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National Food Strategy: Government Response

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 28 October 2021

The food strategy will be published early next year. It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to set out how we can create the food system that we want. It will identify ways to make our food healthier, more sustainable and, I hope, more accessible.

In April, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s report on “Covid-19 and the issues of security in food supply” said that the Government should consult on a legal right to food and address that in their White Paper responding to the national food strategy, which was published in July. In the light of the horrific rise of food poverty in all our communities, with kids going hungry, as highlighted on Monday night in a harrowing “Dispatches” programme, will the Minister meet me to discuss the upcoming White Paper and the right to food?

I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman, as I have many times to discuss the important issue of food poverty. I take the opportunity to commend him for his work with Fans Supporting Foodbanks, which is a great initiative. I thank all those involved.

When people think of great British cheese, they think of Stilton, which was invented in my constituency. In the national food strategy, there are concerns that we will be forced to change that amazing national recipe to reduce the salt content. Will the Minister meet me to discuss that vital issue and my campaign to open a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs office in the rural capital of food, Melton Mowbray?

I believe I am meeting my hon. Friend to discuss stilton and other important cheeses this afternoon.

The national food strategy is a weighty tome, but Henry Dimbleby, who the Government commissioned to write it, is not a happy man. Last week, following the New Zealand trade deal, he told the Soil Association conference that,

“the Government has clearly rejected my advice.”

He also said:

“There is no point in creating a food and farming system here that looks after animals, sequesters carbon, and supports biodiversity, if overseas products on our shelves don’t do the same.”

I suspect that virtually everyone in the Chamber agrees with that—the Opposition certainly do. Can the Minister tell us her view and the Government’s view?

The hon. Gentleman will be glad to hear that my view and the Government’s view are entirely aligned. Henry Dimbleby’s report was a useful step in the development of the Government’s food strategy and we are grateful to him for the enormous amount of work that he put into it. As I said earlier, we will respond as a Government probably in the middle of January, which will be six months after the report was published. That is what we always said the timescale would be. There is a lot of work to do and it is a really important piece of work. It is genuinely a once-in-a-generation chance to try to put our food strategy on the right track for the future. I cannot give Members any spoilers now.