Lamont supports lowering of standards
“Important thread about food standards and animal welfare in yesterday’s Agriculture Bill. There were some Tories who could support the important measures in the Parish amendment. Then there were the Scottish Tories.” Tweet from Pete Wishart MP
Tory MPs from Scotland’s rural farming areas voted down an ammendment to The UK government’s Agricultural Bill to prevent the UK being swamped with cheap, low standard food imports. Acording to many in the agricultural sector the likely result of this will be the drastic collapse of beef, milk and lamb prices, and consumers eating imported produce the welfare of which can, at best, be considered questionable.
Perthshire livestock farmer Jim Fairlie yesterday tweeted: “My farming friends, Neil Parish [Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton] amendment time the new U.K. Gov agri bill banning import of lower standard foods and welfare practice has been defeated, David Mundell, John Lamont Alistair Jack david Duguid and Andrew Bowie, Tory MPs all voted against, remember this.” He added: “When you add to this, the fact that trade discussions with the US are underway now, just as beef prices have started to creep up because of shortage, do you think there will EVER be tight supplies with a US trade deal?”
The UK Tory government defeated a Tory “rebellion” intended to stop the UK importing poorer quality food after signing free trade deals with Donald Trump’s United States or other countries. John Lamont was one of those who supported the government and voted against the amendment.
Former Secretary of State David Mundell’s constituency (Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale) represents one of the the largest rural constituencies in the UK. And all the other Scottish Tory MPs voting against the amendment represent large rural areas and populations. Today questions are being posed as to whether these MPs are mere lobby fodder for the Tories rather than representatives of those who voted for them.
Defeat of the amendment to the bill, not only goes against the interests of farming businesses, but it is also against the best interests of consumers. Food and drink of a high quality is Scotland’s top international export sector, with the latest HMRC statistics showing these exports are worth £6.3bn in 2018. Scotland’s exports of food and drink to the rest of the UK were estimated to be worth £4.5bn in 2017.
Cheap, poorer quality food imports, many from the US, flooding the UK will mean farmers either reduce their standards or go out of business, leaving consumers with no choice but to buy food produced under significantly lower environmental and animal welfare standards.
Victoria Prentis, Agriculture, fisheries and food minister, insisted that all current EU food import standards would be converted into domestic law, including a ban on growth hormones in beef and chlorine-washed chicken – one of the the major concerns about a US free trade deal. But the US, with its lower standards, is highly unlikely to accept this as it would mean US suppliers having to improve their standards.
Neil Parish, mover of the amendment to the bill and Tory chair of the Westminster Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee, said MPs should not be afraid of ensuring US food imported to the UK “cannot undercut our present production methods” and animal welfare. But the UK government is obviously very afraid as the issue could scupper a trade deal.
Quality and standards aside, should the trade deal go ahead Scottish consumers will be unaware of what they are buying and its origin as the US has already stated that food labelling (including country of origin) must be taken off the table in the US/UK trade talks. Food labelling is vitally important, enabling consumers to make the choice between high quality home produced or cheap imported food, and to avoid genetically modified crops, growth hormones and battery farmed produce.
International trade minister Liz Truss is reportedly offering incentives and preparing a “big concession package” to secure a trade deal with Donald Trump and the United States, and is planning to cut tariffs on US agricultural imports in order to secure a deal. Truss is said to be facing opposition from cabinet minister Michael Gove and environment secretary George Eustice, who believes the “concessionary package” on offer to facilitate a trade deal will finish off British agriculture. Both fear such concessions will undercut British farmers, while Defra officials warn cutting such tariffs could be the thin end of the wedge leading to a lowering of animal welfare standards.
The determination to throw Scottish farmers to the wolves signifies the government’s imperative to broker a US free trade deal, whatever the cost, to help boost the UK economy after the dire effects of coronovirus and Brexit, yet the government’s own best case is that a US/UK deal will only deliver a 0.16 per cent boost to the UK economy over next 15 years, far less than the benefits we got as members of the EU. To add insult to injury, Liz Truss has agreed that the details of a free trade agreement with the US will not be made public until FIVE YEARS AFTER it is effective.
At the same time as our farmers are being sold out to the US, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has struck a secret deal with US tech giants to deliver a “COVID-19 data store”. This may be the largest, most sinister handover of personal NHS patient data to private corporations in history. “US tech giants Amazon, Microsoft, and Google – plus two controversial AI films called Faculty and Palantir – are apparently assisting the NHS in tracking hospital resources and in providing a ‘single source of truth’ about the epidemic, in order to stem its spread.” Whitehall sources have, according to Open Democracy, described the amounts of health data funnelled into the new datastore as ‘unprecedented.’ Yet the government has released virtually no detail about the deals.
John Lamont MP has been very quiet over the last few months. Perhaps it’s time he was asked to answer some questions and is held to account for his actions over the future livelihoods of many of his constituents.