The Lords is determined to toughen up the law despite the prime minister’s resistance, with Labour insisting it is “hard to see what benefit we get” from allowing substandard food imports as part of post-Brexit trade deals.
Johnson is already facing a Tory rebellion on the issue over an amendment already passed by peers to beef up the Agriculture Commission, which would make it harder for the government to renege on standards.
The government insists it will not water down standards but sources believe there are around 30 Tories who could rebel in the vote on the agriculture bill, which could come as early as next week, because they want tougher protections written put into law.
Campaigners also hope Jamie Oliver’s intervention in the Mail on Sunday, which has also picked up the calls to block substandard food, could encourage more to join the rebellion and threaten the government’s majority.
If the government resists pressure, a Labour source in the Lords expressed confidence that peers would again vote to either block imports that do not meet existing British standards or toughen up parliamentary approval of trade deals.
The Lords is already debating numerous amendments to the trade bill which will come to votes in the coming month or so.
The source also cautioned the government against seeking to delay either bill, warning that “they can only kick the can so far down the road and will need to deal with the widening concerns of their own MPs at some point”.
Tory MP Neil Parish, a leading rebel, urged the government to back the plans to strengthen the Agriculture Commission, telling HuffPost UK parliament clearly has “serious concerns” about maintaining standards.
Parish, who chairs the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee, said: “With the agriculture and trade bill being...