Food Waste

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 21st February 2019.

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Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire

What recent steps he has taken to reduce the volume of food waste.

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government recently launched their resources and waste strategy, which outlines a new approach to addressing food waste. Actions include consulting on introducing regulations to make transparent reporting mandatory for businesses of an appropriate size, and the appointment of Mr Ben Elliot as the food surplus and waste champion to support our strategy.

Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will be aware that some confusion is caused by disingenuous labelling with “use by” and “best before”, including in one example, on a packet of salt. What progress are the Government making in sorting out this nonsense?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My hon. Friend is right to point out that there can be confusion as a result of labelling. There has been leadership from the very top of the Government in pointing out that, when it comes to salt or jam, it is perfectly possible to consume healthy and nutritious food uninhibited by some of the nannying regulations and pointless bureaucracy of the past, and to eliminate waste.

Photo of Derek Twigg Derek Twigg Labour, Halton

What discussions have the Secretary of State or his officials had with local authorities, for instance, about how they can help with this strategy?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We have had extensive discussions with the Local Government Association and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. We want to move towards mandatory food waste collection across all local authorities, and we intend to ensure that resources are available to help them to do just that.

Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon Conservative, Newbury

Anaerobic digestion of food waste used to be prohibitively expensive for local authorities, but now there has been a massive drop in the cost so savings are available for local authorities and businesses if they opt for this kind of food waste disposal. What measures can the Government take to promote this as a really good green method of reducing food waste?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Anaerobic digestion can play an important part in dealing with food waste and making sure that we have a truly circular economy. We want to work both with local authorities and with farmers and land managers to make sure that, where appropriate, anaerobic digestion can be expanded.

Photo of Deidre Brock Deidre Brock Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Devolved Government Relations), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Environment and Rural Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Wales)

The Secretary of State will accept that food produced here that cannot go to market in the EU and cannot be sold here profitably will increase food waste. Will he reverse the change in the guidance on protected geographical indications that he issued last week and provide Scotland’s high-quality food and drink exporting industry with all the support that it needs to maintain protections across the EU rather than leaving producers to do it themselves all over again?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

All the geographical indications that Scotland’s outstanding food producers and other producers enjoy will be protected in the future. The real danger to Scotland’s food producers is a Scottish Government who are not prepared, I am afraid, to use the Agriculture Bill that is currently before the House to provide our outstanding food producers with the legislative framework that they need. In that respect, I am afraid that the Scottish Government are being negligent, and not for the first time.

Photo of Sandy Martin Sandy Martin Labour, Ipswich

The Labour Administration in Wales have instituted household food waste collections across the nation. The anaerobic digestion industry in Wales is flourishing because it guarantees regular feedstock, and the amount of food wasted in the first place in Welsh households has reduced because people are thinking about what they do with their food. Meanwhile, in England, we get yet another consultation to add to the impressive mountain of strategies and consultations produced by the Department. Will the consultation lead to comprehensive doorstep food waste collections in England, will the Secretary of State’s Department seek the funding needed to enable local authorities to do the collections, and why will it take England four more years to do something that is already being done in Wales?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Yes, yes, and I yield to no one in my admiration for Wales.

Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

A lot of food is destroyed before it even lands on the supermarket shelves. Carrots are not straight enough, tomatoes are not round enough. What is my right hon. Friend doing to promote wonky veg, which is just as beautiful and nutritious on the inside, even if it is not visually appealing?

Photo of Michael Gove Michael Gove The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Since my hon. Friend and I were at college together, both of us have been champions of wonky veg, and indeed other unconventional foodstuffs, and he is absolutely right: when it comes to food, the search for symmetry and for perfection is vain and, if the House will excuse the pun, fruitless. The true joy of food comes in appreciating the diversity of British food producers and the way in which wonky veg—or even, sometimes, unconventional cuts of meat—can be a source of great nutrition. In that respect, Mr Speaker, may I say that even though it is awful, sometimes it is a good thing to indulge in tripe?

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

Well, I must say I rather enjoyed that. I must say to the House that I did exhort the right hon. Gentleman to inject into his answers some philosophy, and I think he has already done that.