MPs overturn measures designed to guarantee food standards post-Brexit

Amid growing Tory rebellion

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Monday 12 October 2020 23:02 BST
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Campaigners say  consumers do not want chlorinated chicken from the US
Campaigners say consumers do not want chlorinated chicken from the US

MPs have overturned measures designed to protect domestic food standards in future trade deals, amid fears over chlorinated chicken.

The Commons voted by 332 votes to 279 to strike out a Lords amendment which would have required both agricultural and food imports to meet the UK’s standards after Brexit.

MPs were also denied a vote on a key measure designed to help prevent the likes of chlorinated chicken from America entering Britain.

Conservative MPs were among those who lined up to criticise the decision.

Neil Parish, the Tory chair of the Commons environment committee, complained that it was not beyond “the wit” of ministers in his own party to bring forward a way to give MPs the vote.

The row erupted as MPs considered a series of amendments to the Agriculture Bill currently going through parliament.

Just before a Commons debate on the Bill, they were told they would not be able to vote on one amendment because it had been ruled that it would have cost implications, and would need what is known as a money resolution.

It had been expected that Tory rebels would back what was seen as a crucial amendment on proposed powers for a new watchdog.

Campaigners fear trade deals with the US could see products, designed with the country’s lower animal welfare standards in mind, enter the UK.

Richard Fuller, the Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire, said the ruling would “stun many people outside who had placed much hope in the Trade and Agriculture Commission.”

Mr Parish told the Commons it was “not beyond the wit of ministers to table a money resolution so that we could have dealt with (the) amendment.”

Ministers argue that existing protections are sufficient and will not be watered down.

Environment minister Victoria Prentis called on “the fearmongering” to stop.

“We are not going to be importing chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef. That is the law of this land.

"This Government is not going to change it under any circumstances and we have said very clearly that in all our trade negotiations, we will not compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare or food standards.”

Before the debate farmers had held a tractor demonstration in central London in protest.

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