Last Thursday in the House of Commons there was a discussion under the headline of Food Security which included Jim McMahon the Labour Shadow Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who took part in discussing matters with Therese Coffey the Government Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The debate took place after 3 MPs raised the same initial questions. The questions were “What recent assessment she has made of the adequacy of the UK’s food security.” and “What steps she is taking to strengthen domestic food security.” and the 3 MPs were 2 Labour MPs, Geraint Davies from Wales and John Spellar from Birmingham and Marco Longhi a Conservative MP from the West Midlands. The initial response to those 3 questions from Therese Coffey was
The first UK food security report was published in December 2021, which showed that the UK has a highly resilient and diverse food supply chain. We produce 61% of the food we need in the UK, complemented by strong trade links, and that figure has changed little over the last 20 years. We also published the Government food strategy last June, setting out a commitment to maintain broadly the current level of food we produce domestically and boost production in sectors with the biggest opportunities.
But then a bit later in the debate Jim McMahon asked this question
In December, the Environment Secretary told the Select Committee that she did not believe it was the role of Government to feed people. All of us want to see a country where work pays fairly and, through that work, families can afford to feed themselves, but that is not the case after 13 years of this Tory Government, with food inflation at a 40-year high, a cost of living crisis and 7.3 million people in food poverty. It is the Secretary of State who is responsible for food security. Her Department has a legal obligation to publish the food security report, and it distributes the FareShare food grant. To show she is not completely out of touch, can she tell the House the price of a loaf of bread and the price of a pint of milk in her local supermarket today?
It would be fantastic if Jim McMahon could explore the amount of food grant for FareShare’s in the UK and persuade the Government to provide more financial opportunities. This is partly because there is a great deal of food waste that could be resolved by FarShare and would then assist many more people. The response from Therese Coffey on Thursday however was.
Mr Speaker, it depends on what brand you buy. A pint is 95p, and two pints £1.20. It depends on what type of bread you get, but the last loaf I bought was £1.25 for a seeded one from Tesco—I am sure there are other retailers as well. It is quite clear to me that the hon. Gentleman probably has not read the food security report published in December 2021. However, I will say that in my time as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions we got more people into work and we provided an exceptional amount of funding through the household support fund, because we recognise that these times are really challenging. That is why we, as a Conservative Government, have made sure that the most vulnerable are protected, and it is why we will continue to do so as we move forward through this challenging time.
The whole of the debate can be obtained from here but clearly we need to persuade both Jim and Therese Coffey to focus on more provision for FareShare. My own interest from FareShare in Sussex and Surrey is one of the reasons why I spotted this debate.