Reports on impact on consumers

Part of Agriculture Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:00 pm on 15th November 2018.

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Photo of George Eustice George Eustice The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:00 pm, 15th November 2018

The hon. Gentleman highlights some important issues with the new clause but, as with new clause 8, I want to take this opportunity to explain to him the number of reports that we already produce. As I said earlier, DEFRA loves reports, and already collects a significant amount of information that is relevant to the availability of food and agricultural products.

For instance, our “Agriculture in the United Kingdom” report covers details of production volumes, production-to-supply ratios, and the origins of domestic consumption. The “Food Statistics Pocketbook” covers the economic, social and environmental aspects of the food that we eat; the data specifically track the origins of the food consumed in the UK. Regarding the cost of home-produced agricultural products, our family food survey has been running for over 75 years. It produces annual estimates of purchases by people in the UK and tracks food prices in the UK in real terms, including for products such as dairy, fruit, vegetables and meat. In addition, the FSA runs a survey on people’s food experiences, in particular whether they are finding it difficult to afford food.

Separately, we assess consumer attitudes to British food. For example, when surveyed, 60% of shoppers agree that they try to buy British food whenever they can. Next, we have DEFRA’s UK food security assessment, which is a regular assessment that takes place roughly every four to five years. It also analyses all aspects of food security, including production-to-supply ratios, resilience in the supply chain, affordability issues and consumer confidence.

It would be difficult to measure the specific impact of agriculture policy on the health and welfare of consumers, because many different factors drive people’s health outcomes and their relationship with food. However, other Departments already address that area. For instance, we already report on the overall health and welfare of consumers through Public Health England’s national diet and nutrition survey and the reports of its Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition. There is a plethora of existing reports, published predominantly by DEFRA but also by Public Health England, addressing all of the issues identified in the proposed new clause.

However, I understand that the sentiment underlying the proposed new clause, and the reports that the hon. Member for Stroud is requesting, is that there is not enough about food in the Bill. We have heard representations of a similar nature from Conservative Members, and as the hon. Gentleman pointed out, similar representations were also made on Second Reading. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we are giving a bit of thought to how we might address that concern during later stages of the Bill. I am sure that hon. Members who feel that there is not enough about food in the Bill—even though, as I have stated many times, I disagree—will welcome the fact that we have taken note of some of the points that have been raised.