Secretary of State’s powers to give financial assistance

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 30th October 2018.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:15 pm, 30th October 2018

To start with, I declare an interest: my wife has a stall on Stroud farmers market every fortnight. Please come along to see the wonderful wares that she sells. I had to get that on the record.

This has been an interesting and wide-ranging debate. Clearly, we are not going to come to a meeting of minds, but the issue will come back. I keep reiterating the fact that the White Paper, “Health and Harmony”, and the issue of public health which it identified as a crucial element in the way in which the food chain functions in an Agriculture Bill, are not going to go away. It may be that this is not the time to force a Division. I make that clear, but we make no apology for saying that we will come back on this because it is important that we understand that people out there may not understand the legislative process but they understand what they think should be the elements of what we do for the future of the policy.

I hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East says on the food strategy. It would be helpful if the Government were clear on when it comes forward, as it should be with the environment Bill, because these are interrelated. This is the problem with legislation. We only have one side of the coin, when we need both sides to make sense of the totality of the Government’s approach.

It is important that somehow health is in the Bill and I hope the Minister will reflect on this. Public health matters because what people eat depends entirely on their access to food and its availability and what they can afford. It is also to do with the fact that to some extent we have an influence, through production and distribution.

I hope the Minister has listened to the debate. We will not push the matter to a Division at this time, but it will come back because people feel very strongly about it, whether it concerns food poverty, or purely obesity and diabetes, or the reality of how food is increasingly the reason people’s life expectancy is determined. I understand what the Minister has said and I know there are lots of contingent points in his argument. However, I hope we can extract that and at a future time clarify where public health is in relation to the Bill. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.