On 15th 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:
improve food security and access to food that promotes good health and wellbeing,
require Government to set out detailed spending plans,
delay the start of the transition away from direct farm payments from 2021 to 2022.
The amendments were not put to a vote but withdrawn after debate.
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 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 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 14th May 2020 a virtual sitting of the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Boycott, “That the Virtual Proceedings do consider food supply and security in the United Kingdom in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for this debate and I declare my interest as president of the Rural Coalition. It is often said that the primary duty of government is the defence of the realm: equally important is the need to feed the population. When a crisis hits, we can survive for a considerable time without importing computers and machinery, but without food we last only a few weeks. Fortunately, during this pandemic the food chain has held up relatively well, although a number of shortages in the early days of the lockdown acted as a salutary warning. Within days of the lockdown, many of our churches here in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire had set up food banks or parish pantries, not just in poorer areas such as Stevenage or Farley Hill, but in wealthier villages such as Flamstead and Ponsbourne. Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans calls for more support for farmers, who provide essential public service”
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?
On 27th January the Bishop of St Albans , Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a question he had tabled to Government on food production and self-sufficiency. The exchanges are below, including from Peers asking their own follow-up questions:
Agriculture Bill: Food Production
The Lord Bishop of St Albans
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether food production is included in the definition of “public good” contained in the Agriculture Bill.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Gardiner of Kimble) (Con): My Lords, I declare my farming interests, as set out in the register. The Agriculture Bill includes powers to give financial assistance to farmers based on public money for public goods. These are goods and services not provided by the market. Clause 1(4) states:
“In framing any financial assistance scheme, the Secretary of State must have regard to the need to encourage the production of food by producers in England and its production by them in an environmentally sustainable way.”
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. A prime duty of government is to ensure that there is enough food to feed the population. Yet one has only to think about the impact of things such as coronavirus, and the immediate ban on the movement of live animals, to show how vulnerable we are, not least when this country is only 60% self-sufficient in food. Will the Minister assure the House that the Agriculture Bill will maximise the level of food production and food security for the country’s future? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about food security and self-sufficiency”
On 12th February 2019 Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb asked the Government “what plans they have to achieve net zero carbon emissions in farming.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, one point that the NFU made is that our wonderful British beef farmers are already two and a half times more efficient than the world average and four times more efficient compared with the beef from South America, so surely one of the most important things that Her Majesty’s Government could do is to put their weight behind British beef farming. What plans do they have for that sector post Brexit? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government about plans for beef farming sector after Brexit”