Chris Leslie: I hope the hon. Gentleman will allow me to put on record something that he admits has been conspicuous by its absence—namely, the fact that the UK’s subscription to the IMF is rising from, I think, £10.7 billion to more than £20 billion. I hope he will explain that figure to his constituents and tell them, at a

5 July 2011 : Column 1474

time when we are also on the hook for the other European bail-out arrangements, why we should be paying twice in that regard. I would be interested to hear his point of view.

Stephen Williams: I would be happy to invite the hon. Gentleman, as well as any other hon. Members and my own constituents, to read my blog, where I explained exactly that point straight after this morning’s debate. The explanation is of course a movement between the Government’s reserves and the reserves that we denominate in special drawing rights at the IMF. That does not involve additional Government borrowing or additional cuts, as the hon. Gentleman very well knows. What we saw this morning was the Labour party making a cheap, opportunistic point on a very serious issue.

Chris Leslie: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for being so nice about me just a moment ago. The Minister refused to tell us this morning, but does the hon. Gentleman know how much British taxpayers’ money is on the hook, via our IMF support for Greece? How many pounds sterling are on the hook? Does he know what our liability is?

Stephen Williams: The hon. Gentleman will have heard exactly what I heard this morning from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, which was that, in its whole history since 1945, the IMF has never lost its money because it is always the first creditor to be paid. Our money is therefore not at risk, but our providing it is essential in order to ensure that the international economy stabilises. That is also in our own national interest.

I have dealt with the Labour party’s credibility, but what about that of the coalition Government? The points that the hon. Gentleman has just made lead me neatly to compare this country with Greece. During the passage of the Bill, we have seen the sad events in Athens, with the Greek Government having to make difficult and unpopular decisions. Greece’s bond rating, which reflects people’s willingness to lend to it, is CCC, while ours is AAA, even though our budget deficit is much higher than that of Greece. The difference is that our Government have a credible plan for repairing our public finances, and that is what gives us credibility in world markets and at home.

The Finance Bill and the Budget have also confirmed one of the most important measures that the coalition Government will introduce—namely, making the income tax system fairer. That was the No. 1 commitment that my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I stood on in the general election. We believe that work should pay, and that the lowest-paid employees in this country should be shielded from income tax. I am therefore pleased that the Bill takes another step towards making our pledge of £10,000 of tax-free income come true during the lifetime of this Parliament.

The Bill also puts in place a bank levy, so that the bankers will pay something back towards the problems that they helped to create during the last Government’s period in office. The budget is now under control. That is why the coalition Government were formed in the first place. Many of us might have thought at the time that it was a somewhat unlikely coalition, but it was put together to take these difficult decisions, to repair our public finances, to bring back international confidence

5 July 2011 : Column 1475

and to give confidence to our own constituents that our country could get back on track. The difficult decisions have now been made, and we will see the job through.

9.39 pm

Jonathan Edwards: I will not take up much of hon. Members’ time this evening. I regret to inform the Treasury that we will vote against the Government. Leaving aside our concerns about the speed and depth of the cuts, our main concern as a party is obviously the effect of the Budget on Wales. Given the economic headwinds that Wales faces, the Treasury might be interested to know that all four parties in the National Assembly, including the Conservative party and the Liberal Democrats, have today signed a joint declaration calling for an immediate reform of the Barnett formula, borrowing powers for the Welsh Government, including the ability to raise capital funds via bonds, and fiscal responsibility in respect of taxation powers. Although 5 July is not usually a historic day, I would say it is today because all the Unionist parties have adopted Plaid Cymru’s economic policies. I understand that the Treasury Minister will meet the First Minister on Monday and I hope he will embrace this fresh mandate from the people of Wales.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

The House proceeded to a Division.

Mr Speaker: I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.

The House having divided:

Ayes 285, Noes 225.

Division No. 317]

[9.40 pm


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Alexander, rh Danny

Amess, Mr David

Andrew, Stuart

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Norman

Baker, Steve

Baldry, Tony

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Barker, Gregory

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Bingham, Andrew

Binley, Mr Brian

Birtwistle, Gordon

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Mr Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brake, Tom

Bray, Angie

Brazier, Mr Julian

Brine, Mr Steve

Brokenshire, James

Brooke, Annette

Bruce, Fiona

Bruce, rh Malcolm

Buckland, Mr Robert

Burley, Mr Aidan

Burns, rh Mr Simon

Burrowes, Mr David

Burstow, Paul

Burt, Alistair

Burt, Lorely

Byles, Dan

Cable, rh Vince

Cairns, Alun

Campbell, rh Sir Menzies

Carmichael, Neil

Carswell, Mr Douglas

Cash, Mr William

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Clappison, Mr James

Clark, rh Greg

Clarke, rh Mr Kenneth

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crockart, Mike

Davey, Mr Edward

Davies, David T. C.


Davies, Glyn

Davies, Philip

de Bois, Nick

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Dorries, Nadine

Doyle-Price, Jackie

Drax, Richard

Duddridge, James

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Evans, Graham

Evans, Jonathan

Evennett, Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Field, Mr Mark

Foster, rh Mr Don

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fullbrook, Lorraine

Fuller, Richard

Gauke, Mr David

George, Andrew

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gilbert, Stephen

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Damian

Greening, Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, Robert

Hames, Duncan

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hands, Greg

Harper, Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Harvey, Nick

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, Mr John

Heald, Oliver

Heath, Mr David

Hemming, John

Henderson, Gordon

Hendry, Charles

Hinds, Damian

Hoban, Mr Mark

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Holloway, Mr Adam

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Mr Gerald

Howell, John

Huhne, rh Chris

Hunter, Mark

Huppert, Dr Julian

Hurd, Mr Nick

James, Margot

Javid, Sajid

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Johnson, Gareth

Jones, Andrew

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kelly, Chris

Kennedy, rh Mr Charles

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Mr Greg

Laing, Mrs Eleanor

Lamb, Norman

Lancaster, Mark

Lansley, rh Mr Andrew

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Jessica

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Mr Edward

Lewis, Brandon

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lloyd, Stephen

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Luff, Peter

Lumley, Karen

Macleod, Mary

Main, Mrs Anne

May, rh Mrs Theresa

McCartney, Karl

McIntosh, Miss Anne

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

McVey, Esther

Mensch, Louise

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Patrick

Metcalfe, Stephen

Mills, Nigel

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Mordaunt, Penny

Morgan, Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Mosley, Stephen

Mowat, David

Mulholland, Greg

Mundell, rh David

Munt, Tessa

Murray, Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newmark, Mr Brooks

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

O'Brien, Mr Stephen

Offord, Mr Matthew

Ollerenshaw, Eric

Ottaway, Richard

Paice, rh Mr James

Parish, Neil

Patel, Priti

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Phillips, Stephen

Pickles, rh Mr Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pugh, John

Raab, Mr Dominic

Reckless, Mark

Redwood, rh Mr John

Rees-Mogg, Jacob

Reevell, Simon

Reid, Mr Alan

Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm

Robathan, rh Mr Andrew

Robertson, Mr Laurence

Rogerson, Dan

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, Amber

Russell, Bob

Rutley, David

Sanders, Mr Adrian

Sandys, Laura

Scott, Mr Lee

Selous, Andrew

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Shepherd, Mr Richard

Simmonds, Mark

Simpson, Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Sir Robert

Soames, Nicholas

Soubry, Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mr Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Mr Graham

Stunell, Andrew

Sturdy, Julian

Swales, Ian

Swayne, Mr Desmond

Swinson, Jo

Syms, Mr Robert

Teather, Sarah

Timpson, Mr Edward

Tomlinson, Justin

Tredinnick, David

Truss, Elizabeth

Turner, Mr Andrew

Uppal, Paul

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Ward, Mr David

Watkinson, Angela

Weatherley, Mike

Webb, Steve

Wharton, James

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Mr Mark

Williams, Stephen

Williamson, Gavin

Willott, Jenny

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wright, Simon

Young, rh Sir George

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Ayes:

Stephen Crabb and

Miss Chloe Smith


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ainsworth, rh Mr Bob

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Ashworth, Jon

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bain, Mr William

Balls, rh Ed

Banks, Gordon

Barron, rh Mr Kevin

Beckett, rh Margaret

Begg, Dame Anne

Benn, rh Hilary

Benton, Mr Joe

Berger, Luciana

Betts, Mr Clive

Blackman-Woods, Roberta

Blears, rh Hazel

Blenkinsop, Tom

Blunkett, rh Mr David

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Brown, Mr Russell

Buck, Ms Karen

Byrne, rh Mr Liam

Campbell, Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Caton, Martin

Chapman, Mrs Jenny

Clark, Katy

Clarke, rh Mr Tom

Clwyd, rh Ann

Coaker, Vernon

Coffey, Ann

Connarty, Michael

Cooper, Rosie

Cooper, rh Yvette

Corbyn, Jeremy

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Creasy, Stella

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Cunningham, Tony

Curran, Margaret

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

Davidson, Mr Ian

Davies, Geraint

De Piero, Gloria

Denham, rh Mr John

Dobson, rh Frank

Docherty, Thomas

Donohoe, Mr Brian H.

Doran, Mr Frank

Dowd, Jim

Doyle, Gemma

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Edwards, Jonathan

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Julie

Engel, Natascha

Esterson, Bill

Farrelly, Paul

Field, rh Mr Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Flint, rh Caroline

Flynn, Paul

Fovargue, Yvonne

Francis, Dr Hywel

Gapes, Mike

Gilmore, Sheila

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mrs Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goggins, rh Paul

Goodman, Helen

Greatrex, Tom

Green, Kate

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Hain, rh Mr Peter

Hamilton, Mr David

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Healey, rh John

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Heyes, David

Hilling, Julie

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Irranca-Davies, Huw

James, Mrs Siân C.

Jamieson, Cathy

Jarvis, Dan

Johnson, rh Alan

Johnson, Diana

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Susan Elan

Joyce, Eric

Keeley, Barbara

Kendall, Liz

Khan, rh Sadiq

Lammy, rh Mr David

Lavery, Ian

Lazarowicz, Mark

Leslie, Chris

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Llwyd, rh Mr Elfyn

Love, Mr Andrew

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, Fiona

Mahmood, Shabana

Mann, John

Marsden, Mr Gordon

McCabe, Steve

McCann, Mr Michael

McCarthy, Kerry

McClymont, Gregg

McCrea, Dr William

McDonagh, Siobhain

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGovern, Alison

McGovern, Jim

McKechin, Ann

McKenzie, Mr Iain

McKinnell, Catherine

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Michael, rh Alun

Miliband, rh David

Miller, Andrew

Mitchell, Austin

Morden, Jessica

Morrice, Graeme


Morris, Grahame M.


Mudie, Mr George

Munn, Meg

Murphy, rh Paul

Murray, Ian

Nash, Pamela

O'Donnell, Fiona

Onwurah, Chi

Osborne, Sandra

Owen, Albert

Pearce, Teresa

Perkins, Toby

Raynsford, rh Mr Nick

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reeves, Rachel

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Angus

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Roy, Mr Frank

Roy, Lindsay

Ruane, Chris

Ruddock, rh Joan

Sarwar, Anas

Seabeck, Alison

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheridan, Jim

Shuker, Gavin

Simpson, David

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Mr Andy

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Owen

Spellar, rh Mr John

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Sutcliffe, Mr Gerry

Tami, Mark

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Walley, Joan

Watts, Mr Dave

Weir, Mr Mike

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wicks, rh Malcolm

Williams, Hywel

Williamson, Chris

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Wood, Mike

Woodcock, John

Woodward, rh Mr Shaun

Wright, David

Wright, Mr Iain

Tellers for the Noes:

Lilian Greenwood and

Phil Wilson

Question accordingly agreed to.

5 July 2011 : Column 1476

5 July 2011 : Column 1477

5 July 2011 : Column 1478

5 July 2011 : Column 1479

Bill read the Third time and passed.

Business without Debate

Business of the House (Police (Detention and Bail) Bill)


That, in respect of the Police (Detention and Bail) Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.—(Mr Heath.)

Business of the House (Sovereign Grant Bill)

Ordered ,

That, in respect of the Sovereign Grant Bill, notices of Amendments, new Clauses and new Schedules to be moved in Committee may be accepted by the Clerks at the Table before the Bill has been read a second time.—(Mr Heath.)


Motion made,

That Standing Order No. 152G (Committee on Members’ Allowances) shall be amended as follows—

(1) in line 2, leave out ‘Allowances’ and insert ‘Expenses’; and

(2) leave out lines 3 to 17 and insert ‘to consider such matters relating to Members’ expenses as may be referred to it by the House;’. —(Sir George Young .)

Hon. Members: Object.



That the Resolution of the House of 30 October 2003, relating to Pay for Chairs of Select Committees (No. 2), shall be further amended by leaving out ‘the Committee on Members’ Allowances’.—( Sir George Young.)


Motion made,

That, further to the instruction to the Committee on Members’ Allowances of 12 May, it be an instruction to the Committee on Members’ Expenses to report to the House on the review of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 by 31 December 2011.—(Sir George Young. )

Hon. Members: Object.

5 July 2011 : Column 1480

Delegated Legislation

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Rehabilitation of Offenders

That the draft Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) (Amendment) (England and Wales) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 16 May, be approved.—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question agreed to.

Mr Speaker: With the leave of the House, we shall take motions 10 and 11 together.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 118(6)),

Betting, Gaming and Lotteries

That the draft Gambling Act 2005 (Gaming Machines in Adult Gaming Centres and Bingo Premises) Order 2011, which was laid before this House on 7 June, be approved.

That the draft Categories of Gaming Machine (Amendment) Regulations 2011, which were laid before this House on 7 June, be approved.—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question agreed to.

European Union Documents

Motion made, and Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 119(11)),

Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area

That this House takes note of European Union Document No. 8333/11 and Addenda 1-3, a White Paper: Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area–Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system; and supports the Government’s aim to ensure that the European Commission’s proposals are practical and proportionate and avoid excessive regulatory burdens on business, while respecting the principles of subsidiarity.—(Angela Watkinson.)

Question agreed to.


Dismissal of Ian Faletto, Lymington Stationmaster

10.2 pm

Mr Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) (Con): The excellent and award-winning stationmaster of Lymington was sacked for removing a shopping trolley from the line before a train could collide with it. The vicar of Pennington collected 8,400 signatures and sought to deliver them to South West Trains, but in an act of shocking discourtesy to the travelling public, the company refused to take them. It is therefore my privilege to present to this House the petition of the vicar of Pennington, which calls on this honourable House to enlist the support of the Department of Transport to intercede with South West Trains to reconsider this shocking injustice.

Following is the full text of the Petition :

[ The Humble Petition of Revd Alex Russell, Vicar of Pennington,

Sheweth that a great injustice has been done by the dismissal of Ian Faletto Stationmaster at Lymington.

Wherefore your Petitioner prays that your Honourable House calls upon the Government to request that South West Trains reconsider their decision in the light of his many years of exemplary service to the public

And your Petitioner, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c. ]


5 July 2011 : Column 1481

Redevelopment of Rushden Hospital Site

10.4 pm

Mr Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): To follow that is impossible, but my petition is of more importance to my constituents, because the hospital site, where there is of course no longer a hospital, has always been an area where it was planned that we should eventually have a hospital. Unfortunately, the NHS plans to sell it off and 270 local residents have signed a petition, led by Sheila Vickers. I shall read the petition where the point is well made:

The Humble Petition of residents of Rushden, Northamptonshire and the surrounding areas,


that the proposed revised redevelopment of the Rushden Hospital site for housing is unpopular, ill-advised and detrimental to the residents of Rushden; that over 25% of the residents of Rushden petitioned the House of Commons for a new outpatient facility in the town, the majority wanting the new facility on the Rushden hospital site; that the proposal to build housing on the site instead of an NHS facility is unacceptable and the impact on the surrounding roads of a large housing development and the density of the development and the proposed cut-through to the Greenacre Drive Estate is wholly detrimental to local residents and notes that a similar proposal for housing development on this site was not approved by East Northamptonshire District Council.

Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your Honourable House urges the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to urge the Department of Health to withdraw the revised planning application and further urges him to request that the District Council of East Northamptonshire and the County Council and the Primary Care Trust work together to provide a suitable health facility on the site.

And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray, &c.


5 July 2011 : Column 1482

Food Security Strategy

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Newmark.)

10.6 pm

Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): The vast majority of Members in the House have a lot of respect for the Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Mr Paice) and his colleagues for the knowledge and strategic vision that they bring to their roles. The last year has shown a marked difference from previous years, with agriculture policy being based on fact and experience. My right hon. Friend has also been clearly focused on the issue that I intend to raise in this debate—UK food security.

I do not come from a farming background; to be frank I know little about agriculture per se, but I know about rising food prices. This year we have seen a 4.9% rise in food prices, and that impacts on my constituents as much as on those of my right hon. Friend. I believe that food inflation could seriously undermine our growth targets and have an impact on consumer spending in the wider economy. Although I doubt whether there is anyone up at this time of night in the Treasury, there might be one insomniac who is taking food inflation as seriously as we are.

I recognise that food security has risen up the Government’s agenda. It was given prominence in the defence and security review. In the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs White Paper, the Minister announced that a group would be established to look at food security, and the Government Office for Science published an exceptionally insightful Foresight report on food security globally. I was also pleased to see DEFRA’s announcement, following the G20, which pledged to give greater transparency to commodity markets through the establishment of an agriculture market information system.

However, I propose to the Minister that we can and still need to do more to ensure long-term food security, to provide greater resilience of supply and greater ability to hedge this country against shocks and price volatility. I would like to highlight to the Minister the fact that some policy measures that are being used to build greater energy security might be a useful guide to ensuring greater food security.

Mr Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. She has identified the importance of energy, but does she agree that modern technology has a role to play? I hope she will join me in encouraging the UK Government to embrace new technology and allow UK farmers to produce more food so that we are all well fed.

Laura Sandys: Indeed. There are four key planks in energy policy that we should be looking to adopt in food policy, one of which, is innovation and new technologies. From an energy perspective, security of supply, price and affordability, tackling demand and, as my hon. Friend said, the introduction of new technologies are fundamental. We should examine the same suite of policies when we look at food security.

5 July 2011 : Column 1483

Security of supply is critical to this country. We import more than 50% of our food, and we are extremely dependent on international markets working. Fair trade, transparent markets and secure shipping lanes are all important, but in the past five years these norms have been severely challenged by international developments, climatic changes and population increase, as well as changing food expectations globally. As in the case of energy, we are facing the increased politicisation of the trade and greater uncertainties globally.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): Does the hon. Lady share my concern and that of many others in the House about regulations in Europe and other parts of the world? Here at home we provide a top quality product that can sell anywhere, whereas in other parts of Europe and of the world, similar legislation does not exist. That puts producers there at an advantage over us, as we try to do the best we can in every case.

Laura Sandys: I welcome the intervention. That is particularly key in animal welfare matters. Yes, there are issues in relation to international standards and we need to ensure consideration of food safety and market equity. Perhaps I will come to that later in the debate.

In 2008 the food crisis that occurred started a trend towards something very worrying for a country that imports 50% of its food—protectionism. Indonesia, India, Egypt, Russia and the Ukraine all curbed their rice and wheat exports in response to domestic food inflation. What was most concerning was that those countries were able to mitigate domestically the price hikes that others faced around the globe. This has become an incentive for exporting countries to adopt further restrictions in the future. Although we might want to trust in global food markets, we must recognise that exporter countries will find it almost impossible to export food if their domestic populations are starving. I do not believe that our food supply is secure, and it is becoming more and more unstable.

With our level of import dependency, has there been any assessment of what impact an increase in protectionism would have on domestic costs, and is that seen as a strategic threat? The National Security Council has incorporated food security in its key priorities. Can the Minister give me an update and outline the work that is going on through that channel? Most importantly for both his Department and my interest, are there as many officials in the Treasury examining the impact of food insecurity and food inflation as there are looking at the global energy sector?

In order to mitigate some of the impacts of global insecurity in the energy sector, we have decided that increasing domestic resilience and domestic production is important. Do we have a similar strategy for food? Although I am most certainly not suggesting that we look to become self-sufficient, are we happy to be so dependent on international and more volatile imports?

The second point relates to price and affordability, which is extremely pertinent to all Members as it impacts on each and every one of our constituents. We all recognise that food prices will rise, but we must also be clear that that will have significant social implications, including impacts on nutrition, health and education. Are we thinking strategically enough about the impact

5 July 2011 : Column 1484

of food price increases on young people and the elderly, for instance? In the energy sector we look at capacity mechanisms that help us hedge price volatility, such as increased storage to secure supply at times of global price rises and shocks. Such mechanisms could help us to manage the price volatility that has such an impact on our constituents and cushion us from protectionism and the politicisation of food exporting countries.

I urge the Minister to look again at issues relating to the food poor in the same way as we look at fuel poverty. An individual is classed as fuel poor if more than 10% of their income is spent on fuel. Does DEFRA have a similar measure to indicate food poverty? Those on low incomes will be worst affected by food price rises. I had a constituent come to one of my surgeries a couple of weeks ago. He is on jobseeker’s allowance and had a heart attack about a year ago. He has been told specifically by his doctor that he must eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day, but there is no way that he can afford to do so. Just as our constituents have campaigned for the Treasury to help shoulder the burden of rising fuel costs, we will see a similar response to food price rises if we do not take action to reduce volatility and control price.

The third point is that we also have the power to use food better and ensure that we get better value for the food we produce. We currently waste 30% of the food we produce, so much more can be done to get better value from the food we grow. This will take a cross-Government effort to tackle supermarket procurement, supermarket products and food labelling, such as the sell-by dates that make customers feel anxious and throw food away far too early. On of my bugbears, which I know the Department shares, is fish discards, which we must also tackle. I urge the Department to have constructive conversations with the Food Protection Agency, which many feel is too risk averse.

We also need to focus on other Departments and look, for instance, at education in schools on how to use food more effectively, explaining that we can use all meat products, including offal. The Department of Health should use its procurement power to demand better use of food. We cannot go on ploughing food into the soil because it does not look pretty enough, or discarding large parts of carcases because we have forgotten how to cook certain meat cuts. We as consumers must learn again how to keep food fresh and stop chucking good food in the bin.

Will the Minister give a commitment that we will address food waste and look at a cross-Government programme to ensure that the 30% we currently waste is reduced? I would also be delighted to set up with the Minister a little company that I have thought up, called Ugly Foods Ltd. I think that we could do rather well, and perhaps even create a profit centre for the Government, by selling all the food and produce that the supermarkets reject.

My fourth point is about innovation, which my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr Spencer) referred to earlier. We should be looking at food production and technology as one of the most exciting growth areas for this country. I know that the Minister shares this belief, so why is agriculture, agronomy and food production not included as a growth sector in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills? Why do we consider careers in the food sector to be careers of the past? I believe that they are the careers of the future. I would

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also like him to examine what food technology assets we have that can be exported, because that seems to be an important trigger for getting the Treasury and BIS interested.

Food insecurity is almost never raised in this House. We have delegated to global markets and domestic supermarkets the responsibility to deliver cheap food to our constituents, but I am not sure that that will be enough in the future, because inflation targets are at risk and food poverty will increase. I urge the Government to look again at an holistic approach to food security in which we start to see that in the food production sector we have real opportunities that could contribute to a more secure and profitable food sector in the United Kingdom.

10.20 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet (Laura Sandys) on securing this debate. In many ways, it deserves a longer time span than she has achieved, because this subject is hugely important, and I congratulate her on choosing it. I hope that in the next few minutes I can reassure her on a number of her points, and in passing I also thank her for her kind personal remarks to me.

The Government believe that food security is a vital strategic issue for this country, so the opportunity to spend a few minutes discussing it is very welcome. My hon. Friend will be aware that a few weeks ago the Government’s chief scientific adviser published the final report of the Foresight future of food and farming project, and it identified the scale of the challenge that food security poses—the very points that my hon. Friend made. The food system in this country is consuming the world’s natural resources at an unsustainable rate, and the report also highlighted the most important challenges that we face if we are to balance the competing pressures and demands on the global food system in order to ensure that we can feed ourselves.

My hon. Friend also referred quite rightly to our domestic food industry, and I want to reassure her that we believe that farming and food are very important to the UK economy. The whole food chain contributes some £88 billion per annum, or 7% of GDP, and 3.7 million jobs—no small contribution on anybody’s measurement. As a sector, it contributes to the delivery of the Government’s long-term economic objectives on trade, green jobs, and growth and development, and, slightly contrary to my hon. Friend’s remarks, the UK food and drink industry was highlighted in phase one of the Government’s growth review as an important area for growth. I passionately believe that that is the right place for it to be.

Jim Shannon: I understand that in the United Kingdom 20% of agricultural land is not in agricultural use today. Does the Minister have any intention of using that land for agriculture and food production?

Mr Paice: I am afraid that I have no idea where the hon. Gentleman has got his statistics from; they are completely strange to me. I will certainly look into them after this debate, but I have no knowledge of a significant area of land having been taken out of agricultural production in the United Kingdom.

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The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs worked very closely, and continues to work, with the industry to ensure that our views are captured by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and I assure my hon. Friend the Member that we certainly intend that to continue.

We will concentrate—particularly within the growth review—on the rural economy, and one of our main themes will be realising the value of natural capital. That includes a strand concentrating on the potential to increase competitiveness in the agri-food sector. We will ensure also that food and drink is included in other areas of the review, such as logistics, skills and mid-sized businesses.

The Government are also taking action to support British farming and to encourage sustainable food production by helping to enhance the competitiveness and, as my hon. Friend said, the resilience of the whole food chain while minimising our impact on natural capital. The Government have been keen to lead, and on the sustainable procurement of food, for example, our recently announced Government buying standards will help to ensure that food procured by central Government meets sustainable standards of production equivalent to the UK’s requirements, when that does not lead to an overall increase in costs. Full details were provided in the recent announcement.

Steps have also been taken to improve market information and transparency by establishing an agriculture market information system to promote greater shared understanding of food price developments. My hon. Friend rightly said that UK food security cannot be delivered merely by a narrow, self-interested national protectionist stance or by recommending self-sufficiency. She rightly reminded us that that is not unique to the UK but should apply to every country. Several countries around the world have adopted protectionist measures. Argentina did so a few years ago with the beef sector, as did the Russians, more recently, with grain, although they have recently relaxed their measures, and there are several other examples. I firmly believe that they are doing their own consumers down by taking that approach, which, in the long term, does not help the global market.

International trade has an important role to play in providing food security not only in the UK but elsewhere. We are a trading nation in a global market. The UK is a significant exporter of wheat, lamb, dairy products, breakfast cereals and beef. Our food security depends on access to the world market, and it is important to emphasise that our domestic food industry needs to be able to compete on the world stage. In 2010, 25 countries together accounted for 90% of our food supply, and 49% of it was supplied from within the UK; we could not produce some products because they are not suitable for our climate. Currently the UK produces the equivalent of 72% of our indigenous foods and 59% of our food overall; we then export 10% of it, hence the 49% I mentioned. Supporting exports of UK food and food products will contribute to rebalancing our trade position. Reform, not subsidy, will achieve these goals.

In the recently published natural environment White Paper to which my hon. Friend referred, the Government made a commitment to bring together Government, industry and the environmental partners to reconcile how we will achieve our goals of improving the environment and increasing food production. I assure her that I believe

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passionately that that is possible. I do not believe—some farmers challenge me about this—that it is an either/or situation; we can do both.

My hon. Friend referred to food waste, and she was right to do so. We recognise that addressing that across the entire food chain will be critical in building a sustainable food supply. As part of our commitment to a “zero waste” agenda, three weeks ago DEFRA published a review of waste policy that highlighted various actions to be taken to reduce food waste, including developing a responsibility to deal with the hospitality and food service sector, with a strong focus on preventing food waste; tackling food waste across the public sector; and exploring further the role of incentives in reducing food waste and ensuring that it is managed in the most sustainable way possible.

We will also continue to work with the food industry and others in areas such as improved supply chain management; improved product design, including simple things such as resealable packaging; and providing the right advice and information to help consumers, including clear information on matters such as portion sizes, freezing food and using leftovers. We believe that through these actions, we will help industry and consumers to waste less food and save money—but I must emphasise that this is not something that Government can do on their own.

Mr Spencer: Does the Minister agree that it is also important to encourage local authorities to provide areas for allotments so that members of the public can not only grow their own food there but use them to understand food production and add to their own education?

Mr Paice: My hon. Friend is entirely right. We want not only to encourage local authorities to provide allotments—and there are massive waiting lists across the country for them—but to encourage other organisations, such as charities and those in the private sector, to provide land for them, whether as part of permanent or temporary arrangements. There are plenty of pieces of disused land in our inner cities. Although the land itself might not be appropriate, it could be used for mini-allotments based on containerised soil, so that people can start to grow some of their own food. Such food is more wholesome and fresh and, as we all know, contributes to people’s health and their environment.

Tessa Munt (Wells) (LD): I am concerned about the number of people, particularly young people, who are going into farming. We must do something to stem the tide of people who are leaving farming, particularly dairy farming in my area. Does the Minister have any ideas about how we could encourage more people to come into farming, particularly given the sale of the county farms?

Mr Paice: I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s intervention. I do not have much time to answer it, but I am happy to do so privately. I believe that the most important way to encourage young people into farming and food production is to ensure that the industry is respected and recognised as a vital part of our economy. No Government can turn the economics of agriculture around in the ways that my predecessors could. We do not fix prices or intervene in those ways, and quite rightly. However, we

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can ensure that the industry is recognised as a vital part of the British economy, and that it is a worthwhile career choice. I am happy to discuss that matter further with my hon. Friend.

My hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mr Spencer) referred to allotments. I was just coming on to the issue of growing food in our schools, which is equally as important. We need to ensure that our schools are part of this project. The Secretary of State recently launched the food growing in schools task force. The task force, which is led by Garden Organic, will make recommendations on the need for a food growing area to be integrated into every school in the UK. I have had many dealings with schools that are twinned with individual farms. Pupils not only go on physical visits but, through DVD technology, the farm can go to the school. Such twinning arrangements allow for children to be frequently updated on how the crops or livestock are progressing, so that they can learn more about how food is produced.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Thanet was right to refer to food prices. Of course we acknowledge that some people struggle to afford a healthy diet. The Government provide a means-tested nutritional safety net for extremely low-income families through the Healthy Start initiative, which offers vouchers that can be spent on milk and plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables at participating retailers. It supports more than half a million nutritionally vulnerable pregnant women, babies and young children. We are trying to help.

We also routinely monitor trends in the affordability of food through domestic retail food price inflation and movements in the drivers of domestic retail food prices. It is important to recognise an issue that this House often does not understand. Since the removal of production-linked support in 2005, after decades of politicians across the political spectrum demanding an end to the common agricultural policy propping up prices, farm crops and livestock have been traded in a global marketplace. It is those markets that dictate our food prices, along with exchange rates, oil prices and wider commodity issues.

My hon. Friend also referred obliquely to the meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers. The issue of international trade and price volatility was central to that meeting. I assure the House that the UK will take global leadership on this issue. We are committed to promoting better functioning of agriculture markets to help mitigate future price spikes, and that commitment is demonstrated through the important steps taken towards the development of better-functioning markets at the first ever meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers.

My hon. Friend referred to the link between food and energy. We, too, recognise the strong dependency of our food supply on energy supply and transport infrastructure. As she suggested, the Government have a co-ordinated approach to the supply and resilience elements of food security. I will not go into great detail about it tonight, but I can assure her that my officials work closely with colleagues in all relevant Departments in response to the risks to our food security and other parts of our national infrastructure. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also continues to build an evidence base on all aspects of the food supply chain.

The Government have made a sustainable and profitable food and farming sector the No. 1 business objective of DEFRA. We believe passionately in the industry, which,

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as I have said, is a vital part of the British economy and British life, particularly in rural communities. I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate and on her contribution to it, and I hope I can reassure her that the Government are totally committed not just to British food and farming but to British food security, which is of interest to us all.

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Question put and agreed to.

10.36 pm

House adjourned.