Agriculture Bill

(Limited Text - Ministerial Extracts only)

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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 Amendment Paper: HL Bill 141-I Marshalled list of Motions for Consideration of Commons Reasons - (16 Oct 2020)
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.

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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.

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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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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)
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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
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Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con)
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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)
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I have received no requests to speak after the Minister so I call the noble Lord, Lord Krebs.

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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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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.
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17:07

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

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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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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)
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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)
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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.

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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.

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Moved by
Lord Gardiner of Kimble Portrait Lord Gardiner of Kimble
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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.
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18:51

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

--- Later in debate ---
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.
--- Later in debate ---
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.
--- Later in debate ---
19:06

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