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Lords accepts trade standards compromise

10 November 2020

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Members of the Lords considered standards for agricultural and food imports and free trade agreements on Monday 9 November as Agriculture Bill 'ping pong' concluded.

Food imports

The minister said government has listened to concerns from members and put forward compromise amendments.

Changes related to reports to Parliament on new free trade agreements to explain to what extent measures are consistent with UK levels of statutory protection for human, animal or plant health, animal welfare and the environment.

Some members argued the government’s amendment does not guarantee that lower-standard food will not be imported; simply that there will be a report.

Members voted by 130 to 290 not to reinstate the orginal change relating to food import standards and accepted the government’s compromise.

Both Houses have now agreed the text of the bill and it awaits Royal Assent, the Queen’s formal approval, when it will become an Act of Parliament (law).

A date for Royal Assent has yet to be scheduled.

Consideration of Commons amendments: Tuesday 20 October

Food imports 

Post-Brexit food standards were in the spotlight when members voted to make to make changes to the Agriculture Bill.

Meeting UK standards

The Lords voted for a change (16B) to ensure agricultural and food imports meet UK standards, including on animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety, by 282 votes to 244.

Trade deals

Members also voted for a change to require the government to report to Parliament on the impact of future trade deals on maintaining agri-food standards, by 278 votes to 200.

Another vote to limit the use of pesticides took place. Members voted 158 for and 260 against so it was not made. 

The bill returned to the Commons for further consideration of Lords amendments.

Third reading: Thursday 1 October

Members discussed several topics and agreed to technical government amendments without a vote. The amendments related to powers for Scottish ministers to offer financial assistance, the retention of EU legislation relating to the promotion measures for agricultural products and provisions relating to Wales and Northern Ireland.

Members also discussed the progress of the bill through the House at its conclusion of Lords stages.

Following completion of third reading, the bill passed to the Commons for consideration of Lords amendments.

Report stage day three: Tuesday 22 September

Members discussed a range of topics and proposed changes to the bill, asking the government to think again on the use of pesticides, food import standards, climate change targets and the establishment of a Trade and Agriculture Commission. 

Five changes (amendments) that members put forward relating to the use of pesticides went to a vote (division).

The first amendment (amendment 78) proposes to limit the use of pesticides in certain areas in order to protect public health. Members voted 276 in favour and 228 against, so the change was made.

The second amendment (amendment 88) proposes to enable farm tenants to object to landlords refusing to enter specific financial assistance schemes. Members voted 122 in favour and 234 against, so the change was not made.

The third amendment (amendment 89ZA) proposes that agrilcutral and food imports should meet domestic standards. Members voted 307 in favour adn 212 against, so the change was made.

The fourth amendment (amendment 100) proposes requirements for agriculture and associated land to contribute to climate change targets. Members voted 249 in favour and 200 against, so the change was made.

The fifth amendment (amendment 101) proposes the establishment of a Trade and Agriculture Commission. Members voted 266 in favour and 159 against, so the change was made.

Third reading, a chance for members to make sure the eventual law is effective, workable and without loopholesis scheduled for 1 October. 

Report stage day two: Thursday 17 September

Members discussed a range of topics and proposed changes to the bill, asking the government to think again on implementing a national food strategy. In their debate on these changes, members said 'in spite of all the efforts made in recent years, things are still heading in the wrong direction.'

One change (amendment) that members put forward relating to a national food strategy went to a vote (division).

This amendment (amendment 58) proposes the creation of a strategy to increase sustainability of food production, support food production and consumption, and improve dietary health and reduce obesity in the UK. Members voted 280 in favour and 208 against, so the change was made.

Report stage day one: Tuesday 15 September

Members discussed a range of topics, including public rights of way. Two changes (amendments) members put forward relating to agricultural financial assistance went to votes (divisions).

The first (amendment 12) proposed support for domestic agriculture to ensure that food security and the stability of food supply are included in the purposes to which financial assistance can be directed. Members voted 130 in favour and 225 against, so the change was not made.

The second (amendment 31) requires the government to consider the current environmental improvement plan in strategic priorities for giving financial assistance. Members voted 258 in favour and 208 against, so the change was made.

Committee stage day seven: Tuesday 28 July

Members discussed topics including the creation of an International Trade Standards Commission, carbon emission targets and required standards for imported agricultural goods.

Committee stage day six: Thursday 23 July

Members discussed subjects including consultation with the devolved administrations over animal identification and tracing, the establishment of a national soil monitoring programme and the export of farmed animals.

Committee stage day five: Tuesday 21 July

Members discussed a range of topics including provision of advice to those receiving financial assistance, the development of smallholdings and provision of a national food plan.

Committee stage day four: Thursday 16 July

Members discussed a range of subjects, including reducing climate change emissions, assistance for licensed abattoirs in areas without alternative provisions and ensuring new funding systems do not reduce overall financial support for agriculture activities.

Committee stage day three: Tuesday 14 July

Members discussed a range of issues including reducing air pollution, advancements in agriculture robotics and genetics, and financial support for businesses producing environmentally sustainable food.

Committee stage day two: Thursday 9 July

Members discussed changes on animal welfare standards, public access and consultation with the devolved administrations.

Committee stage day one: Tuesday 7 July

Members discussed suggested changes on a range of subjects including investment in wind farms on solar panels on green belt land and the incorporation of public access enhancements into financial plans for the protection or improvement of the environment.

Second reading: Wednesday 10 June

Members discussed farming support after the UK's exit from the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), schemes to accelerate tree growing, animal welfare and a free trade deal with the US.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Conservative), Parliamentary Under Secretary for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, opened the debate and responded on behalf of the government.

Members taking part included the chair of the Woodland Trust, chair of the Royal Veterinary College and the president of Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.

Agriculture Bill

This bill aims to:

  • authorise expenditure agricultural purposes
  • define the law on direct payments following the UK's departure from the EU
  • modify retained EU legislation
  • provide for food security and food supply chains
  • confer powers to impose obligations on business purchasers
  • recognise associations of agricultural producers which may benefit from certain exemptions from competition law
  • define the law on fertilisers, traceability of animals, the red meat levy and agricultural tenancies
  • secure compliance with the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture.

Further information

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