Bishop of St Albans asks Government about sustainability of UK food supply

Bishop of St AlbansOn 14th September 2015, The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked the Government what plans they have to ensure the sustainability of the United Kingdom’s food supply. He then asked a supplementary question about the provision of financial relief for farmers.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ensure the sustainability of the United Kingdom’s food supply.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): My Lords, I declare my farming interests as set out in the register. Our world-leading food and farming industry is worth £100 billion per year. The Government are developing a long-term plan which will boost productivity, enhancing business resilience across the food chain. Food security depends on access to diverse global markets and, of course, domestic production. Public procurement export plans which lead the way for Great British food producers, clearer labelling and investment in agricultural technologies will all contribute to a sustainable food supply.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I thank the Minister for his reply. Despite the flexibility given us by last week’s emergency EU summit, which related to early payments under the basic payment scheme, there is a real concern that the Rural Payments Agency will not be able to undertake the necessary checks in time to take advantage of that scheme. Bearing in mind that late autumn and early winter is always a drastic time for farmers’ cash flow, there is likely to be a huge problem in the coming year with the collapse in prices, particularly of milk but also of lamb and beef. Will the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what Her Majesty’s Government are doing to ensure that farmers have access to financial assistance and relief, given that they will not get through the winter otherwise?

Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I was at the emergency Agriculture Council last week and spoke on behalf of the United Kingdom. One of the things that we pressed was for the Commission to ensure that some of the checks required on CAP subsidy payments should be removed or changed for this year to enable prompt payment to be made so that there are immediate effects, but, of course, we have a longer-term plan as well.