In its Scrutiny of the Agriculture Bill report, EFRA urged the Government to accept its amendment to the Agriculture Bill regarding trade, which stipulated imported food products should meet or exceed British standards relating to production, animal welfare and the environment.
The Committee also proposed that the Groceries Code Adjudicator should oversee the proposed fair dealing obligations for first purchasers of agricultural products, rather than the Rural Payments Agency. It also expressed disappointment that it was not given the chance to scrutinise the Bill pre-legislatively.
Preserve our legacy
EFRA chair Neil Parish MP said: “The United Kingdom currently has exceptionally high environmental and food standards and an internationally recognised approach to animal welfare. This legacy cannot be ripped apart by the introduction of cheap, low-quality goods following our exit from the European Union.
“Imports produced to lower standards than ours pose a very real threat to UK agriculture. Without sufficient safeguards, we could see British farmers significantly undermined, while turning a blind eye to environmental degradation and poor animal welfare standards abroad.
Parish also raised concerns over the extent to which powers have been delegated in the Agriculture Bill.
‘Opportunities for scrutiny’
“This Bill lacks clarity and gives any future secretary of state the opportunity to avoid scrutiny and make crucial decisions while going somewhat unchallenged,” he added. “We would like to see sufficient opportunities for parliamentary scrutiny before any new systems or policies are rolled out.
“Given the fundamental changes ahead of us, we would also like to see the Government provide us with a detailed timetable for its programme of statutory instruments relating to this Bill.”
Meanwhile, the threat of a “legislative tsunami” in the wake of Brexit could leave the food industry lacking consistency across regulations, according to an expert in food law.