Brexit: Food Prices and Availability (EUC Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:19 pm on 25th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 3:19 pm, 25th April 2019

I am certainly prepared to engage in close scrutiny with officials to ensure that the words in my reply to the noble Lord are as I would require: that we are clear that we will not have trade arrangements with countries that would be contrary to our own requirements and standards. As I have said, all the EU legislation, through the work your Lordships did in the withdrawal Bill, will be coming on to our statute book when we leave. I am most grateful for the noble Lord’s generosity in taking me to task, perhaps, but giving me the opportunity of a reprieve.

I want to emphasise welfare and environmental standards, while allowing for the shortness of time. A number of noble Lords have mentioned climate change. It is absolutely clear that we need to multi-task. We are a country that has been recognised—I had at one time the climate change adaptation brief—as one of the most successful in terms of reduction of carbon among the G7, as a sophisticated economy. We have a very strong record on that. We need to build on it. I fully recognise that we need to ensure that we tackle these areas as well as the weighty matters of the Fisheries Bill, the Agriculture Bill and the forthcoming environment Bill. The environment Bill is clearly part of what we need to do, not only for the UK and our overseas territories but in terms of the contribution we make globally.

The noble Lords, Lord Palmer and Lord Rooker, raised the point that the average UK household spends 10.6% of its income on food. Again, I want to place on record that food banks are inspirational and deserve all the recognition they receive. That response from civil society and, often, from faith groups to support vulnerable people is one of the extraordinary elements of this country, where we do so much volunteering. With £95 billion a year being spent on welfare benefits, we have to get this right; that is a lot of money. We need to make sure that it gets to the right people, and fast. Wherever possible, we need to continue the work of the food banks. I find those figures impressive in one sense, but immensely worrying and depressing in another.

We have had a fascinating debate. I have gone over my time, but surely the subject matter was worthy of that. This is not a timed debate, so all I have to do is apologise to my excellent Whip. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, particularly for his patience and that of the committee, in that we are having what has been a very interesting debate—including an outstanding maiden speech—at a time when there is a lot more work to do. This report raises subjects that will be of continuing relevance and importance.