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Final call to change Agriculture Bill to protect UK food standards

The National Farmers' Union (NFU) has called on Parliament to adopt an amendment to the Agriculture Bill that they believe will protect UK food standards in future trade deals.
Minette Batters, NFU president, has called on Parliament to adopt the amendment (Photo: PA Media)

Last week, the government won a vote in the Commons to reject the amendment to the bill, proposed by the House of Lords, which would have required agricultural and food imports to meet domestic standards.

MP for Peterborough, Paul Bristow, and MP for North West Cambridgeshire, Shailesh Vara, both voted with the government in favour of stripping the amendment from the Bill.

The government has argued that existing protections are already in place and they have no intention of watering them down.

NFU president Minette Batters wrote in the Mail on Sunday: "I hope that Parliament will, next week, put the Agriculture Bill to bed, accept Lord Curry's amendment to strengthen the Trade and Agriculture Commission, provide a legal basis from which to operate and give MPs the role in agreeing our future trade deals."

Boris Johnson spoke to Ms Batters after the Government won the vote last week and made "a cast-iron commitment not to undermine Britain's farmers in trade deals", she added.

"Having spoken to Trade Secretary Liz Truss and George Eustice, the Environment and Food Secretary, I believe they mean it when they say they want our post-Brexit policies to boost British farming."

Peers suggested the amendment in order to block the import of foodstuffs produced abroad with lower animal welfare standards, amid warnings over chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef entering the UK market from the US.

Several Conservative MPs also outlined their support for the Lords amendment, with the division list showing 14 rebelled in an attempt to retain it -- including former environment secretary Theresa Villiers and Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross.

By Benjamin Cooper, PA