Former FSA chief heads Trade and Agriculture Commission

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Former FSA chief Tim Smith will chair the Commission
Former FSA chief Tim Smith will chair the Commission

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Former Tesco technical boss and ex-chief executive of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Tim Smith has been named as the chair of the new Trade and Agriculture Commission

Smith’s role was confirmed as the Department for International Trade unveiled the full list of those on the Commission. The line-up includes representatives from the English, Scottish and Welsh branches of the National Farmers Union (NFU), the Ulster Farmers Union, Farmers’ Union of Wales, the British Retail Consortium, UK Hospitality, and the Food and Drink Federation.

The Government agreed last month to setting up the Commission to make recommendations on UK agricultural trade policy​. The NFU welcomed the news as it had been calling for Government action over free-trade deals, which could see cheap imported meat and items such as chlorinated chicken hit the market. 

In May, the Government voted against an amendment to the UK’s Agriculture Bill​ that would have committed it to high standards for food and drink entering the country post-Brexit.

In response, more than 1m people signed a petition​, set up by the NFU, urging the Government to ensure future trade deals did not lead to an increase in imported foods that would be illegal to produce in the UK.

Six months

The new Commission, which will be set up for six months, will report directly into international trade secretary Liz Truss. It will submit an advisory report at the end of its work, which will be presented to Parliament by the Department for International Trade.

The Commission will advise on Government trade policies to secure opportunities for UK farmers, while ensuring the sector remains competitive and that animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined. 

It will also be tasked with advancing and protecting British consumer interests and those of developing countries. Members will consider how the UK engages the World Trade Organization (WTO) to advance higher animal welfare standards across the world. The Commission will also look at developing trade policy that identifies and opens up new export opportunities for the UK. 

Truss, said: “We recognise the importance of engaging with the agriculture industry and seeking expert advice, which is why we have set up the Commission.

“We are putting British farming first and giving our producers the best opportunity to export their world-class food abroad and grow their businesses. Our high food and animal welfare standards won’t be compromised.”

‘Consistently clear’

George Eustice, environment secretary, said that the Government had been “consistently clear”​ that it would not compromise its high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards in its trade negotiations.

“The Trade and Agriculture Commission will ensure that the UK’s agricultural industry, our support for farmers and our commitment to high welfare standards are maintained,” ​said Eustice. “This Government will work hard to ensure any future trade deals are in their best interests and will prioritise both food production and our world-leading environmental targets.”

Smith added: “The trade decisions the Government is making now will shape the future not just of British food and farming, but the whole country, so it is important that the voices of industry and the British public are heard.

“This Commission will bring a clear-eyed perspective on what is fair and works for consumers, farmers, food producers and animals. I am delighted to chair it, and look forward to independently advising the Government on how trade policy can both protect and advance the interests of British farming and the UK as a whole.”

NFU president Minette Batters, who campaigned for the Commission, said this was a “hugely important development​”.

“It addresses a crucial element of a much broader challenge in ensuring the UK’s trade policy delivers a prosperous and sustainable future for UK agriculture,” ​she said. “This means securing trade deals that work for UK farmers and consumers, as well as our farmed animals and our environment, and we will continue to work with Parliamentarians so that they have proper oversight of our trade policy.”

Meanwhile, animal charity the RSPCA has been critical claiming there is a lack of members from the animal welfare sector.

RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “We are disappointed by the parameters of the trade commission announced today. For this to be truly effective, it must have proper representation from the animal welfare sector - without this, the commission appears to be a Trojan horse which fails to fulfil the Government’s manifesto promises to protect welfare standards.

“We offered to support the commission and wanted to help make it a success. But we fear this industry-heavy commission will not have animal welfare at its heart and instead will be a tool for deregulation, which represents a real risk to farm animal standards.”

The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) was also critical. It said that it was disappointing to see an “almost total” lack of practical international trade expertise within the Commission’s membership. 

“Although farmers obviously provide the raw materials on which the entire meat supply chain functions, and are clearly vital to the whole business, their part in the export industry effectively ends when they sell their livestock,” ​said Martin Morgan, executive manager at SAMW.  

“From then on, all international trade, be it exporting or importing, is managed by wholesalers, retailers and specialist export/import businesses. These are the people who have the detailed knowledge and expertise to ensure that the lengthy and complex import and export processes, across a wide range of products and multiple consignments, are in place to ensure this economically valuable trade continues.” 

 

 

Commission members include:

  • Ex-Tesco technical director/FSA CEO – Tim Smith (chair)
  • NFU England – Nick von Westenholz
  • NFU Scotland – Andrew McCornick
  • NFU Cymru – John Davies
  • Ulster Farmers’ Union – Victor Chestnutt
  • The Farmers’ Union of Wales – Glyn Roberts
  • Lamb farmer – Rob Hodgkins
  • Competere – Shanker Singham
  • Former chief veterinary officer – Nigel Gibbens
  • British Retail Consortium – Andrew Opie
  • Former trade minister – Lord Price
  • All Party Parliamentary Group Trade Out Of Poverty – Tom Pengelly
  • Former trade minister and agriculture minister for New Zealand – Sir Lockwood Smith
  • UKHospitality – Kate Nicholls
  • Food and Drink Federation – Ian Wright
  • LEAF – Caroline Drummond

 

 

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