Liberal Democrat Lords helped defeat the Government by backing a cross-party amendment to the Trade Bill ensuring that future trade agreements meet the UK's high standards of animal welfare and the environment.
The Conservatives have consistently failed to support such a measure, risking that future trade deals could permit the import of food that fails to meet the UK's high standards. This puts significant pressure on British farmers.
Tim Farron, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Farming said:
"Farmers across the country are worried about their future - they're worried that the UK will be flooded with poor quality food that undercuts the food they produce to high environmental and animal welfare standards.
"The Conservatives have continually failed to protect our farmers from these risks. This amendment will ensure that our farmers are protected and can continue to produce high quality food for our tables. That's why Liberal Democrats in the Lords supported this amendment.
"Liberal Democrats back British farmers and will continue to fight to protect our food standards and their livelihoods. British farmers have a vital role to play in helping us tackle climate change and protect our natural environment, driving them out of business will be damaging for everyone.
Amendment 22 is a cross-party amendment establishing a code of practice to ensure that as far as possible that future trade agreements are consistent with United Kingdom levels of statutory protection on human, animal or plant life or health; animal welfare; the environment; food safety, quality, hygiene and traceability; employment and labour standards; and human rights and equalities.
The Amendment was passed by 290 to 274, a defeat for the Government.
Full text of Amendment 22:
Insert the following new Clause-
"Standards affected by international trade agreements
(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations made by statutory instrument establish a code of practice setting out how a Minister of the Crown should take steps to maintain standards established by any enactment regarding-
(b) animal welfare,
(c) the environment,
(d) human rights,
(e) welfare, and
(f) labour law,
if a proposed international trade agreement is likely to affect such standards.
(2) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (1) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
(3) The code under subsection (1) may provide that a Minister of the Crown ensures as far as possible that a future trade agreement is consistent with United Kingdom levels of statutory protection regarding, among other things-
(a) human, animal or plant life or health;
(b) animal welfare;
(c) the environment;
(d) food safety, quality, hygiene and traceability;
(e) employment and labour standards; and
(f) human rights and equalities, including but not limited to-
(i) women's rights,
(ii) child rights, and
(iii) the Human Rights Act 1998.
(4) This is in addition to and does not impact on the provisions in section 42 of the Agriculture Act 2020 (reports relating to free trade agreements).
(5) Where a Minister of the Crown decides that it is appropriate and necessary to change standards in pursuit of an international trade agreement, a Minister of the Crown must-
(a) send a notification of the necessary changes to primary or subordinate legislation to the relevant Committee in each House of Parliament at the earliest opportunity;
(b) consult and seek the consent of the devolved authorities; and
(c) take steps to ensure that necessary changes to primary or subordinate legislation have completed their parliamentary processes before the final texts of agreed trade agreements, together with full impact assessments which cover the economic impacts and social, environmental, and animal welfare aspects of the agreement, in advance of such agreements being laid before Parliament under section 20 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010.
(6) In this section, "United Kingdom levels of statutory protection" means levels of protection provided for by or under any-
(a) primary legislation,
(b) subordinate legislation, or
(c) retained direct EU legislation, which has effect in the United Kingdom, or the part of the United Kingdom in which the regulations have effect, on the date on which a draft of the regulations is laid."
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