommendations to an independent body as does the Committee on Climate Change in relation to the Climate Change Act. With those thoughts for the Minister to ponder on, I beg to move.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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The following Members in the Chamber have indicated that they wish to speak: the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on bringing forward a shorter amendment—I am always in favour of shorter amendments, as they leave less scope for interpretation. The noble Lord calls for a national food strategy within 18 months. I would like to see a response to the Dimbleby report before then and want to take this opportunity to urge my noble friend to produce such a response, even if it is informal.

Part 1 of the Dimbleby report has been extremely helpful in preparing for this Bill and the Trade Bill. It would be incumbent on the Government, even if it were just two departments—the Minister’s department of Defra and the Department for International Trade—to respond to the Dimbleby report in so far as it relates to obesity and the food strategy that Henry Dimbleby and his team, including the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, who has played a sterling role in this regard, have set out. It would be important to hear from those two departments before this Bill and the Trade Bill left this place. I wonder whether there is any opportunity for my noble friend, even by way of a letter, to respond to the helpful conclusions of Henry Dimbleby.

I am slightly confused, because the reason that the Commons gave for disagreeing with the original Lords Amendment 9 is that

“it is inappropriate to impose a duty to publish a National Food Strategy.”

I thought that, in about 2010, the incoming coalition Government published something along the lines of a national food strategy—I forget what it was called—that was extremely well received and helpful. Is it not timely to have another stab at this within 10 years of the original?

I finish with a plea: that we do not wait 18 months from the day of passing this Bill before the national food strategy is presented. I commend the work of my noble friend’s department, Defra, in this regard; I commend the work of Henry Dimbleby. We owe it to Dimbleby and his team to come out with an interim acknowledgement of and response to his proposals.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I served on the House of Lords Select Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs—the Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee. Many things struck me when we received evidence. Perhaps I may mention just two of them.

The first was how reluctant were some in the food and drinks industry to give us any evidence, which makes one entirely suspicious of their motives. They were reluctant to come to the table to discuss the problems and found every excuse not to co-operate. That came out pretty clearly in the evidence we received. As the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, has just said, it is only where the Government have taken firm action that the industry has made significant changes. I say to my noble friend the Minister, who I know has advocated, supported and encouraged this industry, as I do, that a very black cloud hangs over it with regard to this issue. He will have to kick it hard to get it to co-operate in the way that it should.

The second point that struck me was the need for a cross-departmental response. We took evidence from the Minister for Health and Social Care. She—or rather the department—has been sitting on reports and consultations for some considerable months, and blamed their lack of implementation on Covid. I therefore asked the Minister what would have happened if there had been no Covid. We received the reply, “I shall have further consultations”. Let us have some action. The noble Lord and his department may well be taking an active role, but I am not at all convinced that the Department of Health and Social Care is doing so. That is why I support what the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, said about the need for the cross-departmental analysis to be done at ministerial level. It is all very well doing it at official level but if it can be kicked into the long grass, I am afraid that it will be. This has to be driven politically by Ministers at the highest level, and probably chaired by someone such as Michael Gove as head of the Cabinet Office. That sort of impetus is needed.

I should say to my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, that 18 months is too long—I agree with my noble friend Lady McIntosh on that. We need a speedy reply. My noble friend the Minister has reassured me to some extent, but he has a much more difficult job than he anticipates, given the need to take the other government departments such as health, education and the Home Office with him on this matter.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is wonderful to hear that a food strategy will happen and be reported upon following Henry Dimbleby’s initial reports. I too urge the Government to respond in less than 18 months; we really do not have time to waste.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and other speakers, I believe that the strategy needs to be tough. The industry has had its own way for a very long time: it has been run on the politics of the supermarket and we have seen the chaos that this has caused, not just to our health and eating habits but to our agriculture, as we have just been discussing. I urge toughness, joined-up government, a strong position of leadership and a willingness to tread on some commercial toes as we start to look for other ways in which to grow and eat our food.

I am pleased to hear from the Minister that action on food security will include household food security. I thank him for the meetings that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and I have had with him in the past few weeks. I am glad that the issue of household food insecurity will be pegged to something, and that that something is the Government’s Eatwell plate. Today, the poorest 20% of households would need to spend 39% of their disposable income on food in order to eat the diet that we recommend for people to be healthy. We all know that that will not happen. If you are in a rich household, it will cost you 8%. This is a really big issue and it would be pointless for household food security to be judged on whether one was getting access to enough sugary cereals and sweets. So I am very pleased to hear what the Minister said, in the Chamber, in front of everybody.

It has been a delight to work with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, on this. I am very pleased to have witnessed this day, because I have spent most of my life working on food policy and, quite frankly, as I have said before, all I have done on the whole is put bits of Elastoplast over the bleeding wound. There is now a chance to reshape the food system for the better.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD)[V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. A national food strategy is not something that it might be nice to have; it is essential.

Like others, I am grateful to the Minister for his comments and support for a food strategy. As we enter the inevitable second wave of Covid-19 infections and a possible second lockdown, food security is at the top of everyone’s thoughts. Children affected by lockdown are struggling. Ensuring that they have enough to eat has become a national cause. The Welsh Government have announced that free school meal provision will be extended through every school holiday until Easter 2021. The vouchers provided to be exchanged for a meal must be for healthy food. The other nations in the UK should now follow the Welsh example. I can think of nothing worse than a child in the UK—one of the richest countries in the world—being hungry while others are overeating with the resultant health problems. During the national regimes of the 1940s and early 1950s, obesity and diabetes were hardly heard of. I am not suggesting that we return to those strictures.

I recently listened to an interview with a Durham University student who was in a unit with five other students. They had all paid for catered meals. Due to lockdown, they were virtually imprisoned in their accommodation, with a kettle and a toaster. They were provided with food boxes that contained “junk food”—the student’s words, not mine—of Pot Noodles, crisps, snack bars and three apples, the only healthy food. The next box, supposed to last for 11 days, contained no fruit at all but the same selection of junk food. Never was it more obvious that a proper food strategy was essential in order to protect these students.

The other place has indicated that it wishes to wait for the final report from Henry Dimbleby and that the Lords amendment is unnecessary. I hope that our prodding will ensure that something is done, and done quickly, once that report is published. The grass appears to grow faster than we would like, and 18 months is far too long, as other Peers have said.

I fully support all the comments previously made on a national food strategy and am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for their expertise and perseverance in this important matter. I look forward to the Government’s consultation once Henry Dimbleby’s work has been completed. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, that monitoring the outcome will be essential.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Portrait Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, for pursuing this issue, which had considerable cross-party support when it was debated here on Report. Sadly, the Commons did not give it the prominence and attention it deserved last week. MPs obviously had other concerns and were focusing on the international issues around a food strategy, which we will consider later. Nevertheless, this remains an important issue for the health of our nation and needs to be integrated with the policies for growing food that are more clearly set out in this Bill.

Our concern all along has been that the work carried out in the Dimbleby review should be anchored and regulated by this legislation in order that it does not become just another worthy report. That is not to prejudge the outcome of the review but to ensure that a food strategy built around the considerable piece of work that Mr. Dimbleby is doing will result in guaranteed action. It has never been more important that we deliver healthy, sustainable food for all; the health challenges were well explored in our earlier debate, and I will not repeat them here. I am therefore pleased that the Minister had a constructive meeting with the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott.

I agree that 18 months is too long and the Government’s commitment to a White Paper within six months of the final Dimbleby report is welcome. Of course, that will still need to be followed through into legislation, but it gives us a strong platform on which to argue for the necessary changes.

It is also helpful to have clarification about the scale and depth of the three-yearly food security reports, which again will provide ammunition for the action that is necessary on food poverty and food insecurity. I welcome the challenges that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, raised with the Minister this afternoon and look forward to his response on those issues. In time, I hope that this work could provide the foundation for a national food Bill to improve the health of the next generation. In the meantime, I welcome the assurances made and am pleased that the Minister repeated them for the record today. I therefore support the amendment.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for another insightful debate. I say immediately that although Defra has the lead responsibility for food, many departments across government have a strong interest in this matter, as the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, recognised and as I did my opening remarks. The team is engaging across Whitehall as well as with partners across the whole food system—including academics, farmers, businesses, civil society and the general public—to develop the recommendations from Henry Dimbleby’s independent review.

I am fully seized of the point that, in the end, Ministers will need to be fully engaged on this because this will be a cross-Whitehall, cross-departmental consideration. What I was really saying is that work is already under way in the department, with a director-general leading it, so that we are absolutely ready with a White Paper. I would not want the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, to think that this is it; there is much more to do, which is why I emphasise that work is already under way.

The noble Lord’s amendment raises important issues. I repeat what I said in my opening remarks, particularly those to my noble friend Lady McIntosh: the Government will reply with a cross-departmental response to the interim report released in July this year. I cannot tell precisely in which month that will be but, as I said, in the coming months, there will be a cross-departmental response to the interim report that will include a full discussion on healthy food and the transformation of the food system.

These are hugely important matters. In this short debate, we have all recognised that this is clearly a matter of supreme urgency and seriousness. As I said before, Defra is committed to producing a food strategy White Paper setting out proposals that will aim to ensure that the food system delivers healthy, sustainable, affordable food for all. We have been clear that the Government will publish the White Paper within six months of the final report from the independent review being published and—this is another point for the noble Lord, Lord Krebs—as with all White Papers, it will be available to Parliament and we can expect much debate in your Lordships’ House and the other place on its contents. The Government have already asked Henry Dimbleby to review progress on the White Paper 12 months thereafter; obviously, that is an important feature because action is what is required, not a report—however worthy.

I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and your Lordships find these further remarks helpful.

Baroness Pitkeathley Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Pitkeathley) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

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

Lord Krebs Portrait Lord Krebs (CB)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his helpful response in summing up. I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this short debate. I will be brief; I want to make a small number of points.

First, I apologise for putting 18 months in the amendment; clearly everybody thought that I was being too generous. This arose because the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, said on Report that 12 months was too short. I thought that I would give him a bit of extra time but clearly I was wrong, so I apologise for that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, spoke about Henry Dimbleby’s report. As everybody has said in this debate, the amendment builds on the fantastic work that Henry Dimbleby is doing. As the noble Baroness does, I hope that today’s debate and the Minister’s response have ensured that Henry Dimbleby’s final report will not gather dust in a filing cabinet, as so many reports of this kind have done. Now we have a firm commitment from the Government to develop a food strategy based on Dimbleby’s work.

On leadership, referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and my noble friend Lady Boycott, I was very pleased to hear the Minister say that although the DG in Defra is leading the preparatory work, the Government and the Minister recognise that this will need ministerial oomph to get the thing done and deliver results.

Finally, on the review, the news that after 12 months Henry Dimbleby will mark the Government’s homework on his exam, so to speak, is very welcome. However, I hope that the review process will carry on beyond 12 months because rethinking our national food system will not be completed by then. I hope that we will see early signs and green shoots of something new coming up, but I hope also that the Government will think seriously about how they can ensure that, on a long-term and regular basis, those of us who are concerned about the food system—not just people in the Chamber and Members taking part remotely but a large proportion of the population—can repeat the review process and have transparency on the progress being made.

With those comments, I thank the Minister and the noble Lords who took part in the debate, and I beg leave to withdraw.

Motion B1 withdrawn.
Motion B agreed.
Motion C
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That this House do not insist on its Amendment 11, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 11A.

11A: Because the Commons consider that the existing regulations relating to pesticides are sufficient.
Motion C1 (as an amendment to Motion C)
Moved by
Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

At end insert “but do propose amendment 11B in lieu—

11B: Insert the following new Clause—
“Application of pesticides: limitations on use to protect human health
(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision prohibiting the application of pesticides for the purposes of agriculture or horticulture near—
(a) buildings used for human habitation; and
(b) public or private buildings and associated open spaces where members of the public may be present, including but not limited to—
(i) education and childcare nurseries; and
(ii) hospitals and health care facilities.
(2) Regulations under subsection (1) must specify a minimum distance from any of the locations listed under subsection (1)(a) and (b) to be maintained during the application of pesticides.
(3) Regulations under this section are subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.””
Lord Whitty Portrait Lord Whitty (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I wish to test the opinion of the House.


Division 2

Ayes: 158

Liberal Democrat: 80
Crossbench: 51
Labour: 11
Independent: 7
Conservative: 4
Green Party: 2
Bishops: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 260

Conservative: 218
Crossbench: 28
Independent: 7
Democratic Unionist Party: 5
Ulster Unionist Party: 2

Motion D
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That this House do not insist on its Amendment 12, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 12A.

12A: Because the Commons do not consider it appropriate to create new requirements for imports to meet particular standards.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, with the leave of the House I will speak also to Motions E, E1, G and G1.

It is entirely right and proper that your Lordships should sometimes ask the other place to think again about a given issue. However, the House of Commons has voted on this matter twice already. An amendment with a similar effect to Amendments 12 and 16 was rejected by the other place in its earlier deliberations on Report, and its view on the noble Lord’s amendment has been made equally plain more recently.

We have looked very carefully at Amendment 16B in lieu, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, which seeks that we ask trading partners to demonstrate equivalence across a range of policy areas. The intention here is well understood, but this amendment still amounts to seeking additional, and potentially expansive, conditions from trading partners. Conditions such as these are not a feature of any other country’s trade policy. I was very struck by this when I took further advice—because obviously this is not my specialist area. I repeat that conditions such as these are not a feature of any other country’s trade policy.

Demonstrating and agreeing equivalence of rules is a complex, technical and resource-intensive task. For example, agreeing equivalence of a range of animal health and food safety rules with New Zealand has taken years. So, in theory, it is possible. However, we believe that doing so in the manner set out here would be disproportionate and in practice would likely mean adding years of such processes ahead of any ratifications. So this amendment could result in pressure to pursue an unrealistic negotiating objective.

On Amendment 18 and Amendment 18B in lieu—Motion G1—in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, like Amendment 16B, this raises the subject of parliamentary scrutiny. Once again, I make it clear that, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010, trade deals under negotiation now and in the future must be laid before Parliament. As was confirmed by the International Trade Secretary in a Written Ministerial Statement on Monday 12 October, there will be a full scrutiny process. I have now read it in full, and I urge noble Lords to read it after this debate, because I thought it was a very comprehensive statement. This includes publishing objectives and initial economic assessments prior to the start of talks, and providing regular progress updates to Parliament; updates on the conclusion of negotiation rounds with the United States and with Australia are recent examples.

We will share a full impact assessment covering the economic, social, environmental and animal welfare aspects of each trade deal. This will be independently scrutinised by the Regulatory Policy Committee. We will also engage closely with the relevant Select Committees and will endeavour to ensure that they have at least 10 sitting days’ advance sight of all agreements, on a confidential basis. The final agreement text will be laid before Parliament for 21 sitting days, giving Parliament time to scrutinise deals.

I am also pleased to be able to say that the Government are already conducting extensive consultation beyond Parliament, with a range of groups in place to advise on trade policy. These include the Department for International Trade’s agri-food trade advisory group, which was renewed in July and which includes over 30 representatives from the food industry, and Defra’s supply chain advisory groups. Of course, this scrutiny is enhanced by the Trade and Agriculture Commission. Recently, the commission launched a call for evidence to 200 relevant parties, covering several questions, including how standards can best be upheld while securing the benefits of trade.

Finally, I should also mention the important role that the FSA and FSS play in regulating imports. Indeed, I concentrated on some of this at a meeting last week with the chair and others in the FSA. The FSA draws on the expertise of 100 scientific experts and support staff and has recruited 35 additional members to its advisory committees. It also takes wider consumer interests into account, such as the impact on the environment, animal welfare and food security, drawing on appropriate expertise and stakeholders to do so.

I can therefore confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, that the approach envisaged in Amendment 18B is already under way. With these remarks, I beg to move.

Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

First, my Lords, I apologise to the House that I was not present at Third Reading; I was engaged in Committee on the Trade Bill. I would also have liked to have thanked the Ministers, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bloomfield, for the patient and receptive way in which they guided the Bill through the House. I also pay special regard to Nathalie Sharman and her Bill team for the excellent advice they gave us on the many calls the Minister facilitated to fill in the gaps in our appreciation.

We are now down to the final key issues on which the future of British agriculture must be built. Once again, I declare my interests as having been in receipt of EU funds, and with interests as recorded in the register.

I thank the Minister for his introduction to this group of amendments and for explaining the Commons’ reasons why it has chosen not to agree with your Lordships’ House. However, the reason given is to misunderstand the amendment. I do not consider the amendment to create new requirements for imports to meet particular standards. Is that really the right answer, when the Government claims that the withdrawal Act puts into UK law all the present standards inherited as a previous member state? Of course, they can no longer claim that, as future standards can be changed through technical statutory orders. This reveals the direction of travel the Government wish to take in agreeing to a US trade deal. We seek to put in primary legislation what the Government have claimed is in the withdrawal Act. The answer comes back, “Why do you wish to legislate for what the Government have no intention of doing?” Well, that is the stated intention. We are all warned of unintended consequences, and it is not the intention of the previous amendment to be misinterpreted. So we have drafted the amendment in lieu for your Lordships’ consideration.

It is clear that the amendment does not exclude cheaper products. It is open to other countries to sell food to the UK, provided that it meets the same legal thresholds in standards that presently pertain in the UK. Certainly, we can raise standards in time, but we cannot lower them. Price is for the market and for consumers to consider.

The new amendment in lieu is also clear that it does not wish any interpretation to be used as a barrier to the Government rolling over more existing trade agreements. The UK has enjoyed being a member state of the EU and we look forward to more of those deals being completed. The same approach has been taken that the status quo must be maintained at the outset. It is also not the intention from the previous amendment to make the UK a barrier to trade with less-developed countries. This amendment also excludes any interpretation that will make development difficult. We have raised millions of people out of poverty already, and we believe in the sustainable development goals.
The Government, in Section 10 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act, signalled their intention to replicate the EU’s general scheme of preferences for less-developed countries. Schedule 3’s list of countries is somewhat wider than the UN list. This amendment in lieu acknowledges this and rules out those countries from any possibility of being caught by an inadvertent consequence. This amendment, which I propose the House supports, is intended to bring certainty and continuity to the progression of trade, providing sustainable, healthy and affordable foods, with imports that meet the same standards of production for environmental protection and animal welfare to which UK production must comply.
The Government have replied with errors, excuses and absurdities. Of course tropical countries will not need to plant hedgerows to comply. The debate in the Commons clarified many of these points, and I am grateful for the way many speakers dealt with the issues there. Other trading blocs and nations insist on many conditions, which the Minister denies.
This amendment in lieu listens to key concerns, yet it is still important for parliamentary scrutiny and approval of trade deals to address food standards. This amendment still places a duty to seek equivalence on agri-food standards. Equivalence is the accepted process recognised by the WTO. The amendment makes the promotion of UK standards central, as a rolling negotiating objective. It also requires a detailed parliamentary Statement to explain what is and is not included in a trade deal.
I step aside momentarily to speak to the further amendment in lieu, G1, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry. I will not take his opportunity to speak, but at this stage merely say that it develops on the theme and is complementary to my amendment. It requires a widespread consultation before the Government must produce a report. It is disappointing that the Commons did not get an opportunity to debate the initial amendment on the Trade and Agriculture Commission.
I return to this amendment in lieu to answer two further challenges. The imposition of differential tariffs does not provide a sensible answer. They can lead only to tit-for-tat trade wars, harming UK exports. The food industry can compete based on equal food standards and a level playing field. Food manufacturing and the supply chain is the largest manufacturing industry in the UK. It needs the backing of laws and Parliament, so that the Government can negotiate to bring in food from a position of strength. Nor does the promotion of labelling provide an adequate way out for the Government. Yes, more improvements can be made, but 50% of food is consumed outside the home in restaurants and catering outlets in the hospitality food service sector, where there is little labelling. As my noble friend Lord Rooker explained from his long experience in the Food Standards Agency, the Government have not yet even brought in mandatory food hygiene rating displays to be seen in all premises.
Without Amendment 16B under E1, the biggest threat is to the consumer, who will have to negotiate a minefield of food of differing standards, especially from potential US imports from the Government’s imperative to align with America through a trade deal. We have heard of the practices undertaken there. In the US, there are 26,500 hospitalisations and 420 deaths a year from salmonella. Compare that to the EU, home of 120 million more people, where 1,766 hospitalisations and 10 deaths is the comparative figure. This would be a further challenge to the NHS.
I acknowledge that the Government are beginning to listen. Although in insufficient form, the Trade and Agriculture Commission has been set up and sector-specific trade advisory groups are now involved in the process. There is now the Select Committee on International Trade in the Commons and the EU International Agreements Sub-Committee in your Lordships’ House. But the Government need to listen to the crescendo of voices that greeted the results of the Commons considerations with dismay: farmers; chefs; environmentalists; welfare proponents; consumers, individually as well as through their organisations; the farming unions; Sustain; Green Alliance; RSPCA; Which?; and the Future British Standards Coalition. The Government need to move further.
In a conversation with the Minister and the Bill team on Monday, which we thank the noble Lord for facilitating, the Minister expressed the view that the Commons has rejected standard amendments three times already. We discussed this and that it was perhaps only twice. I am grateful that the noble Lord acknowledged that, but he was perhaps right in his original assertion of three: there was a third occasion, which one of his Back-Benchers remembered in an earlier debate—back in 1834, on the corn laws, but that was before the Factory Acts, the rise of supermarkets and refrigeration.
Today, I call on the House to support the amendment in my name. It allows the Government to read their manifesto commitment again and to take action to fulfil it. As a nation, we cannot produce all the wholesome food we need. We wish the food that countries sell us to be at its best. In encouraging trade to supply our food, the Government must concentrate on promoting the best to come forward—nil satis nisi optimum. The Government’s manifesto statement is not that old, so I ask the House to support this amendment with a resounding vote. Let us get standards done.
Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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My Lords, it is an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and I thank him for his support. I speak to Amendment 18B in lieu. My interests are as recorded on the register.

As has been noted already, it is deeply regrettable that Amendment 18 was unable to be tabled in the House of Commons last week, due to it being considered a breach of financial privilege. I very much appreciate the Minister giving me the heads-up that this would be a possibility. During the debate, many MPs expressed their disappointment at being denied the opportunity to debate the proposals contained in Amendment 18. As a consequence of that decision, I am now tabling Amendment 18B which, I am assured by our wise officials in this House, should be compliant.

The purpose of this new amendment is to place an obligation on the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report on each international trade agreement, which, importantly, confirms that the agreement safeguards our standards of production for food safety, the environment and animal welfare, and if it does not, why not? The amendment would also require the Secretary of State to consult widely on the merits of establishing a body, a trade and agriculture commission, to provide the said report and advise the Secretary of State. The options could be to extend the existing commission, which, as we all know, is destined to be binned at the end of this year, when it has completed its work and produced a report on the principles and standards that should be embedded in international trade deals. In addition, the Secretary of State could take the opportunity to review the composition of the body and consult on a revised membership and remit. There would be real merit in doing that.

I have listened carefully to the explanations from the Minister on why the previous amendment, Amendment 18, and this one are unnecessary. He has taken an enormous amount of time and has shown great patience, which I very much appreciate. I have also had conversations with the Secretary of State for International Trade who has tried to convince me that there is already enough rigour in the system; that is, that the existing bodies have been given an extended remit to scrutinise trade deals and report their findings, as the Minister has just reported. I remain unconvinced and I am not reassured. To bolt on additional responsibilities to a number of agencies in a piecemeal fashion is no replacement for a dedicated, independent body providing oversight with in-depth knowledge of the entire sector, a body that is able to measure up new trade deals against the principles and standards that will have been laid out in the report from the existing Trade and Agriculture Commission at the end of this year. What could be simpler?

Let me repeat briefly what has been stated during earlier debates on the Bill. The fear of cheap imported food undermining our standards of production as a result of trade deals that have not been adequately scrutinised has united all the key stakeholders from the entire farming community, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, has stated. They range from the NFU and the CLA, to vets, chefs, environmental bodies including Greener UK and Sustain, and to the general public. Over 1 million voters have signed a petition. All of them are deeply concerned, and I cannot understand why the Government continue to resist this pressure and have not responded accordingly. That is fundamentally a bad ambition in relation to our aspirations as a country—a country trading in the global market outside the European Union. We have an opportunity to set the bar and to position ourselves as a global influence with a reputation for high standards in animal welfare and food safety, along with a commitment to continue to reduce dependence on antibiotics, to restore biodiversity loss, to be the first past the post in achieving net-zero ambitions if possible, and so on.

In addition to providing consumers in the UK with what they deserve and expect, we are much more likely to succeed in export markets if these are the characteristics that mark our ambition and underpin our products. The alternative is a race to the bottom which will completely destroy that ambition and many businesses in the process. This is a crucial moment in our history and the Government’s response to this amendment will either give hope and confidence to the entire sector that they share its ambitions, or create further suspicion and deep concern that those ambitions risk being sacrificed in the urgent need to compromise in order to agree trade deals. I will reserve the option of moving this amendment and testing the opinion of the House.

Baroness Pitkeathley Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Baroness Pitkeathley) (Lab)
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I now have a list of Members who wish to speak. They are the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington, the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, the noble Lords, Lord Trees, Lord McCrea and Lord Empey, the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, and the noble Lords, Lord Carrington and Lord Lansley. I will call them in that order.

Duke of Wellington Portrait The Duke of Wellington (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my agricultural interests as detailed in the register. I support the new amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Curry, which has just been presented to us so eloquently. I am sure that he was as surprised as everyone else that his original amendment was ruled inadmissible. This one has been carefully drafted so as not to involve a charge on public funds. The earlier amendment, which was carried in this House with a very substantial majority, sought to establish a permanent statutory commission. Interestingly, the Commons reasons for rejecting that amendment refer only to it involving a charge on public funds and offer no further reason. All the other amendments that we are considering were rejected by the Commons for a specific reason. That is rather significant.

The new amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Curry, might be rather helpful to the Government. It simply requires the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament a report on the implications of any new trade agreement negotiated by the Government—the implications for food safety, the environment and animal welfare. The Minister has just told us that there will be a lot of scrutiny and consideration, and that many advisory bodies will give their opinion, but what is advantageous about this amendment is that it requires specifically that the Secretary of State should lay before Parliament a report on those three matters.
Like other noble Lords, I have read in Hansard the debate held in the other place on 12 October. It is quite clear that many Members there deeply regretted not being able to debate this matter in the Commons, hoped that the Government might even enable a debate by tabling a finance Motion, if that is the right expression, and asked for a further opportunity to debate it. Today, in effect, if we pass this amendment we will give the Commons another chance to debate these issues. I feel therefore that those Members of this House who voted for the earlier amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Curry, should seriously consider supporting this amendment because that will give the Commons another opportunity to debate this matter. If it is put to the vote, I will support it.
Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con)
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My Lords, I support Amendments 16B and 18B. I am somewhat perplexed. As a party, we went into the election last year on a manifesto commitment to maintain high standards of food production in terms of animal welfare, health and hygiene, along with environmental protection. That will mean nothing if we have cheaper imports that undercut us. As the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, will remember, I tabled an amendment at an earlier stage that would have gone further than this and would have been totally in keeping with what the World Trade Organization dictates: in certain circumstances you can have higher standards. That is something that my noble friend the Minister must accept is happening in certain agreements now. Indeed, it is already reflected in some of our fair trade deals, in that we buy products from certain developing countries on those grounds.

It is extremely important that we differentiate between elements that my noble friend tends to couple together, but which I think it is wrong to do. He has repeated that the Food Standards Agency for England and Food Standards Scotland keep up standards of food safety; I applaud the role that Heather Hancock and her team have played in the agency. We have now established in debates on both this Bill and the Trade Bill that those safety standards, which I fully support, can be amended by the stroke of a pen through secondary legislation. We do not even need the Government to come back with primary legislation in the form of a Bill. The standards can be amended and removed by statutory instrument. That is why I believe that Amendment 16B should be adopted. I did urge my noble friend to bring forward an amendment to this effect on behalf of the Government.

The reason given by the other place for not supporting the earlier amendment in this regard is:

“Because the Commons do not consider it appropriate to create new requirements for imports to meet particular standards.”

These are not new requirements; they are requirements on which I believe the Government stood and won so convincingly last year. We cannot set high standards in this country and accept imports that might undercut them. Why? Because a Conservative Government did precisely this in the mid-1990s by banning sow stalls and tethers, only to be undercut by cheaper meat produced using sow stalls and tethers in countries where doing so was still perfectly legal. The public voted on price. I entirely support what the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said on labelling and the campaign that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has been running. Regrettably, I believe there is a need for Amendment 16B. I urge my noble friend to think again.

I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, for persisting with his campaign, which I entirely support, with his redrafted Amendment 18B. As my noble friend the Duke of Wellington said, the reason given—

“Because it would involve a charge on public funds”—

is unacceptable. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Grimstone for his reply in Oral Questions last week, which set out the budget for the Trade and Agriculture Commission as it currently exists, and for the Trade Remedies Authority. It begs the question why we need the Trade Remedies Authority to be on the face of the Trade Bill, but we do not wish to see the Trade and Agriculture Commission in statutory form.

I actually wish that the amendment went further. I pay tribute to what the Minister said in summing up the debate next door. My honourable friend Victoria Prentis recognised that there might be a need to extend the current remit and tenure of members of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, but I believe in the advice of Henry Dimbleby in his interim report. He has done us a great service by saying that the Government should consider a stand-alone, purpose-built international trade commission, such as exists in so many of the other jurisdictions with which we seek to trade in this brave new world, having left the European Union.

I will move a similar amendment in Committee on the Trade Bill. I believe there is scope for the Trade Bill and the Agriculture Bill to reflect each other in this regard. I cannot believe that the Trade and Agriculture Commission’s existing budget does not enable acceptance of this modest amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, which, as I said, I wish went further. I will support it if he presses it to a vote.

Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB)
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My Lords, I shall speak in support of Amendment 18B in the name of my noble friend Lord Curry. The issue of maintaining animal welfare and environmental standards is of huge concern, as has been mentioned by many noble Lords. We have previously received a number of assurances from the Government, which are undoubtedly sincere, but there is legitimate concern to see that assurances are turned into deliverable action to create systems and mechanisms that provide a degree of independent advice and scrutiny to government.

As the UK starts negotiating its own trade agreements as an independent sovereign state, we have a chance to clearly demonstrate by actions, not just words, that we will negotiate on the basis that equivalent animal welfare standards and suitable environmental standards apply to the food we import, just as they apply to that which we produce ourselves. This is not about protectionism but giving our farmers a level playing field to compete on, and setting out a global exemplar position on animal welfare and the environment.

Last week, I had the pleasure, coming back from our local town, of passing a field of beef cows, with their well-grown calves at foot, contentedly grazing amid the woods and hills of Perthshire, all in a lovely wildlife-rich, biodiverse environment. Are we going to risk exchanging that for feedlot cattle that live their life on bare earth and are fed soya; or, worse, cattle reared not on natural grassland but on cleared rainforest? The UK is rightly proud of its climate change commitments, but what is the point of trying to reduce our agricultural carbon emissions if we import beef from cleared rainforests?

The creation of the Trade and Agriculture Commission was a welcome step and it will set out a framework for future trade deals, but it will cease to function by January. I submit that there will be a need for continuing advice and scrutiny. Why would any Government not want a readily available, very affordable pool of independent expertise to consult? For imported food, to protect our food safety, there is the Food Standards Agency. To protect animal and plant health there are the international sanitary and phytosanitary protocols. There is a deficit in independent oversight for animal welfare and environmental standards on imported products.

The amendment proposes that Parliament and a continuing Trade and Agriculture Commission should provide that oversight. If the Government object to this revised amendment, will they consider bringing forward their own suitable amendment in the other place? That would go a long way to assuage the very real concerns of the public—let us not forget the NFU petition which over a million people signed—and the legitimate concerns of the welfare and environmental bodies, the veterinary profession and our farmers. What is there not to like?

Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown Portrait Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown (DUP)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 16B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, and Amendment 18B in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle. We have the opportunity through this legislation to shape future policy on food production, standards, the environment and animal welfare. Surely it is imperative that we do so, ensuring that those who produce our food to the highest standard are protected from unfair competition.

The rejection of the previous amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Curry, was a blow for UK agriculture and consumers. I appreciate that the Government have on several occasions repeated their commitment not to lower food safety standards, which are presently safeguarded under UK law, but I cannot understand why they are so hesitant to strengthen their arm in putting this clearly down in legislation. Flooding the UK market with cheap imports, with lower standards, would have a serious and detrimental effect on our farming industry and place UK food and farming in serious jeopardy. It surely cannot be right to negotiate any international trade agreement without securing clear food, food safety, hygiene, traceability, and animal health and welfare standards.

Verbal commitments are insufficient and can be easily set aside, as we witnessed during other recent negotiations. We need to set the parameters without ambiguity. What happened in the other place was a missed opportunity and we must do our best to rectify it. There is absolutely no excuse for us not granting Parliament a firm and coherent role in any future trade deals. For the Government to demand the highest standards from their own food producers, with all the considerable cost implications, while not demanding the same rigorous standards from those importing food to the United Kingdom, is unacceptable. The House must endeavour to press the Government on this issue by supporting the amendments. They are not wrecking amendments; they are constructive and deserve our support. They would permit a level playing field for all food producers and grant the necessary protection for the consumer.

Lord Empey Portrait Lord Empey (UUP)
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My Lords, I wish this Minister were Secretary of State. If that were the case, I think most people in this House would be content and happy with the way of things. I hope that by saying that, I am not doing him any harm.

The Minister has gone out of his way on a number of occasions to tell us about standards in this country. He has referred both publicly and privately to the FSA and the Scottish equivalent, and I get that. However, I want to tell noble Lords of a little experience that I had a few years ago as a member of the TTIP all-party group, which concentrated on transatlantic trade. This happened in the year of the referendum but before it took place. The group was led by John Spellar from the other place, and the noble Lord, Lord Tugendhat, and other Members of this House were on the delegation.

We went to Washington DC and had a meeting with all the representatives of the US food producers, ranging from the cattle people to the grain people. There was a whole roomful of them, and they all have very powerful organisations based in Washington. I will spare the House: we came to the chap at the end of the row and he said, “I have 46 Members of Congress in my pocket. There’ll be no deal done unless I say so.” Are we seriously suggesting that we do an international trade deal with the likes of America, although it could be somewhere else, and then say, “You can bring your food in here but we’re going to put a tariff on it if we don’t like the cut of it”, or are we going to ignore it in a specific and limited way?

This is the problem that many of us have. Yes, we have good standards and we want to maintain them, but equally we do not want to see the hands of the Secretary of State for International Trade completely tied behind her back when doing international deals. However, to all intents and purposes some of us, in my part of the United Kingdom in particular, are left in the EU. The Prime Minister came over a year ago and said, “If you get pieces of paper, tear them up and throw them in the bin.” On 1 July this year the Government allocated £25 million to help us fill in those pieces of paper. By 29 August that had risen to £355 million. That is a lot of paper.

The first point I am making is that if we have already have sufficient powers to maintain standards, how can we do trade deals? Why are we not saying specifically that we do not want this in the Bill because it might tie the hands of the Secretary of State for International Trade? You cannot have your cake and eat it. Either we have those standards or we do not. The difficulty that my part of the United Kingdom is left in is that we have no choice and no say, and will have no say, in what regulations we have to maintain. I cannot imagine the US or anywhere else doing a trade deal and then meekly lying down and accepting that we put tariffs on their products. That is the antithesis of having a trade deal. You do your deal, and that is what the deal is.

The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, made the point about equivalence: it does not have to be the same. If it were equivalent then that might be a way around, but if we just say bluntly, “We can bring in cheap food but we’ll put a tariff on it”, there is no point in doing a trade deal because no one is going to agree to it. I can say, from having seen these people in the US, that there are no circumstances in which they are going to be dictated to. Forget about the politics of it; it is the reality of Congress and the people who come from the rural areas. They know which side their bread is buttered, even if we do not. I think we are living in a fool’s paradise.

My second point is that I was quite upset that the House of Commons decided to hide behind a money measure in dismissing the original amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Curry. Yes, we have to be careful of the barriers between the two Houses, but that seemed an unnecessary way around it. They could have stated why they were opposed to it—a point made by the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington. But to hide behind a money issue, when what we were talking about was trivial in comparison, was unfortunate.

The Minister and his colleagues have been exceptionally patient with, and helpful to, us all. But he must remember that for some of us, this is the difference between having and not having an industry. As far as Northern Ireland is concerned, this is our largest single industry, it has the largest manufacturing, and of all the companies in Northern Ireland, the top five or six are all based around the agricultural sector. That is why these amendments are important, and that is why I hope we can give the House of Commons another chance to look at this.

Earl of Caithness Portrait The Earl of Caithness (Con)
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My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Empey, I would very much like my noble friend Lord Gardiner to be the Secretary of State, but I have to disagree with him that it would make any difference. I think the die is cast; the Department for International Trade is against these amendments, as is No. 10. They do not get farming in this country, and it would not matter if my noble friend was Secretary of State. I think we are batting our heads against a brick wall. But let us continue to bat our heads against the brick wall, and we might finally get a crack in the brick wall.

Amendments 16B and 18B seek to increase the resilience and sustainability of UK food and farming, and that is to be welcomed. On the sustainability of UK farming, I would like to go on a quick tangent, because, as my noble friend the Minister knows, I am concerned about the sustainability of farming, and I think a lot of English farms, as a result of this legislation, will be turned into theme parks. My fear of that was heightened when I listened to “Farming Today” last week. I do not know whether my noble friend listens to “Farming Today”, but it was an interview about what was going to happen as a result of ELMS coming in. It took place with a Defra representative in Cumbria, and she said a farmer could take his sheep to a show, and he would be able to get a grant for that because that is engagement; it is under the heading of “heritage, beauty and engagement”. This is not farming; this is taking it to the extreme. So I ask my noble friend: if a farmer is going to be able to get an ELM grant for taking his sheep to the show—and good luck to my noble friend Lord Inglewood—would the farmer be able to claim the same engagement by taking his produce to the harvest festival service? There, in the church, everybody would be able to see his grain, his potatoes, his leeks; that is engagement of the highest kind, so surely the theme park managers will be able to benefit from that.

Let me return to the amendment. Again, in the committee I sat on, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, it was quite clear that the hospitality industry is keen to buy the cheapest food at the cheapest price and sell it at the cheapest price, regardless of where it comes from and what the quality is, let alone the animal welfare standards. The noble Lord, Lord Grantchester—and I am happy to support him once again on his amendment—told us how much of the food we consume in this country comes from the hospitality side. That is a major concern. I have already described how difficult it was to get evidence from some of these people, but what evidence we did get did not fill me with any confidence for the future of farming and animal welfare standards in this country.

My noble friend the Minister, when opening, said that these amendments were disproportionate. If they are disproportionate, it means that the current system is adequate, and the current system is clearly not adequate, because we have heard of the bolt-ons that are going to be necessary and which are taking place. Surely, much the cleanest and best thing to do is to persuade the Department for International Trade and No. 10 that Amendments 16B and 18B should be included in the Bill.

It is absolutely right that there should be independent oversight of these trade deals, and that that body should report to Parliament through the Secretary of State. I have been in the Minister’s position and, after a cross-party defeat—and, so far, the Minister has no supporters, and the noble Lords, Lord Grantchester and Lord Curry, have six each—I went to see Viscount Whitelaw, who was Leader of the House, and apologised for getting heavily defeated by a cross-party amendment. He looked at me and said, “Malcolm, perhaps they were right.” I wonder whether my noble friend could take that back to his Secretary of State.

Lord Carrington Portrait Lord Carrington (CB)
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My Lords, I declare once again my farming interests, as set out in the register. I am extremely pleased to be able to support Amendment 18B, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Curry. As we all know, the amendment has widespread support in this House and nationally, and, as it has returned in a slightly different format, it can be discussed accordingly.

I will make two very short points. I understand why the Government do not want to see their hands tied by a specific standards clause, as it would be wrong for trade deals to fail if one sector alone, accounting for a small proportion of GDP, has an implied veto. This amendment is a very sensible compromise, in that it enables a committee of experts to report to Parliament before a deal is signed, and then the pros and cons can be decided.

Secondly, other countries, notably the United States of America, have independent trade commissions that report to their assemblies, so no precedent is being set.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, first, I apologise for intervening on our consideration of the Agriculture Bill at this stage, having played no part whatever in any previous consideration of it. But I intervene today because I have played a part in the consideration at every stage of the Trade Bill—and, indeed, the previous Trade Bill, in the last Session. So I come as an emissary from the Trade Bill discussions.

Before I come to Amendment 16B, I will just say to my noble friend the Duke of Wellington that I have sat in a Reasons Committee in the House of Commons, and when such a committee is presented with a Lords amendment that breaches financial privilege, custom and the Standing Orders effectively require that it presents just that one reason. So he should attach no weight to the fact that no other reasons were presented. That is the form of how it is done.

On Amendment 16B, I start from the same place as my noble friend. We have a manifesto that commits us to the highest standards of environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. However, I do not agree with her that we require Amendment 16B in order for this to happen.

I am a member of the EU International Agreements Sub-Committee of your Lordships’ House. We are looking at the trade agreements as they come through. At the moment we have only the Japan agreement to look at as a new, as opposed to a rollover, agreement. Of course, these issues have not arisen with the rollover agreements. The Japan agreement would be covered by this amendment, because it relates to agriculture and food—there are provisions relating to tariff changes and so on. Are we really suggesting, as a consequence of this amendment, that the British Government will now not enter into a trade deal with Japan on the grounds that the Japanese Government will not—I am sure that they will not—accept that UK standards should be applied in Japan? Their view may well be that their standards are equivalent, but they will not sign an agreement that says that they are committed to that.

As far as I can see, the effect of the amendment would also be to say that if we enter into a free trade agreement with the European Union, the European Union must accept our standards. I thought that the whole point of what people voted for in the referendum—I did not agree with them—was that we would not be bound by the European Union’s standards. I have heard Ministers say that they want higher standards. So I am afraid that the amendment makes no sense. Now I might not win that argument—noble Lords want these standards built into trade agreements. Frankly, in many cases they are not negotiable, and the noble Lord, Lord Empey, said, I think perfectly correctly, that this is not a negotiable objective with the United States.
However, from my point of view today, in considering the Commons response to our amendments, the merits of the amendment are not the only issue. The fact is that the Commons debated it. The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said in effect that they did not debate the previous amendment very much because they devoted all their attention to this one—and they voted against it. The question is: should we ask them to think again? I say to noble Lords that we can ask them to think again but, if noble Lords want to do that, the proper place is on the Trade Bill, because this matter relates to trade.
I say gently to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that I do not think that his amendment does what he thinks it does. For example, he talked about least-developed countries in the context of agreements notified under paragraph 7(a) of Article XXIV of the GATT, but of course the issue of a reduction in tariffs in relation to developing countries generally arises in the form of the generalised scheme of preferences, where we offer preferential tariff rates to eligible developing and least-developed countries. This is not an agreement notified through paragraph 7(a) of Article XXIV of the GATT. It is not a customs union or a free trade agreement; it is separate and unilateral. So the amendment does not bite on agricultural imports from developing countries under our preferential scheme.
I am afraid that now is the time for noble Lords to say, “Fine—the Commons did not accept our amendment to the Agriculture Bill. We will have a Report stage on the Trade Bill. We will have the opportunity to consider this properly in the context of the Trade Bill, and whether we should mandate Ministers in advance of their negotiations on future international trade agreements.” My personal view is that we should not mandate them. My view—I think that the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, rightly suggested this, although I do not agree with his amendment because it is not necessary—is that Ministers will bring forward reports and tell us what their negotiating objectives are. They will report to us on the implications, including on agriculture, food, plant and other issues. We can scrutinise those implications and decide whether, in our view, it is right to ratify such an agreement, and the other place will have the power to reject it.
My final point is that no international trade agreement in itself changes UK domestic legislation. For that to happen requires these two Houses to make those decisions separately. So, directly, we cannot be put in a position where imports come into this country of a standard that is not acceptable under our domestic legislation. In that respect, I think that we should look at this as being about trade, pull stumps now and consider it further in discussion on the Trade Bill.
Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, how very excellent it is to get back to something like the old House of Lords, where you do not have to put your name down for—and decide you are going to have an opinion on—a debate days in advance. I came in this afternoon to listen, but I have been moved to get up on my hind feet and say a few things because we are debating a crucial issue. I do this for two or three reasons.

First, like my noble friend Lord Lansley, I owe the House an apology. I took a fairly active part, as some noble Lords may remember, in Committee on the Agriculture Bill. I was here for most sessions and spoke a number of times—not quite as often as my noble friend Lady McIntosh but nevertheless a few times. Sadly, in September I was rather messed up by a couple of cataract operations and had to be in and out of hospital, so I did not play much part—two small speeches—on Report. However, I believe the issue we are debating today is of central and crucial importance.

My noble friend Lord Lansley made a very good point about the admirable amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, that has been dismissed by the Commons. We will have a Report stage on the Trade Bill, which I have not yet taken part in, which would perhaps be the right moment to reintroduce that amendment. I am one of those who believe that the House of Lords has not only a right but a duty to ask the House of Commons to think again, but if it thinks again emphatically, one has to be very careful indeed before indulging in another round of ping-pong. I am very conscious that I said something different last night on a very different Bill, on which we will be wholly justified in engaging in some very serious ping-pong. I am glad to see my noble friend Lord Lansley nodding a degree of assent.

The amendment placed before us by the noble Lord, Lord Curry, is in a different category. My noble friend Lord Lansley is of course right about Reasons Committees and there is nothing strange or novel about the reason given being that it fell outside the financial parameters. Fair enough. However, the noble Lord, Lord Curry, has taken note of that and presented a very different amendment in emphasis and degree; I really think the Commons should have an opportunity to reflect on it, because a number of MPs expressed dissatisfaction—some expressed downright annoyance—that they were not able to debate it. They should be given that chance by your Lordships’ House.

I was very taken last Thursday by a letter in the Times from one of the most admirable presidents the NFU has ever had, Minette Batters. She said she had had a cordial meeting with the Prime Minister the previous day and hoped he now recognised certain things—we do not know yet whether or not he does. There is a woman who is giving outstanding leadership, who was responsible for this petition, signed by a million people expressing their concern about food standards.

We know there is a danger—my noble friend Earl Caithness put it humorously tonight—of the “theme park farm” developing. What farming is about, and I made this point myself several times in Committee, is producing food for our people—food of a high standard and quality, produced in a way that recognises the livestock and does not seek to fill them with artificial hormones or to do other things. We are not exactly right, and I have referred before in your Lordships’ House to those terrible scenes on the Wye earlier this year, when the effluent from intensive chicken farming destroyed, for a time at least, one of the most beautiful rivers not only in England but in the whole United Kingdom. We have to recognise that.

Minette Batters wrote in her letter to the Times that we just do not want the situation whereby things that would be illegal if produced in the United Kingdom were sold here and undercut our own farmers’ produce. It was a powerful letter, but that is the fundamental, underlying concern of farmers in this country. I say that having represented a farming constituency for 40 years and living now in my native county of Lincolnshire, which is perhaps the greatest farming county of all.

None Portrait Noble Lords
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Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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I knew that would arouse a few barbs, but it is a very serious and important farming county where, this year, they are battling in the wake of the worst harvest in half a century. We have a duty to these people, and a duty to encourage them to produce food and not regard themselves as theme parks. If that is true of the United Kingdom as a whole, it is particularly true of Northern Ireland. My noble friend Lord Empey knows so much more about Northern Ireland than I will ever know, but I was chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in the other place for five years and I travelled there a lot. I got to know and love that part of the United Kingdom very much, and all I can say is that everything that my noble friend said tonight about farming in Northern Ireland is, if anything, an understatement; we have to take that into account.

So I will support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, so that the Commons has a chance to think again. However, in order not to make my noble friend the Minister, for whom I have a very real regard, be too cross with me, I close by saying that I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Empey said about my noble friend Lord Gardiner. Would it not be a very good thing to have a Secretary of State, another Cabinet Minister, in this House? Would it not be particularly appropriate if the portfolio that that Minister held was for agriculture? I would like him to be, in the old way, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait The Deputy Speaker (Lord Russell of Liverpool) (CB)
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Does any other Member in the Chamber wish to speak? If not, I call the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott.

Baroness Boycott Portrait Baroness Boycott (CB) [V]
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My Lords, this has been a really excellent debate. I find it quite astonishing, however, at the time of a huge public health crisis—not just in our country but across the world—due to poor diet, as well as an environmental crisis, that we would ever consider importing into our country food that was of lower standards. It worries me, because I agree with all the words that have been said by the Minister—I wish he were higher up the food chain, as it were—and I also sincerely accept his words that these standards will be maintained, somehow or another, but if that is true, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, pointed out, it was part of the manifesto, what precisely is the real objection to writing such a clause into the heart of the Bill?

We have worked, in the food industry and, indeed, through outfits such as the FSA, once chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and it has taken 20 years of UK public policy just to achieve clear front-of-pack labelling, yet right now we are considering doing trade deals with a country, the USA, that says it is concerned that

“labelling food with high sugar content … is not particularly useful in changing consumer behaviour”.

Would anyone say that about the way we market cigarettes? Would anyone in this country say that sugar is not a primary cause of obesity—or, indeed, the primary cause of under-12s going into hospital to have all their teeth out?

As has been mentioned, including by the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, 40% of the food we eat is eaten outside of the home. In most cases, of course, it means that we as consumers have absolutely no clue about how the food gets to us and what it is. Who remembers the horse meat scandal, which showed that the meat had travelled from some 10 destinations throughout Europe before finally ending up in burgers in well-known supermarkets? I do not see any way, unless it is written into the Bill, for us to stop this cheaper food coming here. Sadly, we know how often price affects the way people buy.

The chemicals and additives that are added to the diets of American pork and beef animals are shocking. We all worry about antibiotic resistance and the prospect that the day might come when childbirth, or even a thorn in your finger that makes it go septic, could cause you to become very ill or even die. More than 50% of all the antibiotics consumed in America are consumed by pigs, cattle and chickens. It is no surprise that antibiotic-resistant illnesses are on the rise there. Surely that is something we need to prevent. Our standards in this respect are good. Our use of antibiotics is limited; we use them only in an emergency and not as a routine growth hormone.
There are other extreme examples of cruelty. I want to coin a phrase that was first said by the noble Lord, Lord Curry, about exporting our own types of animal cruelty. American pigs are given hormones to encourage them to run around and build up their muscle content because that makes them better to eat. I have often though that if we did something like that to Labradors, the world would crash to a halt; having kept both pigs and Labradors, I would say that pigs have the edge in intelligence and sentience. If we allow this, we are also saying that we tacitly approve of this system of rearing animals, including in terms of what they eat.
As the noble Lord, Lord Trees, said, we must import or export our emissions. That means that we need trade standards that will examine how products have been grown and what they have necessitated. The finance industry is already way ahead of policy in setting targets on products that depend on deforestation or practices that actively encourage and cause climate change; as long-term investments over a 10-year plan, they will become stranded assets because the world will not deal with them. Surely, we should appreciate, enhance and deeply embed this principle in our Agriculture Bill.
As has been pointed out by many noble Lords, there is a huge weight of public opinion. People care about their food. They care about their farmers. They care about their standards. We need to be open with Parliament. Like the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, the excellent amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, will allow us to have a commission that puts what is in a Trade Bill before Parliament if we need to examine it. We need both these things put into law; both of them need muscle and power. If we do not do this, we will not be able to level our playing field and carry on producing our own food to a high standard; it will be unfair to us, to consumers and to our children.
Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville Portrait Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for his introductory remarks, and for his briefings and those of his officials. I support the contributions from the Floor of the House asking to elevate him to the role of Secretary of State for Agriculture in our Chamber.

We have heard some excellent contributions this afternoon. In his Motion E1, the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, laid out the arguments for Amendment 16B, which addresses how the UK’s animal welfare, food and environmental standards will be protected in the negotiation of future free trade agreements. FTAs permit imports to be subject to conditionality based on animal welfare. We are nothing if not a nation of animal lovers. The Government have set themselves the goal of having the best animal welfare standards in the world. This is laudable, but action will need to be taken to ensure that this happens.

Earlier, we debated the previous incarnation of the Trade Bill, when the Government themselves proposed and passed an amendment ensuring that UK animal welfare and environmental standards would be protected in trade agreements. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, has referred to how standards can be changed during the statutory instrument process, and I agree that labelling is going to be vital. A broad range of NGOs and bodies representing the UK agriculture sector believe that the Government must protect our farmers and standards by requiring that imports meet UK standards. I support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, which assists the Government to meet their stated aim of healthy, sustainable food for trade and communities, as he has indicated. There is a minefield to be negotiated here.

I now turn to Motion G1 and Amendment 18B, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, whom I congratulate on his introduction. I was dismayed that the Government did not allow his previous amendment to be debated in the other place due to a technicality regarding the use of public funds. At no point during our deliberations in Committee or on Report was this raised as an issue. When the debate on the Lords amendments took place in the other place, although this amendment was not on the order paper, many MPs expressed support for its aim, as other Peers have said, including the noble Duke, the Duke of Wellington. The noble Lord, Lord Curry, has altered its wording, so let us hope that it will find favour with the other place and get an airing there.

British farmers work the land and stock; their animals are well looked after and the high standards that pertain here ensure that those purchasing home-reared products can have confidence in their produce. This amendment does not take away any of the power of the Government or the other place; in fact, the opposite is true. Sadly, I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, that the Government do not really “get” agriculture. The National Farmers’ Union fully supports this measure, which protects farmers from poorer quality—and, possibly, cheaper—imports slipping in under the net of protection that British farmers operate under. The NFU’s petition has attracted over a million signatures, as others have referred to.

While we welcome the Government’s move to set up a Trade and Agriculture Commission, this had a very limited life and no legislative basis at all. It was not independent of government and had no teeth to implement its findings, as others have so eloquently said. It would also have reported long before the move from the basic payments scheme to the environmental land management scheme had become fully operational. The transition of farmers from one scheme to the other is a source of anxiety among the agricultural community. The pilots that are currently running under ELMS have yet to be assessed, and farmers are unsure what the future holds for them.

Amendment 18B would require the Government to report to Parliament on the impact of trade deals prior to ratification, looking specifically at how food imports will be addressed under those deals and whether food produced to different standards will be allowed under their terms. This is important to ensure that our farmers are not undercut. It would set up the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a permanent basis, instead of as a non-statutory body, currently due to be disbanded in January 2021, and it will require the Government to consult fully on these powers.

What we have before us is a compromise, but it is a fair compromise, ensuring we safeguard our standards in future trade deals. It will not impinge on the primacy of the Executive in negotiating trade deals. It gives parliamentarians an important say on whether those final deals are in the interests of the British people before they come into effect. Surely, this is a key role of Parliament.

If we are to enter into trade agreements that do not meet the Government’s manifesto commitments on environmental standards and animal welfare, where are we? When the noble Lord, Lord Curry, divides the House, the Liberal Democrat Benches will be supporting him fully.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for a far more extensive debate, in terms of numbers, than I had imagined. It adds to the many other debates that we have had on this matter over the past months.

Some noble Lords could get me into considerable trouble, so I say, emphatically, that I work for an exceptional Secretary of State. Obviously, I do not take these things personally. Like many other Ministers with farming interests—I should also declare my membership of the NFU—I understand agriculture, because I come of farming stock. I understand the mindset of so many farming families and communities at this time. My noble friends Lord Lansley and Lord Cormack I hope knocked on the head the issue of financial privilege. I mention particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, that this is the procedure. My noble friends who were in the other place know this. I do not want any noble Lord to think that the points raised were not of interest, but simply to understand why it is as it is.

I get the mood of the House and, I imagine, the mood beyond it, but hope that some of the detail in my opening remarks and in what I say now will ensure that whatever the differences, we are all in agreement about the necessity and desirability of maintaining standards. I will not repeat, as I have on other occasions, the legal import requirements that we already have. We have import rules on antibiotic growth promoters in domestic law. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, knows that, but the implication was that this may not be part of our domestic law. To put the record straight, it is, and therefore the points that she made would relate to our import rules.

We have yet to explore fully the opportunity of trade across the world for British agriculture and horticulture. When I say “British”, I mean across the United Kingdom. England has a very strong agricultural sector, but my goodness, it is very strong in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland too. I say this to the noble Lords, Lord Empey and Lord McCrea.

My noble friend Lord Cormack rightly mentioned producing food at home, but when I speak to my noble friend Lord Grimstone, the opportunities for producing British food and drink across the United Kingdom for export are what he is so keen to grasp. As I have said before, some of the debate that we have had in this House has, on balance, been determined that everything will be grim, whereas I see considerable opportunities for British agriculture and horticulture.

I set out the range of rigorous processes that ensure full input into trade deals and to allow them to be effectively scrutinised. Our overall approach to scrutiny goes well beyond that of many comparable parliamentary democracies. The noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, referred to a key role of Parliament. Parliament has enormous input and scope to say “No”. All treaties that require ratification are subject to scrutiny procedures under the CRaG Act 2010. Any legislation required to give effect to our FTAs must be scrutinised and passed by Parliament.

The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, spoke about examination. My goodness—the Government have already made additional commitments to transparency and to aid scrutiny of FTAs. These include: publishing objectives and initial economic assessments prior to the start of talks; providing regular progress updates to Parliament, as we have done at the conclusion of negotiation rounds with the US and Australia; engaging closely with the International Trade Committee and the Lords EU International Agreement Sub-Committee —I am so glad that my noble friend Lord Lansley is on that committee—throughout negotiations to keep them abreast of developments; publishing a final impact assessment; and allowing time for the relevant scrutiny committee to publish a report. Where the committee indicated that the agreement should be subject to a debate prior to the commencement of parliamentary scrutiny under CRaG, the Government would consider and seek to meet such requests—that is, when these requests are made within a reasonable timeframe and subject to parliamentary timetables.
I am interested in the point that we always have to run to someone else to consider these matters. This is where the base of authority lies—in Parliament. It is our job to scrutinise. It is the job of our committees. I believe noble Lords would say that the committees of our House are invaluable. What always concerns me is that we run to other people when we should take so much more responsibility for that scrutiny.
The Trade and Agriculture Commission in particular contains an authoritative body of expertise and is already playing a very important role in our trade policy. It was established to run with a fixed term and a well-defined remit. This was a deliberate decision, which avoided creating a permanent quango duplicating existing government functions and, in particular, the trade advisory groups. It is interesting that noble Lords have not mentioned these groups, which are a permanent mechanism through which stakeholders can feed into FTAs.
I am concerned that the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, used the words “race to the bottom”. At no point in my five years of existence at Defra—how much longer that will be, goodness knows now—has there been the idea that this Government, or any Government, should want to race to the bottom. I have outlined all the scrutiny that will take place. The noble Lord knows that I have not only regard but affection for him. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland are all very well-regarded regulatory bodies. Their functions are very clear. As I said, I had a meeting with the chair and the chief executive of the Food Standards Agency only last Friday. We discussed what it needs to do, and will do, with Britain being an independent third country, as well as the absolute imperative of standards across the range, as I described in my opening remarks. I emphasise again the importance—indeed, the essential nature—of the bodies we already have.
I say to the noble Lord, Lord Trees, that we will take account of animal welfare considerations during negotiations and will use the most appropriate levers available to achieve our objectives. Whether it is the Foreign Office or our department, pressing for improvements in standards across the globe has often very much registered with other countries. We should be mindful of that.
I am a pragmatist and a realist, and I know the mood of this House. I can only say that the Government will continue to consider all these matters and other points that are made in the light of the very extensive scrutiny I have outlined. That scrutiny really is additional. I say again, and it is not meant to sound churlish, that the Government have offered so much more scrutiny. Having studied what other countries have provided, I would, as I said, be very interested to hear later whether any noble Lord can cite a country that has even more rigorous scrutiny. I would be very interested to investigate that. I am mindful of the mood of the House but, on this occasion, I commend the Motion to the House.
Motion D agreed.
Motion E
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That this House do not insist on its Amendment 16, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 16A.

16A: Because the Commons do not consider it appropriate to create new requirements for imports to meet particular standards.
Motion E1 (as an amendment to Motion E)
Moved by
Lord Grantchester Portrait Lord Grantchester
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

At end insert “but do propose Amendment 16B in lieu—

16B: Insert the following new Clause—
“Duty to seek equivalence on agri-food standards in relation to future trade
(1) When negotiating any international trade agreement containing provisions relating to the importation of agri-food products into the United Kingdom, it shall be a negotiating objective for Her Majesty’s Government to secure terms that provide for equivalence with standards applicable to domestic producers in the areas of—
(a) animal health and welfare,
(b) protection of the environment,
(c) food safety, hygiene and traceability, and
(d) plant health.
(2) Before an international trade agreement can be laid before Parliament under section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (“the 2010 Act”), a Minister of the Crown must lay before both Houses of Parliament a statement confirming—
(a) that Her Majesty’s Government has, in the Minister’s opinion, fulfilled the requirement under subsection (1),
(b) whether equivalence with domestic standards has been achieved,
(c) any exemptions provided for individual products, and
(d) in relation to subparagraphs (b) and (c), the Minister’s reasons for this being the case.
(3) Subsections (1) and (2) shall not apply if—
(a) the international trade agreement is a continuation or revision of an agreement to which the United Kingdom was a party prior to IP completion day, whether as a direct signatory or by virtue of membership of the European Union, or
(b) the international trade agreement is with one or more least developed countries and, in the Secretary of State’s opinion, seeking equivalence on standards would present an unfair impediment to trade for the country or countries.
(4) In addition to the requirements under the 2010 Act, chapters of a relevant international trade agreement may not be ratified unless the conditions in subsections (5) and (6) have been met.
(5) The condition in this subsection is that the chapters have been approved by a resolution of the House of Commons on a motion moved by a Minister of the Crown.
(6) The condition in this subsection is that a motion for the House of Lords to take note of the chapters has been tabled in the House of Lords by a Minister of the Crown and—
(a) the House of Lords has debated the motion, or
(b) the House of Lords has not concluded a debate on the motion before the end of the period of five Lords sitting days beginning with the first Lords sitting day after the day on which the House of Commons passes the resolution mentioned in subsection (5).
(7) In this section—
“chapters” means any individual section or sections of an international trade agreement;
“international trade agreement” means—
(a) an agreement that is or was notifiable under—
(i) paragraph 7(a) of Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, part of Annex 1A to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or
(ii) paragraph 7(a) of Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, part of Annex 1B to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or
(b) an international agreement that mainly relates to trade, other than an agreement mentioned in paragraph (a)(i) or (ii);
“least developed countries” means any country on the United Nations Committee for Development’s List of Least Developed Countries, as amended from time to time;
“Lords sitting day” means a day on which the House of Lords is sitting (and a day is only a day on which the House of Lords is sitting if the House begins to sit on that day);
“Minister of the Crown” has the same meaning as in the Ministers of the Crown Act 1975;
“ratified” has the same meaning as in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.””

Division 3

Ayes: 282

Labour: 134
Liberal Democrat: 80
Crossbench: 40
Independent: 12
Democratic Unionist Party: 5
Conservative: 4
Green Party: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 1
Bishops: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 244

Conservative: 205
Crossbench: 29
Independent: 10

Motion F
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 17, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 17A.

17A: Because the Commons consider that the existing law on this matter is sufficient.
Motion F1 not moved.
Motion F agreed.
Motion G
Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 18, to which the Commons have disagreed for their Reason 18A.

18A: Because it would involve a charge on public funds, and the Commons do not offer any further Reason, trusting that this Reason may be deemed sufficient.
Motion G1 (as an amendment to Motion G)
Moved by
Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle
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At end insert “but do propose Amendment 18B in lieu—

18B: Insert the following new Clause—
“Trade and standards
(1) The Secretary of State must produce a report relating to each and any international trade agreement agreed, negotiated or concluded by the Government at any time after the commencement of this Act, prior to such an agreement being ratified, considering its impact on the trade of agri- food products.
(2) A report under subsection (1) must—
(a) assess the terms of the international trade agreement under consideration and its impact on the Secretary of State’s ability to promote, maintain and safeguard standards of agri-food production, including in relation to food safety, the environment and animal welfare; and
(b) include a register of all agri-food products—
(i) that are provided with preferential access to the UK market, at any time, under the international trade agreement under consideration, and
(ii) that may be produced to lower standards of food safety, animal welfare or environmental protection than those that are in force in any part of the UK at the time the report is laid under subsection (3).
(3) The Secretary of State must lay any report under subsection (1) before Parliament on the date of publication, and a Minister of the Crown must move a motion to consider the report in each House of Parliament prior to the relevant agreement being ratified.
(4) The relevant international trade agreement may not be ratified within 21 sitting days of a motion being moved under subsection (3).
(5) The Secretary of State must consult on the merits of the establishment of a Trade and Agriculture Commission to undertake the duties in subsections
(1) and (2) on their behalf.
(6) The Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament containing the outcome of the consultation conducted under subsection (5) within two months of the day on which this Act is passed.
(7) In producing reports under either subsection (1) or (6) the Secretary of State must consult with—
(a) the general public;
(b) the devolved administrations;
(c) representatives from—
(i) the farming sector;
(ii) the food industry;
(iii) consumer and public health groups;
(iv) environmental organisations;
(v) animal welfare organisations;
(vi) farm assurance and certification bodies; and
(d) any other individuals or organisations the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(8) Reports under subsections (1) and (6) must include summaries of the submissions of the consultees listed in subsection (7).
(9) “International trade agreement” means—
(a) an agreement that is or was notifiable under—
(i) paragraph 7(a) of Article XXIV of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, part of Annex 1A to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or
(ii) paragraph 7(a) of Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, part of Annex 1B to the WTO Agreement (as modified from time to time), or
(b) an international agreement that mainly relates to trade, other than an agreement mentioned in paragraph (a)(i) or (ii).””
Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle (CB) [V]
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I beg to move and I wish to test the view of the House.


Division 4

Ayes: 278

Labour: 123
Liberal Democrat: 77
Crossbench: 42
Independent: 13
Conservative: 11
Democratic Unionist Party: 5
Green Party: 2
Ulster Unionist Party: 1
Bishops: 1
Plaid Cymru: 1

Noes: 200

Conservative: 183
Crossbench: 9
Independent: 8

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, the House will now adjourn until 7.30 pm when we will return to hear my noble friend Lord Bethell answer questions on the Covid-19 update.

Sitting suspended.