Labour attempt to stall Agriculture Second Reading fails

Legislation that will transform British farming moved a step forward last night (January 3), as Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers led the Second Reading of the Agriculture Bill in the House of Commons.

It comes despite an amendment tabled by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn aiming to stall the bill’s progress over concerns about the disparity between domestic food and farming standards and those adhered to in producing imports.

The Labour leader’s amendment argued that the bill should not be given a Second Reading because it “fails to provide controls on imported agricultural goods such as chlorinated chicken or hormone-treated beef, and does not guarantee the environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards which will apply”.

However, it was voted down by 320 to 206.

PM’s assurances over import standards

Addressing what he described as “conspiracy theorists” as he spoke yesterday about his plans to “unleash the UK’s potential”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We will not accept any diminution in food, hygiene, or animal welfare standards.

“But I must say to the ‘America bashers’ in this country – if there are any – in doing free trade deals we will be governed by science and not by mumbo jumbo because the potential is enormous.”

The PM added that the potential of trade with the EU could be “even greater”.

“We want a thriving trade and economic relationship with the EU – our historic friends, partners, neighbours…” he added.

The next stage is for the bill to go to Committee Stage, with Report Stage and Third Reading following this, before transferring to the House of Lords for further scrutiny.

The bill was introduced on January 16 and will replace the EU’s flawed Common Agriculture Policy with a system where farmers are rewarded with public money for public goods, such as cleaner air and water or improved animal welfare standards.

At the same time, it will help to boost productivity and maximise the potential of land for sustainable food production.

Last night, just under three weeks after the bill was introduced, the primary legislation is being brought forward for Second Reading in the House of Commons. This is the first opportunity for the new bill to be debated by MPs.

The Environment Secretary will open the session with a speech setting out how the bill will help safeguard nature in England and protect our countryside, with the future Environmental Land Management scheme already being tested and trialled with farmers in many parts of the country.

Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: “I am delighted to move the Agriculture Bill forward to Second Reading, for debate and discussion in the House of Commons.

Today is the first working day after our historic exit from the EU and this Bill will enable us to seize the one of the most important opportunities from being an independent nation – the freedom to write our own rules about how we farm and manage our land.

“For farmers, it will signal that the Common Agricultural Policy is on the way out, to be replaced by a better system of public money for public goods.

“I look forward to working with parliamentary colleagues to progress this bill and write our new agricultural legislation into law.”