All 5 Baroness Mallalieu contributions to the Agriculture Act 2020

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Wed 10th Jun 2020
Agriculture Bill
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2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading
Tue 7th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage & Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad): House of Lords
Thu 9th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 16th Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thu 23rd Jul 2020
Agriculture Bill
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Committee stage:Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Agriculture Bill

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
2nd reading & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 10th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I remind the House of my interest as a small-scale upland sheep farmer and as president of the Countryside Alliance. This is potentially a good Bill that travels in the right direction, and I am grateful to my friend the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, for introducing it, but it is a very bare framework with far too many delegated powers and far too little real detail. It could and should be improved by some additions.

First, our current food, environmental and animal welfare standards were surely not put in place simply to protect the market for our farmers or because we were required to adopt them while we were in the EU. They are there for the benefit of our consumers and we are keeping them post-Brexit presumably because we think they are good and necessary. The Conservative Party’s manifesto at the last general election stated that there would be no compromise on them in our trade talks, and the letter we all got yesterday from the two Secretaries of State said the same, as did the Minister in opening. To allow products which do not meet our standards—even if, as has been suggested in the press, tariffs might be imposed on them to help our producers compete financially—would betray the promise made to the people of this country that they would have good, safe, ethically produced food to our own high standards. If, as we are being repeatedly told, there will be no compromise, will the Minister tell us why that is not simply being put in the Bill? As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, said, the amendment in the other place proposed by Mr Neil Parish was supported on all sides of the House and it, or one like it, needs to be put in the Bill.

At long last we have an opportunity to shape our own agricultural destiny, and the choice is stark, facing, as we do, the end of direct payments under the CAP. It is no exaggeration to say that the single farm payment has been the difference between a loss and break-even for many small and medium-sized family farms, particularly in the uplands where there is very little but livestock farming to turn to. That point was made by the noble Earl, Lord Devon, and the noble Lord, Lord Carrington. If you cut direct support to those small farms, as New Zealand did, they go under, and farming becomes the province of large commercial enterprises. Under the Bill, that direct support is reducing and is guaranteed for only a very short time. As others have pointed out, there is then a lacuna in support, and we have no details or figures with which farmers can plan for the future, as plan they must.

The Bill must recognise that the production of food to a high standard, which British farmers primarily do, is the main benefit to us all from our agricultural industry, as well as landscape maintenance and enhancement, wildlife habitat preservation, access to the countryside and so on. We, the public, directly or indirectly, derive benefit from that we should all contribute to its cost. However, productivity and profitability have to go hand in hand with the new environmental land management schemes or they will fail. In my area, Exmoor National Park, I am very encouraged by the trial and test called Exmoor’s Ambition, which is partly funded by Defra. It has been running since 2019 and goes on until next year. It works closely with farmers and land managers to define and develop the public good outcomes which will be required under the ELM scheme, and how farmers will be paid for them. We all want to know the results, and I hope the Minister will be able to tell us how those trials are going and if anything is emerging from them as yet. Those schemes must be devised and designed—

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist
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Perhaps the noble Baroness could bring her remarks to a close.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu [V]
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I hope they will be devised by farmers, not just by recent environmental studies graduates sitting in an office, which has sometimes been the case with other schemes.

Agriculture Bill

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansarad): House of Lords
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-II(Rev) Revised second marshalled list for Committee - (7 Jul 2020)
Baroness Young of Old Scone Portrait Baroness Young of Old Scone (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I would like to make a general point about this group. We have a considerable number of amendments to Clause 1. They add further purposes for which the Secretary of State can give financial assistance. In my view, the Bill runs the risk of becoming a bit of a Christmas tree—everybody wants to hang a bauble on it. Many of these baubles are lovely. They highlight important activities which the new environmental land management scheme should support, such as integrated pest management and nature-friendly farming. I have signed to support some amendments, such as those on agroforestry and agroecology, so I am as guilty as many noble Lords in wanting to hang baubles on this Christmas tree as it passes. We all want our bauble to shine to impress on the Minister how vital they are so that he will consider whether these additions could be added to the Bill.

However, I think we need to examine our conscience and look at whether some of these proposals can be delivered under the current purposes in Clause 1, since they clearly come under the heading of improving the environment, mitigating climate change or improving soil et cetera. Many of them are about management practices rather than the purposes that those management practices are intended to deliver. So, although I will polish my baubles nicely when the amendments I have signed come up in order to impress on the Minister that they are important issues, I think we all have to ponder whether we really want the Christmas tree to crash to the ground overwhelmed by the weight of amendments in its first clause and to create an overly complicated framework for the future of agriculture and land management.

I shall also comment on those amendments in this group that could be interpreted as a return to payments directly for food production. We all know from the past that that distorted markets, encouraged environmental harm and ended up being a rather poor use of taxpayers’ money. The Bill needs to be much more visionary than that. It is a ground-breaking opportunity to set a new UK-based framework for agriculture. It needs to be focused with rapier precision, not a loose, baggy monster.

Finally, I support Amendment 1, which requires that the Secretary of State “must” fund the public goods that are listed in the Bill, rather than a discretionary “may”. We need a duty on the Secretary of State, not simply a power.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendments 37 and 78. A great many noble Lords from all sides of the House have done so with great eloquence, so I will cut my speech short. The Bill needs to be beefed up in relation to pasture-fed grazing systems and support for hill farms and other marginal land.

In speaking as I do, I declare an interest in addition to those set out in the register as a patron of the Exmoor Pony Society and as someone with a particular interest in the conservation of rare breeds. I follow on from the remarks that have already been made by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. Version 1 of the Agriculture Bill contained no provisions such as those which are now set out in Clause 1(1)(g), which provides the possibility of financial assistance for,

“conserving native livestock, native equines or genetic resources relating to any such animal.”

In tandem with the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, who I think is going to speak later, if this version 2 Bill had emerged with the same deficiency, we had intended to try to introduce just such a provision, so I am grateful that this second version made good that deficit as a result of a number of approaches from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and many others, assisted, I do not doubt, by the Secretary of State for the Environment’s personal knowledge and appreciation of the value of the British Lop pig, a breed on the endangered species list.

It was therefore with some dismay that I saw Amendment 27, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, which proposes to widen the clause from native livestock to all livestock at a time when we all know that funds are going to be very limited. Were he to succeed, he would so water down the provision that the very purpose of this paragraph would be rendered pointless. The Explanatory Notes to the Bill say that it is,

“to provide financial assistance for measures to support the conservation and maintenance of UK native Genetic Resources relating to livestock or equines.”

A dilution of such funds as are likely to be available would necessarily weaken our ability to meet our obligations under Aichi target 13 of the biodiversity convention and United Nations sustainable development goal 2.5, both of which require us to conserve the diversity of our livestock breeds.

The amendment would remove something which I believe could be a means of encouraging and incentivising farmers to invest in rare and native breeds, many of which have gone already. We are only just at the very beginning of an appreciation of the genetic bank that we possess in relation to our native breeds. We are only just beginning to carry out widespread genetic testing, which is revealing just how precious and potentially valuable some of those genetic qualities are. A genetic ability to cope with extreme weather conditions, such as that possessed by the Dartmoor hill ponies of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the ability to thrive on inferior pasture, like the Exmoor pony, and docility, good mothering abilities and not running to excess fat, like George Eustice’s British Lop pigs, have not just an actual value but a potential one, which is as yet often unknown.

Some people still keep these breeds because they like them, out of tradition or sentiment, or due to local culture, which is not unimportant. However, without an incentive to farmers to conserve them, which is often the case at present, many have been lost and many more are under threat. Clause 1(1)(g) is their lifeline, and I hope that it will not be cut.

Agriculture Bill

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 9th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-III Third marshalled list for Committee - (9 Jul 2020)
Lord Bates Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Bates) (Con)
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My Lords, I have received two requests from noble Lords to speak after the Minister.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, there is a price for increased access. I totally agree with what my noble friend Lord Rooker said. We cannot turn the clock back, and nor would we want to because we recognise how important it is for all of us physically and mentally to be able to get out and enjoy the countryside. However, that price has been paid up until now largely by farmers and landowners. It is considerable and it is clearly going to grow, which is why I hope that the provisions in the Bill will be used in ways which respect, perhaps more than some of the existing access arrangements have done, the people who own the land. I am told that it is only a tiny minority who cause trouble. Perhaps that is so for genuine walkers, but it also gives a legitimate right of access to other people whose purpose for being there is not legitimate. Near houses or through the farm, it is a perfect way to case the joint. You just have to speak to some of my neighbours down here about the vandalism that they suffered during the badger cull by people using access legitimately for illegitimate purposes.

I heard the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, speak about a litany of problems. Having had a very much-used part of the Chiltern Way going straight through my garden, I can endorse everything he said. I hope we fulfilled our obligations by repairing stiles and putting in kissing-gates and beside them gates that would open for anybody who was disabled and could not use the other two, but over the years we had gates left open, stock straying and dogs chasing and attacking sheep, which is a major problem nationwide. We had poaching. We had theft of fencing and from farm buildings and at one stage, until I learned that I was a philanthropist, I was offering a free take-away service from my farm diesel tank. When I sadly came to sell the smallholding on which I lived, I was told by all the agents that the footpath, which had by then been diverted from the front door through the fields, would still knock a substantial chunk off its value.

Sadly, I do not expect the Government to accept this amendment, but I hope that those who regularly request access give thought to who pays the price, not just in money but in loss of security and peace of mind.

Agriculture Bill

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 16th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-V Fifth marshalled list for Committee - (16 Jul 2020)
Lord Trees Portrait Lord Trees (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I am very pleased to speak to this amendment in my name and those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Mallalieu, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. I draw attention to my interests as declared in the register, and particularly my role as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare.

This is an enabling Bill, and I note that many amendments to date have been seeking more detail on how the Bill’s objectives will be realised. This amendment, adding one small word—slaughtering—puts some meat on the bones, if noble Lords will excuse a veterinary pun. It offers a means of helping to achieve two of the strategic objectives of the Bill: namely, to improve animal welfare and to enable the financial self-sustainability of farming and, in this case, of livestock farming.

First, with respect to welfare, there has been a huge reduction in the number of abattoirs in the UK in recent years. Since 2007, we have lost 40% of the abattoirs that existed at that time, as the industry has consolidated into bigger units. There is nothing wrong with bigger units, but bigger means fewer, and that means that animals in turn must travel longer distances in order to be slaughtered. It is a laudable commitment of this Government—and also a recommendation of a recent animal welfare committee report and a recent resolution from the British Veterinary Association—that animals should be killed as close to the point of production as possible. Fewer abattoirs runs counter to that admirable welfare goal.

On the financial self-sustainability of farming, one way that livestock farmers can achieve that is to add value to their product and retail directly. This is enabled by abattoirs that offer the so-called private kill option. These are, for the most part, the smaller abattoirs. Private kill returns the products of slaughter to the primary producer or their collaborators for processing. It enables local food production of good provenance and low food miles. It offers livestock farmers, especially those in upland areas, a viable business model. It offers them a much fairer and higher share of the price that the consumer pays. But it depends on the existence of suitable abattoirs.

Clause 1(5) currently lists “ancillary activities” for which the Secretary of State may give financial assistance, which are

“selling, marketing, preparing, packaging, processing or distributing products”

from agriculture. Spot the missing link in the farm-to-fork food chain. As a livestock farmer, how can one do any of those ancillary activities without slaughtering?

The amendment is not about subsidising abattoirs. It would merely allow as eligible for assistance certain abattoirs that recognise the higher regulatory standards rightly required for operations that are relatively low throughput and local. Conditions of support can be developed in statutory guidance or schedules and could for instance include capital grants for equipment needed to comply with new legislation, such as the recent introduction of CCTV or to achieve more sustainable and carbon-efficient waste disposal.

Given the key role that small abattoirs can play in improving animal welfare, enabling local food production and enabling the financial sustainability of livestock farming, while contributing to the wider rural economy and our national food security, I submit that there is a strong case for their eligibility for support, subject to conditions, under this Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, my farming interests are set out in the register. The noble Lord, Lord Trees, has just pointed out the word that is very obviously missing from the list in Clause 1(5). Livestock farming has to produce meat in the main and “slaughtering”, the most essential and first step in the process of all those set out in the list, is missing.

I do not think that this is an oversight. I am afraid that it might be deliberate, and there are two possible reasons. The Minister may consider that the word “preparing” includes slaughtering. If this is the case, could he or she please make it clear in plain terms for Hansard and then we can all go home happy? If the Minister will not do so, I am afraid that the omission is deliberate and has been made because so many small and medium-sized abattoirs have closed and the Government are frightened of making a commitment that they fear might require them to prop up a line of possibly failing businesses.

That is not my intention in putting my name to this amendment, nor do I believe that this very small amendment, if accepted, would result in public money being thrown away on a pointless, uneconomic enterprise. I hope that government money would not be spent under any of the other categories included in Clause 1(5) on other enterprises without a good reason and a good business case. This simple one-word amendment is important for livestock farmers, of which I am one, particularly farmers in the uplands, of which I am one. It is important for small producers, and vitally important for family farms, which the Government say they want to support.

Agriculture Bill

Baroness Mallalieu Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 23rd July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Agriculture Act 2020 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 112-VII Seventh marshalled list for Committee - (23 Jul 2020)
Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I too support Amendment 220. I remind the House of my farming interests as set out in the register.

Like the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, I have wanted to see an end to live export for slaughter for many years. The majority of the animals exported in recent years appear to be sheep. The figures are not clear, but it looks as if the numbers have come down dramatically. However, I am very worried that we may see them rise because we are looking for new trade agreements and deals abroad and there is without question a demand in some places for live animals for slaughter.

The majority of the sheep that currently go are cull ewes going to France for non-stun slaughter for religious festivals. English sheep are cheaper than French ones, and every sheep farmer here knows that the best time to sell your old ewes, if you have the stomach for it, is just before the end of Ramadan. As has been said, the calves that go now come mainly from Scotland and are destined for the continent. They are dairy bull calves, which are a by-product of the milk industry, and are destined either to be killed at about eight months old or to be re-exported to north Africa as adults for non-stun slaughter there.

As we have heard, those animals face very long journey times. The Scottish ones used to go via Ireland, then on a ferry all the way round to the continent, where they were distributed to the countries where they had been purchased. In the abattoir inquiry chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Trees, which produced a recent report, we heard that the most distressing part of the journey is loading and unloading. On these long journeys, particularly with very young calves, that happens repeatedly—many, many times—to comply with the regulations when they are observed.

I understand that the English trade for such calves has largely ended because they are now finding a market in England for further rearing. Rose veal was heavily publicised and marketed, and people are now rearing them on contract for some of our main supermarkets and food outlets. One wonders whether the animal welfare, financial and environmental costs of sending some 3,500 Scottish calves to Europe every year could not be better avoided by good marketing and better provision in the Scottish abattoir system.

There are potential markets for all these animals at home and on the hook overseas. The campaign to sell rose veal was successful. Mutton was once highly prized but became unfashionable, despite the fact that, slow cooked, it has a great deal more flavour than highly prized new season spring lamb. With better marketing and promotion, it could be prized again. You never see it advertised in a butcher’s shop, yet I, as a sheep farmer, am often asked for it. I believe that the latent demand is there.

We are just about to embark on a number of important trade deals. As a livestock-producing nation, our products are likely to be in increasing demand, particularly in the Middle East and elsewhere where grass does not grow as ours does. We can, and must, expand our overseas markets, but, as the Government and their advisers say we should, slaughter the animals here, close the point of production, and export them dead, not alive.

We have heard a number of times during the long course of this Committee that we have wonderful, high animal welfare standards. In many areas, we do, of course, but we cannot simply shut our eyes and look the other way once we ship the animals that we have produced over national borders. I share the frustration of the noble Baroness, Lady Fookes, and look to the Government to keep a promise at last.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle Portrait Lord Curry of Kirkharle [V]
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 220. There is absolutely no question that we must maintain the highest standards of animal welfare. In the farming sector, we are proud of our standards and reputation for such standards, so we must not tolerate or condone bad practice. We must stamp it out and ensure that the regulations are enforced.

However, I am concerned about the amendment. The export of live animals for slaughter is without question an emotional issue and generates lots of public concern, as it has for a long time. When I chaired the Meat and Livestock Commission it invested in widespread research into the impact of transport on stress levels in sheep, cattle and pigs. As the noble Lord, Lord Trees, said, we should slaughter animals as close to home as possible and add value wherever possible so that we benefit from the marketing of those products in local, mainstream or export markets. We absolutely should do what we can to achieve that, but, as has been said, the reality is that animals suffer the most stress when being loaded on to and unloaded from lorries, not during transport, provided that the lorries comply with EU legislation, such as on journey times, and have the correct facilities on board.

I have always found it rather odd that crossing the 22 miles of water of the channel is such a major problem. It is misleading to believe, as has been stated, that all animals are likely to be mistreated as soon as they arrive. The reality does not support this belief. All the EU abattoirs that I have visited—and I have visited a lot—were of the highest standard, although I confess that I have not been to abattoirs in central Europe. Finished sheep and cattle travel much further than 22 miles from islands around the United Kingdom, including Shetland and Orkney, to the UK mainland for further finishing and for slaughter. Many lorries transporting animals for further fattening or slaughter in the UK travel 220 miles, never mind 22 miles across the channel. As the noble Lord, Lord Trees, mentioned, it is also often difficult to determine whether animals are being moved for slaughter, further fattening or breeding purposes, so it would be extremely difficult—almost impossible—to police the reason for movement.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead. I am delighted to support Amendment 255 and I entirely endorse his comments. Subject to his decision, I would be willing to support a similar amendment on Report, if that is helpful at this stage.

I shall confine my remarks to the amendments in this group that relate to labelling and marketing, particularly Amendment 256 in my name. I am delighted to have the support of the noble Baronesses, Lady Henig, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick. I am very grateful to them for their support.

If this wording is familiar to the House and to my noble friend the Minister, indeed it should be. It is the form of words that was adopted by my noble friend Lady Fairhead during the Trade Bill, which I think was technically the rollover Trade Bill, that we debated a year ago but which then did not pass because of the general election. I was delighted that after some toing and froing and lots of debate in Committee, on Report my noble friend Lady Fairhead literally adopted this wording, so I therefore take it to be government policy. Obviously I have adapted it, taking advice, to make sure that it fits the remit of the Bill before us today.

I take great heart from the fact that my noble friend said again, in winding up a previous debate, that the Government will keep and raise our own environmental standards. What concerns me here is that we seem to be disadvantaging our own farmers and producers in two ways. One is that while we are keeping the same high standards that we currently have and possibly raising them even higher, we seem to be contemplating importing produce of lower standards in marketing, environmental health, animal welfare and hygiene. That to me is just not a Conservative thing to do; I cannot believe we are even contemplating it. That is why the thrust of my Amendment 256 is that the regulations within this clause cannot be used to make provisions that will have the effect of lowering animal health, hygiene or welfare standards for agricultural products below those established in the EU or the UK.

This is something that we are already familiar with, having been members of the European Union since 1973. I remember that in my days briefly in practice as a European lawyer we relied very heavily on the original Article 36 of the Treaty of Rome, which basically set out a limited number of exceptions to the free movement of goods, specifying that if it was deemed necessary on the grounds of the protection of the health and life of humans, animals or plants then under Article 36 an exemption could be applied for to prevent those products from coming into another European country from a neighbouring country or another member state. I see that that is now increasingly coming into trade deals that are negotiated multilaterally or bilaterally under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, so I am hoping that my noble friend will say that when it comes to the end of the transition period, this is where we will be.

I caution against something that Minister Prentis said in the other place: that the Government are considering consulting on mandatory labelling at the end of the transition period. Labelling seems very attractive. It is something that we looked at after the horsemeat scandal, because I am afraid that supermarkets were caught a little on the hop; they had not conducted a full test of the probity of the supply chain, and that is why we had the case of fraud and the passing off as beef, lamb and other products what was effectively horsemeat.

The difficulty is that labelling does not encourage people to eat home-produced meat, which is something we have discussed in the context of other clauses in the Bill. Another example I would give in this regard is what happened when we unilaterally banned the use of sow stalls and tethers. Technically, the Red Tractor label is meant to advise people that the pork, lamb and beef that we produce in this country—particularly, in this instance, the pork—is produced to those high standards. But that is not the basis on which people buy their food; they buy on price. It can have as pretty a red label as you like, but people will often still buy the cheapest cut of meat.

The other issue with labelling is this. How am I, as a consumer eating out in a restaurant or other catering establishment, to know that what I am eating is from this country and meets the high standards that the Government have asked our own producers to meet? This could create a two-tier system and mean that only those who can afford the higher prices of our home-produced food would be able to buy it.

As for what we are being told, I shall repeat again what the Minister, Victoria Prentis, said in Committee on the Agriculture Bill in the other place. She said that

“we are retaining existing UK legislation, and at the end of the transition period, the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 will convert on to the UK statute book all EU food safety, animal welfare and environmental standards. That will ensure that our high standards, including import requirements, continue to apply.”—[Official Report, Commons, Agriculture Bill Committee, 5/3/20; col. 372.]

As was helpfully pointed out to us by a letter from the Food Standards Agency, the difficulty with that—I will take as long as it takes here, because this is the crux of the Bill—is that those standards are enshrined in statutory instruments, so primary legislation is not needed to amend them; only a subsequent statutory instrument would be needed.

I hope that we can learn from previous mistakes and will seek to maintain the high standards that we have and ensure that we refuse to accept any standards lower than those that our own producers meet.

Baroness Mallalieu Portrait Baroness Mallalieu [V]
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My Lords, I share some of the concerns that the noble Baroness has just raised, but I take a different view about the need for mandatory labelling of animal products. I shall speak just to Amendment 258, in my name and those of the noble Lords, Lord Trees and Lord De Mauley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, who will speak shortly.

On 29 June, Peers received an open letter from the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, which said:

“The Government has committed to a rapid review and consultation on the role of labelling to promote high standards and animal welfare, and remains committed to delivering informative food and drink labelling and marketing standards to protect consumer interests, ensuring that consumers can have confidence in the food and drink they buy.”


I welcome that, and I thank the noble Lord, but I would like the Minister to tell us, first, what the word “rapid” means to Defra. Will he give us the proposed timetable for the initial consultation and the review, and then for publishing the proposals that follow, and for making the necessary regulations? My amendment suggests six months from the passing of this Act—which I hope will mean March 2021—for the earlier steps, and 12 months for the regulations to come into force, in about September 2021. I hope that he will agree with that.

The regulations on labelling are urgent because, as a result of the new trade deals we are, we hope, about to receive—they are being negotiated—we shall shortly see new products coming on to our markets from overseas. People will, as the letter says, need to have

“confidence in the food and drink they buy.”

That means they need to be confident that those meet the high standards that we were promised, but which the Government would not, apparently, put into the Bill.

The Government say that they are concerned about tackling obesity, encouraging healthy food choices, making more use of local produce, reducing food miles, limiting carbon outputs and improving animal welfare—and I am sure they are. But if consumers are not given the information on the packet, how are they to know where it comes from, how it was produced or whether it complies with any of those objectives?

I am also afraid that if you do not give sufficient information then, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, has just suggested, consumers will simply select on price—some will do that anyway—and highest animal welfare standards considerations will simply not feature. The result will be that producers who meet high standards, which are usually more expensive, will simply go to the wall.

Consumers surely need to know the country of origin, particularly in these times. Amendment 254 from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, makes that point, as did the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, with great force in our debates on Tuesday. That does not mean simply where the chicken was processed, but where it was reared. They need to know the method of production. We already do it for eggs; we have free-range, barn-reared, organic and so on, but we do not do it routinely for milk, meat or egg products. We should. The consumer needs to know whether his meat comes from a feedlot, was intensively reared or was pasture-fed. Some people will not care—they will just go for the cheapest—but more and more people do care and are looking. They could be told simply in words or, with enough publicity as to what they mean, through symbols.

The method of slaughter matters too, and to some members of the public it matters a great deal. I accept that this Bill is not the place to argue for the abolition of non-stun slaughter, which I very much want to see. However, it is the place to argue that consumer choice matters. Whether you require meat slaughtered in accordance with the requirements of your religion or meat which has been pre-stunned before slaughter because you have animal welfare concerns, you want to know, one way or the other, from the label of the joint you pick up at the supermarket. You want “confidence”, to use the Minister’s word, that you have picked the one you want and are getting the type of meat you selected. Will the Minister share his timetable and plans for doing what Amendment 258 suggests?

Lord Tyler Portrait Lord Tyler (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I confine my remarks to Amendment 263 in my name and those of my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace, my noble friend Lord Bruce and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes.

This new clause seeks to secure exactly equal protection for traditional speciality food and drink products, for which the UK is famous and which have such economic benefits for particular areas, as is currently enjoyed under the EU geographical indications scheme. I am sure that there is shared enthusiasm in every part of the Committee for the success of this excellent scheme, not least since it was extended as a result of the initiative of British Ministers during the coalition Government.

I know that the Minister will be able to assure us that the protection of these products can continue within the UK. However, that is not the issue in question. I asked the then Minister for International Trade during Committee stage of the Trade Bill on 23 January 2019 for an explicit assurance that the GI protection would continue on exactly the same terms—that is, outside the UK—and was told that an amendment was unnecessary because this would be secured. In view of the vagueness of that promise, I repeated an amendment on Report on 6 March 2019 and withdrew it only when a firmer assurance was given.

Now it would seem that there may be another broken Brexit promise. According to newspaper reports:

“Cornish pasties could soon be made in France and still be called ‘Cornish’ after British Brexit negotiators failed to secure the same guarantees for British products in the EU … British officials argue that the Withdrawal Agreement calls for the current arrangement for existing GIs to be superseded by a free trade agreement.”


This threat becomes ever more alarming if, as the latest news of failing negotiations makes all too likely, we end up with the disaster of a no-deal outcome in just five months’ time. The dogmatic insistence of No. 10 to row back on even their very limited withdrawal agreement puts yet another obstacle in the path of British food and drink producers. The failure of the UK negotiators could result in a ludicrous situation in which proper Cornish pasties cannot be marketed from Cardiff, Cumbernauld or Cambridge but can be sold as Cornish by manufacturers in Cologne or Calais. Indeed, without any protection from the EU scheme and with no involvement in EU trade agreements in future, they could be passed off as Cornish in Canberra, Calgary or Cambridge, Massachusetts or in Truro in that same state.