Welsh Conservative MPs accused of 'betraying farmers' over food standards vote

Welsh Conservative MPs accused of 'betraying farmers' over food standards vote

Ministers argue that existing protections are sufficient and will not be watered down.

Speaking as the Lords amendments to the Bill was considered, senior Tory Neil Parish said the legislation is heading in the right direction and stressed the United Kingdom should be a "great beacon" on animal welfare and the environment when negotiating future trade deals.

However, MPs voted by 332 votes to 279 - a majority 53 - to back government plans to reject the amendment.

MPs are set to be denied the opportunity to vote on a crucial Agriculture Bill amendment seeking to strengthen the role of the Trade and Agriculture Commission.

With campaigners warning that the United Kingdom could be forced to accept lower standards in order to finalise a USA trade deal, a Lords amendment to the Agriculture Bill would have forced trade deals to meet United Kingdom animal welfare and food safety rules.

'That cannot be right, which is why he must do his job, listen to reason, and write into law that imports from the U.S. can only be sold in Britain if they meet the same standards our farmers are required to meet'.

Neil Parish, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, told the Commons that Brexit meant United Kingdom agriculture could move in a "much more environmental direction", including planting more trees and cutting the use of nitrates.

Tory MP Richard Fuller, for North East Bedfordshire, intervened while Mr Parish was speaking, expressing "frustration" over ministers suggesting the food standards protections need to be put in other legislation.

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Last night, MPs voted on a number of amendments added to the Bill in the House of Lords, including Amendment 16, which would have required free trade deals to only allow food imports that meet United Kingdom legal standards.

Shadow Farming Minister Luke Pollard said a failure by the Government to back "legal guarantees that our high United Kingdom food and farming standards will not be undercut in post-Brexit trade deals, whether with the USA, Australia or any other country" will result in "lower-quality food on our plates".

"I hope a continued stand on this issue will encourage the government to put our manifesto commitment to maintain United Kingdom standards on to the statute book", he said.

But ministers are to argue that such a move would impose an extra cost on the taxpayer, which would make it something called a Money Resolution.

They argued these changes were necessary to make it impossible for the United States or other countries to export so-called chlorinated chicken or beef fattened with hormones. "That is the law of this land", she said. She told the House of Commons that current legislation is "of more use than warm words" in terms of ensuring animal welfare, food standards and environmental protection. "It's what consumers have repeatedly said they want". Parliament can scrutinise new trade deals, as indeed the Select Committee for International Trade is about to do for the Japan deal.

The Tories' decision to reject the amendment comes despite Boris Johnson promising to uphold the UK's food and animal welfare standards during the 2019 General Election.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for environment, food and rural affairs, Tim Farron said: "The Conservatives have continually promised to back British farmers throughout the Brexit process, but their failure tonight to uphold our high food standards reveals just how hollow those promises were". We have in our manifesto the commitment, both on animal welfare and the environment as we move forward.

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