Wednesday 7 October 2020 / 10:30 PM Farming / Keir Starmer

Starmer tells PM: ‘back British farmers to put quality food on our plates’

Labour leader Keir Starmer is calling on the Prime Minister to back British farmers to continue to put high quality food on our plates.

Despite a 2019 manifesto commitment, the Tories are refusing to protect the UK’s high standards in legislation, leaving British farmers and consumers facing the prospect of food imports that would be illegal if produced here.

Ahead of a visit on Thursday to NFU President Minette Batters’ farm in Wiltshire, with Shadow Environment Secretary Luke Pollard, Starmer said: 

“No one wants lower quality food on our plates, but unless the Prime Minister shows some leadership and backs British farmers there is a real risk this could happen.”

The Labour leader has today written to Boris Johnson, saying: 

“I want our country to produce the best food in the world, where our farmers compete on the basis of quality and are not undermined by producers working to lower standards elsewhere. Britain should be a beacon of quality, high standards, ethical treatment of animals and environmental protections in all aspects of food production.”

Conservative MPs have until now voted down Labour’s attempts to use the Agriculture Bill or the Trade Bill to enshrine in law the UK’s high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards. The next opportunity for change will come when the Agriculture Bill returns to the Commons next week.

Labour also wants the new Trade and Agriculture Commission – set up in the wake of the NFU’s million-strong petition – to have the teeth to assess each trade deal against core standards and ensure proper Parliamentary oversight, as called for in the Government’s own National Food Strategy.

Luke Pollard said: 

“Conservative MPs have a choice: they can show they are on the side of our farmers and quality produce, or they can continue to play political games.

“No deal with the US or anywhere else is worth trading away our high values.”