Lords again vote through Agriculture Bill amendments in favour of trade deal scrutiny

Minette Batters NFU President Back British Farming 2020

The House of Commons must now again consider amendments to the Agriculture Bill tabled by Lord Curry and Lord Grantchester which would provide safeguards against British food and farming standards being undermined by imports produced to lower standards.

This is the second time Peers have voted in support of an amendment to the Bill tabled by Lord Curry in recent weeks. Lord Curry’s amendment was previously backed by a 107 vote majority in the Lords, but was not debated by MPs because it was deemed unacceptable to House of Commons clerks on a technical issue. 

A revised version of Lord Curry's amendment was voted through in a Lords debate on 20 October and MPs will now be given a final chance to vote. The amendment would strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission by giving it a longer lifespan and enable it to provide expert advice to Parliament on every future trade deal, assessing what impact each deal might have on British food and farming standards. MPs can then take this into account when deciding whether to accept trade deals or not.

NFU President Minette Batters said:

“The House of Lords has once again shown its support for British farming by passing amendments to the Agriculture Bill which include proper safeguards against food imports that would undermine our high standards, demonstrating the strength of feeling and support on this issue.
“It is incredibly important that the government’s commitment to safeguarding UK farm standards is upheld throughout trade negotiations, that the Trade and Agriculture Commission is strengthened and that parliamentary scrutiny of future trade deals is enhanced. There is enormous public support behind these principles and I would urge MPs to recognise this when these amendments return to the House of Commons.”

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 significant 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 November, 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.

What happens next?

The Agriculture Bill is expected to return to the House of Commons in November, when Parliament returns from recess. Then, MPs will decide whether these 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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