Starmer tells PM: ‘back British farmers to put 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.”
Britain under restrictions: one million jobs at risk, as Sunak’s furlough cliff edge looms
Nearly one million people living in areas with additional Covid-19 restrictions face a ‘jobs cliff edge’ in a few weeks’ time, as Labour accuse the Chancellor of failing to support businesses and communities most at risk from a second wave.
The Government’s furlough scheme is due to expire at the end of the month. However, new analysis by Labour reveals that 490,000 people still on furlough are now living under localised restrictions and another 480,000 are living in towns or cities on the national watch list.
Thousands of people living in the North and Midlands now risk losing their jobs, including 43,000 people in Birmingham, 19,400 across Durham and 11,500 in Bolton.
Despite a rise in infections and huge swathes of the country being placed under further restrictions, Labour said the Chancellor had failed to deliver an economic package to protect businesses and jobs most at risk from a second wave.
Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, urged Rishi Sunak to use his party conference speech to “get a grip of this crisis before it’s too late”:
“The Government’s failure to get a functioning track, trace and isolate system working means large swathes of the country, including in the North and Midlands, are now under additional restrictions and face a jobs cliff edge.
“Labour urged the Chancellor to introduce a wage support scheme that incentivised employers to keep more staff on. However, he ignored these calls and now nearly a million jobs are at risk when the furlough scheme ends in a few weeks’ time.
“When he speaks at Conservative Party Conference, Rishi Sunak must promise to get a grip of the jobs crisis before it’s too late. If he doesn’t, Britain risks an unemployment crisis greater than we have seen in decades – and Rishi Sunak’s name will be all over it.”
Williamson’s blunders in the chamber further evidence serial incompetence – Kate Green
Labour has accused Gavin Williamson of “serial incompetence” after he appeared to make multiple mistakes about his own Department’s policies in the chamber of the House of Commons.
The embattled Education Secretary said that his Department had made £100 million available for universities to use to ensure that students have digital access.”
However, while the Department for Education has provided some funding to provide digital access, this has been aimed entirely at schools, not universities.
In his second mistake, Williamson said that the “Student Loans Company also offers a system whereby extra maintenance support can be made available through individual assessment.” Students can change their maintenance loan applications if there is a change in their household income, but this does not allow the Student Loans Company to provide additional maintenance support simply because of increased needs for students.
Commenting on inaccurate statements made by Gavin Williamson in the House of Commons, Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“Gavin Williamson’s blunders in the chamber are just further evidence of the serial incompetence he has displayed all summer.
“A Minister who cannot even keep on top of his own Department will inspire no confidence in the students, staff, and families affected by the situation at universities.”
“He needs to get a grip, urgently introduce genuine measures to allow all students to access the digital learning they need, and stop letting down young people.”
- Gavin Williamson in response to Kate Green earlier in the House of Commons said: “I’m sorry that she had missed the announcement of the fact we had made £100m available for universities to be able to use to ensure youngsters have digital access… some of those youngsters from the most deprived youngsters…” Original
- This fund is not in fact open to Universities and was available ” to schools, maintained schools, academy trusts and hospital schools, as well as further education providers who have enrolled 14 to 16-year-olds, are included within this offer.” Original
- Gavin Williamson also said that students are able to seek additional maintenance funding through the Student Loans Company. This is not accurate
Government must lead the way in greening the global financial system by implementing mandatory climate-related disclosure, says Labour
With momentum building across the world, the UK should become the first country in the world to fully implement mandatory climate change-related financial reporting, Labour has set out today. This would ensure that companies are measuring and managing the risks of climate change, that investors are fully informed when making decisions and are operating on a level-playing field, and that the UK shows global leadership ahead of hosting the crucial COP26 climate summit next year.
Mandating that information is published about how companies and financial institutions may be contributing to climate breakdown, and how their strategies would cope in different global warming scenarios, in line with the recommendations of the Task Force for Climate-related Financial Disclosures, will ensure that climate change and the task of meeting net zero can be factored into every single investment decision.
Given that the City of London, the world’s leading financial centre, is home to companies and financial institutions that together are responsible for approximately 15% of global emissions, it could fundamentally shape the global response to the climate emergency.
Many of the world’s largest companies have already begun to make climate-related disclosures but given the urgent changes needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, voluntary uptake remains too slow.
Writing to the Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Climate Change Matthew Pennycook and the Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Wes Streeting are urging the government to fully implement the TCFD recommendations, with mandatory reporting for all listed companies to be brought into force for the 2021-22 reporting year, before COP26 begins.
Matthew Pennycook MP, Shadow Climate Change Minister said:
“If we are to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, we need a whole economy transition with climate change factored into every financial decision.
“It is time to implement mandatory disclosure so that climate risk is properly measured and managed, that there is a level-playing field for businesses, and that investors can seize the opportunities provided by the transition to a low-carbon economy.
“The UK is uniquely placed to help green the global financial system and by being the first country to implement mandatory climate-related reporting we have a chance to lead the world as hosts of COP26.”
Labour condemns Government for voting to put millions of jobs at risk
Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, has condemned the Tories for voting to put millions of jobs at risk and pledged Labour will do “everything we can to save jobs” as the Chancellor’s furlough cliff edge approaches. 325 Conservative MPs voted against Labour’s motion to 249.
Her warning comes as analysis by Labour has revealed that over four million UK jobs across the country were still fully furloughed by their employer in the middle of August.
This means nearly half of all workers who were moved onto the Government’s Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme (CJRS) in the early phase of the Covid-19 crisis remain fully furloughed by their employer over four months later.
Regional breakdowns show that over half a million jobs are at risk in both London and the South East, over 450,000 in the North West and almost 400,000 in the East of England.
Over two and a half million people had also made claims under the Coronavirus Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) by the end of July. The final phase of that scheme opened last month.
Today the Conservatives voted to put those jobs and livelihoods at risk by pushing ahead with a one-size-fits-all withdrawal of both the CJRS and SEISS schemes across the entire economy by the end of October.
Businesses in the hardest-hit sectors are still operating well below capacity and, with coronavirus cases rising again, it looks highly unlikely that they will be back to normal in just six weeks’ time. October’s deadline is a cliff-edge that could lead to a massive spike in unemployment.
Labour is calling for targeted income support to businesses and self-employed people in the sectors of the economy hit hardest hit by the virus. But when Labour’s proposal was put to a vote today, the Tories defeated it.
Anneliese Dodds, said:
“The Conservatives have voted to put over four million jobs at risk by ploughing ahead with their disastrous one-size-fits-all withdrawal of wage support across the economy.
“The Chancellor is convinced that “any deviation” from his plan will damage the UK economy. Labour will hold him to that when wage support ends at the end of October.
“And we will do everything we can to save jobs in the weeks running up to the Chancellor’s furlough cliff edge.