Health Improvement and Food Production - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 7 July 2022.

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Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Co-Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat Peers 5:30, 7 July 2022

My Lords, I thank the Minister and everybody who has taken part in this small but perfectly formed debate. It has been cross-departmental, which is why I asked Defra to send the Minister some notes. If the Defra Minister had been responding, I think the noble Lord would have had to send him some notes, and vice versa. It was quite a difficult challenge for the Minister to have such a cross-departmental topic.

I am very grateful to noble Lords who elaborated things that I had time to mention only briefly in my initial remarks. In fact, some mentioned things that I did not have time to mention at all. I am grateful that the Minister mentioned the link between mental health and being overweight, and the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, mentioned the difficulties of the Procurement Bill and the possible contradiction between that Bill and the Health and Care Act. None of us had the chance to talk about the importance of teaching children to cook, for example, but I am so grateful that everybody mentioned food and health inequality, because it is a very big issue. Although the Government are doing some things to help address that, I think most contributors to today’s debate have suggested more things that we would like to have seen them do.

I want to take the Minister up on one point: he said that there appears to have been some sort of opposition to importing food. In fact, I think both the noble Baroness, Lady Merron, and I acknowledged the fact that we are not self-sufficient in food and are not going to be. What is important is that, first, we make sure that the standard of food that comes in is what the public expect and, secondly, as even the Government are now saying, in order for our food system to be resilient we need to produce as much as possible in this country in a sustainable way, while acknowledging all the other things that farmers have to do.

The noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, talked about happiness, and I could not agree with him more. My noble friend Lady Brinton talked about the socialisation of food, and somebody mentioned that the slower you eat, the less you probably eat, and that you relax while you do it and it does you good. I certainly agree on that point, but I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kirkham, that anybody is trying to lecture people. What people are trying to do is to help and encourage others, to make recommendations and to make good food accessible to everybody in the country. Of course, that is what the Government are trying to do, but we would like to see more. Henry Dimbleby was certainly not lecturing anybody; he based his recommendations on the science and good advice from experts. We should all listen to what he had to say.

I was a bit concerned about what my noble friend Lady Brinton said about the danger of reducing the quality of school meals, and I hope the Minister will keep an eye on that as the price of food increases. We do not want to see that, because I know that the Government are trying to get good food directly to children.

With those few words, I thank everybody who has taken part. I know more people would have liked to speak, but the time of day and day of the week meant that some of the great experts on this topic in the House were not able to join us—and we miss them, of course.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 5.35 pm.