Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:53 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Young of Old Scone Baroness Young of Old Scone Labour 2:53 pm, 14th May 2020

I thank the Deputy Speaker for letting me have a second go after I sounded like a Dalek the first time round. I thank the House broadcasting staff for their help.

The Covid crisis has revealed how fragile our food supply chains are in this country and how we need to increase our food self-sufficiency. I guess we will never be able to grow pineapples in Kent, but climate change will make food supply chains even more fragile, as the climate change committee recently reported. Before we make decisions on producing more of our own food, we need to consider the other demands for land: for carbon sequestration; to reverse the biodiversity crisis; for built development; for energy; and for access and recreation, which we all now know is so vital for physical and mental health.

The University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership found that, to meet a growing UK population’s land use needs, we require a third more land than we currently have in the UK, so any policy of more home-produced food needs to be in the context of a land use strategy for England to set the framework for how we will optimise these competing land use requirements. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have such strategies but the Government in England are very late to this issue. Gosh, that rings a bell, does it not?

We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity post Brexit to shape our own agricultural policy to be fit for a new, post-Covid future. Central to that must be food produced sustainably, working with the environment to make food production more resilient, rooted in local economies and produced to high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards—not Trump’s trade deal standards. The Agriculture Bill needs to embed these principles. I commend to the Minister the reports of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, of which I am a commissioner. They well demonstrate the case for restorative agriculture and a land-use framework for the future.