The author of an independent review into food policy in England has voiced criticism over the lack of concrete commitments that the UK government has made on food import standards.
Speaking at a House of Lord’s committee on Monday, Henry Dimbleby said the UK government’s recently published food strategy “hasn’t dealt with trade”.
He said a draft version of the strategy which was leaked to media outlets contained much firmer commitments on food imports.
“They had very substantial, stronger wording on how to ensure our trading relationships prevented food that is grown to lower environmental and animal welfare standards being imported into the UK. That was not in the final version,” Dimbleby said.
The restaurant chain owner said this could ultimately contradict any future policies that the government brings forward for food production and land use within the UK.
“You can see us creating a utopian agricultural system here in the UK and then simply exporting our environmental and animal welfare harms abroad in the form of imported food grown to lower standards,” he said.
Dimbley, who completed his independent food policy review last year, was clearly disappointed that the government did not include many of his recommendations in its final food strategy.
An influential committee of MPs has called for Parliament to delay its approval of the Australia-UK free-trade agreement.
The chair of Westminster’s international trade committee, Angus MacNeil, said ratification should be pushed back to allow appropriate scrutiny of the deal.
He made the comments after Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK government’s international trade secretary, failed to appear at a scheduled meeting of his committee on Wednesday.
MacNeil described Trevelyan’s absence as “a disrespect” to the cross-party committee which was being met with “unanimous disappointment of all members”.
“We feel this sets a very willing precedent for the way the government is dealing with scrutiny of its free trade agreements,” the Scottish National Party MP said.
The Australian trade deal was laid before parliament on 15 June 2022 as part of the ratification process. Under current rules, MPs have a limited time period to scrutinise the deal, which is set to expire on 20 July 2022.