Honiton’s MP comes out of hibernation.
Owl thinks readers might be interested in what he says about his recent attempt to amend the Agriculture Bill and his opposition to undercutting standards and the consequences for agriculture.
NEIL PARISH IS THE CONSERVATIVE MP FOR TIVERTON AND HONITON
The easing of measures announced by the Prime Minister has come as a welcome respite to what has been a challenging eight weeks.
Over the weekend, many of us will have been able to get out into the great outdoors and reconnect with family members (albeit at a safe distance). However, we must all remain vigilant and act responsibly to maintain the progress made to date. We must not lose sight of the main goal of these measures: to control the virus and protect the most vulnerable members of society.
My team is working hard to provide support during this period, so please do get in touch if I can be of assistance to you or your business.
Indeed, many home growers and green-fingered enthusiasts have contacted me to express their relief at the reopening of garden centres last Wednesday. Like many sectors, the ornamental sector has been hit hard by the virus, with lockdown hitting at their peak season.
Since the easing of restrictions, garden centres have been working hard to adapt their stores to allow customers in at a safe distance. We must all now lend our support by donning our gloves, dusting off our shovels and rallying behind our local nurseries. I hope this gradual re-opening can be a blueprint for other businesses in our region.
From the plants in our gardens to the food on our table, last week was a critical one. The remaining stages of the Agriculture Bill passed through the Commons. During these unprecedented times, it has never been more apparent this country needs high quality, home-grown food. This once-in-a-generation piece of legislation will define the future of farming within the UK.
much of the Bill’s content is welcome, improving support for environmental schemes and allowing Ministers to decide our domestic agricultural policies, outside the CAP. However, the Bill lacked significant commitments on the prevention of imports that do not meet our high environmental, food and animal welfare standards.
An undercutting of standards will have serious consequences, making it harder for our farmers to be competitive and reducing the control we have over food production. That’s why I proposed the New Clause 2 amendment. The amendment would have prevented the ratification of any trade agreement that allows the importation of agricultural or food products which have not been produced to equivalent high standards.
I am heartened by the support shown by a large section of Conservative MPs, opposition parties, animal welfare groups, as well as environmental and agricultural organisations. While the Bill went through unamended, I believe the vote on New Clause 2 demonstrated disquiet in the Commons about the direction of travel.
The Bill will now move to the Lords, where I know Parliamentary colleagues will want to press the government on this issue. I do not believe, for one second, the Great British public want to trade away our values on the altar of cheap food.
As Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, I will be keeping a keen eye on the progress of the Bill and the details of any trade deals with friends and partners around the world. With proper parliamentary scrutiny and engagement we will be in a better place and drive a better deal, in the end, for the whole country.