The Tories have already broken their promise to protect British farmers from being undermined by low-standard imports – now they have one chance left to redeem themselves, says Labour Shadow Farming Minister Daniel Zeichner.
Monday was crunch-time for British Farming.
Tory MPs could have stood up for British farmers and said no to lower standard imported food – but instead they broke their promise.
Labour’s clear position is that we want it written into law that our high standards will not be undermined.
A handful of Conservatives agreed, including the chair of the Efra Select Committee Neil Parish, but the vast majority ignored calls from their constituents and helped the Government vote down our important amendment to safeguard our high UK food standards in law and prevent trade deals from undercutting our British farmers with lower standard imports.
They still have one more chance to redeem themselves – this amendment now goes back to the House of Lords, who have to decide whether to stick to their guns, or to give up, or to make a further suggestion.
They may well go back to an earlier amendment crafted by the National Farmers Union to strengthen the Agriculture and Trade Commission.
A temporary body was set up a few weeks ago by Trade Secretary Liz Truss to try and persuade unhappy Conservative MPs that there would be some oversight on standards.
In fact, it is only advisory, and will be wound up in just a few months’ time. It needs to be put on a statutory basis, with wider representation and real power to ensure there is Parliamentary oversight of future trade agreements.
Providing the Lords stand firm, Tory MPs have one final chance to honour the pledge they made to voters at the General Election.
Will they stand with the over one million people who have signed the NFU petition? Will they stand with Jamie Oliver and Joe Wicks and many other celebrities?
Will they agree with the Government’s own food adviser Henry Dimbleby, who has recommended Parliamentary oversight of deals on food?
Will they stand up for our country’s farmers?
Or will they rely on a promise from Liz Truss – who says ’it’s okay, you can trust me’?
Labour knows this is too important an issue to take the Government’s word alone - particularly when bans on lower standard foods that have been adopted from EU law can be so easily overturned in secondary legislation, and when we know the Government is already under pressure from trading partners like the US to accept lower standard food imports in any new trade deal.
That’s why, at every stage, Labour has demanded that the guarantees be written into law.
Labour won’t shift on that – we will continue to stand up for our high British standards, protect our environment, and defend British farmers and food producers.
Labour will always back British farmers, and rural jobs and communities.
It is disappointing that the Conservatives won’t do the same.
Daniel can be found tweeting at @DanielZeichner