Agriculture Bill: Bishop of St Albans proposes amendments on food security

On 17th September 2020 the House of Lords considered amendments to the Government’s Agriculture Bill at its Report Stage. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, sponsored and spoke in favour of amendments to Government to set targets on food security and report more frequently to Parliament on the issue.

  The amendments were not put to a vote but withdrawn after debate.

BARONESS MCINTOSH OF PICKERING

BARONESS RITCHIE OF DOWNPATRICK

BARONESS BOYCOTT

THE LORD BISHOP OF ST ALBANS

52) Page 14, line 20, leave out “five years” and insert “year”

Member’s explanatory statement: This amendment will require the Government to produce its report on food security annually rather than every five years as currently set out within the Bill.


THE LORD BISHOP OF ST ALBANS

BARONESS MCINTOSH OF PICKERING

57) Page 14, line 32, at end insert—

“( ) As part of the report, the Secretary of State must set out food security targets and specify any necessary actions required to ensure those targets are met.

( ) The Secretary of State must implement any necessary actions required to ensure the food security targets set out in the report are met.”

Member’s explanatory statement: This amendment will require the Government to specify food security targets and implement actions to ensure that those targets are met.


The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, I shall speak briefly to Amendment 52 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, and then to Amendment 57 tabled in my name. I am grateful for the way in which the Minister has listened closely to the House and brought forward amendments. This is immensely helpful. On Tuesday, several noble Lords rehearsed the reasons we need the highest levels of food security possible, and I will not repeat those arguments now. Although I agree that this is a difficult call, my personal view is that annual reporting would be preferable. Nevertheless, I shall listen carefully to the arguments as they are made.

On Amendment 57, while I welcome the Government’s commitment to produce a regular report on food security, it is vital that this is a means by which Her Majesty’s Government can express their policy targets and mechanisms to address any issues in this area. Currently, the provisions in the Bill envisage a fairly static output that merely reports on the current food security situation rather than a more dynamic report which seeks to set out an agenda for change where change is required. There is little point in the Government merely producing a report of which Parliament is required to take note; we need a platform for evaluation, repurposing and, of course, to inform 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 policies for addressing those shortcomings.

This amendment would provide the necessary architecture for the Government to take the matter forward and ensure responsibly that the UK is adequately prepared for any future uncertainties. It would be a failure if, having taken the time to consider the importance of having a food security report, we do not also ensure that it is used to inform changes in policy and procedures. A statutory requirement for Her Majesty’s Government is needed to address these issues and it needs to be included in this Bill.