If the Prime Minister suspends Parliament again, measures must be put in place to allow the Agriculture Bill to be carried over. Too much work would go to waste if it falls for a second time, says Shadow Defra Secretary Sue Hayman.
Since I last wrote for Brexit Hub, we have seen the loss and apparent resurrection of the Government’s Agriculture Bill, because of the Supreme Court’s decision to rule parliamentary prorogation unlawful.
Parliament has now resumed its vital work in scrutinising the Government legislation which needs to be on the statute book.
Boris Johnson needs to face up to the fact there is no majority in either Parliament or the country for a no-deal Brexit.
It is essential for the UK food and drink sector that we leave the European Union with a good deal in place.
The alternative would be economic catastrophe for food and drink producers across Britain.
The sector has already suffered because of the continuing uncertainty around investment and the future of trade.
If, as is widely expected, the Government prorogues Parliament again for a Queen’s speech, then it must make provision for the carry-over of the Agriculture Bill to the next parliamentary session.
MPs have put in countless hours of work scrutinising the legislation, which would all go to waste if the Bill is allowed to fall due to a prorogation.
The Bill has gathered dust since last November, and has not even reached the House of Lords yet for further scrutiny.
We need a good Agriculture Bill in place to safeguard the nation’s food supply at a time when food poverty and foodbank demand are rising rapidly.
We need to rule out any greater reliance on imports, and we must prevent domestic producers being undercut after Brexit by countries with lower employment, animal welfare, and environmental standards.
We need a strong Bill in place to safeguard our food supply and tackle health inequalities.
At last month’s Labour conference, I set out Labour’s plans to eliminate the need for food banks and tackle the problems of food waste.
The Bill as it stands does not do this, nor does it have an overall vision for sustainable UK food production, the future of rural communities, or of how to sustain a thriving food and farming sector.
The Agriculture Bill does not need shunting off to the sidelines again. It needs time in the parliamentary calendar for further consideration.
Farmers need long-term support and economic certainty to develop sustainable agricultural systems which produce nutritionally rich foods and dietary diversity, integrating farming with ecological restoration.
Labour’s plans, which I outlined at conference, are to build a healthy and thriving food industry.
We would not allow Brexit to undercut British farmers with cheap and inferior produce from abroad.
Our food and drink sector is worth £23bn a year in exports, mostly with the EU - so they need certainty about the future of trade, to secure jobs and livelihoods.
We await Boris Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal with great interest.
It must, at its heart, provide long-term certainty and security for British food and drink producers.
So much is at stake - and I will not support any deal that puts the very future of British farming at risk.
Sue can be found tweeting at @SueHayman1