I have had a number of emails supporting amendments to the Agriculture Bill, which the Commons debated on Monday evening. I voted with the Government against these amendments. I didn’t get to speak in the debate, but I fully agreed with the opening speech of the Minister, Victoria Prentis (herself from a farming family and a passionate advocate of high food, welfare and environmental standards, and of British farming). You can read her speech here.
I also commend this article by my colleague, the leading environmentalist Anthony Browne MP, which explains why the amendments, if they became law, would prevent European and African farmers exporting their produce to the UK, and why the ghoulish threats of chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef entering the UK from America are nonsense.
I fully appreciate the deep attachment people in the UK have to our countryside, to the environment, and to our farmers. As a Wiltshire MP I have an absolute duty to protect our rural way of life. But these amendments would have had bad consequences.
Our mission - and the task of the Trade and Agriculture Commission the government has set up to monitor all trade deals from a farming perspective - is to ensure we can maintain our standards, and indeed leverage our domestic market to drive up standards abroad, as we strike deals with other countries. I recently had an assurance from the Environment Secretary that tariffs could be used to penalise imports made with lower production standards than our own - so-called variable tariffs - and I am confident that by these and other means we will be able trade with the world (to the immense benefit of our consumers and of farmers both here and abroad) while protecting consumers, animals, the environment and the rural economy.