NFU Scotland is urging members of the House of Lords to revisit a potential amendment to the Agricultural Bill when they vote tomorrow (Tuesday 20 October) that will ensure Westminster can properly scrutinise all future trade deals.
Last week’s vote in the House of Commons on the Agriculture Bill saw MPs fail to back an amendment from the Lords that would have enshrined principles on high standards of animal welfare and environmental protection in law. That was a bitterly disappointing outcome for Scottish farmers and crofters and the public.
Having also secured significant support within the House of Lords, a further clause which would have ensured more appropriate governance and scrutiny of trade negotiations for MPs and the Department for International Trade’s Trade and Agriculture Commission was not selected for a vote last week due to compatibility issues with the Bill’s agreed Money Resolution.
NFU Scotland is pushing for this amendment to be revisited by the Lords and brought forward in a form that would allow it to be presented to the House of Commons for support.
NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said
NFUS was bitterly disappointed that, despite vast support from consumers, stakeholders, and cross-party MPs, the UK Government chose not to support new clause 16 to the Agriculture Bill which would have upheld, in legislation, the principle that no produce that has been produced to inequivalent standards as what is required of UK producers could be imported into the UK following any future trade negotiations.
This principle has always been a red-line issue for NFU Scotland, and whilst it was been batted back by a majority in the House of Commons last week, there is still a vital window of opportunity for improvements to be made to the Bill which would strengthen oversight and scrutiny of trade negotiations.
These improvements would be delivered via the Lord Curry amendment which would strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission and allow MPs to have greater oversight of trade negotiations before they are agreed.
NFU Scotland has worked alongside all UK farming unions to advocate strongly for these measures throughout the passage of the Bill. We believe this is a sensible, proportionate measure which would ensure that the UK Government can pursue its desired independent trade policy post-Brexit but would also ensure that democratic oversight and expert advice on the implications of trade negotiations for domestic agriculture are formally considered. NFU Scotland can see no good reason for this amendment not to be supported.
The Curry amendment will be voted on in the House of Lords tomorrow (Tuesday 20 October). If it is supported, as we hope it will, all eyes will be on the House of Commons as to whether they will support these vital principles, that have been backed to the hilt by the food and farming sectors and the general public.