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MPs accept Agriculture Bill amendment on trade deal scrutiny but reject import standard requirement

6th Nov 2020 / By Alistair Driver

MPs have again rejected an amendment proposed by the House of Lords that would enshrine in law a requirement for imports to meet UK standards under future trade deals.

Victoria Prentis Ag BillAmendment 16B was defeated by 331 votes to 271 as two key amendments to the Bill were debated in the House of Commons again on Wednesday night.

But MPs accepted a Government amendment that will give Parliament more powers to scrutinise future trade deals and their impact on food production standards. It would add a duty on the Secretary of State to present a report to Parliament before or alongside any free trade agreement laid before Parliament.

The Government has also agreed to beef up the powers of the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC). It was initially set up for a six-month period, but has now been put on a statutory footing, with a provision to review it every three years. “That will ensure that our trade policy is examined in detail by key experts," Farming Minister Victoria Prentis told MPs.

You can read more on the debate HERE

While there will be disappointment within the farming industry over the vote on import standards, the Government’s acceptance of industry calls for extra scrutiny of trade deals, announced over the weekend, represents a significant change of direction and a welcome concession.

Commenting earlier in the week, NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “This is a very significant development that will go a long way to ensuring that future trade deals do not pave the way for imports produced to standards that would not be permitted in the UK to come here."

NFU president Minette Batters said: “This significant commitment to primary legislation on food standards, both in the Agriculture Bill and Trade Bill, is exactly what we have been calling for.

"It is a landmark moment for the people of the UK, for our countryside and the future of the food on our plates. This decision means everyone who cares about our trading relationships with the rest of the world – MPs, stakeholders and the public – will see independent expert advice from the Trade Agriculture Commission on future trade deals before they are ratified."

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