I know how important farming is to Ynys Môn in terms of its vital contribution to our economy and our communities. Many farming families gave me their support during the General Election and for this I am grateful and appreciative. I have worked hard to repay this trust by supporting the farming community particularly during this national crisis. Since being elected I have regularly met and engaged with the NFU, the FUW and the Anglesey Young Farmers Federation.
During the coronavirus pandemic I have been in regular dialogue with farmers across the island, the NFU, the FUW and DEFRA Ministers. I have been successful in lobbying DEFRA to establish a hardship fund for farmers and for specific support for the dairy sector. As an elected member of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee I have heard first hand how the livelihoods and families of farmers across Wales are being affected by COVID-19.
In January I was immensely proud to be asked to join the House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Agricultural Bill. Over a number of weeks I heard evidence and representation from stakeholders across the farming sector and was in the privileged position of being able to analyse the bill line by line. I chose to give me maiden speech in February in the Chamber during the second reading of the bill where I spoke about my commitment to farming.
The Agricultural Bill sets out future agricultural policy for England, a basis upon which tailored legislation can be drafted by the Welsh Government. It does not cover international trade. This Bill will allow us to introduce ambitious new land management schemes in England, based on the principle of “public money for public goods”, so that we can reward farmers and land managers who protect our environment, improve animal welfare and produce high quality food in a more sustainable way. The Bill will also help farmers to stay competitive, with measures to increase productivity and invest in new technology. We will also improve transparency in the supply chain to help food producers strengthen their position at the farm gate and seek a fairer return from the marketplace.
British consumers want high welfare produce – and if our trading partners want to break into the UK market, they should expect to meet those standards. Our manifesto commitment is clear that in all of our trade negotiations, we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. The government will stand firm in trade negotiations to ensure any deals live up to the values of our farmers and consumers.
All food coming into this country will be required to meet existing import requirements. At the end of the transition period the Withdrawal Act will convert all EU standards into domestic law. These include a ban on using artificial growth hormones in both domestic and imported products. Nothing apart from potable water may be used to clean chicken carcasses. Any changes to these standards would have to come before Parliament.
Amendments NC1 and NC2 would, if passed, have significant unintended consequences which go beyond our current standards on food imports. The supply of certain products would be severely disrupted, if goods that meet our current import standards were to be blocked, including goods we import now from the EU.
NC1 and NC2 would affect UK exports to countries where we have not yet signed a continuity agreement. The extra conditions in these two new clauses could result in countries refusing to roll them over. For example, this would risk whisky exports worth £577m a year. Another example is the impact it would have on our potato farmers – 22% of UK potato exports go to those countries with whom an agreement has yet to be signed. In addition, because of the prescriptive nature of these clauses, it is too difficult for the Government to comply before the end of the transition period.
My priority is to support the farming community here on Ynys Môn and because of this I could not vote for the amendments. Nor could the overwhelming majority of my colleagues – 328 voted against this amendment – including all seven North Wales Members of Parliament. Please be assured that I am determined to stand up for our farmers and that in future trade deals with any country, the Government will not accept imports of any kind that do not meet our current stringent rules and that all food coming into this country will be required to meet existing import requirements.