It is an honour and a pleasure to follow Selaine Saxby, who represents a part of the country that I have been to with my family and that we very much enjoyed. More importantly, it has been really helpful to learn how to eat scones, making sure that we do the cream first. I am sure that she will continue to make excellent contributions for her constituency in this place.
I welcome the changes made to the Bill relating to the importance of soil and the plans to assist farmers, but the Bill is not robust enough and remains vague on key areas of importance. It provides many powers but very few duties for the Secretary of State to take action, and for a Bill on food production it remains remarkably vague on food. It is silent on action to reduce food poverty and there are no provisions to promote healthy foods. It is also a missed opportunity to provide a much clearer priority in respect of food sustainability. In the world’s sixth richest country, no one should be going hungry. Food is a basic human right, but the Government’s welfare policies have seen food bank usage rise, and continue to rise. The climate crisis and reckless post-Brexit trade deals could make food insecurity even worse.
I pay tribute to the volunteers who work so hard for the food banks in my constituency, including the Trussell Trust and the Whitefoot and Downham Community Food+ Project, which I founded to meet the increasing demand for food in my community. It is shocking that there are now more food banks than ever throughout the country. The latest figures from the Trussell Trust show that in 2018-19 there was an 18.8% increase in the number of emergency food parcels distributed, compared with the previous year. That is shocking. It is shocking that there are now more food banks than ever before across our country and in particular that children are in food poverty. Clause 17 requires a five-yearly report on food poverty, but the first report is, coincidentally, timed to be after the next election. That is not good enough. We do not need more talk and inaction. We need a robust plan to tackle food poverty head-on and to end food banks completely.