Amendment 6

Part of Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill [HL] - Report – in the House of Lords am 6:15 pm ar 16 Ionawr 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Boycott Baroness Boycott Crossbench 6:15, 16 Ionawr 2024

My Lords, I first declare my interests. I will come to some notes about Amendment 11, so ably spoken to just now by the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith. Right now, I rise to speak to Amendment 12 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Willis of Summertown. As the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, just said, she is unable to be here. I would also like to say that I support Amendment 6 from the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell.

Amendment 12 is really very straightforward, and I cannot see any reason why the Government should not let this through. It just says that our border testing regimes must be robust enough so that we are aware of the new types of products that are going to enter the UK as a result of this trade agreement. We know that many countries in the CPTPP have products that contain levels of pesticides that exceed our safety limits, or indeed are actually banned because of their risks to human health, food safety and consumer protection, and are not covered at all by any import tolerances.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Willis, described in Committee, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, has just reaffirmed, there are 119 pesticides that we ban that are permitted for agricultural use in one or more of the countries we are aiming to enter into a trade negotiation with. UK pesticide standards are stronger than those of the other countries and there is no expectation, I hope, that we are going to change our high standards. So, a successful trade agreement—which is presumably what the Government are after—will inevitably lead to some increase in agricultural imports to the UK. Indeed, the strength and effectiveness of our border control systems is an issue of relevance to all existing FTAs, not only to new ones.

The Trade and Agriculture Commission flags the

“likely pressure that will be placed on the UK’s border control regime” as a result of the increase in trade, in combination with the new EU border control model. Reports on the ground, including from the NFU, flag the lack of inspection of products coming into the UK, and the risk of this to our biosecurity. This amendment is simple and pragmatic. It provides an opportunity for the Government to scrutinise the existing system to ensure that it operates with maximum effectiveness.

I turn now to Amendment 11, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Goldsmith, which is a further iteration of the one we tabled in Committee. Following on from his remarks, the purpose of the amendment is to both highlight our susceptibility to commodities linked to deforestation and to get assurances that the Government’s statutory review will consider this issue.

Since we last discussed it, the arguments have only been strengthened by the Environmental Audit Committee’s report on deforestation. It flagged that, in their first revision to the Environmental Improvement Plan, the Government committed to use their trade agreements and trading relationships

“to support the United Kingdom’s strong environmental and climate commitments”.

Despite this, in the course of the negotiations, we eliminated import tariffs on palm oil, which had been set at rates of up to 12%, from all CPTPP members, including Malaysia. So what is that going to do in terms of keeping sustainable palm oil production alive?

While it is true that we have existing agreements with many of the countries already, we do not with Malaysia and so it is of significance that this agreement will allow Malaysian palm oil—not necessarily sustainable —to enter the market with no tariff. As raised by Chester Zoo in its letter to Peers, around 90% of the world’s oil palm trees are grown on a few islands in Malaysia and Indonesia. Estimates suggest that as little as 1% of Malaysian palm oil is actually certified.

The EAC also noted that:

“While the UK is only the 15th largest contributor” to tropical deforestation, we actually have a very intensive use. This is to do with our diet, which is so largely made up of ultra-processed food—66%, in fact—that depends on palm oil, when food products are smashed back into their original chemical state and then reconstituted to make the kinds of products that so carelessly litter our shelves. It seems to me that we therefore have a responsibility in this area.

I also want to challenge the idea that we are starting from a high point. We are not. Even if the Schedule 17 regulations were in place, they would apply only to illegal deforestation. That means that if a country decides to legalise deforestation, we have absolutely no recourse to stop those products entering our market. Legal or illegal, the damage is the same, and it should be treated as such. The EU regulations that are coming into force cover both, and I note that the EAC has recommended that legal deforestation be included within ours.

I would appreciate it if, in his winding-up speech, the Minister were able to confirm that the review that the Government will carry out in two years’ time, which he referred to in Committee, will take into account these concerns; and specifically if he can confirm that the joint statement with Malaysia to tackle deforestation and the MSPO—the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil Certification Scheme—have been effective. I also want to note my support for other amendments in this group.