On 22nd 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, spoke in favour of an amendment he had co-sponsored, to extend the mandate and lifespan of the Trade and Agriculture Commission, to safeguard food and farming standards. The amendment was put to a vote and was passed by the House.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans [V]: My Lords, I too will speak on Amendment 101, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Curry of Kirkharle, to which I have added my name. The previous three speakers have more than adequately spelled out why it makes a great deal of sense, so I can limit my comments.
The Government, through the joint letter from the Environment Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Trade, have assured us that standards will not be compromised as part of trade negotiations. Furthermore, I am reassured by the breadth of experience among the agri-food trade advisory group. However, welcome though these developments are, fundamentally they lack the legally binding requirement that properly guarantees that Parliament will have recourse to ensuring that our standards are not diluted. Continue reading “Agriculture Bill: Bishop of St Albans supports successful amendment on food standards”
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The amendments were not put to a vote but withdrawn after debate.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 6th June Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb asked Her Majesty’s Government “what assessment they have made of the likelihood of an increase in COVID-19 infections as a result of lifting the restrictions in place to address the pandemic.“ The Rt Revd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle, asked a follow up question focusing onCovid-19 outbreaks in meat-processing plants and abattoirs.
The Lord Bishop of Carlisle: My Lords, given the incidence of outbreaks of this virus in meat-processing plants and abattoirs in a number of countries, including our own, and the fact that many workers at such plants are often poorly paid and belong to ethnic minority communities, and frequently live in accommodation in multiple occupancy, what advice are Her Majesty’s Government giving to the managers of such plants to mitigate the spread of the virus?
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 12th May, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester received a written answer from Baroness Sugg on a question about the World Food Programme in Africa.
Bishop of Winchester:HL3568 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what additional financial support and assistance they are providing the World Food Programme to develop an effective response to the risk of food insecurity in Africa.
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 25th March 2020 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, received a written answer to a question on nutrition:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: HL2452 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what safeguards they have put in place to ensure that protein fermentation products (1) provide good nutritional value, and (2) do not add to existing dietary and food standards concerns.
On 4th February 2020 the Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a question he had tabled to Government on food security and scarcity in areas affected by locusts in East Africa:
East Africa: Locusts
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of (1) food security, and (2) food scarcity, in areas affected by locusts in East Africa.
The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Sugg) (Con): My Lords, we are deeply concerned about the devastating locust outbreak in east Africa. It is destroying crops, livelihoods and essential food supplies. Millions of people already face food insecurity and acute malnutrition caused by humanitarian disasters in the region, and more are displaced by conflict. An outbreak exacerbates these challenges. Anticipatory action is needed to reduce the risks to the upcoming agricultural seasons; UK aid is supporting the UN in controlling the outbreak. We are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to help further.
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. It is perhaps appropriate that a Member on these Benches is raising issues about plagues of locusts, but a humanitarian crisis is unravelling in front of us. In some parts of Ethiopia, 90% of the crops have already gone and 20 million people face no food. Last Thursday, the UN said that we need $76 million now to begin to address the problems. What are Her Majesty’s Government doing to ensure immediate food aid if it is required and, in the longer term, that there is seed for next year’s crops so that people have security?