Food Prices and Food Poverty
Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day]
Caroline Spelman (Secretary of State, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Meriden, Conservative)
I am sure that the hon. Lady would accept that the responsibility for helping the most vulnerable people in our society to have more disposable income to provide food for their families goes beyond my Department. She must take account of other things such as our freezing council tax, cutting fuel duty, cutting income tax, taking 1.1 million low-paid people out of tax, increasing child tax credit, taking action on energy prices and helping with the cost of rail travel.
The groceries code adjudicator will not be a panacea in the face of rising food prices. The adjudicator has a role to play in delivering a robust check on fairness between supplier and retailer; that is why we are introducing it. However, limiting food price inflation rests on multiple factors, from energy to exchange rates, and not least the core issue of supply and demand. The Government are not only alert to those factors but actively finding opportunities to influence them. We are working internationally to ensure that a growing population can be fed, we are using the challenges of food production to kick-start growth and competitiveness here in the UK, and through the green food project we are addressing the tensions inherent in growing more food at less cost to the environment.
The steps we are taking will produce the market conditions required to deliver good quality, affordable food for households throughout the UK. This debate is important because it is about the household budget and the cost of living. The Government have not sat idly by. We are directly helping in all kinds of ways—the freezing of council tax, the cutting of fuel duty, and so on. Those are all measures that Labour refused to take when it was in power, despite running up the biggest peacetime deficit in our country’s history. This is a Government who are on the side of hard-pressed families, this is a Department that is on the side of British farmers and food producers, and this is an issue on which Labour has no credibility and no alternative. I urge the House to reject the motion.