Speaker set to deny MPs vote on crucial Ag Bill amendment

Daniel Fowler
October 14, 2020

Speaking as Lords amendments to the Bill were considered, senior Tory Neil Parish said the legislation is heading in the right direction but the United Kingdom should be a "great beacon" on animal welfare and the environment when negotiating future trade deals.

MPs voted 332 votes to 279 against the move.

The amendment had significant support from across the political divide - with a National Farmers' Union petition garnering more than a million signatures, and even the Conservative Party's own affiliated animal welfare organisation coming out in favour of it.

During a debate on the Agriculture Bill last night (Monday), the York Outer MP spoke and voted against the government, demanding stronger guarantees on the post-Brexit protection of United Kingdom food standards against lower-grade imports.

"Could the Government please explain why it appears that California is able to ban food products produced by what we regard as cruel means in other states of the United States of America, but that we somehow have difficulty in doing the same in deciding our new rules?"

Neil Parish, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, believes this to be a missed opportunity to strive for greater things.

The reaction follows events in the House of Commons last night where the Lord Grantchester amendment to the Agriculture Bill, that would have protected farmers' high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection, was defeated.

Conservative Richard Fuller - MP for North East Bedfordshire - expressed "frustration" over ministers suggesting the food standards protections need to be put in other legislation. She added that these were "of more use than warm words" in maintaining animal welfare, food standards and environmental protections.

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James Russell, BVA President, said: "This result is a severe blow for animal welfare and a betrayal of the Government's own manifesto commitment to maintain and improve on health and welfare standards".

For the Government, environment minister Victoria Prentis said the Government will not change the law of the land on import standards "under any circumstances".

Although Government is affirming that the EU rules which ban imports of chlorine-washed chicken and other products will be automatically written into United Kingdom law post-Brexit, the House of Lords agreed with the likes of the National Farmers Union and other campaigners, that more stringent legal assurances need to be in place.

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood, reacting to the vote on food standards, said: "Tonight, the Government once again failed to make good their manifesto promise that they will not sell out the UK's animal welfare for a quick trade deal".

Shadow Farming Minister Luke Pollard said a failure by the Government to back "legal guarantees that our high United Kingdom food and farming standards will not be undercut in post-Brexit trade deals, whether with the USA, Australia or any other country" will result in "lower-quality food on our plates".

But Mr Parish said additional scrutiny was required before trade deals were done.

SNP environment spokeswoman Deidre Brock added in a statement: "By refusing to enshrine into legislation the high standards that now protect us, Boris Johnson's Government has fired the starting gun for a post-Brexit race to the bottom, which threatens our superb food and agriculture sectors and risks flooding our stores with low-quality produce".

The bill must include guarantees that United Kingdom farmers would not be "undercut" in post-Brexit trade deals, Mr Pollard said.

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