Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:52 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Blencathra Lord Blencathra Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, Chair, Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee 2:52 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, on securing this important debate.

I have no worries about food security in this country. We will always have more than enough—except fish, possibly—but we might not get what we want all year round. I do not particularly want a choice of 20 different lettuces in January, nor Moroccan strawberries for Christmas. I believe in eating UK-produced food in season when it is a delicacy and a treat. Nothing from anywhere else in the world can beat it for taste, not to mention food miles. In that regard, will my noble friend the Minister give all his encouragement and support to those excellent initiatives to create massive glasshouses near sewage plants, where they can get cheap heat? We have the capability to supply a huge range of more produce grown under glass in this country. I look forward to the report from Henry Dimbleby on a food strategy, which should address these issues.

Will the Minister also give encouragement to agricultural innovation and technology, as articulated by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles? This has had a huge boost in the USA because President Trump has curtailed cheap foreign labour from planting and picking crops. We must go this way in the near future too, rather than toward a permanent supply of cheap EU labour.

I come to fish, where I am worried about supply. The common fisheries policy is quite evil and destructive of this finest of natural resources. I want a cast-iron assurance from my noble friend that we will not sell out our fishermen, that we will take back full control of our fishing waters, that we will impose our own catch limitation so that we conserve and increase stocks, and that any deal with the EU will be on an annual basis.

Finally, in these dire times, let us raise a glass to the English wine industry, which is a superb example of innovation. English champagnes and white wines are beating the French in international wine tastings. What is more, vineyards are excellent for wildlife in that they are not being ploughed up every year—a good example of not digging for victory.