502.We heard repeatedly of the need for ‘whole system change’. We recognise that this call reflects the serious concerns that individuals and organisations have about the state of the food system; to many, a systemic shift is required. It was also evident that what ‘whole system change’ might look like, what it might involve and how it might be realised, are issues that many organisations are still grappling with. We agree that a radical shift is required but have avoided simply calling for whole system change without quantifying what that means. In previous chapters, we have outlined points at different stages of the system where positive change could be realised—primary production, food manufacturing; and the food environment—to help ensure that more people can access a healthy, sustainable diet.
503.The most compelling arguments about how to stimulate broader system change were about how food policy might be better coordinated, and how the Government can be held more accountable for achieving improvements in food, health and sustainability. Witnesses criticised the absence of a coherent strategy on food and the lack of coordination there has been in tackling the interrelated issues of food insecurity, diet-related ill health and food sustainability.
504.As we have detailed elsewhere in the report, the outbreak of COVID-19 has exacerbated the serious, systemic problems with the food system that our inquiry has focused on. The crisis will have serious and long-term effects on the economy and on public health. It also appears that COVID-19 disproportionately affects groups with poor dietary health, and those living in more deprived areas. It is, therefore, more important than ever that an overarching strategy for the food system is put in place, one that is effectively coordinated and rigorously monitored, so that progress on the issues of food insecurity, poor diet and environmental sustainability can, at last, be realised.
505.The prospect of the National Food Strategy provides us with a great deal of optimism that the challenges relating to the role and impact of the food system might finally be addressed under an overarching strategy, allowing for a coordinated approach to the multi-disciplinary issues that exist. While we do not wish to pre-empt the findings of Mr Dimbleby’s review, the evidence we received allows us to offer some insight into what might help to support and secure any future national strategy for food. The key themes to emerge were that:
(a)There needs to be a clear ambition set, by the Government, for what it wants the food system to achieve. That ambition should be supported by a comprehensive understanding of the scale of the issues involved, and the links between them;
(b)Any ambitions set for a national food strategy need to be underpinned by strong accountability measures, with progress against targets reported on by Ministers to Parliament on a regular basis; and
(c)There is a need for stronger coordination and integration of the policies that govern what the UK population eat and the ability to access a healthy, sustainable diet.
506.In recognition of the central role played by food manufacturers, retailers and the food services sector in influencing both the composition of food, and the environment in which is it made available to the consumer, the Government must ensure that as the National Food Strategy takes shape, it continues to engage with these sectors, to ensure that they play their part in effecting positive change within the food system.
507.A prominent concern raised was that the Government has not yet set an overarching ambition for what the food system should achieve in this country. When asked what the most significant challenge facing the food system is, Professor Lang (amongst others) stated: “The problem is lack of vision. We do not have a national food policy.” Anna Taylor agreed with this assertion, stating:
“Particularly when it comes to diet, we have a situation now where the lack of collective vision for the food system across government, citizens and business gets in the way of our developing good and coherent policy.”
508.We were told that the lack of a unifying ambition or strategy on food prevents interrelated issues such as hunger and health, and the food environment and food sustainability, from being considered in parallel, meaning that opportunities are missed to develop coherent policies that could stimulate positive change. Importantly, stronger coordination and integration would allow for a more comprehensive analysis of the inevitable trade-offs involved in achieving health, environmental and food security ambitions. UK Research and Innovation, referring to food insecurity specifically, highlighted that:
“UK food insecurity is caused by a complex network of factors, including the types of food being produced and manufactured, local food infrastructure, physical access to food outlets, the purchasing power of individual consumers and socially acceptable consumption norms, however, poverty is the key driver which impacts the other factors. A food systems approach is essential for considering the inter-relationship between these factors, identifying win-wins, managing trade-offs and helping to mitigate less desirable outcomes.”
509.In one of its follow-up reports on the Sustainable Development Goals, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee concluded that food insecurity and hunger had “fallen between the cracks in Government plans.” It criticised the Government for failing to understand the relationship between food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition and stated that:
“The issues of food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition and obesity should be considered in parallel in the UK context. They are often co-located and share causal factors. For example, insufficient access to food may lead to risk-averse purchasing habits and prioritisation of low-priced, filling foods with long shelf lives - which are often nutrient poor but calorie-rich.”
510.In our inquiry, we were tasked with taking a broader view, to consider the issue of food insecurity and its links to public health, but also to factors within the wider food system, the impact of the food environment and food sustainability. Our frustration is that the Government is failing to consider the links between these issues.
511.We were made aware of the ongoing work in both Scotland and Wales to develop national food policies. We have outlined the work that is being done in Scotland and Wales in more detail later in this chapter but broadly, there was recognition within the evidence of the benefit of the coordinated approach taken by both countries in drawing together food, health, the environment and inequalities under one overarching strategy. Professor Lang commented that:
“In Wales, the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act has had a fundamental impact on getting the Wales Government to think about their rural policy in relation to their health policy in relation to their schools policy. In Scotland, the good food nation process, very ably pushed and promoted by an extremely articulate and well-organised civil society movement that goes from public health professions to straight NGOs has been trying to think about what a small country can do …”
Professor Lang went on to comment that:
“I would not have mentioned them [Scotland and Wales] if they were not addressing exactly the agenda of this Committee. Both are addressing health, environment and inequalities, because both those countries—they are countries—have major problems on those fronts.”
512.When Henry Dimbleby’s review was announced in June 2019, the Government acknowledged that there had not been a national food strategy in England for 75 years (since the post-war 1947 Agriculture Act). DEFRA stated that the purpose of the National Food Strategy is to: “set out a vision for the kind of food system we should be building for the future, and a plan for how to achieve that vision.”
513.We recognise that COVID-19 may have an impact on the timings of the publication of the review but Mr Dimbleby told us that when his final review is published, the Government had made a commitment to respond within a defined timescale. He explained:
“The Government have already said that they will respond to the report with a White Paper six months after it is published. They have asked me to come back to review progress another 12 months after that. The ambition for what we recommend is to try to get as much embedded as agreed action on publication.”
514.There was strong support for work that is underway to develop the National Food Strategy. This support was generally based on the assertion that the absence of an overarching policy was undermining any progress that could be made to tackle the negative impacts of the way the food system currently functions. The Government has stated that work on the review has been temporarily paused so that the team can concentrate on supporting the COVID-19 response, but that its work does remain a priority.
516.We recommend that the Government should remain committed to responding to the National Food Strategy review with a White Paper within six months of the review’s publication. It should commit to action the review’s recommendations on publication.
517.We were also directed to consider the work that is being taken in the devolved nations to develop their own national food strategies. This provided us with examples of what kinds of policy strands should be brought under the banner of “food policy” and informed us about the overarching ambitions these countries have set for their food systems. This evidence focused on Scotland and Wales and we have briefly outlined the approaches taken by the two countries below.
518.In 2009, the Scottish Government published Recipe for Success–Scotland’s National Food and Drink Policy. In 2014, it published its national food and drink policy: Becoming a Good Food Nation. This articulated a new aspiration, to make Scotland by 2025: “a Good Food Nation, where people from every walk of life take pride and pleasure in, and benefit from, the food they produce, buy, cook, serve, and eat each day.”
519.In setting out the activities that it is undertaking to meet the aims of the Good Food Nation policy, the Scottish Government has been clear that it does not consider legislation “essential to delivering action” on its Good Food ambitions but that “legislation may help to underpin key measures and activity. As such, it has committed to introducing a Good Food Nation Bill to “underpin the significant work already undertaken across Government in terms of key measures and activity to deliver a Good Food Nation.” The Scottish Government have said that in work on their Good Food Nation Bill they will: “focus on embedding processes for ensuring that the substance of the right to food has effect as a matter of everyday good practice.”
520.To help develop its policy, a non-statutory Scottish Food Commission was established to “provide advice on the existing and future challenges facing Scotland’s food culture and how these might be addressed.” The Commission identified five key priorities for the Good Food Nation policy: health, social justice, knowledge, environmental sustainability and prosperity. Having also developed recommendations for the scope of the related legislation, the Commission has now disbanded.
521.George Burgess, Head of Food and Drink at the Scottish Government, told us that: “All the work within the Scottish Government is informed by our national performance frameworks, a set of outcomes and indicators that we use across the whole of Government.” These performance frameworks measure progress or regression against 81 metrics (including several on hunger, health and environmental sustainability) based upon the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
522.The Scottish Programme for Government 2019–2020 contained a commitment to bring forward a Good Food Nation Bill in this term and we understand that work was underway to prepare the Bill for introduction. The Scottish Government has recently stated, however, that due to the need for parliamentary time to debate and implement emergency COVID-19 legislation, the Bill will not now be introduced in this parliamentary term.
523.There was support expressed for the approach taken by the Scottish Government. Dr Koldo Casla from the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, for example, said:
“While it is too early to tell what the Bill will look like in practice, if done properly it could provide a new framework for a coherent food policy, facilitating a transition to a fair, healthy and sustainable food system that ensures access to nutritiously adequate, accessible and affordable food, as expected in international human rights law.”
524.The Welsh Government published its food strategy ‘Food for Wales, food from Wales 2010–2020’ in December 2010. The strategy aimed to consider: “health, food culture and education, food security, environmental sustainability and community development to provide the basis for an integrated approach to food policy in Wales.” The strategy identified four key principles: sustainability, resilience, competitiveness; and profitability. The foreword for the strategy stated that: “The direction here is radical and faces up to the challenges of ensuring that people have access to the affordable and healthy food they need whilst ensuring that this does not impact adversely on the natural environment.”
525.David Morris, deputy head of the food division in the Welsh Government explained to us:
“Our current action plan, which was the operational way to deliver the food for Wales and food from Wales strategy, was published about 10 years ago and completes in 2020. It had a number of overriding objectives: to establish a food industry board in Wales; to grow the Welsh brand; and to upscale the industry, in the food manufacturing sector workforce primarily. It had lots of initiatives and actions to grow business and trade development, and a number of actions around the area of food safety and food security, which included some public health and nutrition actions.”
526.Mr Morris confirmed, when asked, that the primary objective of the strategy was growing the food industry in Wales. Mr Morris stated:
“That strategy is complete. We had an overall growth turnover target of £7 billion for what was the food and farming priority sector. That was the way it was defined. We aimed to achieve that target by 2020 from a baseline of just over £5 billion in 2013. We have exceeded that target. At the end of 2019, we had reached £7.473 billion.”
527.The Food for Wales strategy ends in 2020. The Welsh Government and the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board are jointly producing a new plan to support the sector. Mr Morris confirmed that a follow-on food strategy was consulted on in 2019, and that a new food strategy would be announced later in 2020.
528.Wales has also introduced The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, that requires public bodies in Wales to “think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other, and to prevent persistent problems such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change”. Mr Morris explained how the Well-being Act impacted on the development of its food strategy:
“For example, when we are developing our food strategy, we must go through a policy gateway process. There is a mapping exercise of our proposals in relation to the well-being goals. There are seven well-being goals: a prosperous Wales; a healthier Wales; a more resilient Wales; a Wales of cohesive communities; a Wales of vibrant culture; a thriving Welsh language; and a globally responsible Wales.”
529.Mr Morris also explained the role of the Future Generations Commissioner whose role is to ensure that policy, including food policy, adheres to its goals. Mr Morris said:
“Public bodies have to identify their own future generations actions to deliver on the Act. They have to report annually to the commissioner on what they are doing and what they have achieved. The commissioner will then provide feedback and may make recommendations for change. There is quite a lot of governance around it. Public service boards in each of the local authorities take an active role for the local authority in delivering and taking forward actions appropriate to delivering the future generations Act and its well-being goals.”
530.We recognise that work in both nations is still ongoing and that there are challenges remaining for both countries. The examples, however, were useful in considering what priorities the Government may want to consider in any future national food strategy for England. Most notably, both strategies brought together different strands of food policy, both approaches are underpinned by some form of legislation and by accountability frameworks.
531.If the Government wants to set ambitions for the food system, through a national food strategy, it will be imperative that there are robust mechanisms in place for judging progress against those goals. Amongst others, the Food Foundation, LSHTM and SHEFS, suggested that the Government needs a revised set of metrics to drive improvement across the food system. The submission advocated for the introduction of:
“a number of metrics and targets which government and businesses operating in the food system should report on to parliament on a periodic basis. These could include levels of childhood obesity, levels of household food insecurity, greenhouse gas emissions associated with our diets etc.”
Similarly, Dr Adrian Morley emphasised the importance of data and mandating reporting from the food system, stating that:
“If we had a lot more information, with information publicly available for NGOs and different stakeholders in the system, to understand the consequences of individual dietary and purchasing choices, and if we can mandate certain parts of the food system to report different sustainability metrics and incentivise other smaller businesses to do the same, it would go a long way towards identifying a route to manage the transition to a more sustainable food system. In a nutshell, it would be data.”
532.Kate Halliwell from the Food and Drink Federation highlighted that there is not, at present, a mechanism for measuring overall progress towards health and sustainability goals. Ms Halliwell stated that:
“As far as I am aware, the Government do not have an overarching metric for healthy and sustainable diets. I know it is work that the Food Foundation has looked at, specifically in retail and out of home. It is something that my members are interested in, so at the start of the year we had the Food Foundation in to talk through its work, and about what metrics might be appropriate for industry to look at to cover the issue as a whole.”
“We have various sustainability metrics, some of which are government led and some of which are ours, but there is no overarching one. For example, our company’s report was about carbon and water use. We know that the Environment Bill is going to look at metrics, and presumably the national food strategy will look at the metrics that cover this piece. At the moment, we are not aware of an overarching one.”
“Specific to health, we have reports about sugar and salt in the Kantar datasets that the Government look at, so it is not an overarching health metric; it is quite nutrient specific.”
533.The Scottish Government highlighted how progress for meeting it target’s on food policy were monitored though its national performance framework. In addition, Mr Burgess detailed proposals outlined in the Good Food Nation proposals for legislation consultation (2018), the central component of which was that “the focus of any legislation could be a clear framework that placed responsibilities on Scottish Ministers and specified bodies to publish and adhere to statements of policy on food.” This statement would be required to cover food production and consumption issues, and compatibility with relevant EU obligations. Mr Burgess explained that:
“We consulted on a proposal that Ministers and a range of public bodies would have to set out a statement of their policy on food, with a holistic approach to their policies. They would have to report on that and, to make sure that it is not just a policy that once written sits on a shelf, take it into account in delivering relevant functions. That applies to the Scottish Government themselves, and to local authorities and other key bodies. That is the proposal. It was pretty widely welcomed by the stakeholders and respondents to our consultation.”
534.The consultation set out that Scottish Minsters would also need:
• To include indicators or measures of success.
• To publish the statement of policy and to lay it before the Scottish Parliament, for information rather than approval.
• To report every two years on implementation of the policy and to set out information on the indicators or measures of success. This report would be published and laid before the Scottish Parliament in order to ensure transparency and accountability.
• To have regard to relevant international obligations and guidance; relevant instruments and guidance would be specified in secondary legislation.
535.We are convinced by the need for strong accountability measures to support the aims of any national food strategy: without it the Government may miss the opportunity to develop coherent policy to address overarching issues, and to stimulate widespread change. There are a number of targets for driving improvement in the food system (including reformulation targets, targets on reducing obesity, and some targets that relate to reducing the environmental impact of food production) and some notable omissions (such as targets to reduce food insecurity and food waste). It is clear that current policies relating to food are too fragmented. As Kate Halliwell noted:” It would be helpful for [the Government] to focus on trying to deliver across the whole range of interventions that have so far been proposed.”
536.The development of a national food strategy provides an important opportunity to bring all policies related to the food system under an overarching aim to provide equitable access to healthy and sustainable diets.
537.In advance of the publication of the National Food Strategy review’s final report, the Government should review levels of reporting on health and sustainability across the food system, to identify where gaps might exist in the current data sets that are available.
538.We propose that underpinning any national food strategy should be a strong accountability framework; the framework should have precise objectives, targets and timescales. A range of targets relating to the food system could be brought under the umbrella ambition of making a healthy and sustainable diet accessible to everyone. Based on the evidence we received, we suggest that the Government should review and reset targets in the following areas:
• Reducing levels of household food insecurity (based on improved monitoring as referred to in chapter three, Poverty and food insecurity).
• A reduction in childhood obesity rates. The Government should review its target to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and potentially set interim targets before 2030 to help drive progress.
• A reduction of inequalities in diet-related ill health. The most recent Marmot review of health inequalities concluded that little progress has been made on reducing the gap in health outcomes between income groups.
• The Government should consider setting mandatory reporting metrics aimed at monitoring the performance of businesses in the food system towards making healthy and sustainable food more accessible (as outlined in paragraphs 492 and 493).
539.The Government should develop and introduce a standardised set of mandatory reporting metrics aimed at monitoring the performance of Government departments and assessing progress made by the industry towards making healthy and sustainable food more accessible. The Government and the industry should be required to report on progress against those targets on a regular basis.
540.In discussions around how the Government might be better held accountable for driving wider system change to the food system, the concept of the ‘right to food’ was advanced by a number of the organisations who provided evidence. Its advocates, including Sustain and Nourish Scotland, believe that the right to food should be embedded into UK law.Although this approach was primarily related to addressing food insecurity and hunger, some suggested that such a right would drive concerted and co-ordinated action towards enabling access to a healthy diet for all, by:
• Establishing the norm that everyone in the UK should have access to a healthy diet;
• Obliging Government to assess progress against this target;
• Establishing transparency in progress made;
• Providing a ‘benchmark’ against which future legislation and policy could be assessed for impact on food matters; and
• Providing the opportunity for redress and opportunities for other bodies to intervene within a rights framework.
541.We were grateful to Sustain, who invited members of the Committee to a roundtable discussion on 3 March 2020, with academics and representatives from different interested organisations, to discuss the merits of the ‘right to food’ being enshrined in UK law. Over the course of the discussion, participants suggested that a ‘right to food’ could provide a benchmark in order to assess potentially negative effects of other policy decisions on food provision, and that it could set a basic and consistent norm that people (and particularly children) are entitled to food. Participants also suggested that it could act as an accountability framework to ensure that governments must fulfil certain minimum standards. It was highlighted that the right to food is recognised in 16% of countries globally. However, there were concerns raised that there would be difficulties in interpretation and enforcement, particularly for local authorities, and there was some discussion about difficulties of embedding the right to food constitutionally.
542.The right to food has featured in considerations about the Good Food Nation Bill in Scotland. Dr Donald Macaskill, Chief Executive at Scottish Care, representing the Scottish Food Coalition, argued that:
“We see the good food Bill as a prime opportunity for Scotland to incorporate the right to food in areas that are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, recognising that it does not include all areas, and we would argue that that provides consistency of application. It would enable read-across to, for instance, the right to social security, which is being much embedded in the new social security practice in Scotland, and the right to health that, through our national frameworks and standards, is embedding itself in health and social care.”
543.George Burgess from the Scottish Government offered a counter to this argument, suggesting that existing legislation on standards of living provide sufficient cover. Mr Burgess told us that:
“Our consultation did not propose that a right to food would be contained in the good food nation legislation. We recognise the existence of a right to food as part of wider rights to an adequate standard of living, as Donald mentioned, in some of the international instruments. Our Bill will require Ministers and others, when setting their policy, to have regard to existing international instruments.”
544.Anna Taylor offered another perspective, stating that:
“In some ways, whether or not you badge it as rights does not matter too much. The point is that you need to be able to enshrine something around your aspirations for a healthy and affordable diet that creates a reference point for other areas of government intervention.”
545.On balance, although the intentions of the ‘right to food’ are laudable, the same aims could be achieved through strengthened national governance around food policy, improved monitoring of food insecurity (as outlined in Chapter three) and by ensuring that the aims of any national food strategy are supported by robust accountability measures.
546.Another key criticism to emerge about the Government’s approach to food policy was that there was a lack of coordination across Government for food policy. The argument was rehearsed that issues such as poverty, food insecurity and poor health are often co-located and often share causal factors, and because those relate and are impacted by the wider food environment, the Government should take a more strategic approach to the co-ordination of food policy across government departments. To repeat Henry Dimbleby’s point:
“There are very specific ways in which government’s objectives are not aligned. At the moment, DEFRA and Trade have very different objectives in our trade negotiations with other countries. There is a constant running battle between BEIS and Health on proper regulation of retailers and food producers.”
547.Several other witnesses expressed frustration that there was no one body that takes overall responsibility for food at a governmental level. The Sustainable Food Trust raised concerns about the lack of coordination, and argued that:
“Westminster should prioritize working across departments to create an integrated approach to nutritional recommendations and encourage diets that are aligned with the environmental capacity of the ecosystem and the productive capacity of the UK …”
“ … Currently, this type of integrated Government policy is not the case, as the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) work separately from each other. This type of siloed working minimizes the opportunity for collaboration and a synergistic approach to nutrition and healthy diets. “
548.Representatives from Government departments were questioned on the extent to which the issues of food insecurity, poor dietary health and food sustainability are tracked at a cross-departmental level. Alison Ismail detailed some co-ordination between departments:
“The first thing I would stress is that we are lucky enough to have informal relationships between ourselves and our teams, so there would be very frequent interactions just by picking up the phone and making sure that we have the same line of sight on developments and testing things informally with each other. That is really important, but I would also reference our developing plans for a food strategy, which is absolutely in its terms of reference set out to be a cross-Whitehall endeavour, owned by all of us, and indeed by other departments. We have a governance infrastructure around that, including a group supported by Permanent Secretaries, where directors-general represent each department to ensure that we have that absolute senior level buy-in and support for what we are bringing together.”
Ms Ismail confirmed, however, that there was no formal ministerial group set up to consider these issues.
549.Some organisations have sought to expose the issue of Government coordination on food policy even further by questioning where the responsibility for food insecurity rests within the Government. The Environmental Audit Committee has previously highlighted what it saw as a gap in ministerial responsibility and had called for a Minister for Hunger to be appointed “to ensure cross-departmental understanding and action on this important issue”. When questioned as to whether there was any further clarity as where the responsibility for food insecurity lay, Alison Ismail told us that:
“ … if you are thinking about governance, this is an area where there is a bit of a trade-off between accountability in the sense of one named Minister or department and genuinely shared ownership of a problem or a phenomenon. Food insecurity is with DEFRA. It is probably a bit of a philosophical question as to whether food insecurity is an exact synonym for hunger. That would be an interesting question to get into. I would not want to overstate the progress made on that particular question since it was last considered by you. It is a good challenge for us to take away for this time next year, to see whether we have a clear story on whether that particular issue is jointly or individually owned.”
550.We were told that in Scotland, efforts have been made to ensure a degree of coordination across departments with regards to food policy. George Burgess, Head of Food and Drink at the Scottish Government explained:
“Within government, we have established a ministerial working group on food, to help to ensure that we have join-up across government. A good number of our senior Ministers are directly engaged in that. Under the good food nation proposals we referred to earlier, the Bill, as well as setting out the policy on food, will require regular reporting by the Scottish Government and other authorities on their progress against their policies.”
551.We see the establishment of a ministerial working group as essential to improving the level of coordination across Government on the interrelated issues of food insecurity, poor dietary health and food sustainability. This group should be chaired by a senior member of the Cabinet.
552.The Government must ensure that the appropriate Whitehall infrastructure is in place to ensure that the aims of the forthcoming National Food Strategy can be co-ordinated effectively across Government departments.
553.Concerns around the lack of coordination on food policy led some witnesses to advocate for an individual or an independent body to bring greater coherence across Government on food policy. Many contributors have suggested that there is a need for a body to hold the Government to account over progress on food policy.
554.A good deal of support was expressed for the work of the Food Standards Agency’s oversight of the salt reduction programme. It was praised for its ability to demonstrate how, when programmes are introduced that aim to compel the food industry to make meaningful change, with transparent and robust monitoring of industry progress, and firm oversight, the food industry can be held to account effectively, and change that will result in improvements to public health can be achieved.
555.Given the success of the salt reduction programme under the Food Standards Agency, if industry fails to make the necessary progress against Government reformulation targets, the Government should return the responsibility for nutrition, labelling and reformulation programmes to the FSA, and provide it with the appropriate resources.
556.Some called for an independent food commission, which would report annually to Parliament, on progress against agreed plans and targets, and issue recommendations on how to avoid regression with new policies. Dr Donald Macaskill said:
“Food is fundamental to our well-being and our health as a nation and as individuals. It deserves a holistic, overarching prioritisation that counters sectoral interests wherever they may be. It is not sufficient to have good legislation. It necessitates the force that an independent food commission would deliver in Scotland and, I suggest, elsewhere.”
557.We were also made aware of the work of the Welsh independent Future Generations Commissioner who is tasked with considering the long-term impact that policies and decisions have, and who is empowered to make recommendations to avoid regression. David Morris from the Welsh Government stated that the Commissioner did not have formal powers to require changes but that local authorities had “tended to comply.”
558.When asked about his views as to whether some form of independent oversight would be required to help deliver the aims of a future national food strategy, Henry Dimbleby responded:
“It is clear to me that we need some structure to ensure ongoing co-operation, but whether that is a law, a department, an ALB [arm’s length body] or a set of targets that the Government have to put together, I do not know yet. It is clear that we need something. If it just remained in DEFRA, the energy would dissipate very quickly.”
559.Advocates for such a body stated that it would increase accountability and transparency, and drive action., we consider that such a body could:
• Advise the Government on the implications of policy proposals as they relate to access to a healthy diet;
• Collate, and have oversight of, data, relating to the food system (including those relating to health, food insecurity and food sustainability) and the progress made against targets set in those areas.
• Report to Parliament on progress made against agreed plans and targets.
560.We consider that the Committee on Climate Change, as an independent, non-departmental public body which provides independent advice to the Government, and reports regularly to Parliament, could provide a blueprint for how an independent body, with responsibility for oversight of the National Food Strategy might operate.
561.The Committee asked DEFRA Ministers to outline what mechanisms will be put in place for the interdepartmental coordination of the delivery of the National Food Strategy, and whether DEFRA considered there was any case for an independent body to advise the Government on the progress of delivering the strategy. Victoria Prentis MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DEFRA responded by stating that:
“Although DEFRA has lead responsibility for food, many Departments right across Government have a very strong interest; and as such, Henry and his team are engaging across Whitehall, as well as with partners across the whole food system, including academics, farmers, businesses, civil society and the general public, to develop their recommendations.”
“Government will respond to the Independent Review’s recommendations when they have been submitted, including what interdepartmental and/or independent structures may be needed to support the strategy’s delivery and monitor progress; the intention is that this will be in the form of a White Paper to be published within 6 months of the release of Henry Dimbleby’s final report.”
Based on this response, it appears that the Government have not yet given any thought as to how the recommendations of the National Food Strategy will be coordinated across the relevant Government departments, nor how it will ensure that progress against the Strategy’s recommendations will be overseen.
562.Given the importance of food policy and its overriding impact across a range of sectors, we feel that there is a compelling argument for independent oversight of all aspects of food policy in England. As the National Food Strategy is a key opportunity for food policy to be embedded into other related policy areas, its recommendations should not be enacted by DEFRA alone, and some form of independent oversight is required to review the future implementation of its recommendations. The Government, however, does not appear to have given consideration as to how this might be achieved.
563.We recommend the establishment of an independent body, analogous to the Committee on Climate Change, with responsibility for strategic oversight of the implementation of the National Food Strategy. This should include the monitoring and reporting on progress made against the health and sustainability targets outlined in paragraph 538. This independent body should have the power to advise the Government and report to Parliament on progress.
659 (Anna Taylor)
660 Written evidence from UK Research and Innovation ()
661 Environmental Audit Committee, (Thirteenth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 1491)
662 (Professor Tim Lang)
663 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Developing a national food strategy: independent review 2019 : terms of reference (updated 17 August 2019): [accessed 30 June 2020]
664 (Henry Dimbleby)
665 Supplementary written evidence from HM Government ()
666 Scottish Government, Recipe for Success: Scotland’s national food and drink policy (18 June 2014): [accessed 30 June 2020]
667 Scottish Government, Good Food Nation Policy: [accessed 30 June 2020]
669 Scottish Government, Good Food Nation: consultation (21 December 2018): [accessed 30 June 2020]
671 Scottish Food Commission, Interim Report (February 2016), p 6: [accessed 30 June 2020]
672 (George Burgess)
673 Scottish Government, National Performance Framework, What it is: [accessed 30 June 2020]
674 Scottish Government, Good Food Nation Policy: [accessed 30 June 2020]
676 Written evidence from Dr Koldo Casla ()
677 Welsh Assembly Government, Food for Wales, food from Wales 2010–2020 (December 2010) p 5: [accessed 30 June 2020]
678 Ibid., p 2
679 Ibid., p 3
680 (David Morris)
683 Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015: [accessed 30 June 2020]
684 (David Morris)
685 (David Morris)
686 Written evidence from the Food Foundation, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Sustainable and Healthy Food Systems (SHEFS) ()
687 (Dr Adrian Morley)
688 (Kate Halliwell)
689 Scottish Government, Good food nation proposals for legislation: analysis of consultation responses (11 September 2019): [accessed 30 June 2020]
690 (George Burgess)
691 Scottish Government. Good Food Nation proposals for legislation: analysis of consultation responses (11 September 2019): [accessed 30 June 2020]
692 (Kate Halliwell)
693 Written evidence from Sustain ()
694 Written evidence from Nourish Scotland ()
695 (Dr Donald Macaskill)
696 (George Burgess)
697 (Anna Taylor)
698 (Henry Dimbleby)
699 Written evidence from the Sustainable Food Trust ()
700 (Alison Ismail)
702 Environmental Audit Committee, (Thirteenth Report, Session 2017–19, HC 1491)
703 (Alison Ismail)
704 (George Burgess)
705 Written evidence from Nourish Scotland ()
706 (Dr Donald Macaskill)
707 (David Morris)
708 (Henry Dimbleby)
709 Letter to the Chair, Lord Krebs, from Victoria Prentis MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DEFRA, 17 June 2020 ()