The fight for a Commission to explore ways to protect food production standards in trade policy is continuing in the House of Lords, with a new Agriculture Bill amendment tabled to force the Government’s hand.
Earlier this month, Farming Minister Victoria Prentis said it was ‘unnecessary’ to set up a Commission because the Agri-Food Expert Trade Advisory Group (ETAG) was already feeding into the Government’s negotiations with other countries.
The NFU flatly rejected this view, pointing out ETAG had no ability to make policy recommendations and meets far too infrequently to do the kind of work a Commission would carry out.
According to the union’s president, Minette Batters, the Department for International Trade had also blocked MPs from working on a change to the Agriculture Bill which would have established a Commission.
But now Baroness McIntosh of Pickering has joined forces with two other peers, one Labour and one non-affiliated, to put down an amendment which would compel the Government to set up a Commission within 12 months of the legislation being passed.
Speaking to Farmers Guardian, Baroness McIntosh said this was the right amendment to ‘coalesce around’, given others to ban low standard imports were defeated in the House of Commons.
Asked whether she believed it would win the backing of the House of Lords, she said: “Certainly the feedback I have had is people like what we are saying.
“I think this is the best we can do. But say we get this passed in the Lords, and that to me would be a good outcome, it will go back to the Commons and they will just reject it.”
The Baroness went on to say MPs had a duty to debate the NFU petition signed by over one million people calling for standards to be protected in trade deals.
Lord Don Curry has also called for the Agriculture Bill to be improved, pushing for the transition away from direct payments to be delayed by a year, for more to be done to improve productivity by professionalising the industry, for greater support for tenants and a stronger focus on food security.