I commend my noble friend Lady Noakes for her interesting analysis of the situation on tax. I believe, as she does, that everyone loses out if taxes do not encourage wealth and innovation. The Government are committed to a fair tax and benefit system, where everyone contributes to reducing the deficit and those with the most make the largest contribution. We will make the UK much more competitive internationally by cutting corporation tax from 28% to 20% next year. For the individual, we will increase the tax-free personal allowance, which will rise to £10,500 by April 2015, taking 3 million people on the lowest incomes out of paying tax altogether. I am glad to say that 56% of these are women.

The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, talked about national insurance, mentioning that it is paid by the lower paid. Of course, our reforms to the personal allowance are more progressive than the Opposition’s proposals on the 10p tax rate, which the IFS said have no plausible economic justification.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1824

I now turn to inflation. We inherited a difficult situation but we have kept inflation low, which is vital to consumers of every age. It was 1.2% in September—the ninth successive month that it has been below the target. The latest data on inflation from the ONS show that the annual rate of food price inflation was minus 1.5% in September. That is the lowest it has been since June 2002. It helps poor families struggling in the way that the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich described. It is also great news for all consumers.

The success that I have described mainly comes from running the economy responsibly, but we have also taken some specific steps which have helped with inflation—for example, the abolition of the fuel duty escalator and freezing council tax for four years, as well as many other measures.

We are committed to improving living standards, particularly for the low paid, whenever we are able to do so. The living wage was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley. She knows that we support businesses that voluntarily choose to pay the living wage when it is affordable and does not cost jobs. We have supported the national minimum wage, and this year we were very pleased to accept the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation of an increase above inflation. From October 2014, more than 1 million low-paid workers received up to £355 extra in their pay packets. The Government have been addressing the cost of living. They have cut tax for 26 million people, thereby reducing the income tax paid by a typical taxpayer by £705.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, mentioned fuel poverty. The fuel poverty gap fell from £1.07 billion in real terms in 2011 to just over £1 billion in 2012. Of course, fuel is a key expenditure for many. As a result of our measures, average pump prices are 13p per litre lower than under Labour’s fuel duty plan, helping motorists but also helping those delivering goods to our factories and shops, and prices are still coming down.

Many people worry about the cost of local services. Action in the Budget enabled local authorities to freeze council tax, should they choose, for the fourth year running. Thanks to government support, council tax bills could, therefore, have fallen by up to 11% in real terms by 2015. The noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, and the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, mentioned the difficulties faced by families with children. However, this is an area in which the Government have taken decisive action. We have introduced free school meals for all infant school pupils and will introduce tax-free childcare which will save families up to £2,000 per child. We have also introduced family-friendly employment policies and approaches across government. Nearly all the items that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, read to us from the Conservative manifesto have been tackled.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: Will you be maintaining Sure Start?

Baroness Neville-Rolfe: Yes, indeed. Sure Start still exists and I have always been a big supporter of it.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, mentioned transport. For travellers, and those who have to commute to work, we are capping rail fare increases and reducing

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1825

the scope for above average increases. Regulated fares include, in cities, season tickets, day singles and returns. We have invested in transport in a way that the previous Government were not always able to do. Things like Crossrail are making a major difference to London. The previous Government started Crossrail and we hope to finish it. It is a great project with benefits far exceeding the cost.

All commentators agree that housing is an important factor in vulnerability. However, I do not agree with the analysis offered by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. For those in rental accommodation, the Government have announced that, from April 2015, annual rent increases in the social housing sector will be limited to CPI plus 1%, for 10 years. This new policy is intended to help ensure that rents remain affordable, and existing tenants are protected from large rent increases, while ensuring that landlords have the income they need to invest in the maintenance and improvement of existing homes and services, and in the provision of more new, affordable homes. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, suggested a national register of landlords. We do not support a national register of landlords. It would be a financial burden on all landlords and cost £330 million, at current prices, over 10 years. These costs would be passed on to tenants through higher rents, while it is not clear that a register would be effective. We are also supporting new, affordable homes. This is another area in which all sides of the House are very interested. We are investing £4.5 billion of capital funding and the number of affordable home starts has increased in recent times.

Pensioners must have a decent life and a secure income in retirement. That is why we have protected them; for example, by using a triple lock for uprating. The basic state pension is increased each year by the highest of the growth in average earnings or price increases, as measured by CPI, or 2.5%. As a result, someone on a full basic state pension can expect to receive £440 more a year in 2014-15 than if it had been uprated by earnings since the start of this Parliament. The percentage of pensioners in relative poverty is close to the lowest ever recorded. We have also protected many key benefits for older people: free eye tests; free NHS prescriptions; free bus passes; free television licences for those aged over 75; and winter fuel payments.

I turn to welfare. The Government have continued to provide strong welfare support. Social security spending was £209 billion in 2013-14, which is 31% of total managed expenditure. However, to protect the long-term sustainability of the public finances, it is vital that the Government bring this welfare spend down. We are proud to have grasped the nettle. The Government have introduced universal credit to make work pay and simplify the benefits system. This is a major reform that is being rolled out carefully. Our priority will remain safe and secure delivery testing and learning.

The right reverend Prelate mentioned inefficiencies in benefit payments. That is why we are addressing this through the introduction of universal credit, which I believe will make a very big and important difference for those in and out of work. It ensures that work pays, and more work pays, with a transition to and from work no longer putting household income at risk in the way it did in the past.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1826

I have already mentioned the cap on rental increases in the social rented sector. We need to make the best use of the housing stock and use what we have fairly and properly. Through housing benefit, taxpayers would have been paying £500 million a year for 1.5 million spare bedrooms, while there are 250,000 households in overcrowded social housing in England alone. I make that comment to the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, who talked about that issue with some passion. A very important thing is going on there. We are also absolutely committed to supporting people to make the transition, especially for those who are vulnerable. That is why last year funding for discretionary housing payments was trebled and why pensioners, of course, are entirely exempt—back to my point about pensioners.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and the right reverend Prelate talked about child poverty. The Government are committed to our goal of ending child poverty in the UK by 2020. That strategy reflects the reality of child poverty in the UK today, with worklessness and education absolutely key root causes. Doing things about those issues is essential to eliminating poverty.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, also talked about gas and heating oil. I believe that the best way to keep bills down is to help people to save energy in sure, fair tariffs that encourage competition. We are also reforming the retail market, making it simpler to understand, and ensuring that everyone is on the cheapest tariff that their supplier offers for their preferences. I will write to my noble friend Lady Noakes on the points she made about green energy as it is a bit late in the day to start a discussion on that.

I believe that the new Consumer Rights Bill makes many really important changes. It is a 10-year Bill and will bring most benefit to the most vulnerable. It also introduces important reforms on lettings, which will bring about a new transparency, which the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, mentioned. It will enable more redress for consumers when they have suffered loss.

We have also protected the funding for Citizens Advice, and we have been big supporters of National Consumer Week, rightly mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, for the great work that was done on doorstep crime.

In concluding, I thank all those who do such great work across the economy to help with consumer law, preventing rip-offs and cracking down on rogues. We in the Government are on the side of the low-paid and the most vulnerable, helping them to climb the economic ladder. Labour trapped people in a broken benefits system. We needed our skills systems and colleges to get out of the great recession. Too many people are still poor and in trouble, but thanks to this coalition Government the economy is on the mend and we are better placed to help the vulnerable and improve the livelihood of those on low incomes.

5.35 pm

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I thank the Minister and everybody who has participated in the debate. I do not have time to re-endorse all the interventions from the right reverend Prelate and my colleagues here that underlined my point.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1827

I cannot agree with the Minister or with the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. The tale that the noble Baroness tells would not be recognisable to the kinds of household that we have been talking about today. It is all very well blaming the previous Government, but that is a debating point within this House. I could debate it had I time. What this Government are doing now to ensure that matters do not get worse is the key issue.

I do not accept much of what the Minister has said. On the point of fuel poverty she said that the numbers are going down. However, DECC’s latest report says that numbers are due to increase by 2.3 million and that the fuel poverty gap—the difference between what people can afford and what they must pay—is growing to £480 per annum. Those are DECC figures. It is the reality of life for a lot of low-income families.

I am bit disappointed by the Government’s response. I do not expect them to get away from blaming the previous Labour Government, but they do need a more substantial defence of their position. As I understand it, it relies largely on the trickle-down effect on the one hand and some demonising of the poor on the other. As the right reverend Prelate said, we are blaming the poor for their own condition. That is not a policy. It is socially disruptive, politically dishonest and economically fairly illiterate. I am sorry to hear it repeated in the Chamber today.

In National Consumer Week, I recall one of my noble predecessors as chair of the National Consumer Council, Michael Young, and almost the first publication for that organisation, more than 40 years ago, called Why the Poor Pay More. They still do, 40 years on. In an entirely different context, Michael Young said that these things are not acts of God or forces of nature, but decisions. The Government took their priority decisions, as the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, rightly said. They took them in a way that meant that the burden of the austerity programme fell on the narrowest and not the broadest shoulders. Historically, that will be seen as a very serious mistake. I hope that the Government recognise that and recognise Michael Young’s words, just referred to, which related to the 1945 Labour manifesto. I hope that our new manifesto will be in equally ringing terms and begin to reverse the policy we have heard outlined today.

Motion agreed.

EU: Counting the Cost of Food Waste (EUC Report)

Question for Short Debate

5.38 pm

Asked by Baroness Scott of Needham Market

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the Report of the European Union Committee on Counting the Cost of Food Waste: EU Food Waste Prevention (10th Report, Session 2013–14, HL Paper 154).

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1828

Baroness Scott of Needham Market (LD): My Lords, the scale of the food waste problem that emerged from our inquiry was truly staggering. Around 15 million tonnes of food are wasted in the United Kingdom every year and around 89 million tonnes across the EU. Those are probably conservative estimates of what is recognised as a data-poor area. Our inquiry did not cover food losses in the developing world; they are a rather different although equally pressing matter. Nor did we cover the trickier question of waste through overconsumption.

If one message comes from our report that I would like everyone, including the Government, to understand, it is that there must be a recognition that whatever the technical difficulties of defining and measuring food waste are, these should not distract us from the importance of taking urgent action to address a problem that is not only morally repugnant but unsustainable. It is becoming increasingly recognised that in the years ahead food security will be a very serious matter. Surely it makes sense to start by wasting less of what we already have.

As set out in our report, there are clearly some big issues to be tackled, not least the need to think about the supply chain as a whole rather than thinking about food waste prevention at each stage. Taking this approach helps to deal with the tendency we observed for individual participants in the food supply chain simply to pass the waste elsewhere so that their statistics look good at the expense of someone else’s, but the problem is not addressed.

The picture that emerged was not entirely gloomy. Our evidence uncovered a raft of initiatives and efforts that are being undertaken. It was also clear from our consideration of EU policy that the United Kingdom has taken a lead in this area, due in no small part to the work of WRAP—the Waste and Resources Action Programme. Now, six months on from publication, I will not rehearse the conclusions and recommendations of our report. While they all remain salient, I would like to reflect on some of the developments since publication and then perhaps consider some next steps.

First, a recurring theme that emerged throughout our evidence sessions was that when people and organisations begin to think about food waste, they quickly start to reduce it. For that reason, I was delighted by the degree of media interest in our report and the subsequent debate that it sparked off. Particularly heartening was the response by some individuals, organisations and businesses as a result of that media coverage. Many of them have made contact with me and I have met with quite a few of them. I have spoken at conferences and seminars, including one organised by the Dutch embassy, and I have undertaken a visit to Birds Eye in Lowestoft to try to understand the role that freezing can play in reducing food waste. The week after next we are going to the restaurant chain Nando’s, which is going to demonstrate how it will use technology to redistribute leftover food from its outlets.

Through that dialogue, I have learnt more about what is being developed. For instance, Tesco has taken its 25 most wasted products and taken a whole-supply-chain approach to see what target actions could be taken to reduce that waste; for example, with bananas,

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1829

it has reduced wastage at the farms by 6% and has changed practices at the warehouse and in store to reduce waste there. Consumers are being educated in how to store bananas and given recipes for what to do with overripe fruit.

Secondly, the excellent work of WRAP has continued. Its completion of a farm-to-fork assessment of the potato supply chain, in collaboration with Co-operative Food and Co-operative Farms, is an example of the kind of study it undertakes. It highlighted that a particularly wasteful point in the supply chain is the packhouse. Here it recommended a review of size specifications, as well as alternative options for those of “abnormal” size; for example, the development of a product range of small roasting potatoes could eliminate more than £250,000 of lost value, based on a sample of 50,000 tonnes.

During our inquiry, we were most concerned to hear about wastage on farms caused by overzealous specifications set by retailers, last-minute order cancellations and punitive clauses for undersupply. We look to the retail sector to address those issues with its suppliers. The role of the Groceries Code Adjudicator in setting fair terms of contract might well have a positive effect on food waste, but we wait to see.

Thirdly, our report considered the role of the EU. As many noble Lords will be aware, the European Commission published in July a wide-ranging series of proposed amendments to its waste legislation. These included an EU-wide aspirational food waste reduction target of 30% by 2025. The Commission says that it wants to use the baseline set in 2017, and we would be concerned about this because it would not recognise the very real progress that the UK has made before that date. Also included was a definition which excludes on-farm waste—another serious matter—and a requirement that member states develop national food waste prevention strategies. While this is welcome progress, it falls far short of the more holistic approach that we recommended in our report.

We had always understood that a communication on sustainable food had been drafted earlier in the year and was to be published at the same time as the waste review, but it has never seen the light of day. This debate takes place six days after the new Juncker Commission has taken office, under which responsibility for food waste has been transferred from the Directorate-General for the Environment to the Directorate-General for Health and Consumers. My fear is that this might signal a resistance in the Commission to the whole-supply-chain approach to food waste. So I would welcome the Minister’s observations on this change, and on whether he knows whether the communication on sustainable food is now likely to be published, with the new commission in place.

As I emphasised earlier, time is of the essence. One very practical area where it is possible to take action swiftly is food distribution. In that regard, I commend the work of charities such as FareShare, the Trussell Trust, Company Shop and FoodCycle. FareShare, for example, has reported a recent step change in the willingness of some supermarkets to donate food to them. FareShare is now providing enough food for more than 1 million meals per month in the areas

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1830

where it works. This, it estimates, is with just 2% of the food out there. These meals are provided in outlets run by voluntary organisations such as daycare centres. These organisations are struggling with reduced budgets, so the provision of cheaper food through FareShare is a lifeline for them.

There appears to be growing momentum. Food banking is controversial, but given that it is increasing we were interested in how more fresh food could be included. We heard in our evidence from the Netherlands that food redistribution which includes fresh produce is entirely possible. However, whether it is FareShare or food banks, you need infrastructure for storage and delivery and that takes money. So, in this regard, I am really interested in bringing some of the supply chain participants together to thrash out some of these issues, to see whether the barriers are perceived or real, and to come up with some solutions. It would be very helpful if the Government committed to working with us on how redistribution of fresh produce can be boosted.

Looking to the slightly longer term and beyond UK shores, food waste prevention has to be made a reality across the EU. Last week, I had the opportunity to raise the issue with members of other EU national parliaments. Many of them went on to refer to my remarks, so I detected a willingness—although there are no concrete proposals—to do more. Can the Government tell us what they are doing, or plan to do, to boost the prominence of this issue among ministerial colleagues?

There are three specific areas where national Governments and the Commission could make a difference. One is to ensure that where food is not consumed by humans, it is, where safe, consumed by animals. The second area is to ensure that regulations aimed at making packaging more easily recyclable do not have the effect of reducing shelf life, so that packaging waste turns into food waste. The third is to ensure that the whole question of date labelling is kept under review, to ensure that it reflects genuine risk.

I thank the Government, notably the responsible Minister, Dan Rogerson, for very helpful evidence, the comprehensive response to our report and the subsequent correspondence between us.

This is a wide-ranging topic, and I am proud to say that our members worked meticulously over the nine months of the inquiry, with invaluable input from our then clerk Aaron Speer, our policy analyst Alistair Dillon and our specialist adviser Dr Julian Parfitt. I have covered only a few aspects of our work today. Noble Lords will no doubt pick up on others and I look forward to a stimulating debate.

5.48 pm

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con): My Lords, a number of noble Lords speaking in this debate may remember a meeting with WRAP earlier this year, when those present were invited to make a pledge about what more they personally were prepared to do to reduce food waste in their own lives. I thought about that—I racked my brains—and I genuinely could not think of anything more I could do apart from banging on and on about it. So, despite the temptation

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1831

to scratch today because I am expecting 22 people to supper tonight, I am here to bang on about it. I can only hope that the Member of Parliament for Harwich and North Essex has gone home to turn on the oven. In any case, with a hungry 23 year-old son living with us at home, I can assure noble Lords that there will be no food wasted from that meal.

While I was not a member of the committee, I have read much of the report, the evidence and the Government’s response, and I very much welcome the raising of the profile of this issue both in the UK and across the EU. I particularly welcome the fact that Defra’s research projects are looking at options for feeding catering waste to animals and that WRAP is developing guidance that will provide clarification on what foodstuffs can and cannot be used for animal feed. I very much hope that this will increase the food available for use as animal feed and urge my noble friend the Minister to keep a close eye on progress and his foot on the accelerator. It is surely utter madness that rainforests in far off lands are still being cut down to grow soy, not for their local population to eat, but for us to import to feed our pigs.

However, I want to focus my remarks today on the committee’s recommendation about distributing good-quality surplus food to charities, which ensures that it goes to people in need, as outlined in our recommendation 7.

I am a member of the APPG on food poverty and hunger, co-chaired by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Truro and Frank Field, which has for the past several months been taking extensive evidence from some amazing organisations, individuals and church groups involved with food banks, food redistribution and other community projects. We have heard from leaders of exceptional projects, and I encourage Ministers and other noble Lords to visit, for example, the Oxford food bank, where food redistribution is at the heart of its model, and the Matthew Tree Project in Bristol, to see best practice which could so easily be replicated elsewhere. The report is currently in draft, but we hope to publish it by the end of the year.

I have been to Birkenhead and South Shields and, with other members of the group, I have visited the FareShare headquarters. I am pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, has already mentioned FareShare. If your Lordships have not already been to visit FareShare in Southwark, a mere 15 minutes away, I urge you to do so. You would be extremely welcome. Like me, it believes that no good food should be wasted. If food is still fit for purpose, it should go to feed people first. There is still concern that the financial incentives in place may preference energy recovery over redistribution for human consumption.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, mentioned, a mere 2% of the food currently available supplies more than 1,700 charities across the United Kingdom, feeding more than 82,000 people every day. They could do so much more if steps were put in place to divert the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food that is in-date and fit for human consumption.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1832

I digress slightly, but when we were there and looking in the fridge at the food that was past-date, which they said that we could take at our own risk, there were bottles and bottles—crates of bottles—of water that was apparently past its use by date.

If the UK increased surplus food redistribution to a similar level to that of our European neighbours—only 25% of what is available—that would result in a £280 million saving to civil society, as well as 238 million meals provided and the equivalent CO2 reduction of 200,000 cars removed from the roads. Despite all that, 75% of that in-date good food would still be going to waste.

Here, I pay tribute to several retailers which, as the noble Baroness said, since I first visited FareShare about three years ago, have massively stepped up to the plate and improved their practice. They include Asda, Sainsbury, Tesco, Kellogg, Nestlé and Planet Earth, as well as the fabulous Gleaning Network, which brings together volunteers, farmers and redistribution charities to save hundreds of tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables that are wasted on UK farms every year due to retailers’ policies or gluts. They are used in FareShare but currently not in the Trussell Trust food banks. Some of them have worked with FareShare for many years and others are more recent converts. I urge the supermarkets to join up their dots. Many of the smaller projects from which we have taken evidence find it difficult to source surplus food from local supermarkets when, at least at the centre, there is real interest in engaging properly.

There is no time for me to do anything but to mention Tristram Stuart and his Feedback project, but it is easy to find if your Lordships want to know more.

I finish by telling you about a project which I visited over the summer based in one of the most deprived wards in the UK. The Clacton hub of FoodCycle serves about 60 people every week, including homeless people, low-income families and people affected by mental health issues and addiction. They get a three-course meal made from food surplus sourced from local supermarkets. That does not just help those benefiting financially and provide them with a nutritious meal; there is also a social site. The fabulous Diane, the hub leader, who has worked with vulnerable people for more than 20 years, introduced my husband and I to the team cooking the food, who themselves are volunteers suffering from depression. That is the strength of this project and so many others that do great work. It helps those who are doing the helping; it gets them out of bed in the morning. They enjoy working together as a team and working out how to use whatever ingredients they are given that day. In so many communities in the UK, we have a need and we have the resource. Please, let us use common sense to put these two together.

5.55 pm

Lord Whitty (Lab): My Lords, I was a member of the Select Committee, serving under the very effective leadership of the noble Baroness, Lady Scott. It was a fascinating task and she very deftly explained both the main points of what we have covered and what has happened since. I shall try just to underline one or two points.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1833

My first point is what a big deal this is. On some estimates, the amount of food waste in the industrialised countries exceeds the total first production of the whole continent of Africa. This is an incredible waste of human effort and environmental and economic cost. I say, “On some estimates”, because we very rapidly found that the estimates in this field are rather difficult, which limits the degree to which the EU can play as effective a role as it perhaps ought. We found that measurement of food waste at different stages of the chain and between different countries was pretty incompatible. Until that is resolved, the EU level probably has to be aspirational, exculpatory and a matter of learning from best practice. Best practice in this area largely rests in the United Kingdom and, to some extent, in the Netherlands.

The next point I will emphasise is the key role of the retailers in the supply chain. Clearly, the retailers have done a lot to cut their own waste at their stage in the process and they are taking it further and helping out on aspects such as food redistribution, but it is also true that they bear a heavy responsibility for what happens at both ends of the chain. Their contracting deals with farmers and small producers inevitably lead to some wastage at that level.

It is part of the general imbalance between the great supermarket chains and farmers and other small producers that leads to alterations in contracts, including premiums for particular, very highly specialised specifications for vegetables and other materials. The way that contracts are actually carved up leads to waste at that level. That is something that needs to be addressed, particularly in the same context as the grocery code and the role of the grocery code adjudicator. At the moment, the adjudicator’s responsibilities do not really include a responsibility for ensuring that the contracting arrangements between the retailer and the provider do not create unnecessary waste, and I think they probably should.

Retailers also have a responsibility to the consumer. They fulfil some of it; I have certainly learnt from the labels on consumer goods and food that I have bought in supermarkets and which I have started reading since we have been engaged in this. It has changed my habits somewhat, as to storage, packaging, how long I think I can keep fruit and what should and should not be in the fridge. If I, who have some responsibility in this area, do not know how to behave in relation to my consumer responsibilities, and need to be told by a retailer, the retailer needs to shout even louder to the vast majority of the population. They are taking on that role, but they need to do more of it. It is undermined, to some extent, by some of the ways they market themselves, particularly with what are called BOGOF deals—where you are tempted to buy more than you need and half of it goes off—and other forms of incentive. That is the downside of the positive role of retailers in this area and it one that they need seriously to address.

Another point I underline is the role of WRAP in this area. Universally within the supply chain, here and across Europe, there is great recognition of the role that WRAP has played. We were rather dismayed to hear that the resources available to WRAP had

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1834

been cut significantly and that there was some expectation that it would have to draw in its horns in this area. Can the Minister indicate what the latest development is on that front? The role of WRAP in the delivery of, for example, the Courtauld initiative with industry and in other initiatives that have taken place has been exemplary. It is one which needs to be retained and generalised across Europe.

We touched on another couple of things in terms of waste disposal for what is wasted. One of the problems with this was raised in debate on the Deregulation Bill yesterday. It is the differential approach to the labelling of waste between local authorities and the need for the public to understand therefore what should be put in what bin, and whether to have differential disposal of food waste because it can be used in different ways from other forms of waste. In some local authorities that is allowed and in some it is not, which seems completely barmy.

There was also some anxiety that in the waste hierarchy, which we considered would continue to be a useful tool, some of the incentives for moving food waste into waste for energy meant that other options such as animal feed, recycling and so forth appeared less attractive, even though they were higher up the waste hierarchy. While I am strongly in favour of anaerobic digestion, for example, and other forms of waste for energy, I think that area needs to be looked at because it distorts the way in which waste is disposed of.

My final point is about food redistribution, which the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, has just spoken about. Food banks are a feature of our life; we touched on them in the previous debate. Undoubtedly the shifting of waste food from the retail end—and increasingly, I hope, from the catering end because caterers as well as retailers need to take some responsibility in this area—into food banks is important. We saw in the Netherlands an example where fresh food was being used more substantially in that area. At the moment, if you go into supermarkets and see what is put into food banks, it is all food in tins and other packaging. In this country, there is in most cases a problem of providing fresh food. In the Netherlands, they seem to have cracked that; admittedly, we were in the middle of an intensive agricultural area. Nevertheless, for nutritional purposes as well as for food waste minimisation, food which was fresh and may have just passed its sell-by date could be diverted into food banks and other forms of food redistribution.

We learnt a lot from this exercise and a lot of things need to be followed through. I suppose that, at the end of the day, we did not think that the EU could help a lot in setting mandatory targets at this stage. However, we believe that the issue of food waste needs to be addressed by retailers here in particular and by the food chain as a whole, with support from the Government, in particular for WRAP, and by converting all of us into consumers who do not chuck quite so much away without consideration.

6.03 pm

Baroness Parminter (LD): My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, I am a member of the sub-committee and benefited from the very able chairmanship of my

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1835

noble friend Lady Scott on this, her first inquiry for the sub-committee. I am sure that the House will benefit from many more, particularly if she carries on choosing subjects for our inquiries which are so pressing and can reach out to the wider public as well. It is important that we speak not only on issues among ourselves but, on occasions, manage to reach a wider audience.

This is indeed an incredibly pressing problem, with 90 million tonnes of food in Europe being wasted every year and environmental resources being wasted as a result of that. Greenhouse gas emissions result, while resources—water, pesticides and other resources—are being wasted by being used for producing those food products.

The report, as other noble Lords have mentioned, identifies where action is necessary. It has identified that good practice is to be found principally in the UK, for which the Government can take a fair degree of credit. It has brought the issue to the public’s attention.

I will focus on one issue that has not been mentioned so far by noble Lords: our recommendation that there was considerable room for improvement in the data reporting by the food and drink manufacturers, the retailers and the wider food service industry. Both the UK Government and the retailers are united in favouring a voluntary approach to reporting. We as a committee accept that the voluntary approach is the right one at this stage. Undoubtedly, however, it requires strong leadership, both from the Government and the umbrella groups in the industry—notably the British Retail Consortium.

The evidence from elsewhere in Europe shows the value of open data reporting at company level. In Norway we saw very clear evidence that the ForMat project—which is a collaborative effort between the retailers, the environmental organisations, the producers and indeed the Government—was a means to chart and minimise food waste. Part of the project is knowledge transfer and communication of the results, ideas and experiences, which has allowed this open data reporting to help drive down food waste by open data sharing: that is, sharing of individual company reports.

In October 2013, we had the first company in the UK to participate in open data reporting. That was Tesco. It may be thought surprising that Tesco was prepared to disclose its food waste when it had some slightly more tricky issues with auditing other accounts in more recent times. Nevertheless, it was an important and welcome initiative. It revealed that it was generating in half a year 30,000 tonnes of food waste. It used its own data and industry-wide figures produced, I think, through WRAP. It was frankly a revolutionary step change in market reporting. It was interesting to see in the Financial Times and other respected newspapers that the Tesco share price was monitored very carefully the next day to see if this had had an impact. It had not. Therefore, there was an assumption that other companies would follow suit and would publicly report their own individual food waste figures. Currently it is done privately as part of the very welcome Courtauld agreement with the support of WRAP.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1836

Those initial hopes were dashed in January this year when the British Retail Consortium announced that the UK major supermarkets had signed up to report their total food wastage statistics, not their separate figures. I accept that all reporting of company food waste is important. It can help individual companies to identify hotspots and they can learn from that and drive down food waste. Indeed, when Tesco did that exercise, it found that 68% of the salad sold in bags was wasted. It then produced smaller bags of salad—so it can have value. But if we are seriously going to help companies save the £5 billion which they are wasting on food waste, we need to share data. We need to learn from best practice and use that peer pressure to address the problems in the industry.

Do the Government have plans to meet the British Retail Consortium and the major supermarkets after the publishing of that sectoral report in late January—in two months’ time? If those plans are not in place, I suggest a round table including government Ministers, perhaps the chairman of our committee, and the major supermarkets in the BRC. They should be brought together in order to look at those collective figures and seek to move towards the publishing of separate food waste figures by major UK supermarkets.

Of course, it is not just supermarkets we need to worry about. It is all companies which are involved with either producing food, selling food, or indeed with employees consuming food. It is here that the Government’s environmental reporting guidelines for companies should be a key plank in moving towards every company reporting its figures. From October, all major UK listed companies were obliged to report their greenhouse gas emissions in the directors’ report. Other forms of social and environmental reporting are voluntary, but in a welcome move the Government encouraged companies to do so and produced those guidelines to help. They are very much in line with the EU’s provisions on non-financial reporting for large companies, which were produced earlier this year and set out the provisions for environmental data reporting.

However, looking in some detail at the government guidelines, as I tend to do, I noticed that in the section on food waste—on page 49, for those noble Lords who want to have a quick look—food is not even mentioned as a separate category for which companies should report waste weight. Paper, glass, aluminium, plastics, aggregates and even hazardous waste are mentioned, but not food waste. Now I accept that the list is not exhaustive, but I thought that if the Government were serious, as they say they are, that companies should be looking to report their food waste figures voluntarily, their own environmental reporting guidelines would explicitly include food waste. Will the Minister confirm that the Government are seeking to encourage companies to report their food waste figures voluntarily? If so, perhaps they might revise their guidelines.

The report accepts that voluntary reporting is the right way forward for now but, given the scale of the challenge, urgent action is needed. It requires leadership from the Government and the British Retail Consortium to achieve a step change in open data reporting. The time is undoubtedly now—or perhaps future Governments in the not too distant future, or indeed the European

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1837

Commission, will be likely to see the merit, as they have done for greenhouse gas reporting, of making open data reporting an obligation for all large companies.

6.11 pm

Lord Cameron of Dillington (CB): My Lords, I declare an interest as a farmer. I must admit to being on the committee, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, for her good work in this area, both in the run-up to our report and subsequent to it. I want to examine this subject from the point of view of one of the world’s biggest problems: how are we going to feed the 9.5 billion people who will inhabit the planet by 2050? How are we going to feed that number when more and more people are eating meat, which consumes up to seven times more of our planet’s resources than if we were eating bread or rice? How are we going to feed that number when our climate is changing and our water supplies are reducing?

Of course, although this is off the subject, the first thing to do is to have freely available family planning in every village on the planet so that women can be free to manage their own fertility. Turning to the problem of food, though, it is a pity that the focus of most scientists, politicians and of course farmers is just about producing more and more of it. I am glad to say that in the scientific world has been a slight change recently, in that scientists are now looking more seriously at the question of yields in terms of nutrition per hectare rather than simply yields per hectare, because there is a big difference. We will never solve the problem of sustainably feeding the world unless we also start tackling it from the demand side, and undoubtedly the most glaring aspect of the demand side is that black hole known as food waste.

We have seen some pretty frightening statistics in our study of this matter, and we have already heard some in today’s debate. I shall highlight two. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers stated that as much as half the food produced in the world never reaches the human stomach, which is as much as 2 billion tonnes of food per annum going to waste. That could be the equivalent of £5 billion per annum being consigned to the tip—bad news indeed for the world economy.

Food waste is also disastrous for climate change. This is my second statistic: in the USA, 300 million barrels of oil per annum are used to produce food that is then thrown away. A barrel of oil is roughly 159 litres, which means that 47.6 billion litres per annum are burnt away into our atmosphere to produce food that is then thrown away. That is just in the United States and, as we know, consumer waste is undoubtedly a problem for the whole western world.

It should be noted, though, that in relation to the western world we in the UK are very much ahead of the curve, and we can be proud of that. WRAP reckons that the 15% reduction in food waste between 2007 and 2012 saved every UK household approximately £130 per annum. My message to Defra is that if you envisage a further drop in WRAP’s budget, you are cutting off your nose to spite your face. Do not go there. WRAP says that over the last five years every £1 spent by the Government through WRAP has saved £500 in household waste. Think of the savings from that to local authority refuse disposal services alone.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1838

This agenda is the very model of a public-private partnership that could save UK millions, if not billions, of pounds, and it is vital that it does not lose momentum. We were told during our report that the anti-smoking campaign was a 50-year journey, and although we must try to make this one a little faster, there is no doubt that public perceptions and awareness take time to change. But keeping up momentum is absolutely the key, and WRAP needs all the support and the money that it can get.

I know that this is an EU committee and this is an EU debate, but as I said at the beginning, this is a worldwide problem so I will direct my final thoughts to the developing world. Here, consumer waste is one-tenth of that of the developed world. They cannot afford to waste any food at all once it is in the home but post-harvest losses, both on the farm and during transport to market, can amount to 30% to 50%, depending on the crop involved. These extensive losses are mostly the result of lack of money for investment in proper storage facilities—rodents, bugs and bacteria abound. There is also no cold chain to market, although the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is looking at cheap ways of addressing that. The roads are rough, resulting in damaged and wasted fruit and veg on the way to market, and while trekking your animals to market may seem the cheapest way to get them there, it appears that weight losses of up to 30% frequently occur, which makes it a more expensive option.

A lot of the problem is knowledge, but the lack of any financial infrastructure also makes it impossible to invest to save. Equally, if you cannot read, it would be too dangerous to use chemicals to prevent the bugs attacking your stored maize. The alternative to having a large enough store which is sealed to keep out air is costly and beyond a smallholder’s reach. However, with investment and research—a lot of which comes from the UK and Europe—breakthroughs are being made. Mobile phones now enable farmers in remote areas to sell their crops directly to markets hundreds of miles away, before they rot from multiple handlings. Large plastic bags which can take a tonne or more and which can be airtight sealed are a new way of preventing decay at a reasonable price. Even reverting from maize to old fashioned crops like finger millet, whose natural husks protect the grain, has proved beneficial for local nutrition. For further details I would recommend our all-party parliamentary group’s recent booklet called Missing Food which I can provide for any interested Peer.

Aid and investment are enabling sub-Saharan African farmers, who often represent 85% of their country’s population, to stand on their own feet. The World Bank says that in terms of alleviation of poverty, a 1% increase in agricultural GDP is worth five or six times more than a 1% rise in non-agricultural GDP. This is an important agenda and post-harvest losses are a crucial part of that agenda, so DfID must continue to do all it can to help.

6.18 pm

Baroness Byford (Con): My Lords, I declare that I was a member of the sub-committee but sadly had to miss some of it for family circumstances. I remind the House of my family’s farming interest.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1839

I belong to a generation brought up after the privations of World War II to eat anything that was put in front of us. Anything that was left over or became inedible was put in the pig bin, fed to the chickens or left for the birds. The question has already been raised as to whether we could actually feed back some of the surplus food for animal feed. I realise there is a health issue of which the Minister will obviously be well aware—both for human health and also for animal health—but I believe that other countries across Europe are considering it and I would be grateful if he could respond to the question. The Government’s response to our report included intentions to,

“improve the public’s understanding of date marks”.

I am a little confused by that; again, perhaps we could be told how that will be achieved and when it will happen.

Food waste is abhorrent. The committee’s work was thorough, detailed and a firm base from which we can proceed. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market and all those who helped us and who endeavoured to produce a very good report. I am delighted that the committee chairman has been invited to speak so much in the public domain, because one of the problems with our reports is that they very often remain here. They need to be taken out and spoken to.

The work being done by organisations such as WRAP, which was referred to by other noble Lords, is focused, innovative and laudable. However, perhaps the force of law might assist the implementation of programmes that arise from such work—although I hesitate to mention regulation. The last Government’s attempt to reduce packaging waste was couched in terms of reducing the total weight of packaging. There were some notable successes, but it also increased the use of the plastic pouch instead of recyclable material such as aluminium cans.

The Government’s response to our report quotes a 15% reduction since 2007 in food waste in the household sector. An item on the “Today” programme on Monday indicated that food waste is falling because household incomes are not growing as fast as prices, and people are buying less. Can the Minister indicate how much of the quoted 15% is due to reduced purchasing, and how much to local authorities allowing householders to put food waste in their compost bins? If he cannot—he may not be able to today—perhaps he might pursue that idea, which clearly has implications for food waste in general.

Another source of food waste relates to the way in which items are packaged for sale. If I buy two portions of fish in a tray, I may need to freeze both of them. The obvious course of action is to freeze them individually, but we have to make sure that in doing so we do not lose the dates which were originally on the packaging—not because the food will deteriorate but because you need to know how long it has been frozen. In their response the Government refer to the excellent work done on egg packaging and labelling. Might they consider encouraging better packaging of items sold in portions which are suitable for freezing?

My noble friend referred in particular in her opening address to the work that had been done on potatoes. I wanted to follow up on that, because Defra sponsored

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1840

it. The interesting things that I picked up from that were: on-farm loss was 3% harvester loss; storage saw a 1% to 5% weight loss; packhouse downgrade 20%; retail 2% unsold and a 5% markdown; and consumer 20% discards and 26% peelings. That gives all of us a great opportunity to play our part in making sure that we reduce waste.

The quantification of food waste and identification of its major causes and location along the food chain is important, but we all know that we should not wait before finally taking the step to help reduce food waste. Redirection to food banks from the original intention of a seed that is sown and grown for human consumption is one way. Noble Lords have referred to the fact that there is no definition, which was clearly a problem for the committee. However, from the evidence we heard, we rather assumed that anything that was sown and grown that was suitable for human consumption should first go to human consumption and only after that into food banks—and only after that becoming animal feed or going into energy production.

This is very difficult, but there are many ways in which we can help. The Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe, published in 2011, is to be recommended for its aspirational targets. Having a food waste target for 2025 is a good move. Any target encourages people actually to do something, which is what we are trying to do. We all share in our responsibilities there.

This is extremely important. I am very glad to follow my noble friend Lord Cameron, because I have a similar fear about our waste in producing food, and not just in this country. We can help other countries, too. If we were to save food that currently we are wasting, we would not necessarily have to increase the amount we are producing. If I could add to that, I would like our expertise in the way that we produce food—I know it goes on—to try to help some of those countries to be able to produce more themselves.

I was very taken with the recent publication by the NFU about the contribution that the Women’s Land Army made 100 years ago. For those of you who do not know, when the war broke out a third of our male workforce was taken off the fields, obviously to take part in the war. Some 98,000 women, most of them from urban areas, had a chance to go and work on farms and produce the food that saved us from starving. Why do I mention this? It is because the NFU’s publication had a leaflet, which I copied. It was headed “Food” and underneath that were five very simple messages. First, “Buy it with thought”; secondly, “Cook it with care”; thirdly, “Use less meat and wheat”; fourthly, “Serve just enough”; and fifthly, “Use what is left over”. Underneath, in big letters, it said “Don’t waste it”. That, 100 years later, summarises what we have tried to do in our report, and I congratulate my noble friend on her leadership with this particular challenge that we have tackled.

6.26 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer (LD): My Lords, many noble Lords have spoken about all the rational reasons why it is important not to waste food. Certainly, food security is not a given: we are in a very frail food chain.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1841

As other noble Lords have mentioned, when we waste food we are wasting energy, which is an especially important consideration at a time of climate change. But we are also wasting water when we waste food. In fact, enough water is used in the irrigation of food grown globally that is wasted—that is, water irrigating just wasted food—for the domestic needs of 9 billion people. I got that figure from the wonderful Tristram Stuart, and I find it really shocking.

Furthermore, when we waste food we are wasting land. Here in the UK good quality agricultural land is pretty limited. Some people do not think we even have enough to spare some to allow the small percentage that it would take of extra hedgerows, grass strips and small copses to turn our farmland from somewhere that is failing wildlife at the moment into somewhere that is rich in biodiversity. I thoroughly agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Cameron of Dillington, when he said that it is in fact the nutrition per hectare that is important. That is an interesting shift in thinking, which has started in the last two or three years.

Finally, when we waste food we also are wasting money. Those are all very sound reasons not to waste food.

I believe that this report hits such a spot because food is such a cultural thing. If we think of the word “company”—as in “I enjoy your company”—it comes from “cum pane” and means literally “with bread”, as in “I am breaking bread with you”. As I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, will appreciate, with her big dinner tonight, when you invite good friends round, you invite them for a meal; you do not invite them round just to sit on a chair. Therefore, the importance of the issue reaches beyond the actual numbers; it is a very cultural thing that we are wasting food and a comment on society. That is why I am very pleased that this excellent, measured and hard-hitting report from Sub-Committee D has already contributed so much to the essential movement to limit and eradicate food waste. The press coverage that it got when it came out is a credit to my noble friend the chairman and to the quality of the report.

The conclusions and recommendations struck me as very sound, and I shall just mention a few. As the committee says in its report, I was horrified by how little effort or emphasis the Commission has put into this subject so far. The report spells that out very clearly. But equally, here in the UK, I was saddened, as paragraph 159 demonstrated, by how little has happened over the past 10 or 15 years with regard to domestic food waste reduction. Of course, I appreciate how difficult that is. The reason why I have taken that timescale is that I stood down as a councillor in 2005, and in the nine years since then little seems to have changed.

I was interested in the reply—this was in the briefing pack for this debate from the Library—to a Commons Question on 23 June this year, which shows the breakdown of separate food waste by local authority. It is really patchy; some are performing pretty well, but the performance of some is absolutely abysmal. In Lambeth, where I am a council tax payer, they managed to recycle only a few hundred tonnes, and even that has

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1842

halved over the three-year period. Yet some small rural districts are managing to recycle thousands of tonnes. When my noble friend the Minister replies, can he say why he thinks that there is such an uneven rate of success among local authorities? I know, and I agree, that normally Governments should be hands-off with local authorities, but this seems a particular case where encouragement and guidance really does not seem to have achieved much.

I am glad that the report’s final conclusion is that a voluntary approach is sound for now but that in five years’ time, if nothing has changed, it might need to be followed up by legislation. That was certainly underlined by my experience earlier in the week when I visited Brussels. My visit was the culmination of a report from the Industry and Parliament Trust, the Food Ethics Council and Warwick University, called The Long and the Short of It, which is about sustainable food supply chains. Among other things, we too found, as this committee’s report mentions in paragraph 212, that the DGs need to improve their co-ordination enormously. We were pleased to hear that at least the new Commission, even though it has been in place only for a short time, has already set up two horizontal working groups between environment and agriculture. Perhaps we can look forward to some more.

We also concluded that much of the investment, focus and drive for more sustainable food chains come largely from the private sector, and that it is the public sector that needs to catch up. However, for the debate today we received a briefing from the BRC that was helpful but struck me as slightly complacent. I would not like to think that the private sector was beginning to coast just because the public sector has a lot of catching up to do.

It is important to practise what you preach, and here in the House of Lords we are vigorously pursing the reduction path. Other noble Lords have mentioned the importance of the hierarchy. There is currently a food waste audit under way that is to report by Christmas. Our catering manager believes, correctly, that you need to know where the various elements of waste are arising, whether in preparation, uneaten portions or food offered but not chosen, before you can go for further reduction. The audit will give our catering department the tools to make us among the most sustainable restaurant categories with regard to waste. Currently, our food waste, which used to go for incineration, goes to an AD plant. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that it is better for it to go to AD than nothing but that it is better for it not to be wasted in the first place.

6.34 pm

Lord Trees (CB): My Lords, I am delighted to be able to speak in this debate. I am a member of the committee now, but I was not at the time the report was produced. I feel very strongly about the subject. As someone who had a Yorkshire father and a Scottish mother, the idea of using precious resources sensibly, which we used to call thrift, is in my genes. The fact that I was not a member of the committee when it produced the report also allows me to praise it as a valuable and timely analysis of an important subject.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1843

With a rapidly expanding global population and evolving demands for a more varied diet, we cannot afford the profligacy of waste at the scale emphasised by the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, in her introduction. To reduce waste by, say, 10% is equivalent to increasing the production of food by 10%. I suggest that it would be a lot easier to do that. Reducing waste is, to use an appropriate metaphor, “the low hanging fruit” that will help to address the global food supply issues that the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, mentioned earlier.

As the introduction to our EU report says, in the EU, some 89 million tonnes of all food produced each year never reaches the human stomach. It is not surprising that other responsible bodies have also been concerned with this. I acknowledge the report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, entitled Global Food, Waste not, Want not, published in 2013. It identified three broad types of emerging societies: fully developed, post-industrial societies with stable or declining populations, such as in Europe; late-stage developing societies currently industrialising rapidly, such as China; and newly developing nations, at an early stage in industrialisation and high population growth, such as a number of states in Africa. The report also observed, interestingly, that there is a relationship between the socioeconomic status of a country and the proportion of food waste which occurs in different stages of the food supply chain. In short, as countries develop and better control losses in the primary production stages, a higher proportion of waste occurs further along the progress of food from farm to fork. Thus, in Europe, the highest proportion of food waste—as highlighted in our report—occurs in the household. Some 42% of all food waste occurs in the household. Not surprisingly, if we look at UK statistics, the proportion is, by coincidence, exactly the same—42%.

This is a shocking statistic and I want to concentrate on this aspect—waste in the home. What is particularly worrying, as has been alluded to earlier, is that the waste involves not just the tonnage of food discarded—some 7 million tonnes of food and drink in the UK each year. It is axiomatic that, because the food is wasted at the end of the supply chain, not only is the food per se wasted, but all the resources that went into processing, transporting, packaging, distributing and retailing are also wasted.

To look at it in another way, in the UK, where there is huge competition for land use in the finite space of these isles, if we eliminated the current level of all food waste, we could have available as much as another 2 million hectares of land for other vital purposes. This is 11.6% of the total utilised agricultural area currently in the UK. Incidentally, this is an area equivalent to—I have not made this up—the area of Wales.

So what can be done about this? The great opportunity about household waste is that fairly simple and cheap measures can help hugely. We do not need laws or regulation. Information, education and a few technical aids could help enormously, together with publicising the real economic benefits to the consumer. Collectively, these initiatives could provide the incentive for a modification in behaviour.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1844

On the economics of this issue, in 2012 the average household with children could save almost £60 a month—equivalent to £700 a year—through efficient use of the food available in our shops and supermarkets. I appreciate that modern life is hectic and that families tend to eat together less and in a less planned way, but a key to avoiding food wastage in the household, I suggest, is planning meals and menu planning. There are other benefits in promoting family eating—for health and social cohesion as well as reducing waste.

I enjoy cooking and I do quite a lot of our household cooking when I am at home, although I do not think that I will be doing any tonight when I get home at about 11.30. It is quite relaxing, but the really irksome bit—as I am sure those of your Lordships who are responsible for putting food on the table agree—is the menu planning. The question is always, “What are we going to eat next week?”. So often, we buy food in the shops that we fancy and then we try to provide meals throughout the week with what is in the fridge. However, we all know that that can lead to a lot of waste.

I am not a techie but what I would love is an app that carries a database to which I can add all my favourite menus and all the attendant recipes. I could use it to choose menus for a week ahead. However, what I would really like the app to do is, at the press of a button, combine all the recipes and give me the shopping list of everything that I need for that week: the potatoes, the fresh cream and so on. In fact, I have discovered that the UK Waste and Resources Action Programme, or WRAP, which has been referred to a great deal during the debate, has developed just such an app called Love Food Hate Waste. I have only just learnt that through studying our report and preparing for this speech. It is a great and underused tool which, I suggest, deserves to be publicised and promoted widely.

In concluding, I should like to ask the Minister what other measures by way of public information, education and encouragement the Government have in progress to promote menu planning in our society. Such measures could provide a low-cost, easily deliverable means of achieving a substantial reduction in the appalling level of household food waste. Let us do all we can to help people to eat better, and to save time, save money and save waste.

6.42 pm

Lord Grantchester (Lab): I welcome the report that the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, has presented so eloquently to the House. It is very important. Food waste has many impacts throughout the food chain, with economic, environmental and social implications. Perhaps as much as a third of all food grown is wasted, from the field to the dinner plate. I declare my interest as a dairy farmer, with experience of the processing and manufacturing of ingredients as well as food retailing.

In the report, the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, challenged the Government on the hierarchy of waste, suggesting that human food waste be channelled into animal feed. This was echoed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Jenkin and Lady Byford. While I recognise the good intentions behind these remarks, the fact is that

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1845

the regulations covering such recycling arose out of lessons learnt from previous disasters. I urge the Government to proceed extremely carefully so that unnecessary risks with animal health are not taken.

The report identifies that waste is now a major public policy issue that must be addressed at the levels of primary production, processing, manufacturing and retailing, as well as within the household. The committee is to be congratulated on the clear focus of the report. There is so much content to discuss that it is difficult to do it justice in the time available.

The report is correct to point out that the challenge of agreeing adequate definitions in order to set parameters within which to monitor waste in itself highlights the issue and encourages response measures. The difficulties that impinge on the quality of available data at all levels underline that voluntary action is the best course and that waste monitoring and data collection must be effectively resourced across the EU.

The noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, is correct to point out that companies also have the responsibility to provide environmental reports with their company results. It is also imperative that the challenges posed by this report are answered with aspirational targets set at EU level to focus member states’ attention and co-ordination.

The report detected no systematic attempt across the European Commission to assess the impact of its policies on food waste. It recommended the establishment of a cross-departmental working group on the issue. The Government did not give a very adequate response to these remarks. Has the Minister any initiative to report in this respect? As the new CAP measures are finally agreed, what are the Government doing to encourage the new European Commission to publish a five-year strategy on food waste prevention and to address many of the issues raised throughout the inquiry, to ensure that best practice identified in one member state can be translated into effective action elsewhere?

The Government’s response to the report referred to the new rural development programme and how it could be used to accelerate research under the agricultural technologies strategy. However, can the Minister confirm whether increasing efficiency, which could well be interpreted in ways that could include waste reduction, is allowable under CAP farm support generally and will not be barred as constituting direct production support? There could well be an opportunity here to reduce losses and the disconnect up the food supply chain.

Within the UK, the Waste and Resources Action Programme—WRAP—has an invaluable role and has been identified by many speakers tonight. The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, highlighted that, within the UK, there is a high risk of a false economy if the cuts to WRAP funding to support waste prevention ultimately lead to resource inefficiency in terms of economic costs to businesses and households and environmental costs for greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy consumption. Although the Government’s response highlighted the good work they are undertaking, in conjunction with WRAP, in encouraging best practice in recycling and working with councils to make food recycling more convenient for residents, does the Minister

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1846

agree that cutting funding, without assessing the impact, will send out completely the wrong signal and undermine progress? Although the Government can identify areas in which to step back, is this not one where it is far from clear that businesses are better placed to act? Does the Minister identify waste prevention as revealing clear market failure?

The Government’s response welcomed the committee’s support for the Groceries Supply Code of Practice and the Groceries Code Adjudicator. The response clarified that the jurisdiction of the GCA extends only to direct suppliers to the large retailers, and this was mentioned tonight by my noble friend Lord Whitty. However, it is often the late cancellation of orders, especially in the fresh produce sector, where suppliers are most critical of the unfair relationship with retailers. Might it not be an aspect of the adjudicator’s role to monitor this sort of action which, even if compensated by the retailer, could have a large impact on waste prevention?

The report identifies the excellent progress made by retailers reducing unnecessary packaging and co-ordinating action through the Courtauld commitment. My noble friend Lord Whitty underlined that retailers can assume a far greater responsibility for the prevention of food waste in the chain as well as in the home. Retailers must ensure that incentives and promotions offered to consumers do not transfer waste from the store to the household.

The report suggests, as have speakers throughout tonight’s debate, that food labelling remains confusing to consumers. Would the Minister agree that the food information for consumers regulation remains work in progress and in urgent need of clarification and communication to the consumer? What plan does the Minister’s department have to take this forward? Does he agree that it is confusing that there is still a lack of adoption of the agreed terms?

The report has clearly identified that there is much to be achieved and it provides a critical assessment of the milestones ahead. It is to be commended on its identification of challenges to policy implementation, to which the EU and member states must respond. The members of the committee who have spoken tonight bear testament to the importance of the inquiry for the House’s consideration.

6.50 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley) (Con): My Lords, by 2030 a rising global population is expected to mean that demand for food will have increased by 50%. Food waste requires urgent action across Europe and throughout the world, as several noble Lords have said. A third of the food produced globally is wasted, which is about 90 million tonnes in Europe and 1.3 billion tonnes globally. We must address this if we are to mitigate the increasing demand for food and resources around the world.

I welcome and am grateful for the committee’s report and the direction in which it points as to where we need to take action. It makes an important contribution to the whole subject of food waste and provides some helpful recommendations. It is timely because, as noble

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1847

Lords know, the Commission is undertaking a review of the revised waste framework directive. Indeed, we do need to work together across Europe to reduce waste. We have now seen the EU Commission’s proposal on food waste, which we broadly welcome. As noble Lords have said, the UK has already taken concerted action to reduce food waste over a number of years, and is recognised as a world leader in food waste prevention through the work of WRAP.

We have built up extensive knowledge in measuring and understanding how to reduce food waste, and a mark of how WRAP’s advice is recognised is through its input to EU projects such as FUSIONS, work by the World Resources Institute and UNEP. The UK’s approach is being used as a case study for the OECD. We are pressing to ensure that the Commission’s target to reduce food waste by 30% recognises our early action. We are currently undertaking an analysis on how any such target might be reached, and its potential impact on the UK.

UK householders waste 7 million tonnes of food—that is £12.5 billion of food per year, which is about £60 a month for an average family. Of that, £5.5 billion is due to food not used in time. Food is also wasted across the supply chain—roughly 4 million tonnes in manufacturing, 0.5 million tonnes in food retail and 1 million tonnes in the hospitality sector. We all know that we ought to be wasting much less food. Food wasted means that we have fewer pounds in our pocket and the energy and water used to produce and transport the food has been wasted. Most people want to do something about food waste and we are taking steps to help them do that. Food waste was identified as a priority nearly a decade ago for my department, and the UK has taken early action. It remains a cornerstone of WRAP’s work and a priority for future work addressing the whole waste hierarchy for food.

The first step of this work was the launch of the Courtauld commitment in 2005—a voluntary agreement with the grocery sector. Under this agreement all the main supermarkets and food manufacturers signed up to targets and action on food and packaging waste in the supply chain and in households. While initially focusing on packaging, a food waste target was introduced in 2007. Over the first two phases of the Courtauld commitment we have seen that: 2.9 million tonnes of waste with a value of £4 billion was prevented; packaging was reduced by 1 million tonnes; and UK annual household food waste decreased by 15%—1.3 million tonnes—between 2007 and 2012. The third phase of the Courtauld commitment is under way, running until the end of 2015, and we expect it to prevent just over 1 million tonnes of waste, with additional savings of £1.6 billion and to lead to a total reduction of household food waste of 20% since 2007.

Running alongside the Courtauld commitment has been the Love Food Hate Waste campaign, providing ideas and information to help households waste less. Around half of food waste is produced by households. We have evidence of increasing positive behaviours among consumers, such as checking cupboards before shopping, making shopping lists and planning meals.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1848

In addition, we have diversified our approach to include the hospitality and food service sector, launching the voluntary hospitality and food service agreement in 2012. There are over 170 signatories and supporters with ambitious targets to reduce the amount of food waste that they produce, and to manage it better by recycling and sending food for anaerobic digestion to produce energy.

In response to my noble friends Lady Scott and Lady Byford, we have also worked with industry to move to a simpler date-labelling system, with the phasing out of “display until” or “sell by” dates. As the committee recommended, the guidance on the Food Information Regulations is now available on the Food Standards Agency website, and will be further improved and moved to the GOV.UK website by the end of the year.

Related to this, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, referred to “buy one, get one free” deals. The majority of promotions are temporary price reductions; examples include “was £8, now £6” or “three for £10”. “Buy one, get one free” deals are often on non-perishable items or items with long lives. WRAP works with retailers to encourage alternative promotions for perishable foods. This approach enables consumers to make savings, but still buy the amounts or range of food that are right for them.

The Product Sustainability Forum, which is a collaboration of organisations made up of grocery retailers and suppliers, academics, NGOs and government, works to measure, improve and communicate the environmental performance of grocery products, using a farm-to-fork approach. This included a project on potatoes that identified points in the whole value chain where waste was created and how it could be reduced. We have also commissioned research to improve our understanding of wastage on farm, as I know the committee’s report has recommended a need to look into this sector.

Action has been taken to ensure that surplus food can be redistributed to people before being put to any other use. While the committee’s report has recommended the need for fiscal measures, WRAP advises that a financial incentive already exists, the redistribution and collection costs being on average cheaper than collection costs and gate fees when sending to anaerobic digestion. The industry working group that we convened has been identifying other barriers and then solutions. The result of this was the publication in March of new research, case studies and guiding principles to enable the industry to redistribute more food.

My noble friend Lady Scott, among others, asked about feeding waste to animals. If not suitable for people, some food waste may indeed be fed to animals. As the committee’s report has recommended, there is a need to seek to increase this. As noble Lords know, there are strict EU regulations governing this, but in response to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, we have commissioned further research to examine the risks to determine whether that approach is still appropriate. WRAP also produced guidance, published in September, to demonstrate that some food, such as bread, cakes, confectionary and cheese, would be permitted for this purpose, and set out the economic case for doing so.

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1849

The noble Lords, Lord Whitty, Lord Cameron, and Lord Grantchester, among others, asked about WRAP funding. I am on record as being a huge fan of WRAP and endorse the supportive comments of noble Lords. We worked closely with WRAP and key stakeholders, particularly those in the industry, to ensure that the activities that we fund are targeted and making a critical difference to business performance. WRAP has stepped back from work in areas such as construction and demolition waste, where market failures have already largely been addressed; the industry is now recovering a large amount of the materials used through re-use and recycling.

Food waste, however, remains an area where market failures still exist, as the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, said. So we continue to support WRAP for this work at a level of funding that is broadly similar to that before the review. WRAP will continue to deliver priority projects such as Courtauld, the hospitality agreement and Love Food Hate Waste. It will also develop an ambitious post-2015 programme of work.

The noble Lord, Lord Cameron, spoke of wastage in developing countries. I agree that this is an important area. He mentioned research that this country funds and he knows of our agritech strategy, in which DfID is a key participant department. Some £10 million of the funding in that strategy is targeted at developing countries. Indeed, technology could make dramatic improvements in efficiency and bear down on waste.

In response to a question from my noble friend Lady Scott, Defra has been working with the Commission and other member states on the Commission’s communication on sustainable food. The publication of the communication has to be a decision for the new Commission—and I have to say, it is early days.

My noble friend Lady Scott and the noble Lords, Lord Whitty and Lord Grantchester, referred to the Groceries Code Adjudicator and whether she could make a difference in this area. The Groceries Supply Code of Practice aims to prevent retailers from transferring excessive risk to their suppliers through unreasonable business practices—that is what it is about. Two of its conditions cover wastage and forecasting errors, clarifying the conditions on which compensation for these may be sought. The greater certainty provided to suppliers and the role that the Groceries Code Adjudicator will play may indeed help to reduce waste.

My noble friend Lady Parminter asked about the reporting of retailers’ figures. Retailers currently report their food waste figures through the Courtauld commitment. We are working with WRAP and industry partners to develop a collaborative framework for the reduction of waste throughout the food chain. This framework will continue the good work of Courtauld and will be the place for the continued reporting of food waste.

The noble Lord, Lord Trees, asked about publicising Love Food Hate Waste. Information on choosing,

6 Nov 2014 : Column 1850

cooking and eating a healthy diet is provided via NHS Choices, including the Change4Life social marketing campaign and guidance on healthier and more sustainable catering. The “eatwell plate” displays the proportions and types of foods that should be eaten as part of a healthy lifestyle. The Government’s Change4Life programme provides tools and resources that incentivise and encourage behaviour change; for example, the Meal Mixer app has been downloaded more than 1 million times and contains hundreds of quick, healthy and affordable family recipes.

Some noble Lords asked about collection at local authority level. We have no plans to compel councils to adopt household food waste collections, but WRAP has been working in seven local authority areas to understand methods to maximise resident participation in food waste collections and ensure that all non-preventable food waste is recycled. Early indications are that there are a number of affordable interventions that local authorities can adopt to maximise take-up of existing schemes. WRAP will be providing updated guidance for local authorities in December.

To the extent that I have not answered noble Lords’ questions, perhaps I might write. The committee’s report included a recommendation on the need to work with WRAP to deliver a whole-supply-chain approach. I agree that there is a need for policy and action to evolve to tackle food waste across the whole value chain and I recognise the close relationship between food waste, food security and sustainability. That is why we have been working closely with WRAP in its development of proposals for an initiative that looks at how the food we produce and eat can be more sustainable and secure and where waste can be further reduced. This is more than a mere successor to Courtauld 3 but it will continue and expand that work, and put the onus on industry to take greater ownership. This project should influence global supply chains and could therefore have an impact in the EU and beyond.

That work demonstrates the knowledge we have developed and the tried and tested approaches that we have delivered, and is a model that we encourage others across the EU to take up. This action demonstrates the good work that has already been done and is currently happening, but we are looking to the future to develop a strategic and long-term approach to reducing food waste.

Draft Protection of Charities Bill

Message from the Commons

A message was brought from the Commons that they concur that it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider the draft Protection of Charities Bill presented to both Houses on 22 October 2014 (Cm 8954), and that the Committee should report on the draft Bill by 28 February 2015.

House adjourned at 7.03 pm.