Amendment 160

Agriculture Bill - Committee (5th Day) – in the House of Lords at 8:00 pm on 21st July 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch:

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

160: Clause 17, page 14, line 20, leave out “at least once every five years” and insert “within 12 months of the passing of this Act, and every three years thereafter” Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment would require the Secretary of State to lay the first report on UK food security within 12 months of the Act being passed and publish further reports every three years thereafter.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My Lords, there are two amendments in this group in my name, Amendments 160 and 173. Amendment 160 chimes with the amendments of several other noble Lords in calling for the food security report to Parliament, set out in the Bill, to be published within 12 months and every three years thereafter. We welcome the fact that the need for such a report has been acknowledged by the Government, but we want it to be more urgent and ambitious.

There was an excellent debate on this issue in May, initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, which highlighted the challenges within our food supply, and food security, all too clearly. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the shortcomings in our current system even more to the fore. While most farmers, food manufacturers and retailers responded magnificently to the challenge of feeding the nation in a lockdown, the incidence of empty shelves, combined with the economic impact, resulting in many being unable to feed their families, was all too stark. The recent report from the Food Foundation evidenced nearly 5 million people experiencing food insecurity, including 2 million children being forced to skip meals.

The crisis identified the personal and economic hardship of food insecurity, but it also highlighted the fundamental problems with our national supply chain. The UK is currently only 53% self-sufficient in food and drink, and the figure is dropping year on year. Nearly half our food is imported, mainly from the EU. During the pandemic, we were forced to rely on fruit and vegetable trucks continuing to make the journey across Europe. Those UK farmers producing fresh fruit and vegetables faced a crisis of seasonal workers, and it is still not clear whether sufficient UK workers have been recruited and retained to harvest our local produce, or whether some of the crops will have to be left to rot in the fields.

We believe there is an urgent need to drive up the percentage of locally grown food in the UK. We believe we should take steps to make that supply more resilient and reliable, particularly as we face the consequences of leaving the EU. This will not happen without a government strategy driving the policy forward. That is why our amendment would bring the date of publication forward, so that more ambitious change can occur and be reviewed on a timely basis.

The timing of our amendment also coincided with the publication of the excellent Lords Select Committee report Hungry for Change: Fixing the Failures in Food. This is a well-evidenced piece of work that addresses the relationship between poor diet, ill health and food insecurity. It identifies the commercial pressures that lead to unhealthy food choices, it highlights the role that better public procurement could play, and it recommends a fundamental shift in national consumption patterns towards a more plant-based, balanced diet. I know that some members of that committee may want to speak on this group and say more about the breadth and depth of its recommendations, but all these recommendations require serious attention, and some of them can be addressed by these amendments.

This leads on to our other amendment in this group, Amendment 173. This calls for the establishment of a national food plan within six months. It would build on the work being carried out by Henry Dimbleby for the Government on a national food strategy. His food strategy will encompass being based on a sustainable agricultural sector, delivering safe, healthy, affordable food through a more robust supply chain, contributing to the natural environment, and supporting innovation among producers and manufacturers. It will set out a vision for the future. He is due to publish the first part of his report later this month. His work on a national food strategy is complemented by the Lords committee report, which says:

“It provides a much-needed opportunity to initiate a strategic, joined-up approach to food policy … We recommend the establishment of an independent body, analogous to the Committee on Climate Change, with responsibility for strategic oversight of the implementation of the National Food Strategy … This independent body should have the power to advise the Government and report to Parliament on progress.”

Although our Amendment 173 was drafted before the Lords report was published, I believe we are saying the same thing. It picks up on the themes of the Lords report and the Dimbleby report and sets out a series of steps that the Government must take to deliver the national food plan. I hope noble Lords will consider this proposal seriously and recognise the importance of linking agriculture and food production with our wider health and food security goals. I beg to move.

Photo of The Earl of Devon The Earl of Devon Crossbench 8:15 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 161 in my name. It is supported, I understand, by the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, to whom I am very grateful. This is a simpler version of Amendment 160, with which I find myself largely in agreement—I might have put my name to that had there been any space. The amendment seeks, as does Amendment 160, to ensure that the report to Parliament on food security occurs every three years, not every five years. As with multiannual financial assistance plans, I think it is important to delink the cycle from the political cycle; however, whereas I thought multiannual financial assistance plans should take place every seven years, I think the opposite should apply to the food security reports, and they should be provided to Parliament at least every three years. As we have seen recently, food security circumstances change very fast, and doubtless they will change faster in the future.

At Second Reading, I quoted the words of Dieter Helm, who was obviously a prophet in the area of the ELMS, but may have got things wrong with respect to food security. He suggested that

“food security is largely an empty slogan of lobbyists … It should not be taken seriously.”

Coronavirus has clearly shown those words to be incorrect.

From January 2021 onwards, we will lose the relative support of the common market for food and will become subject to the vagaries of the global markets. Couple this with the impacts of global warming, droughts, floods and harvest failures, and the likelihood of food insecurity growing over the coming years will only increase. We should therefore not underestimate the importance of food security and the need to monitor it regularly.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Conservative

My Lords, I will speak to Amendments 162 and 171. I am delighted to thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb and Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, and my noble friend Lord Caithness for their support.

I believe that it is essential to have a report on progress on food security more frequently—I would suggest every year. Amendment 162 therefore seeks to increase the frequency of publication by the Government of their proposed reports on food security. While I welcome the fact that the Government have indicated their willingness to produce an early report, a five-year interval between reports is much too long for such an important and sensitive issue. Every 10 years we have an issue of food security or animal health—pest, pestilence and, currently, pandemic. We had BSE; we had foot and mouth disease; and we had the horsegate scandal, which could have been much worse, rather than just a fraud.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has, if anything, highlighted even more the strains and stresses within the food supply system. There is no doubt that some of these issues will continue to be a problem for a long time to come. This is the first time in my living memory that we have experienced empty supermarket shelves and people having to queue to shop for food and having restricted choice within food retail outlets. The loss of the food service sector through the government lockdown measures was also a major shock that caused many consumers to consider issues around food security for perhaps the very first time.

We have become complacent over time about our ability, as a relatively rich nation, to secure our necessary food both domestically and internationally, but this could become a much more difficult proposition in the future. One of the most important objectives of a Government is to ensure that their people are well fed and it is therefore imperative that issues around food security are given much greater pre-eminence than envisaged by the Bill, which provides only for five-yearly reports.

Currently, the UK is only around 60% self-sufficient in food and we are reliant upon imports for our remaining food need. If anything, it has become apparent that more and more nations around the world are becoming increasingly nationalistic in terms of their trading policy. There is a risk that a tightening of supplies globally could cause issues for food supply. However, food supply is not just about quantity but quality. The issues of food security go the heart of ensuring that we are not offshoring our environmental and animal welfare problems by the food that we are importing into the UK. We want, surely, to promote, protect and enhance these high standards both at home and internationally and, therefore, our trading policies must reflect that. An annual report from government is a good basis on which to start and a good discipline to ensure that matters are kept in sharp focus.

Turning to Amendment 171, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville and Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for their support. Again, while I welcome the Government’s commitment to produce a regular report on food security, it is vital that this is a means through which the Government express their policy targets and mechanisms to address issues around food security.

Currently, the provisions in the Bill envisage a fairly static output that merely reports on the current food security situation. I would prefer to see a more dynamic report that seeks to set out an agenda for change, where change is required. There seems little point in the Government merely producing a report of which Parliament is required to take note rather than for it to be a platform for evaluation, repurposing and informing future actions. At the very least, it will be essential to ensure that food security targets are both met and monitored. Where the report indicates that there are issues with aspects of our food and environmental security, the Government must come forward with their plans and policy for addressing these shortcomings.

Amendment 171 will provide the necessary architecture for the Government to take this forward. It will be a failure if, having taken the time to consider the importance of having a food security report, the Government did not also ensure that this report was used to inform changes in policy and procedures. A statutory requirement for the Government to address these issues is surely the sensible thing to include in this Bill.

Photo of Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, Chair, Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, I have two amendments in this group, 163 and 172, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, for having put his name to them. Since this is the first time I have spoken in Committee on this Bill, I probably need to draw your Lordships’ attention to my entry on the register of interests. More significantly for my noble friend, he will be glad to hear that, though this is the first time I have spoken, it will also be the last time I am going to speak. Bearing in mind the stately progress that is being made, I shall not be holding up proceedings any further.

The amendments in this group discussed so far are about the frequency of reports. I have no particular dog in that fight, but I offer one word of caution, which is that if these reports are going to mean something, they need to be relatively infrequent. If they are too frequent, they lose their impact. I suggest to those who are seeking too frequent reports that these may pass by too easily and quickly. A report wants to be an event when it happens.

My amendments go to another part of this clause and try to give it some teeth. Clause 17, as drafted, could result in some pretty anodyne, platitudinous reports—general statements of principle without any detail. When we talk about food security, detail will be very important. My noble friend on the Front Bench will say, “Absolutely, I understand that, and I will ensure there is going to be detail, and the reports will have plenty of focus.” But we have been here before, and we have been here recently. A Green Future contained similarly impressive objectives and an impressive monitoring procedure. This was to be under the Natural Capital Committee chaired by Professor Dieter Helm, who was the subject of some adverse comments by the noble Earl, Lord Devon, about five minutes ago. Professor Helm was to monitor performance under the green future proposals. The last annual report from Professor Helm’s committee, which was in September last year, read as follows:

“Unfortunately, the Progress Report does not in fact tell us very much about whether and to what extent there has been progress. On the contrary, the Progress Report provides a long list of actions, and presents very little evidence of improvements in the state of our natural capital.”

If we do not strengthen the wording in this clause, we will get a long list of actions and very little evidence of improvement. We need to build in some specific teeth.

The second weakness of the clause, as presently drafted, is that it could be a snapshot, whereas what we should be looking for is a continuous look—a cine film in the old-fashioned way—at the process of our food security. Perhaps I could explain further by analogy. When you go to your annual medical, the doctor looks at your heart and lungs, he sees whether your weight has gone up or down, and he tells you what the results are. That is, of course, very important. If you have a poorly performing heart, you want it treated quickly. But what is really important is how you compare with the previous year. Are you getting heavier? Are you getting lighter? Are you losing weight? Has a new mole emerged? Has your blood pressure gone up? All those sorts of things give you an idea, over a period of time, of how your health and physiology are changing. From that, the doctor can prescribe more exercise, less food, pills or whatever.

That is what we should try to do with this report. It needs to look at the continuum and see where we have come from, where we are now and where we should be going. Unless we get that, this will not really be any use for informing the public and making important policy decisions.

That is why, in Amendments 163 and 172, I introduce the terms “anticipated strategic developments”, defined as major changes over the subsequent 10 years—that is the period I think we should look at—and, secondly, “consequent policy changes”. That is the doctors advising you to have some pills or exercise more in the way we look at food security. That sets the framework for examining our food security in a way that I argue would be more focused, give greater clarity and lead to a more informed public discussion and understanding of the challenges involved.

What about the specific teeth? Let me deal briefly with the four mentioned in Amendment 172. The first is availability of water. We always think of the UK as being a rainy country, but we each use an average of 140 litres of water a day to wash, wash our clothes in, drink, cook in and no doubt also water the garden and wash the car—and there are a lot of us. Surprisingly, London receives less average rainfall than Barcelona, Rome, Miami or Sydney, and on a per capita basis London is drier than Morocco or Turkey. That is before we have to find the water to support our agricultural production.

Sir James Bevan, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, depicts the existing water policy in pretty stark terms. He describes the water situation as entering “the jaws of death”, as within 20 years Britain will not have sufficient water supplies. Various scenarios suggest that, by 2050, some regions of the UK will have a demand for water one and a half times higher than available supplies.

When my noble friend comes to reply, he will no doubt say that the Government are aware of this and are trying to start a programme of development of reservoirs and better storage facilities. That is true, but they are exceptionally unpopular. A large row is going on in South Oxfordshire over the construction of a reservoir at Abingdon—and, of course, the more reservoirs we build, the more agricultural land to grow our food on we lose.

The second key issue is the loss of land to urban development. We must expect to have to build 2 million to 3 million houses over the next 20 years. Of course, it is not just the land for the houses but the roads and railways to connect them, the factories and offices, the shops and restaurants, the schools and hospitals and the support network that goes to make up our modern society. This is continuing a trend. Danny Dorling, professor of geography at Oxford, has said about the last decade:

“In absolute terms this is very likely to be the largest increase in the number of square miles that have been tarmacked or paved over in any decade in British history.”

The best estimate for the next 20 years is that we will build over an area the size of Bedfordshire. If, as seems likely, quite a high proportion of this will be in the south of England, we need to remember that that is where some of our most fertile agricultural land is located.

The third element is the percentage of food consumed in this country that will be grown here. At this point, I note that Clause 17 as drafted goes some way to meet these points. I am also picking up on some of the points made by my noble friend Lady McIntosh. We have heard a lot about the 50% level of food self-sufficiency, but I argue that this is not good enough. We need to be a great deal more granular than that and to see what our self-sufficiency is—or our vulnerability, if you look at it the other way around—analysed by major food categories. That is because of developments on the world scene.

It is not just that the world population will go up by 1.9 billion between now and 2055—a 25% increase—or that it is increasing by 200,000 a day. More importantly, it is that there are more people already on the planet who want to be fed better. Therefore, in order to avoid the scarcities, malnutrition and all the other things that disfigure our planet, we will need better food for the people who are already here. The World Resources Institute suggests that we will need an extra 7,400 trillion more calories by 2050—more than 50% above the 2010 figure of 13,100 trillion calories. It will therefore be important for this food security report to look ahead and see what types of food are likely to make up this large increase in demand across the world. If they seem likely to be in areas where we are weak and vulnerable, we need to take steps to improve our domestic production of those categories.

As noble Lords have already said, it is not just about growing the food but transporting it to the UK. Food logisticians have a concept called choke points: areas of congestion for transhipment. The South China Seas, the Malacca Strait, the Red Sea, the Suez Canal—noble Lords can go around the globe and pick out the geographical points for themselves. Climatic conditions, which we know are getting worse, will have an impact; political action, with an aggressive China in the South China Sea; military action, such as a flare-up in the Middle East, which would affect the Red Sea and the Suez Canal—all these could mean that our ability to tranship food here is very much reduced. Therefore, into that report will need to go a pattern of how the food is getting here and what are our vulnerabilities on the various routes that bring it here.

That takes me to the very last point: the requirement to look ahead to the number of mouths that we will have to provide food and water for. I congratulate my noble friend on his honesty, and I am sincere: for the very first time, a government Minister was prepared to write and say, “We expect the population of the country to be 6 million higher in 2041”. Admittedly, he said, “It is nothing to do with us; it is to do with the ONS projection”, but he said that on the record as a government Minister. A Green Future said:

“Population growth and economic development will mean more demand for housing and this Government is committed to building many more homes.”

That was all it said about the impact of population on the environment. What does 6 million people look like? The population of Manchester is 2.5 million, so we are looking at building two to two and a half Manchesters by 2040. Some people would argue that the projections the ONS have are on a fairly heroic basis, and the number could be closer to 8 million, but that, as they say, is a story for another day.

In conclusion, the concerns and issues that underlie Clause 17 need to be put squarely and candidly before the British people. The first duty of the state is to protect its citizens, and that certainly includes providing them with food and water. General statements of good intent are simply not good enough, hence my tabling these amendments to give greater rigour and focus to future reports on our food security.

There is nothing controversial about these amendments, because if future reports on food security are to have any value, they will inevitably include detailed figures on water, loss of agricultural land, urban development, expected changes in domestic population levels, and on shifts in world food consumption and transportation. I accept that my drafting is unlikely to be good enough, so I invite my noble friend to take these amendments away and bring them back in a redrafted form for debate on Report. I hope that it may be possible for me and other interested parties to meet my noble friend and his officials for a moment to discuss these matters in depth.

Photo of Lord Hain Lord Hain Labour 8:30 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, who spoke with such authority. I wish to speak to my Amendments 164, 167 and 170, to Amendment 160 in the name of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and to Amendment 166 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and others. They seek to ensure that food security is properly recognised in the Bill, in a way that takes full and explicit account of the legitimate interests of all the devolved Administrations. I am grateful for the support of colleagues who have put their names to my amendments.

The tragedy of the Covid pandemic has demonstrated the links between access to nutritious food and public health. Conditions such as obesity and diabetes, which are linked to poor nutritional standards, have been associated with a higher risk of severe illness, hospitalisation and death from Covid-19.

The panic buying we saw in anticipation of lockdown reminded many of us of the importance of the sustainability, resilience and security of our food supply. However, for many people panic buying is not an option, as poverty means that a secure and nutritious food supply is an everyday challenge. A decade of austerity has widened the gap between the haves and the have-nots in our society, and the recent loss of earnings due to Covid-19 has added massively to the numbers struggling with food insecurity.

The pressures on food banks have increased, and it is estimated by the Food Foundation that over 8 million people, including 2 million children, in the UK have faced food insecurity of some kind during the pandemic. Recently, it took the intervention of Premier League footballer Marcus Rashford to elicit a response from this Government on the need to continue free school meal vouchers over the school holidays. However, as the Children’s Society pointed out, the Government should make the extension of free school meal vouchers over the holiday permanent, whether or not there is a pandemic. The Government need to take much more responsibility for ensuring that all UK citizens have access to adequate supplies of nutritious food.

In a nation where 50% of food is currently imported—30% from the European Union—the importance of protecting high standards of nutritional value, and of the security and quality of both our domestic production and the high-quality fresh produce we import from the EU, cannot be overestimated. The subsector is very dependent on imports, as only 16% of the fruit and 53% of the vegetables we consume are grown in the UK. In this situation, retailers will face potential shortages of supplies if trade barriers are introduced because of a hard Brexit.

Our reliance on fruit and vegetable trucks coming across from Europe reminds us of the importance of securing an extension to the Brexit transition period to allow time to recover from the impacts of the pandemic and for the negotiators to strike the right Brexit deal. However, on the contrary, the Government appear to be prioritising trade deals with countries far beyond Europe, such as the United States, with its inferior food production and unsafe animal welfare standards. If such trade deals are allowed, with no requirement to preserve the high standards that Britain and the European Union have maintained, they will undercut our farmers with poorer-quality cheap food.

For agriculture and the food industry, and for both imports and exports, the continuation of European Union trade, where we have a level playing field, is vital. We need to ensure that Brexit does not mean that supply lines of fresh food from the EU are interrupted because of tariff barriers, or that our farmers lose their important export markets in the EU. In the post-Covid world, to meet nutritional and environmental goals, we need to trade more, not less, with our nearest neighbours.

A legal guarantee of future food, animal welfare and environmental standards would safeguard all UK consumers from unhealthy and unsafe food, while also protecting British farmers at risk of being undercut by poor-quality imports. However, so far, the Government have failed to support calls for such amendments to the Bill. The Bill is an opportunity to protect all British consumers and farmers from food imports of dubious quality, and to maintain current nutritional, environmental and animal welfare standards for vital imports of fresh food.

Shocking food insecurity has been shown by the UN and others to exist in this supposedly first-world nation of ours. This has undoubtedly had an adverse impact on health and, as I said, contributed in turn to the tragically high death toll of Covid-19 in the UK. We need to take steps to ensure that Brexit does not make the situation even worse. That is why it is vital that the Government support the principle in these amendments to Clause 17 on household food security. If we are to deliver a resilient, integrated food supply chain throughout the UK, it is imperative that all four nations have access to shared data relating to food security in order to take evidence-based decisions that deliver co-ordinated action.

Our agricultural businesses, processing sectors, food supply chains and retail outlets are tightly integrated across the UK. A lamb born and raised on a small family farm in Pembrokeshire can travel the length and breadth of Britain as it progresses from farmer to fork. With a macroeconomic sector like food, which so intimately affects the health and well-being of every citizen of the UK, it is essential that any and all data about the security of this most important resource—food—is made available to all Administrations within the UK. I trust, therefore, that the Minister will accept as non-controversial Amendment 164 on data-sharing.

As the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated, the need to ensure that the UK as a whole has access to nutritious and good-quality food is essential. We are also facing the global challenge of climate change, which will increasingly impact on the geography and structure of our farming industry. Shared data will be critical to improving the sustainable management of our land and sustainable production of our food to address this challenge. No one can dispute the overwhelming evidence of the last several decades that diet is intimately linked to our health and well-being: one has only to look at the Covid-19 research demonstrating the links between poverty, obesity and vulnerability to the virus.

Access to quality food, rather than quantity, should be actively sought as a strategic objective by all Governments in the UK. Food security does not simply mean volume; it should look further and encompass access to a nutritional, balanced diet for every citizen in the United Kingdom. In addition, a core objective of this Bill, and the subsequent agriculture and land management policy that it aims to introduce, is the delivery of environmental outcomes through land management that complements, and evolves out of, existing agricultural practices. If we are to address the challenge of climate change, deliver on our decarbonisation goals and work to reverse the degradation of our nature and natural habitats, we must reflect these issues in how we deliver food security and food quality.

Improving our food security at the expense of our natural resources and environment is not acceptable and is certainly not a sustainable option. Reporting against both these objectives, diet and the impact on the environment, should be considered essential so that we can ensure that our need to deliver food security is met in an integrated and sustainable manner. I would therefore be grateful if, when replying, the Minister accepted the essential need for consultation with all the devolved Administrations as absolutely integral to this Bill.

Photo of Lord Northbrook Lord Northbrook Conservative 8:45 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I rise to support the general principle in this group of amendments of more regular reports on food security, although I am not sure whether they should be yearly or three-yearly.

I wish to speak to my Amendment 165 to Clause 17, concerning the

“Duty to report to Parliament on UK food security”.

My amendment fine-tunes the wording of subsection (2), stating that the data analysed in the report “must”—rather than the vague word “may”—include the matters covered in paragraphs (a) to (e). A number of amendments already tabled relate to reporting on food security. Given the period of uncertainty ahead for farmers as we leave the single market and customs union and strike up new trade deals, this reporting should be much more frequent than once every five years. Given the importance of a domestic food supply, it is paramount that the Government re-examine this aspect of the Bill through the lens of the coronavirus crisis. This amendment is an important addition, ensuring that all the matters listed in subsection (2) are included in that food security report when it is produced.

Photo of Baroness Boycott Baroness Boycott Crossbench

My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendment 166. In doing so, I thank its supporters, the noble Baronesses, Lady Meacher, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle and Lady Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville. I also support everything just said by the noble Lord, Lord Hain. I was lucky enough to sit on the House of Lords committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, which found many cracks and flaws in the food system.

My amendment looks not just at food security, as I want to consider household food security. Sufficient food nationally does not mean that individual households can access it in sufficient quantity, let alone that it is sufficiently healthy food, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Hain. Since April 2019, the Government have been measuring food insecurity as part of their Family Resources Survey. This data will be available early next year. The Food Standards Agency also collects data on household food insecurity, as part of the Food and You survey. Both surveys are internationally recognised and peer reviewed.

In essence, the Government are already doing this; they are collecting the data on which this amendment would have them report. So, this is not an onerous amendment—it is very simple and cost-neutral. The Government are already doing the work. My amendment simply asks that the information be regularly laid before Parliament. If we do not accept this amendment, the Government will be sending a clear message to the millions who struggle to access healthy food that their hunger and problems are not a priority.

We know that more that 2,000 food banks have become embedded in our welfare system. Even before the pandemic, millions in the UK were food insecure. Now, millions more have joined them. Covid-19 has seen food insecurity levels more than double. Refusing to report to Parliament on food insecurity at a household level lets that problem remain hidden. It is only by knowing the true scale of UK hunger that we can start to mitigate it. We should do this annually because unless you measure something, you cannot change it. In a country as rich as ours, no one should go to bed hungry. Accepting this amendment, which is cost-neutral and simple, would demonstrate that the Government are willing to treat the systemic and worsening problem of food insecurity—in a family, every night, in their kitchen—with the seriousness that it deserves.

Photo of Baroness Parminter Baroness Parminter Liberal Democrat

My Lords, I am delighted to be speaking between the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, with whom I sat on the House of Lords committee that produced the report Hungry for Change, about which the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and other noble Lords have been so complimentary.

I speak in support of my Amendment 169 in this group. I am grateful for the support of other noble Lords who have added their names to it. It addresses how, if we are to be food secure in this country, we need to ensure that the minimum amount of food is wasted—yet, in the list of data that will be provided in the food security report to inform policy thinking on our future resilience and food security, there is no mention of food waste.

There are currently significant levels of on-farm food waste in this country. In 2019, WRAP estimated that about 3.6 million tonnes of food is surplus, and waste occurs on farm every year. That is equivalent to about 7% of the total annual UK food harvest. There is huge potential to reduce the amount of surplus and waste by promoting best practice, with new insights being good for growers, businesses, the climate and feeding our people.

One of the priority areas in Clause 1 of the Government’s Environment Bill is resource efficiency and waste reduction. We need better synergy between the Environment Bill and the Agriculture Bill, and a way to achieve that is for us to see where the main problems with food waste are in the supply chain. To do that, we need the data to cover each part of the supply chain. My amendment would provide for that, so that we have a food security report that does the job that we need it to do.

Photo of Lord Krebs Lord Krebs Chair, Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee, Chair, Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 173, so excellently introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch. Many of my comments will echo hers.

As an aside, it is perhaps worth clearing up a point of definition. In the debate so far, we have heard the terms “food security” and “food insecurity” used in two distinct ways. First, we have heard “food security” as it applies to the nation as a whole: do we have a system that can guarantee a supply of food for the country as a whole? Secondly, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, we have heard “food insecurity” as it applies to the individual or household that cannot afford enough to eat.

The chief executive of one of the UK’s food companies told me a couple of years ago that when he asked at No. 10 what the Government’s food strategy was, he received a blank look. The question had simply not occurred to the people in No. 10. Fortunately, things have moved on since then with the establishment of Henry Dimbleby’s national food strategy, of which we have already heard quite a lot. I have no doubt that the Dimbleby report, and its interim report due out in the next week or two, will be an excellent piece of work and will have much to say about the issues covered in this amendment,

I would also like to mention the recently published report Hungry for Change: Fixing the Failures in Food from the Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment, which I had the privilege of chairing. This report has already been referred to in this debate by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, Lady Parminter and Lady Boycott. The latter two sat on the committee with me. I would like to highlight just three points from our report.

First, as we have heard, food insecurity—that is, worrying about not having enough to eat—is a big problem in this country. We do not yet have official figures, although, as the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, said, we should soon have them. However, the UN has estimated that the number of people suffering food insecurity is at least 2.2 million. As the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, the Food Foundation estimates that more than 5 million people worry about not having enough to eat. This is shocking but not surprising, given that one in five people in Britain live in poverty, according to the Government’s own figures. Furthermore, as we have already heard from the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, Covid-19 is almost certainly making things worse.

Secondly, poor people tend to have less healthy diets, not through any fault of their own but because the way in which food is manufactured, marketed and priced conspires against healthy eating. Without the time, resources or emotional bandwidth, the least well-off people find it hardest to swim against the tide of cheap, accessible, tasty, heavily marketed and unhealthy junk food.

Thirdly, we know what kinds of measures would be effective in changing our food system for the better. We know that it will not happen by voluntary industry action or by public information campaigns. It will need a more interventionist approach from government on promotion, advertising, reformulation and perhaps taxation on less healthy food. The soft drinks industry levy shows how successful strong government intervention can be, but up till now the Government have been unwilling to do more. This inaction is inexcusable because it condemns the poorest, most disadvantaged children in Britain to a life of ill health followed by an early death.

We are all placing a lot of hope on the Dimbleby report, but there is a risk that it will make excellent recommendations only to gather dust in a corner, following the fate of many other earlier reports of the same kind. Our Select Committee report suggests how this might be prevented. The Government are already committed to publishing a White Paper on the food strategy, but the delivery of the strategy should, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said, be monitored by an independent body, analogous to the Committee on Climate Change, reporting regularly to Parliament on progress.

Furthermore, the problem of food and poverty covers several different government departments. Therefore, there is a need for a high-level ministerial co-ordination group to ensure that actions are properly joined up across Government.

This amendment provides an opportunity for the Government to make a radical shift in their approach to food policy. Let us not waste the opportunity in the way that we waste a lot of our food.

Photo of Lord Bruce of Bennachie Lord Bruce of Bennachie Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Northern Ireland) 9:00 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I am very glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and the wise words that he has given us. I hope the Government will take heed of what he has to say and the need for action. I support and endorse everything that has been said about food poverty and the difficulty of finding affordable and nutritious food for many people on low incomes.

I will speak in support of Amendments 164 and 167, which I have signed, as well as Amendments 160, 170 and 171, and will take a slightly different approach. The first two amendments are aimed at securing co-ordination on food security across the UK. This is essential if we are not to risk disruption in the supply chain and unfair terms of access to affordable and nutritious food in all parts of the UK. Looking at the devolved regions, one can see that Scottish food exports are about £3.6 billion per annum to the rest of the UK and about £1.6 billion internationally. Northern Ireland exports £3.5 billion, of which £1.26 billion goes out of the UK, and Wales exports around £337 million, most of which goes to the EU. Therefore, agriculture is important to the economies of the devolved Administrations in terms of value and employment, proportionally more so than across England, although the north and the south-west of England also have significant agricultural sectors.

Of course, all parts of the UK are dependent on food imports. We are a long way short of self-sufficiency, as many people have reminded us. Therefore, it is not hard to see the potential tensions that could arise. In reality, the south of England is the main domestic market for the devolved Administrations’ food production. In normal times, this is a good example of our internal market, and I am very proud that we in Scotland produce extremely good-quality food that I think people in London and the south-east appreciate and are often prepared to pay a premium to receive.

However, if there was a crisis of supply that left home-grown food for domestic consumption in short supply in the devolved Administrations while maintaining supply in the south, this could cause problems. Alternatively—in reverse—if the south was kept short by diversion into local markets, the same problems would arise. By the same token, if there was disruption to imports of key food that led to the supplies being diverted to the larger markets at the expense of the periphery—meaning people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would face shortages or higher prices, or both—the same difficulties would arise.

Therefore, for something as critical as food, the market cannot be the sole recourse at times of crisis. The noble Lord, Lord Hain, has quite starkly pointed out that the market puts nutritious food beyond the reach of many people. Co-ordination among all the tiers of government is required to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of affordable and nutritious food. There is a problem now, but it could be considerably worse if we take the combined threats that we can see ahead.

The other amendments that I support are aimed at anticipating the possibility of potential shortages in good time so that appropriate UK-wide action can be taken. It is quite likely that, when we leave the EU on 31 December, we could face disruption to our food supplies; I have pointed this out before. There will be delays for inspection of foods, cost and additional bureaucracy, all of which could lead to a loss of supply and a diversion of supply away from the UK. I have made the point that it may not be due to a lack of willingness to supply the UK or any kind of boycott; it may just be that bureaucracy and cost make other markets more attractive and profitable, leaving us at a disadvantage. Indeed, if trucks or fresh food transport is sufficiently delayed, then food will perish or be damaged, and lose quality.

Even if we manage to avoid a spike that causes that to happen, readjustments will take place in UK and EU agriculture and food production to take account of Brexit arrangements that we do not yet know about. These other amendments, therefore, require the Government to set targets, anticipate adverse changes, take action and report—in the first place within 12 months, and then every three years.

In the post-pandemic, post-Brexit world, with looming climate change and other problems potentially disrupting harvests and yields, the UK cannot rely on the global marketplace and must have a domestic strategy. The Government have not been good at planning for crises or disasters. Accepting these amendments might show that they are willing to learn.

Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour

My Lords, this amendment has been very important in enabling a wider debate. As we have been hearing, food security is fundamental to the welfare of the nation, in terms of health, diet, fitness for work and the ability to live life fully, but it also has implications for what our agricultural production does that accelerates climate change. It relates also to all the other impacts of climate change on our agriculture—a terrific and complex range of impacts.

In view of this, it seems simple and clear that we cannot afford to have a laid-back approach to reporting and accountability. There needs to be vigour and frequent reporting, as far as is reasonable. The Bill is currently too relaxed and complacent, and the debate has emphasised the importance of the first amendment in this group, which demands more frequent reporting. From that standpoint I am very glad that my noble friend has moved this amendment and am only too pleased to support it.

Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated

My Lords, I support the amendments in this group, particularly those to which I have added my name. This is probably one of the most important debates in Committee, because it deals with food security and insecurity, which is key to the development of a new agricultural policy in the UK, in the context of both Westminster and the various devolved regions. That is the opportunity afforded by the new dispensation in a post-Brexit relationship, notwithstanding the fact that I would have preferred to remain in the European Union.

In relation to the amendment, there is a need, as has been pointed out by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones of Whitchurch and Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for a greater level and frequency of reporting, and I have added my name to Amendment 162, which deals with reporting on an annual basis: it should be mandatory and it should be in the Bill.

I have also signed Amendment 167, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, which addresses food insecurity. This really goes back to the issue of individual food insecurity, the issues around resources and the need to improve general health and well-being. That should also be explicit in the Bill.

Looking at the issues of food security and insecurity, there is a clear need for those food security targets to be met and monitored. If we are serious about underpinning food security, the legislation needs to be toughened and strengthened, as stated in Amendment 171. We therefore need a dynamic report, on an annual basis, with a food plan in place.

I was also a member of the Select Committee, under the very able chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, which produced the report entitled Hungry for Change: Fixing the Failures in Food. As outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, the report dealt with issues to do with resources, and the nature of the current welfare system that prohibits people having proper access to the money to buy good-quality, nutritious foods. It dealt with: the lack of availability of nutritious food for certain groups of people; the impact of marketing; the impact of having to go to food banks on people who rely on benefits—raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott; and the need to deal with reformulation.

Another issue is trade deals. We have to ensure that we have better-quality food and that we are not forced to deal with food from other countries that is poorly produced in inhumane conditions, or food that may be infused with hormones or chlorine. Our report asked that the Government commit to detailed and routine monitoring of the levels of food insecurity. That data should be published transparently and be subject to scrutiny, to ensure that trends in food insecurity can be linked to wider socioeconomic reforms and can inform policy in other areas, such as public health and welfare, so that efforts to tackle food insecurity can be targeted effectively.

In summary, it is vital that the Minister is willing to accept these amendments, which strengthen the Bill. Our report has been mentioned in previous sessions. Has the Minister had time to peruse it? Does he have any initial thoughts, in advance of Mr Dimbleby’s report on the whole area of food? I support the amendments in this group, particularly Amendments 160, 162, 167, 171 and 173, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Jones of Whitchurch.

Photo of The Earl of Caithness The Earl of Caithness Conservative

My Lords, I am the fifth member of the Select Committee which, under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, produced Hungry for Change, to speak on this group of amendments so far. I commend to the Minister the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, which covered so many points.

This part of the Bill is headed “Food Security”. As the noble Lord said, there are two meanings of that. The first is the household food security so well described by the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott. I support what she said; she is renowned for her expertise in this area. The second area of food security concerns food coming into this country. That was part of the argument of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, who quoted a figure on how self-sufficient we are. Again, there is a dichotomy here. There is our total self-sufficiency in food and the self-sufficiency in food produced by the UK for consumption or use in the UK. Instead of the rather low figure of about 60% for total food, we are 75% self-sufficient in homegrown food.

We need to be very careful about trying to be totally self-sufficient in homegrown food. That would be a total disaster. I draw your Lordships’ attention to paragraph 458 of our report, which I quote:

“Another point that was raised by Henry Dimbleby was that trading is crucial for ensuring resilience in the food system ‘because it protects us from bad harvests’. The Government also argued that many products cannot be produced in the UK, and that supply would fail to meet demand for year-round access to certain foods.”

That is absolutely right. We have a problem: we eat a lot of foods that we cannot produce in this country. We can grow some more vegetables—the amount will be limited, given our soil and our climate—and a limited amount of more fruit but, under present traditional farming methods, we will never grow enough to be self-sufficient.

My noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts talked about the problem of the future water supply. What he said leads me to be convinced that I am right to support Amendment 162. He mentioned the dire situation in 20 years’ time—I think that it was described as the “jaws of death”—with regard to the water supply. Under the Bill, that is only four reports away. That is an inadequate response to the crisis that we face. Amendment 162 says that we ought to produce a report annually. I would prefer that, although I would be equally happy to support three years, but five years is far too long.

The situation is changing and technology in agriculture is improving so rapidly that what we are used to today will not be the same in a few years’ time. In a few years, we will all be used to vertical farming and meat-free protein, and what we know as traditional farming will have suffered a revolution because so much can be produced in cities and laboratories that will be healthier, cleaner, more environmentally friendly and just as delicious, we are told, as what we are eating now. Given all the changes that are coming and the pressures at the moment, the Government need to produce a report more frequently than every five years.

Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat 9:15 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, it is a real privilege to take part in the debate on this group of amendments, which has produced some of the most interesting and outstanding speeches in the whole of this Committee stage; the Government may think that some of them were a little long but I think that people can be excused if they are really good.

I signed the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. I must say, when I did so, I did not have a clue about what he was going to make of his amendment and what he was going to say. His speech is one of those that I want to go back to and read carefully tomorrow. It was quite outstanding and put some of the problems that we have been talking about in a wider geographical and longer-term context. I am pleased that I signed that amendment.

I am also pleased that I signed the amendment tabled by my long-standing friend, the noble Lord, Lord Hain, who, along with the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, introduced the concept of food insecurity as opposed to food security. It is an absolute scandal, as I have already said in Committee, that we are arguably the fifth or sixth-richest country in the world—one of the richest countries ever in the world—and we have food banks. Something is seriously wrong. I remember that, when I was quite young, in the working class district I grew up in, it was well known that, in the households, the wife would go without food to feed the husband, who was the wage-earner. The vital thing was that that wage continued. Nowadays, even in the town I live in, Colne—near where I represent on the council—we know that young women are going without enough food in order to feed their children. This is 2020. This country has never been as rich as it is now, yet this is going on. Something is seriously wrong. I would say that something has to be done about it, but that is a cliché, I know.

I was very pleased to sign the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lady Parminter about food waste. The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, had, I think, four apocalyptic subheadings in his speech, and one was shortage of food. The amount of food wasted in this country—in all the developed world—is absolutely shocking. It happens on the farm; in production, to some extent; in the supermarkets, which are getting a bit better but it still happens there; and in the hospitality industry. People are buying too much food and throwing appalling amounts away without even putting it on a plate, and people are putting too much on their plates and throwing half away. The amount of food wasted in households is a disgrace. I was a war baby and it is hard-wired inside my head that if the food is on the plate, you damn well eat it. Sending food back on a plate, even if I hate it and it is horrible, is something I find very difficult to do, because that was hard-wired into me in the first 10 years of my life. Nowadays, people do it all the time and do not think anything about it. We have to get back to the idea that you buy food, you cook food, you eat that food, and you do not eat too much—you cook the appropriate amount. This is very important. If we are talking about government propaganda exercises, which they seem to be heavily into at the moment, that is one that they might take on in a big way.

We have been told that we are leaving the European Union—the common market, the single market and the trade area—to have control over our own borders. Then we get this Bill, which is about providing farmers with sufficient income and providing sufficient food and food security and so on. The Bill gives the Government all these powers but, as the noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Whitty, and many others keep saying, we do not know what the Government’s policy is for using these new powers that they will have. We do not know if, as far as trade is concerned, they will go for open borders and cheaper food. If that happens, how will they support the farmers? We do not know whether they will encourage more expensive and higher-quality food and keep the imports out. We have no idea. We know that some members of the Conservative Party are very pro-farmer and very worried, but we know that lots of others want us to be a buccaneering, free-trading country and want us to go back to the repeal of the Corn Laws and so on. Until we know the answers to those questions, we do not really know how this Agriculture Bill will pan out. It is very unsatisfactory that we are providing the Government with the framework, but it is in a vacuum.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, I begin by referring to Amendment 168, which appears under my name on the Marshalled List, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for her support for it. I have already referred to the many environmental and health advantages of plant-based foods, but this amendment refers specifically to the issue of food security.

I refer noble Lords to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations 2019 report, The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture. It points out that nine species are responsible for two-thirds of the world’s crops, and 40 types of livestock produce nearly all the meat, milk and eggs. We suffer from a similar lack of diversity in the UK. A handful of crops dominate our land, as you see when you travel around the country. Not having crop diversity also means that you do not have the variety of insects and microbes—the suite of ecosystems that would accompany different crops. There is also the huge risk of one disease or bad season for a particular crop having a huge impact. But moving more into plant-based foods—perennial crops, tree crops, nuts and fruits—creates a more diverse and secure system, in terms of the first sort of food security identified by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs. Moving towards plant-based foods gives you a more diverse and secure food supply.

I refer also to Amendment 169, which appears under the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and which I was pleased to sign. It refers to the issue of food waste, which many noble Lords have already referred to, and demands a report from the Government on food waste and surplus. It would be a crucial step forward that I hope the Government will be prepared to accept. We have a situation where many sides of the House and many parts of the country agree that food waste is a problem, but action has chiefly come from independent charities and community groups. FareShare, for example, rescues huge quantities—but still a tiny percentage—of the food from supermarkets that is largely going to waste, and reaches 11,000 charities and community groups around the country.

That brings me to the crucial way in which waste interrelates with food security in the second sense referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, which is people being able to afford the food. A shocking figure from FareShare is that half of the people accessing its food have recently gone a day without food before being able to access that food that has been rescued. I will also mention the Real Junk Food Project, which started just up the road from me in Leeds and has spread to 120 projects in seven countries. We cannot keep relying on such groups to act on food waste; this needs to happen at a government level.

I also refer to Amendment 171 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, signed by my noble friend Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. There is a crucial point to be made about this: it says that the Government must have targets for food security. We have addressed, in many different contexts, the fact that the Government cannot just have powers; they need to have duties. As the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, said, this is possibly one of the most important areas of the Bill. This has to be a duty, not just a power to act.

This brings me to Amendment 162 on annual reports. I shall refer noble Lords to what is now an old report, from 2008, but still worth looking at: Nine Meals from Anarchy from the New Economics Foundation. Noble Lords may recall the fuel blockade, another occasion on which our shelves suddenly emptied. We have no idea when challenges, risks and sudden changes in the world situation will occur. Many noble Lords have talked about the climate emergency, but they could be natural, political or economic, and all of those things are risks that arise very quickly, so I think annual reports are the way to go.

Finally, I was delighted to add my name to Amendment 173, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, which calls for a national food plan. We found in 2008, and again while struggling with Covid-19, that leaving food security to the market is a profoundly insecure thing to do. The responsibility of companies is to make a profit. They want to be as “efficient as possible”, with maximum profits, and if that means that at some point it is no longer economical to supply the food, they can just shut their doors. As we have so often seen with privatised services, eventually responsibility will fall on the Government, so they must have a plan, in terms of the food insecurity at a household level that this debate has canvassed so well, the national food security and the health of the food supply. The Government need a plan and they must have a foundational role.

This is a crucial set of amendments. I very much hope that the Government acknowledge that this must be part of the Agriculture Bill. This is what agriculture is about, as well as those crucial aspects of land management and public goods. Food security is a public good. Food health is a public good. I hope that we see this Bill become an Act that incorporates those elements.

Photo of Baroness Humphreys Baroness Humphreys Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Wales) 9:30 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 160 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, and Amendments 164 and 167 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain. Along with farmers’ leaders in Wales and many noble Lords who have spoken today, I very much welcome the inclusion of Clause 17. The duty upon the Secretary of State to prepare a report on the UK’s food security is welcome. However, I share their concerns about the frequency of the reporting requirement and have questions about the purpose of the report. I am sure that when the Government initially drafted this clause, they did not dream of the situation we are now in and the challenges to our food security that we face in the short and the longer term.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp focus the fragility of our supply chains and their susceptibility to disruption, and we face the challenge of preparing for a possible second wave of the virus. The increasing inevitability of the negotiations around our future trading relationship with the EU coming to an abrupt halt without a favourable trade deal at the end of the transition period raises real concerns over the possible disruption of food supply chains at our borders. Also, the impact of climate change on global food availability will increasingly demand our attention. These three challenges and others could present the Government with problems. They need to demonstrate that they have responses to events such as these and can deal with them with confidence and agility, but I am afraid that on two counts, Clause 17 fails to allow for that.

As I highlighted at Second Reading, there is merely a requirement for the Secretary of State to lay a report before Parliament

“containing an analysis of statistical data”.

But what then? There is nothing in this clause to require the UK Government or the Welsh Government to publish a report and to act in response to its findings. We will have data, of course, but how will it be used?

The second weakness in this clause lies, of course, in the inadequacy of the reporting frequency, and I support those who have their names to Amendment 160 in their call for the first report to be prepared within 12 months of the Act passing, to be followed every three years thereafter by similar reports.

The Government’s intention to lay a report every five years appears to border on complacency, when we are still learning lessons from the present pandemic; we are still waiting for the Government to show how they will avoid chaos at our borders and the climate change crisis moves ever closer. But perhaps I am being unfair in accusing the Government of complacency. As I said earlier, this clause was written before the pandemic struck, and I am conscious that I speak with the benefit of hindsight, but I hope it illustrates the need for agility when emergencies arise, the need for up-to-date information to aid decision-making and—as the Prime Minister said at the weekend—the need to prepare for the worst. It would be interesting to hear the Minister outline the Government’s view of how they envisage the information the report would contain would be used to improve food security.

I turn briefly to the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain—Amendment 164, to which I have added my name, and Amendment 167. I support both of them. They highlight the need for co-operation and consultation between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations in the production of a food security report. The suggestion was made to the Senedd’s scrutiny committee that the Welsh Government should be

“included in the methodology planning for the report so that Welsh (and other Devolved Administrations) are able to extrapolate their own data to inform future policy making”.

I welcome the co-operative approach taken by the Minister and the Welsh Minister in securing the recognition of devolved competence throughout this Bill, and hope the noble Lord will assure me that the role and responsibility of the Welsh Government, in the production of a food security report, will be recognised as well.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Green

My Lords, I will keep my remarks short. I have signed only two of the amendments in this group, 162 and 171. In fact, they all improve the Government’s reporting and planning provisions. A regular comprehensive food report setting out targets and action plans would help the country move towards a resilient, flourishing and sustainable food system.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

I am not sure I can be quite that brief, my Lords, but I will give it a go. I have added my name to the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, about food waste. To deal with that first, identifying and removing waste is the easiest way to improve any supply chain. I hope that the Government give serious consideration to this.

I hope they also start to address the marketing chain. The just-in-time delivery system, which produces something that we are perceived to want at the right point, without any capacity for things going wrong, has been exposed for not taking many bumps to be put off course. The fuel crisis did it, as did a pandemic. As pandemics go, this is not as frightening as some that we have been threatened with before—the bird flu crisis and others. Covid-19 is a very unpleasant disease that kills people; it is not the Black Death. The scientists tell us that worse is out there. How good would any supply chain be when put under even greater pressure? Other noble Lords have talked about war and political decisions. A few natural disasters and a breakdown in the food chain is a good way to start a war or political crisis.

Can we have greater frequency of checking? Three years is about right. Can we also take a good long look at waste in the chain? If we can manage to identify the waste, we will suddenly have spare capacity and our supply will look a little more secure.

Photo of Lord Curry of Kirkharle Lord Curry of Kirkharle Crossbench

My Lords, this has been a fascinating debate, with some memorable contributions, including that from my noble friend Lord Krebs.

I fully support Amendment 162, as moved by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, and supported by other noble Lords, which says that food security reporting should take place every year. Clause 17 is an important inclusion, and I am delighted that the Government added it. I cannot understand why, once the data capture systems have been identified and established, an analysis cannot be carried out and published each year. It is hugely important to be able to identify trends quickly and to react accordingly. There is a fundamental risk in waiting five or even three years, as proposed in Amendments 160 and 161, in that a major global event or some macroeconomic activity could distort the analysis within a single year. A major weather event can result in crop failure and disproportionately impact on commodity markets.

I agree with almost all the impressive comments made in the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and I support his Amendment 172 other than on the frequency of the analysis. I believe that an annual report would reduce the risk of distortion by a global event and clearly identify trends. That was highlighted by the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys. Harold Wilson said that a week is a long time in politics, and five years is a long time to wait to calculate the impact of climate change on global food production. As has been stated a number of times this evening, the proportion of home-produced food continues to decline—depending on which metric is used, it is around 60%. With a projected population increase in the UK to 70 million or more within the next decade, unless we actively encourage home-produced food, that proportion will decline even further.

I hesitate to contradict the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, but there are opportunities to increase food production. We already import a significant proportion of our fresh produce from water-scarce areas of the world, particularly Africa, where very often people do not have enough food to alleviate hunger within their own countries and communities. We not only have to find better ways to provide economic support for developing countries but should put in place strategic plans to wean ourselves off our dependence on fragile sources of imported food.

I agree with other Peers who have spoken in these debates that it is very unfortunate that we do not have the report from Henry Dimbleby to inform these debates—I hope we will have an indication of his recommendations later this month and before Report. We had an excellent debate last week on whether food security is a public good. It clearly is a public good, and I would be surprised if Henry Dimbleby does not endorse the importance of that fact. So the process of analysis must inform the response.

I therefore regard a five-year analysis of the data suggested in Clause 17 to be inadequate, and even a three year period, as proposed in Amendment 160 and 161. It is really important to inform both government policy and provide industry with information and data on which to develop strategic plans. We need annual reports. I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment.

Photo of Lord Dobbs Lord Dobbs Conservative

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Greaves—and that does not happen too frequently. I have listened to some truly informed and insightful comments during this discussion, even if the noble Lord almost came round to the idea, as I suggest, that some of them have been a little too long. Earlier in Committee, I said that I thought that interventions should be as brief as common sense and responsibility allow, so I intend to maintain that.

I would have liked to explore what we really mean by food security. It has a vague meaning and a lack of clear definition in many hands, and it seems to mean too many things to too many people. It needs more rigour if it is to be truly helpful in legislation. The term, like many of the amendments, I fear, suggests a scatter-gun approach, when good legislation requires rigour and precision. However, some of these points have already been made, not just in this group but in earlier ones. We dealt earlier today in the first group with the issues of appropriate timing, and the balance that sound government policy needs to find—that is balance, not rush.

I therefore feel that at this hour of the evening, after such an excellent discussion, I should heed my own advice and avoid any hint of repetition or self-indulgence and allow others to continue so that we can get this vital piece of legislation on to the statute book.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative 9:45 pm, 21st July 2020

It is always a great pleasure to follow my noble friend Lord Dobbs, a Wiltshire neighbour; my maiden speech in this House was in a debate led by him.

I support the Government’s proposal, added in response to widespread concern in the countryside and the other place, for a report on food security, underlining the importance of UK food supply and farmers’ role in feeding the nation. Covid-19 has underlined the importance of this, as the noble Earl, Lord Devon, said. However, the supermarkets and the food supply chain did a great job. The empty shelves referred to by my noble friend Lady McIntosh reflected an initial lack of confidence by consumers, but they soon realised that this reflected a surge in demand, not a real shortage of supply.

Today there are a number of amendments trying to make the food security report more frequent—for example, once a year in Amendment 162—and to broaden its scope; for example, to bring in specific reference to household food security, which I disagree with, or waste in the supply chain, to which I am more sympathetic because of the personal interest I take in waste minimisation and recycling but with which I also disagree in this context. We should keep the review’s remit as simple and focused as possible so that it can be adapted to the needs and concerns of the day.

As a farmer’s daughter and a businesswoman involved in most aspects of the food supply chain in my time—I refer again to my interests in the register—I am strongly against a review more often than every five years. I cannot think of anything more likely to generate constant tinkering with the regulations that affect farmers and the countryside and continued uncertainty in a sector that faces huge change, economic difficulty and fragility —as we have heard during the passage of this Bill. By all means collect and publish data every year and have the first review in 2021 or 2022, but the major review proposed in Clause 17 should not take place more often than once every five years. As my noble friend Lord Hodgson said in a fine and wide-ranging speech, frequent reports would also lose their impact.

Photo of The Earl of Kinnoull The Earl of Kinnoull Chair, European Union Committee, Principal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Chair, European Union Committee

I call the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon. No? We will move on. I call the noble Baroness, Lady Chisholm of Owlpen.

Photo of Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen Conservative

My Lords, I will speak briefly on the amendments dealing with the timings of the first report and subsequent reports on food security to be laid by the Secretary of State. It is vital that there are regular reports. Otherwise, of course, there is no proof that the obligations for farmers and horticulturalists have been carried out and had the desired effect, but a report is as good only as the data it collects.

As my noble friend Lord Hodgson mentioned, it should be an event. This is particularly relevant when it comes to farming. A report must be able to observe long-term trends, which will enable future policy development to be of the best. Agriculture and horticulture are areas in which many of the trends are slow moving, with little noticeable year-on-year change.

A report in the first year would arguably be of little use, and it is worth noting that many data services on food security publish annually—for instance, on the resilience of the UK supply, and on food safety and consumer confidence. These are only two of a long list that report annually.

In conclusion, it is vital that, along with the existing annual reports, there is a report that has time to look at the long-term trends. No report is worth the paper it is written on unless there has been enough time for in-depth analysis.

Photo of Viscount Trenchard Viscount Trenchard Conservative

My Lords, I was most grateful to my noble friend Lord Northbrook for his kind words of thanks for my support for his amendment in an earlier group. However, I fear I must disappoint him this time with his Amendment 165.

I worry that the inclusion in the Bill of onerous food security obligations on the Secretary of State might be counterproductive, because it is not clear whether the Government favour food sourced from domestic production or are even-handed between imported and domestic food. To report in detail more often than once every five years would be unnecessary. I therefore oppose most of the amendments in this group, especially Amendment 166 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, Amendment 167 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, and Amendments 168 and 173.

A requirement for food security targets, as envisaged by Amendment 171 in the name of my noble friend Lady McIntosh, might arouse suspicion among our trading partners just as we seek to strike comprehensive free trade agreements with several of them. I suggest that improved diet and increased diversity of foods, including those imported from overseas, has contributed greatly to food security and household food security in the years since the Second World War and has much reduced the percentage of the household budget that the less well-off spend on food.

Rather than national food plans and national food strategies, the Government should ensure that, in future, our food markets will be free of the distortions that exist today as a result of our membership of the common agricultural policy. Amendment 173 provides for public procurement to promote the purchase of domestically produced food, which many might think a laudable objective. However, as noble Lords are no doubt aware, campaigns to buy British are usually at arm’s length from government because they fall foul of WTO rules. This amendment could leave the Government exposed to challenge, as I am sure the Minister is well aware.

If we are to have regular reporting on food security every five years, as envisaged by the Bill, I have some sympathy with Amendment 169, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, which should assist in the reduction of food waste from the current unacceptable levels, and with part of Amendment 172 in the name of my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, except for that part suggesting that the Government could control the amount of food imported compared with domestic production.

Photo of Lord Cameron of Dillington Lord Cameron of Dillington Crossbench

My Lords, I would like to speak briefly to Amendment 162 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. I totally support the words of the noble Lord, Lord Curry, and I too congratulate the Government for introducing Clause 17 into the Bill.

The excellent thing about Clause 17 is its comprehensive approach. Looking at subsection (2), the relevant factors in these reports—as noted by others—would have to cover a wide range of areas. To name but a few, they would have to report on: our population, its distribution and its nutritional needs; changing tastes and markets; the success or otherwise of a food waste strategy; the percentage of our food that comes from our own diminishing farmland; and port facilities, logistics infrastructure and the cost of transport.

Externally, they would also have to report on: the world political map with regard to food production and consumption; world political stability, for all sorts of reasons, including transport; and now, of course, the world health outlook. There will be other matters to be examined, but that gives you a taste of the breadth of the subject.

As the noble Lord, Lord Curry, said, this will inevitably involve a small team of people at Defra permanently trawling for the relevant up-to-date information across this wide landscape, and this small team cannot just be convened every now and again. We have seen this year how quickly a situation can arise. The department needs to have its finger on the pulse, so if this team is permanently doing the work, and hopefully informing Ministers on a regular basis, why not have done with it and produce a report on an annual, or at the very least biennial, basis? Whether this report needs to be laid formally before Parliament is another matter. Personally, I would support an annual basis, as in Amendment 162.

Photo of The Earl of Dundee The Earl of Dundee Conservative

My Lords, I agree with Amendment 170, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hain, which calls for United Kingdom food security reports properly to reflect the necessary link between food provision, diet and the environment. Amendment 169, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and others, points out that such reports ought to assess not just food supply but how much of it is wasted—a point made by my noble friend Lord Trenchard. Clearly, these reports must also be closely connected to targets and actions, as additionally emphasised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and others. Along with the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, I am also in favour of her Amendment 62, which would require the Government to produce their report on food security annually, rather than every five years, as in the Bill.

Photo of The Earl of Lindsay The Earl of Lindsay Conservative

My Lords, I welcome the amendments in this group that propose that the required reporting cycle should be more frequent than at least every five years. A more frequent reporting cycle will give the Government and others a quicker and clearer understanding of the issues and emerging trends, a point well made by the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle. At Second Reading, I also said that a more comprehensive understanding of the realities would be gained from reporting if it included reference to emissions, climate change impact and supply chain sustainability. I therefore welcome the spirit of Amendments 163 and 172, in the name of my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. Their exact detail may differ from what I was proposing, but they would broaden the scope and context of the reporting in a not dissimilar direction, as well as encouraging the Government to detail any proposed changes to policy.

Finally, while declaring my interests as a Scottish farmer, I note that certain amendments in the group, notably Amendment 164, seek to ensure liaison, co-ordination or collaboration with the devolved Administrations. This should be seen as an important objective, both in Clause 17 and elsewhere in the Bill.

Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Labour

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to say a few brief words in support of what I think is the key amendment, Amendment 173. We need a national food plan. We heard very strategic speeches from my noble friend Lord Hain and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and other members of his committee, but it has to be a national plan. I say to the Minister that something like this new clause will be in the Bill, and it would be better if it were done with the Government’s agreement.

We in the UK are going to be alone once the transition period has ended, and we need to build our alliances. We can never be self-sufficient: our geography and climate do not allow it, nor does the shape of our country. We will always be food importers. I am in favour, as I have said before, of using as much of our land as possible to grow our own food, and it may not always be land that is open to the sky. It is not a nanny state approach; it requires a national plan. It simply cannot be left to market forces. Market forces have left us with between 2 million and 5 million people without enough food to eat.

Before Covid-19, I think that the general estimate was that about 40% of household meals were eaten outside the home. All that might change, but that 40% is pretty crucial, because the portions are not controlled by those who eat; they are controlled by the food business. As I said in a previous debate—a week ago, I think—portion control science within the food industry is very precise. It is designed to be obesogenic and to make us eat more. Therefore, there is an issue here that has to be dealt with and it is covered in the proposed new clause.

I want to raise two other issues. One is public procurement, which is easier said than done. I tried it when I went to MAFF in 1997 and it was raised again when I was at Defra in 2006. Defence, prisons, the NHS and schools all have devolved budgets. We are all told by the managers, “You’re responsible for your budget”. Trying to get central public procurement—which, by the way, I thoroughly agree with—is an aim that we should have now as part of a national plan, but it is a lot easier said than done.

My final point concerns the crucial issue contained in subsection (2)(c) of the proposed new clause: amending requirements for food labelling to include the country of origin and method of production, particularly for animal-based foods. That is fundamental to preserving the UK system and I think that it will be fundamental for the public. The idea that we could start importing foods from a country with which we have done a trade deal that are not labelled with the country of origin is, frankly, outrageous, and I do not think that Parliament would allow it.

Photo of The Duke of Montrose The Duke of Montrose Conservative 10:00 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, who of course has more knowledge about the UK’s food situation than most of us can ever hope to have.

I come from a background of rearing livestock, which is at one end of the food chain. We have heard this evening from people who have concerns about food all down the chain as far as the question of waste food. It is good that we have had so many contributions from those who sat on the recent committee that produced the Hungry for Change report, and particularly good that we have heard from its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, who speaks with great authority on these matters.

I add my support for Amendment 161, in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Devon. Many of us would like to see the question of a review of food security addressed as soon as possible but, given the scale of the changes that have been wished on agricultural production, anything that is laid down at this point can only be very sketchy. I think that a duty to report every three years is a realistic target; rather as my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts said, it tends to have a bit more impact than a simple annual review.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Curry, I congratulate my noble friend the Minister and the Government on including a chapter on this subject in the Bill. For the past 40 years, our agricultural policy has been able to ignore this question, as from the start it has been the kernel of the common agricultural policy and that is what we have followed. Now we have to set our own parameters.

Many who have spoken have mentioned the many reports on this topic. I would like to mention where our food security stands at the moment, as calculated in an annual report, the Global Food Security Index, produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit. In 2019, it awarded the UK a ranking of 32nd in a study of 113 countries. Even so, that puts us at the tail end of most other European countries. Those leading the index are the Republic of Ireland and the United States. Perhaps we should heed that our rating was already dropping from the previous year.

The concern now for the industry is whether this new support mechanism will see us land up by trailing even further than that present estimate. If any review of food security is to have meaning at a practical level, it will also have to be broken down into categories of the main commodities. I ask my noble friend the Minister: will the Government give us some idea of where they intend to turn at the start of this process?

Photo of Baroness Scott of Needham Market Baroness Scott of Needham Market Liberal Democrat

My Lords, this has been a fascinating and wide-ranging debate. I absolutely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, that this is probably the most important set of amendments to the Bill.

Certainly from the public’s point of view, whether it is national food security or household security, there is nothing more important to people than keeping food on the table. We have always left the provision of food to the private sector to manage and it has ensured a supply of food very well, even during the early days of the pandemic when things were challenging, as the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe, said. However, we are also all aware that its efficiency has come at a price —a price to the environment and to the viability of farms.

Household food insecurity is clearly a growing problem. For many of us it really is a stain on any claim to be a civilised country when a growing number of people are simply unable to eat. Many noble Lords have raised that point.

When the Minister summed up at Second Reading, he said:

“However, in our view food is a private good; it is bought and sold”.—[Official Report, 10/6/20; col. 1830.]

I am sure he has got the message clearly from the last couple of hours that many in your Lordships’ House would challenge that view, and clearly believe that the Government should have an overall food plan in the same way that they have strategies and plans for energy and transport, for example. As drafted, the clause nods in that direction but for many of us it does not go far enough. These amendments begin to move the Government in that direction.

I fear that what is proposed in the Bill is essentially an historic, backward-looking document. A five-yearly report has some uses but there is a real missed opportunity to do much more. More regular reporting would help to spot trends and potential problems sooner, as the noble Lord, Lord Curry, pointed out, so whether the parliamentary scrutiny is on a three-year or an annual basis, as set out, there are merits in thinking about doing this more often.

The value of the good co-operation between central and devolved Administrations was a theme picked out by many noble Lords, and is of course very sensible. I was particularly struck by the strategic context put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, about the potential dislocations between the devolved Administrations and England.

The key amendments are Amendment 163 and Amendments 171 to 173. They would begin to turn this document into a genuine strategic plan, which can ensure for us a secure supply of affordable food that does not trash the planet. These points were made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jones and Lady McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs.

Amendment 169 raises the important question of food waste, which is a significant environmental issue as well as a social wrong and a financial burden. Food waste on farms is largely driven by supermarket contracts and, as I proposed in earlier amendments, it should be dealt with under the groceries code. My noble friend Lady Parminter was quite right to emphasise the importance of good data. The 2014 EU sub-committee inquiry into food waste, which I chaired, found unequivocally that organisations which start to measure food waste start to do something about it. The noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, made that point about hunger: if you measure it, you act on it.

Several amendments in this group all seek to turn this historic document into something of real value to the public, to farmers and growers, to the food production sector and to retailers. This would require thinking right across government, whether about the health of the nation, trade policy, migration levels or levels of benefits and the national living wage. I have a lot of sympathy with this idea of the need for an independent body on the lines of the Committee on Climate Change, and I hope we can consider that further on Report.

I would urge the Government to consider very carefully what has been said by noble Lords today. I am sure that the Minister has understood the strength of feeling on this issue expressed in the Committee, and I look forward to his reply.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for what in many respects has been a heartfelt debate. References to words like “important” set the tone in which your Lordships have spoken. I am very mindful of your Lordships’ recent report Hungry for Change. In that context, I understand all the sentiments that have been expressed.

In thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for her amendment and for speaking to Amendments 161 and 162, I should say that it is this Government who have brought forward the food security provision. I am grateful to my noble friend the Duke of Montrose and others for at least saying that the Government have brought this forward. Having heard some of the commentary of noble Lords, I could wonder if that had ever been the case.

As I have previously stated, the food security report will be a significant body of work that will use a set of core measurements and indicators for each of the key topic areas. It will go beyond what food security data we currently publish. This will allow consideration of the trends, many of which are slow-moving and do not change significantly year on year over a longer period. Taking a holistic approach, we will consider food security in its complete form, from the global availability of food to UK availability and access. We will use data drawn from a blend of national and international data sources, including UK national statistics as well as data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The requirement to report within at least a five-year period allows time to observe key trends from a variety of sources. This would not be possible over a significantly shorter period. While we are committing to reporting within at least a five-year frequency, we consider this a maximum period. When we are able to publish the first report will depend upon a range of factors, including the availability of statistical data. Of course, we certainly will not wait for the end of the five-year period to publish the first report, which will include analysis of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some of the datasets that will be considered in the food security report are published and made publicly available annually; certain noble Lords know very well that all this data is reported annually. Defra officials routinely track these reports to spot any unexpected or significant changes. For example, the excellent Agriculture in the United Kingdom statistics that Defra publishes alongside departments in the devolved Administrations come out annually, as do the world food production and calorie statistics produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The Government intend that the report will consider these and less frequently produced data to provide deeper analysis to help us identify longer-term trends to support the development of policy for the future—a point remarked upon by my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe, with her unparalleled experience of the food industry, and indeed by my noble friend Lady Chisholm in her important contribution.

I turn now to Amendment 171. Our food security depends on supply from diverse sources. According to newly available statistics published on 26 June this year, we produce 64% of our entire food supply need and that figure rises to 77% for food that we can grow or rear here in the United Kingdom for all or part of the year. My noble friend Lord Caithness emphasised the important point that we also have access to a diverse range of supply through international trade, partly for consumer choice and to supplement domestic production but also to ensure that any disruption from risks to our domestic production, such as adverse weather or disease, does not affect the UK’s overall security of supply. It is this important balance that has helped us ensure that our food supply has remained resilient against a range of risks and hazards. The response by the food sector to the current coronavirus pandemic, from our farmers through to retailers and distributors, has shown the resilience of the UK food supply chains. I take this opportunity once again to recognise the supreme efforts of all in the food industry.

A number of amendments address the matters that should be considered in reports produced under Clause 17. Clause 17 has deliberately been kept wide in scope, as there will be many data sources to draw upon and there may well be many more in the future.

On Amendment 169, I can say to the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, and put on record that food waste will be addressed in the report. There are about 4.5 million tonnes wasted annually; this is simply unacceptable and work must be progressed to ensure that we bear down on all fronts on that food waste. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that if we can conquer food waste, there will be further availability of food, was very potent.

On Amendment 168, I say to the noble Baroness that the food security report will already cover, under paragraph (b), UK availability and access to food, the capability of UK agricultural production of crops and land-based products, as well as livestock and fisheries produce.

On Amendment 165, I note that food security is, as I think we all understand, a complex issue that cannot be entirely defined with very specific indicators. Clause 17 is intended to provide the flexibility and scope for the report to cover new and emerging themes if necessary—in addition to or, if appropriate, in place of those listed.

On Amendments 163 and 172, I will reread what my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts said; I thought it was an important speech. I assure my noble friend that this analysis will consider data relating to global population growth, land use and water, among a wide range of other subjects. We will also draw on the latest national data sources, including statistics measuring UK availability and access to food.

I also endorse my noble friend’s point about this report needing to be a very important event. Candidly, I think an annual report—when there is so much that is already reported annually—does not get the point of what this substantial piece of work is intended to be. The purpose of the report is to provide insights into, and a detailed analysis of, that data. The timeframe under consideration will vary depending on the nature of the theme; however, it will generally take a 10-year forward look. It is therefore far more than just an exercise to collate and publish statistics.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, that it is our intention that the report will inform future discussions and debate to shape future policy on UK food security to ensure that key challenges are met.

On Amendments 166 and 170, we are planning to include in the food security report a theme on global food security and how that affects food security in the UK. This will include consideration of the food system and the sustainability of our global resources. In producing the report, we will set out a wide range of statistics relating to food security in the UK, from global UN data to UK national statistics. When considering global food security, we would expect to consider, among many other things, global output per capita, cereal yield per region, country consumption data and country commodity trade proportions.

Henry Dimbleby, Defra’s lead non-executive director, is already leading an independent review of the food system—many of your Lordships have referred to this in this debate and others—to develop recommendations to shape a national food strategy. This will address the challenges of supporting people to eat healthy diets and reduce food waste, producing food sustainably and protecting national food security, while also looking at related issues such as the price of food and trade.

Turning to Amendments 164 and 167, Defra officials work very closely with their colleagues in the devolved Administrations on all matters relating to food security. I place on record, particularly for the noble Lord, Lord Hain, but also for the noble Baroness, Lady Humphreys, that we will be engaging fully with the devolved Administrations and a wide range of interested parties across the United Kingdom, in government, industry and academia, to produce the report. Nearly all the datasets used in producing the food security report are published at UK level, and breakdowns at devolved Administration or regional level will not be possible.

The report will inform wider discussion and debate about UK food security across government and with other stakeholders. We already have well-established fora through which we work on such matters and, I emphasise, share data with the devolved Administrations and other stakeholders. To introduce a more formal requirement would, in our view, not be necessary—it already happens. The Government intend to include household food security among the themes covered in the report under subsection (2)(d) and will of course consider it, with other themes in the report, with the devolved Administrations.

On Amendment 173, I noted earlier that Henry Dimbleby is already leading an independent review of the food system to develop recommendations for a national food strategy. Timing, I am afraid, I cannot organise; this work is already well in train. It is a hugely important area and I very much look forward to the recommendations.

While Defra has lead government department responsibility for food, many other departments across government have a very strong interest in it. The independent review team is engaging across Whitehall, as well as with partners across the whole food system, from farmers to consumers, to develop their recommendations. While the geographical scope of the strategy will cover England, the independent review team is also working closely with the devolved Administrations.

The Government will respond formally to the independent review’s recommendations in the form of a White Paper within six months of the release of the final report. We have commissioned very important work on a national food strategy, and our position is that we want to see what its recommendations are. We will be bringing forward a White Paper.

This is an area of considerable importance to the health and well-being of every person who lives in this country, and I hope that the noble Baroness, and all noble Lords, will accept the bona fides of the Government in putting Clause 17 in the Bill, and the reasons why this report needs to be substantial. I can provide every annual statistic on this matter that any noble Lord might wish to have. The point about this report and its seriousness, however, is that it must be done in depth and it must cover very considerable areas across the world. Those statistics may not necessarily be available every year. I emphasise that if noble Lords want a quick fix, I can give them every bit of annual data that exists—and it is very considerable—but a report of this depth and importance needs to be well considered. I hope I have not overstretched the Committee’s patience in emphasising how substantial this work must be. For the reasons I have given, I very much hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment on this occasion.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 10:15 pm, 21st July 2020

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken this evening. We have had a very well-informed, thoughtful and wise debate on these issues. I also thank the Minister for his, as ever, detailed and thorough response to the amendments. We welcome the inclusion of Clause 17, but it has some of the hallmarks of something added at a late stage. The more you start to put things of that kind in a Bill, the more questions you raise than answer. The Minister was at great pains to list everything that would be included in the food security report, but more of those need to be spelled out in the Bill. All the contributions from noble Lords about needing a more comprehensive plan, with tighter targets and more regular reporting systems, were well made. I ask the Minister to reflect on those issues and on whether more of them can be put in the Bill.

A number of noble Lords raised concerns about the devolved nations and disparities in food growing and food poverty around the different nations, with the complexities of an internal market for food developing within the UK. Without going into detail on that, I recommend our Amendment 290, which is in one of the groups we may get to this evening and proposes setting up an agricultural co-ordination council. This would not only provide a framework for the devolved nations to discuss agriculture but bring together issues around food production. It is a valid point that I hope we will address in that later group. I agree with all the noble Lords who talked about food insecurity, in particular household food insecurity and food poverty—they should be part of food security reporting.

Finally, I pick up and reiterate our arguments for a national food plan. As I said when I introduced it, our amendment was drafted before the Lords report, but I recommend the report to noble Lords and particularly to the Minister. Some of its key recommendations could form the framework for a national food plan in the Bill. We have talked about the Dimbleby report, and I know that interweaving the timing of all this is not ideal, but the Government have accepted that there should be a national food strategy. We would like to see a requirement for this in the Bill, backed up by the detail of the plan and the recommendations in the Lords report.

I genuinely hope that the Minister will reflect on that aspect of this debate, because something like this will probably come back. It was perhaps my noble friend Lord Rooker who made the point that, if the Government do not do it, it will happen anyway. I hope that the Government will take the lead in co-ordinating that, perhaps talking to the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, and others involved in the committee about how their recommendations could best be brought forward in the Bill. I am sure people will co-operate with the Minister, but this cannot be left as it is. Time is moving on and I am sure that people do not want me to talk any more, but it is not the end of this issue. For the time being, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 160 withdrawn.

Amendments 161 to 172 not moved.

Clause 17 agreed.

Amendment 173 not moved.

Photo of Lord Russell of Liverpool Lord Russell of Liverpool Deputy Chairman of Committees 10:30 pm, 21st July 2020

We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 174. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate. Anyone wishing to press this or any other amendment in this group to a Division should make that clear in debate. I should inform the Committee that if Amendment 174 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment 175.

Clause 18: Declaration relating to exceptional market conditions