NFU Scotland is urgently requesting its members to contact their MPs ahead of the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill’s anticipated return to the House of Commons next week.
The Bill is currently in its final stage of scrutiny in the House of Lords where several crucial amendments have been adopted.
During the lengthy Lords stages, NFU Scotland, working with the other UK farming unions, secured a lobbying success with the inclusion of an amendment tabled by Lord Curry of Kirkharle which will strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission to give it an explicit, additional duty to advise Parliament on all trade deals and how they impact on food and farming standards.
The amendment would also require the Commission, which includes NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick in its membership, to report to Parliament on how best Government can meet its manifesto pledge not to compromise on the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards through its international trade policy – with Parliament being required to consider such advice before any trade deal is signed. Furthermore, the amendment is implicit that it will continue working as long as there are trade negotiations to scrutinise.
A further crucial win was Lords approval for a Lord Grantchester amendment which requires ministers to specify a statement of compliance with the relevant domestic standards and regulations where a product is imported – essentially putting the UK’s domestic standards of production onto the face of the Bill.
Before the Bill heads for its final stages, NFU Scotland is asking members to write to their MPs with urgency, calling for them to use their votes to support these essential improvements relating to the UK’s outstanding standards of agricultural production.
President Andrew McCornick said
Scottish agriculture prides itself on provenance and quality and herein lies the opportunity of new trade agreements.
For this reason, it is vital that future trade deals do not curtail our ability to grow our reputation as a nation of quality food and drink by undercutting domestic production with imports produced to standards illegal or unacceptable here.
The debate around future trade agreements and standards of production is one which has mobilised large parts of the NFU Scotland membership and more than a million UK consumers have signed up to back UK standards in recent months.
Through my participation on the Department for International Trade’s Trade and Agriculture Commission, I will advocate at every turn to ensure that Scottish and UK standards of production are considered in the negotiation of new and other trade agreements. That is what the public wish to see.
Not contained within the Commission’s Terms of Reference are the critical elements of governance and scrutiny and I am concerned that there is not a strong enough role for Parliament. Therefore, the inclusion of the amendment on the role and remit of the Trade and Agriculture Commission into the UK Agriculture Bill is so important.
NFU Scotland needs members to write to their MPs in the coming days to strengthen our lobbying efforts on these crucial issues as the Bill reaches its final stages.