Lords vote for Agriculture Bill amendment in favour of trade deal scrutiny

Minette Batters NFU President Back British Farming 2020

The House of Commons must now again consider the NFU's call to strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission following NFU lobbying and campaigning pressure.

What's happened?

The House of Lords has voted in favour of an NFU-backed amendment to the Agriculture Bill tabled by Lord Curry which would strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission. The amendment passed with a 107 vote majority, showing the strength of feeling following a concerted period of lobbying by the NFU.

If the amendment goes on to be approved by MPs in the House of Commons in October, the Bill will give the Commission the power to provide Parliament with independent advice about the impact every future trade deal will have on British food and farming standards.

How has the NFU been involved?

The NFU first called for a commission to uphold British farming’s high production standards post-Brexit in September 2019. You can read more about this by clicking here. In January 2020, the NFU mobilised a huge coalition of farming, environmental, animal welfare and public health organisations to write a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for British food standards to be protected in future trade deals. At NFU Conference in February 2019, former Defra Secretary of State Michael Gove agreed in principle to the NFU’s asks

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss confirmed the establishment of the Trade and Agriculture Commission on 29 June, following the unprecedented success of the NFU’s high profile public pressure campaign on food standards, which culminated in a petition signed by more than a million people and more than 78,000 people writing to their MP using the NFU’s online tool. In July, it was announced that the NFU would represent farming as a member of the Commission and its scope was agreed through close consultation between DIT, Defra and the NFU, alongside other stakeholders. You can read more about this here.

NFU President Minette Batters said:

“It is fantastic that the House of Lords have voted for Lord Curry’s amendment to the Agriculture Bill, which would allow Parliament to be provided with independent advice about the impact every trade deal will have on our food and farming standards. We believe the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission is crucial to providing proper parliamentary oversight of our future trade policy and it is encouraging to see Peers support this view.
“Last night (22 September) the House of Lords reflected the strength of feeling on this issue in the country at large. They were right to strengthen the Agriculture Bill to provide better scrutiny of future trade deals. I hope MPs will not ignore this strength of feeling when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.”

What happens next?

The Agriculture Bill will return to the House of Commons in October, where MPs will decide whether this and other amendments will pass into law. The NFU wants Parliament to be provided with independent advice about the impact every trade deal will have on British food and farming standards before it decides whether to accept or reject those trade deals. The NFU will continue to lobby MPs and mobilise support from the public in order to call on the government to make provision in law that it will not agree trade deals which would allow food into this country that would be illegal for farmers to produce here.

Watch: See how NFU President Minette Batters thanked the British public for their support on this and other issues on Back British Farming Day

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