Boris Johnson faces Tory rebellion over protecting UK food standards

Peer behind bid to create new post-Brexit farming standards watchdog to guard against chlorinated chicken vows to continue campaign after ministers blocked Common vote on it

  • The Commons had been due to vote on an amendment to the Agriculture Bill
  • Amendment would create watchdog to protect British farmers and consumers
  • The amendment was one of the more popular options among rebel Tory MPs
  • But ministers deployed the technicality last used ten years ago to block the vote 

The creation of a new watchdog to protect British farming standards was blocked last night by the Government using an obscure technicality to stop MPs voting for it.

Ministers are now facing an escalation of an already heated row amid fears that sub-standard US foods will flood the UK in future trade deals.

The Commons had been due to vote on an amendment to the Agriculture Bill which would create the watchdog to protect British farmers and consumers. 

The amendment, tabled by the House of Lords last month, was one of the more popular options among rebel Tory MPs who support extra protections being enshrined in law.

The creation of a new watchdog to protect British farming standards was blocked last night by the Government using an obscure technicality to stop MPs voting for it. Pictured: Boris Johnson 

But ministers deployed the technicality last used ten years ago to block the vote, arguing it strayed beyond the powers of the Lords because it would lead to extra public spending.

Lord Curry of Kirkharle, warned Downing Street had ‘not heard the last of it’ and vowed to re-table the amendment to force a Commons vote 

It meant the Speaker cancelled a vote on the amendment. The cross-bench peer who tabled the proposal, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, warned Downing Street had ‘not heard the last of it’ and vowed to re-table the amendment to force a Commons vote.

He told the Mail: ‘I won’t let it go. I’m taking further advice today on procedural issues to see what options I’ve got.

‘The Government could have sped this up by just accepting this amendment – it was entirely in their power to do that.’ Farming minister Victoria Prentis last night faced down questions in the Commons from furious MPs who favour extra legal guarantees.

They want to prevent foods such as American chlorine-washed chicken and beef from hormone-fed cattle from being sold in Britain. Labour’s environment spokesman Luke Pollard said the Government risked opening a ‘back door’ to poor products.

He said: ‘Do we want to be a nation that shines as a beacon across the world, standing up for our farmers, standing up for the welfare of animals and the environment? Or do we want to throw that all away just for the vague promise of a trade deal where poor quality food is served to our children and our standards are undercut? I don’t want to see Britain be the kind of country where our farmers are forced out of business, decimating our proud rural tradition.

‘If the Government is serious about keeping its manifesto promise to safeguard standards, it should put that guarantee into law.’

Tory MP George Freeman said: ‘It is baffling – and worrying – that trade ministers seem determined to deny Parliament the chance to guarantee proper statutory protection for our farm welfare and environmental standards and fair trade for our farmers.’


Tory MP George Freeman (left) said: ‘It is baffling – and worrying – that trade ministers seem determined to deny Parliament the chance to guarantee proper statutory protection for our farm welfare and environmental standards and fair trade for our farmers.’ Fellow Tory Steve Brine (right) said people would be ‘suspicious’ that ministers were prioritising trade deals over protecting farmers

Fellow Tory Steve Brine said people would be ‘suspicious’ that ministers were prioritising trade deals over protecting farmers. Mrs Prentis insisted robust safeguards for protecting standards were already in place, adding: ‘We have high standards in this country of which we’re justly proud and there’s no way this Government will reduce those. Our clear policy is to increase them, particularly in the area of animal welfare.’

The National Farmers’ Union had called for MPs to approve Lord Curry’s proposal to help prevent a ‘race to the bottom’ on standards and farmers being undercut.

The Curry plan would have retained the current temporary Trade and Agriculture Commission for four years and made it truly independent. Its role would have been to advise MPs about the implications for farming and food standards of any post-Brexit trade deals before they are signed.

The Bill is set to return to the Lords early next week. 

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