On 21st July House of Lords debated amendments to the Government’s Agriculture Bill, during its Committee stage. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, spoke to amendments on maintaining food security during he movement to the new farm payments scheme.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I will say a few words about the transition period and, in particular, in support of Amendments 150 to 154 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Rock, which have the support of the National Farmers Union and the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, among others.
On 14th July the House of Lords considered the Government’s Agriculture Bill in Committee. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, spoke in the debate on amendments focusing on food security.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I support a number of amendments in this group, in particular those that touch on food security, such as Amendments 35 and 60. Food security is crucial, both for our protection and for the flourishing and survival of any nation. History teaches us that food shortages have always occurred. They are often caused by many different factors and occur at an alarming rate. One of the earliest historical examples of this is found in the Hebrew scriptures, in Genesis chapters 41 and 42, where we read of Jacob storing up grain in Egypt ready for the seven years of famine. Not only did his actions save the lives of many, but underlying this narrative is the message that food is also about political power:
“And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.”
On 7th July Lord Lilley asked Her Majesty’s Government “what advice they give to British travellers to the United States of America on the risks of eating (1) chicken which has been subject to a pathogen reduction treatment, and (2) hormone-fed beef.” The Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle, asked a follow up question focusing on the use of antibiotics amongst beef farmers in the United States.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, I am grateful for what the Minister just said. Can he tell us whether Her Majesty’s Government have conducted any assessment of antibiotic use among beef farmers in the United States? If so, what might be the potential implications for public health of beef imports following any future trade deal?
On 10th June the House of Lords debated the Agriculture Bill. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, spoke in the Second Reading debate, and highlighting issues around food security and environmental land management.
The Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I am pleased that the long-anticipated Agriculture Bill has finally arrived in your Lordships’ House. There are many good and laudable parts of the Bill, not least the fair trading provisions for farmers and concerns for the environment and wildlife.
On 2nd June the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Gardiner of Kimble that the “Virtual Proceedings do consider the Direct Payments to Farmers (Crop Diversification Derogation) (England) Regulations 2020”. The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate, andhighlighted issues with crop diversity.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, British agriculture needs all the help it can get at this moment, so this legislation is most welcome. I congratulate Her Majesty’s Government on their flexibility in responding to this need. As the National Farmers Union said earlier this year, farmers
“have found it virtually impossible to have one crop in the ground, let alone three. Without a derogation they would have been forced down the bureaucratic ‘force majeure’ route that would require case by case assessments.”
On 18th May 2020 a virtual sitting of the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Sugg, “That the Virtual Proceedings do consider the international response to COVID-19.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, and the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, thankfully, the virus appears to be spreading slowly in most African countries, with Lesotho declaring its first case only last week. However, the World Bank forecasts that Covid-19 could push 49 million people into extreme poverty. The economic impact on some poorer nations could be more detrimental than the health threat. The aid Her Majesty’s Government committed at the international pledging event will be vital for the poorest nations, but our international response must be sustainable, which requires trade, not simply aid. What actions have Her Majesty’s Government taken to ensure that good free trade agreements are made with poorer nations?
On 13th May, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, received a written answer from Lord Bethell on the procurement of dairy products for the NHS.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL3809To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the percentage of dairy bought by the NHS in England in each of the last 12 months that was produced by UK dairy farmers.
On 28th April 2020 during the online sitting of the House of Lords, the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a question he had tabled to Government on dairy prices. The response, and the follow-up questions from other Members are below. The session was interrupted by technological problems, which prevented the Minister from joining to give the initial reply.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of changing dairy prices on farmers.
The Question was considered in a Virtual Proceeding via video call.
The Lord Speaker (Lord Fowler): The Minister, Lord Gardiner of Kimble. Lord Gardiner? We have no Minister. Is the Whip able to answer this Question?
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op): Perhaps the Whip can explain why there is no Minister.
Lord Ashton of Hyde (Con): I will come in, as the Chief Whip. I am very sorry, but the answer is that I have no idea why my noble friend Lord Gardiner is unavailable. I apologise to the House. Something technical has obviously gone wrong, and I can only ask your Lordships’ forgiveness on this occasion. There will be a thorough inquiry into this, and I apologise to the House.
The Lord Speaker: Thank you, Chief Whip. Can you stay on the line and at least field the questions that will come? The right reverend Prelate needs to ask his supplementary.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: Thank you very much. I cannot thank the Minister for his Answer because he has not given me one, but he will be aware that some dairy producers are unable to change contracts and are finding it extraordinarily difficult to access business support grants. What changes have Her Majesty’s Government made in the past month to cut red tape and save some of our dairy farmers who are going bankrupt?