Food Prices and Food Poverty
Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day]
David Nuttall (Bury North, Conservative)
In the Order Paper, the title of this debate is “Rising Food Prices and Food Poverty”, but I note that the words “food poverty” appear nowhere in the motion. We should start by examining what constitutes a state of affairs that can be described as food poverty. The Food Ethics Council, a registered charity, states on its website:
“Food poverty means that an individual or household isn’t able to obtain healthy, nutritious food, or can’t access the food they would like to eat.”
With so wide and all-embracing a definition, it could be argued that millions of people, including many quite high up the income scale, are living in food poverty. Having said that, there are people on limited and fixed incomes for whom paying the bills is a great struggle, but I do not accept the patronising view that they are somehow more likely to suffer from obesity because they can afford to eat only certain types of food. As we have heard this afternoon, processed and sugary foods are often much more expensive than fresh foods. I accept that food, as a variable item of expenditure, is always likely to come under pressure when there are other demands on the household budget. The question is what we can do to help those struggling to make ends meet.
I want to make two main points. First, we need to tackle the European Union’s common agricultural policy. It must be reformed. In a limited debate of this nature there is no time to do any more than flag up that disastrous policy. Few other sectors are controlled quite so overwhelmingly from Brussels as agriculture. Despite the Labour party signing away the UK rebate, supposedly in return for substantial reform, the CAP remains a complex system of subsidies and incentives that I believe distort the operation of the free market.