Amendment 6

Part of Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords am 6:00 pm ar 16 Ionawr 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Ceidwadwyr 6:00, 16 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I am delighted to speak to Amendment 10 in my name, which is in similar terms to the amendment I tabled in Committee and requests

“an assessment of the impact of the implementation of the CPTPP Chapter on government procurement on environmental protection and animal welfare, health and hygiene”.

I am grateful to my noble friend for trying to seek me out. I missed him yesterday and he missed me today. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and a number of others, we were paying tribute at the memorial to an outstanding parliamentarian, Baroness Boothroyd. I am sorry that I missed my noble friend’s attempt to speak to me, but I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to him in the confines of these deliberations.

What has changed very clearly since Committee stage is that an announcement was made by the Environment Secretary at the Oxford Farming Conference that the Government are committing to consult on new food labelling—plans that will ensure that British produce will, as he put it,

“stand out from the crowd”.

The idea is to allow changes to food labelling entitling consumers to make better decisions at the supermarket in particular, while also highlighting high-quality British produce to the public. I quote from the press release issued by the NFU, which quotes what my right honourable friend Steve Barclay said:

“New food labelling would also make it clearer when imported products do not meet the same UK welfare standards”.

I put it to my noble friend: would it not be better if we did not import food that does not meet the high UK animal welfare and environmental standards that consumers demand and our domestic producers are honoured and delighted to meet? What is the relationship between this new labelling scheme and the Red Tractor scheme, which already demonstrates compliance with all the food requirements by domestic producers?

Is it not a fact, and does my noble friend not agree, that domestic producers meet the highest standards of animal welfare and environmental protection in their production? This means they are meeting a higher standard and it is therefore more expensive to produce. This is exactly what happened in the 1990s with the decision to unilaterally ban sow stalls and tethers in the production of pigmeat while we continued to import pork produced by sow stalls and tethers for an interim period of seven years. This meant the consumer swapped high-end, high-quality, high-animal-welfare-standard UK pig production with lower, cheaper, substandard imports. After seven years, this put our pig producers out of business.

I hope my noble friend will give me his assurance today that after six months—or 12 months in the terms of my Amendment 10—an assessment will be undertaken by his department, jointly with Defra, to ensure that the trade Bill before us this evening does not discriminate against UK domestic production, particularly of meat and dairy. In addition, can he give an assurance that the food labelling provisions that Defra is proposing to consult on, and which I support, will apply not just to supermarket labelling but will somehow translate on to the food menus for food sourced from third countries in our restaurants, bars and cafés in this country? That is the main purport lying behind Amendment 10.

I remind my noble friend that the 2022 joint annual report of the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland states:

“the EU still accounts for two-thirds of all food and feed imports, and 80% of all meat and other products of animal origin”.

The Government were committed to introducing the checks and examinations at UK ports on 31 December 2023 to ensure that imports, whether from third countries through the EU or from EU countries, meet the same standards as required here. Will my noble friend confirm that those checks are now in place, as of the end of last year and the beginning of this year?

Further, will my noble friend confirm that the food and feed imported from outside the EU will have more frequent additional physical checks, rather than those currently carried out only randomly on a predefined percentage? It is, again, important to our own home producers to ensure that, while they are subject to the absolute force of law from the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland, those imports from third countries will meet the same high standards at the point of import. It is not right that we should leave it to local authorities, whose resources are extremely stretched at the moment, to do all the checks required, when these checks would be better taking place at the point of entry. At the moment, all food and feed of animal origin coming from outside the EU is subjected to only documentary checks confirming that appropriate documentation is supplied and identity checks confirming that product matches the documentation. Will my noble friend undertake an assessment after six or 12 months of this trade Bill coming into force to ensure that a higher proportion of additional physical checks than just a predefined percentage are taking place at the point of entry?

It is in the context of those questions that I urge my noble friend to look very favourably on the purport and content of Amendment 10.