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My noble friend Lord Popat spoke about the charitable contribution that Britain's BME and faith communities make, specifically the Hindu community. I also congratulate the work of the noble Lord, Lord Hilton, and of Forward Thinking, who do much to create better understanding between communities. The noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, spoke about the Government needing to do more in relation to social action in the voluntary sector. The Government are doing all that they can to open up more public services being delivered by the voluntary sector, not because the Government are shrinking from their responsibility but because the voluntary sector is invariable better at delivering them.
In relation to charities and faith organisations, I have rarely come across a church, mosque, temple, synagogue, gurdwara or any other place of worship that has looked holy within that did not want to take care of its neighbours, no matter if they had a different faith or indeed none. Some 31,000 religious charities are now registered in England and Wales, as well as many that draw their inspiration from faith. Six hundred and sixty-two new religious charities were registered between October of last year and March of this year, a quarter of all newly registered charities during this period. Religious charities have a combined annual income of over £7.5 billion and spend over £7 billion each year. Many of the best known charities have faith origins and are linked to particular denominations, including Christian Aid, Muslim Aid, Islamic Relief and Jewish Care. The noble Lord, Lord Bew, was right to refer to the contribution of the Jewish community in charitable work. The Children's Society, Save the World, World Vision and Tear Point and many charities which are now secular had faith origins, such as Oxfam.
This Government are on their side. I said at the Anglican Bishops' Conference, that is why as a Government we do God. I assure the right reverend prelate the Bishop of Derby that I will do all I can to continue to support initiatives such as Inter Faith Week and I hope that he gets some comfort from the Government's decision to enter into a three-year funding programme for the Inter Faith Network. We are keen, however, to see different faith groups link up to pool expertise and resources so that their impact is increased.
In conclusion, there is still much to do. Opportunity is the cornerstone and it is right that as well as the positives about which we heard this morning we remain committed to and aware of the reality of some as detailed by the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley. There are still many who feel that they do not have that opportunity.
I congratulate the work of UpRising, as referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. They are the
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What are the opportunities in relation to entrenched inequalities? I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree that most fundamentally it boils down to opportunity and opportunity through schooling. The Government's programme of reform and investment in schools, in relation to academies and free schools, many of which have been opened in the most deprived communities, will be that first opportunity for those children to have a better life.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, referred to work on tackling discrimination. He has a long and commendable history in this work. I congratulate him on continuing on it. He asks, "What is all the fuss about multiculturalism?", a question that I find interesting. It sounds like the title of a very good paper which I am sure that the noble Lord could write.
We have been here before. We were reminded of this by the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and I support his comments on keeping the public space open for religious opportunity. We are not like the French. I welcome the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool. Politicians are not great historians. Every time I read British Catholic history, I see lessons that we can learn for challenges which are personal to me as a British Muslim.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, referred to the recent case of children in care, specifically girls in care. I will take his comments back and ensure that the Minister responsible for this, who I know is looking into this case, makes contact. The noble Earl may be aware of the comments I made last week in relation to that case.
Discrimination wherever it occurs and whoever instigates it must be spoken out against. Vulnerability can come in many forms. It is not just about the colour of a person's skin. We must also celebrate. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, was right to refer to celebrating each other's cultures by carrying each other's flags. I would go further and say that it is about speaking out for each other. It is when I, a Muslim, can speak out against anti-Semitism and my Jewish friend can speak out against Islamophobia that we are making true progress.
I was pleased to see my right honourable friend the Communities Secretary celebrate alongside the Ahmadiyya community on the recent charity walk. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, on all the work he does in relation to that community.
There is a tapestry in what we have seen this morning and in what we have seen in this debate. It is a tapestry that influences each and every aspect of our lives. I know that when I wake up in the morning and listen to the tones of the noble Lord, Lord Singh of Wimbledon, on "Thought for the Day" it sets me up for the rest of the day. I acknowledge that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter of Kentish Town, said, we can all continue to learn. I know that in this job, I have the privilege of doing that every single day.
Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that excellent summing up and for her positive response to a superb wide-ranging debate. We heard Peers from a range of minority religions and communities speaking from experience. I have been genuinely inspired and touched by what has been said and by noble Lords' kind words about the Zoroastrian community. I have been considering forming an all-party parliamentary group on Zoroastrians, and this debate has convinced me that I have got to get on with it in this 150th anniversary year.
I thank noble Lords very much. The debate has shown that Britain is a Great Britain thanks to the contribution of minority ethnic and religious communities. As I said in my opening remarks, I hope that this debate sends out a message of recognition, encouragement and gratitude to the minority religious and ethnic communities for the amazing contributions that they have brought the past, bring today and will always continue to bring to Britain in the many years to come.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I declare an interest in my family vineyard and farm, Vignobles Temperley, and family cider business. I was absolutely delighted to win this topic in the balloted debate, but I am even happier to see such an array of experts who will contribute. Noble Lords know that even in the UK and Europe we cannot afford to be complacent about food security. We are the lucky post-war generation who, by and large, have not seen shortages. We have only recently begun to understand the importance of the concept of global food security rather than seeing it as an issue only when there is a regional famine or shortage far from these shores.
One of the problems has been that political attention has not really focused on food production or nutritious consumption for a long time. We did not even get government time to debate the Chief Scientific Adviser's immensely important report The Future of Food and Farmingbut, just like buses, you wait for ever and then they all come at once. The G8 had food security high on its agenda last weekend, this week, the Environmental
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In March this year, the UN high-level task force on food security made the point that there is no one set of policies to tackle food security that is globally applicable, but it identified some key pointers and the crucial importance of sustained political commitment. Historically in the UK, political attention has focused on food production when there has been a crisis or a scare such as salmonella in eggs or a disease such as foot and mouth or BSE. For a moment, food and food issues are a political hot topic, and then attention wanders away again to the more seductive stage of foreign affairs or the Olympics, but circuses would lose their charm without bread. I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Curry, is going to speak this afternoon because his commission did a lot to bring this to national attention.
In nations where many people live a precarious existence, a food price increase or a shortage can cause the sort of riots that we saw in dozens of countries in 2008 and that were repeated to some extent during last year's price spike. Even in rich and middle-income nations, we must assume that things are not always going to be as comfortable and easy as they have been over past decades. The expertise in today's list of speakers allows me not to attempt to address why and how climate change, water shortages, storage problems and animal diseases are undermining food security.
The only international issue I will touch on is the relatively new phenomenon of some richer nations and multinationals buying up vast tracts of land, especially in Africa: so-called recolonisation or land grabbing. At its worst, land grabbing dispossesses whole villages from their subsidence existence against their will. There is an illusion that big international deals bring investment and new technology to a region, benefiting local people, but in fact that ideal is rarely achieved. More often, local communities are dispossessed of their lands and return, if at all, only as minimally paid workers and profits are exported. Fred Pearce in his recent book, The Land Grabbers, gives many examples from different continents of the huge downsides to the practice. I am sure many of your Lordships have seen examples on your travels. I certainly have, notably in Ethiopia. The UN has just adopted historic land grab guidelines for rich countries buying land in developing nations. Guidelines are better than nothing, but there is something immoral about dispossessing the already very poor to feed the well off better or to provide biofuel for their motorcars. I hope the UK Government will support this UN initiative and ensure that UK-listed companies do not ignore the UN guidelines.
I am going limit the rest my contribution to Britain. This week, the NFU launched the campaign "Farming Delivers for Britain" which demonstrates that our agriculture is a bright spot among the austerity gloom. That is good news indeed, but how well are we caring for the basics that enable that agriculture and make us so well placed to feed ourselves and to maintain healthy exports not just of food but also of knowledge?
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I am going to focus on just a few of the essential ingredients of a healthy UK production and consumption food policy and on perhaps the most fundamental thing of all, which is soil. A properly managed soil can do so many different things. It stores carbon, retains water, maintains a vibrant ecosystem, reduces pollutant run-off and cuts greenhouse gas emissions, and also produces healthy, nutritious crops. However, I am sure that your Lordships have often seen water flooding off the fields during heavy rain, washing down the drains into streams and filling rivers. It is even more terrifying when you fly, look down at rivers and see that they are dark brown after heavy rains. That is the soil washing into the oceans. We have not looked after our soils. They are literally disappearing through erosion, including wind erosion. The erosion rate is about five times faster than the formation rate. We are also losing prime soils to development. We are just tarmacking them over. We cannot afford that rate of loss and, if we have not lost it, soil fertility itself has been diminished by farming practices over decades. The Food Ethics Council recently produced an excellent collection of research called Soil: A Fragile Foundation. It highlights the national lack of targets and indicators of a healthy soil. I wonder whether the Minister's department is tackling that now.
Back in 2006, there was an EU soil thematic strategy which would have helped with some of this but the then UK Government blocked its implementation, thereby setting us back many years. Now I assume that we are supporting the EU soils framework directive wholeheartedly. Then there is the farm regulation review, which suggested a duty of care for soils. Can the Minister say whether Defra is considering that? How does practical support for farming practices-increased soil and health structure-fit into the CAP reform proposals?
Secondly, we should play to our strengths. In the UK, we have some of the best grass-growing conditions in the whole world and a wonderful range of livestock breeds, both old, traditional breeds and modern breeds. Their genetic strengths are in world-wide demand. I hope that Defra's policy will be to support and strengthen this sector rather than to encourage the development of a livestock sector that will rely on vast quantities of imported soya or require the UK to devote considerable acreage to protein production for cattle lots and dairy production, US-style. How is Defra's assessment of the intensive dairy proposals going? What work is Defra doing on carbon footprinting the different production methods?
On insects, they have an up side and a down side. The down side is, of course, that they can be such tremendous pests. Last year, a letter in the Times from the UK's leading entomologists highlighted the fact that there were actually only 10 professors of entomology left in the UK. It is such a crucial area of study-the huge impact of insects on food production and storage. I ask the Minister whether that position has improved.
While I am on the subject of insects, I turn to bees. I welcome Defra's healthy bee action plan, which is a great step forward. It addresses the health of the
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Food security is all about resilience and diversity. We must value our seed heritage and our different animal breeds. I congratulate Garden Organic on its heritage seed library collection and, indeed, Kew on its work. These and other organisations are guarding and developing for future generations-and, in the case of Garden Organic, for the public to use-a large number of unusual and heirloom varieties.
The hot topic of this afternoon may well be biotechnology. I am looking forward to the contributions on that. Public confidence in GM was adversely affected right at the beginning by the Monsanto approach which tried to prevent farmers saving seed. The public came to understand that it was just about the bottom line and not the public good. That approach bred distrust and suspicion. I hope that we can move away from that first generation of GM. I do not that think GM is the answer to food security issues, but nor should we seek to halt scientific exploration and trials. There are many interesting things to explore. Among the less controversial but very interesting advances of biological sciences that are being progressed is accelerated selective breeding, which deals with same-species genetic changes rather than cross-species manipulation. I am anxious that we not be diverted by huge EU battles over GM. It has already sucked so much political capital, energy and investment, leaving fundamental deficiencies in the rest of the scientific effort. Can the Minister tell us the latest UK position on EU negotiations over GM?
We have another round of CAP reform coming up. We must use this round to make sure that it offers farmers support that is all about farming for the future as well as for today. One of the things that worries me most about the future is the lack of young entrepreneurial people choosing to go into farming and food production. On this, I miss my late noble friend Lord Livsey, who often decried in this House the contraction of our agricultural college places. I hope that that decline has halted or will be put into reverse.
There are lots of other forms of support for farmers, such as co-operatives-buying co-ops, selling co-ops, machinery co-ops-which other countries practise far more than we do. There is a great strength of advice for the struggling lone farmer from that sort of circle. I hope that Defra plans to strengthen co-operation between farmers. There have been some interesting examples in various parts of the country, including Somerset. It is work that needs more impetus.
I am sure that other speakers will highlight other examples and the very interesting report, Innovation in EU Agriculture, from Sub-Committee D of the EU Committee. I am pleased that members of that sub-committee are speaking this afternoon. The report covered developments such as precision agriculture,
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We have many of the tools that could enable us to solve the issue of precarious food security. We can do it, but we need to keep the political attention firmly focused on food and food security. I beg to move.
The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, I start by congratulating my noble friend Lady Miller on the way in which she has introduced this important debate and given us an opportunity to address this critical issue. I declare an interest as a farmer; as the chair of Living with Environmental Change, which is a partnership of government-funded research; and as a trustee of East Malling Research. I will confine my remarks to global food security issues.
As my noble friend reminded us, the agenda was helpfully set out by Sir John Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, and his colleagues in the Foresight report, The Future of Food and Farming. This report was addressed not just to government but also to the private sector and civil society. It was a comprehensive agenda for achieving global food security. Indeed, as we were reminded just now, it is part of a convoy of reports, committees and meetings which have come in something of a rush. Sir John Beddington also chaired the latest report, produced by the international Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, which had the advantage of a much greater international dimension and the participation of both developing and developed economies. However, the essential message of both reports was the same-that humanity faces very difficult trade-offs in producing sufficient food to feed the growing global population.
Our present food system is clearly unsustainable, inadequate and failing in some respects. It does not provide adequate nutrition for all. Through inappropriate subsidies and adverse financial instruments, it disadvantages producers in some regions suffering food insecurity. Agriculture contributes to a loss of biodiversity and leads to leaks into the soil, air and water, not least of greenhouse gases. Agricultural systems also often lack resilience to climate change, natural disasters and other shocks and stresses. However, although it is easy to blame agriculture for a multitude of sins, one must recognise that as soon as you start manipulating the environment, there will inevitably be leakages and a loss of biodiversity. The question is not whether agriculture is guilty of causing these, but whether there are better production systems that can reduce the adverse effects and, in some ways, ameliorate the situation and contribute to the green economy, which agriculture around the world can certainly do.
In looking at the essential components of sustainable agriculture we must, first and foremost, simply look at the economics. Unless it is profitable for a producer on any scale-whether global agriculture, a large corporate company or a small-scale farmer-and there is an adequate return on their investment, there simply will not be sustainable agriculture. It will stop. That is a fundamental law of economics.
We must recognise that now, for the first time in the history of the world, we have a population that is centred more on urban areas than in rural communities. Therefore, it follows that the rural communities must be able to support those who live in cities. This requires appropriate investment, governance-equitable land tenure is often a problem-and, above all, infrastructure in the form of roads, storage and market information. It also requires access to extension services and education. We must not ignore the fact that the ability to control human fertility-or at least for a family to control its own fertility-is clearly something that must be taken seriously and considered carefully. All this must be underpinned by appropriate agricultural research and development.
The other elements of sustainable agriculture include a move towards reducing dependence on fossil fuels; reducing the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources; a more economic use of available water, 70% of which is used in irrigation around the world; and contributing to carbon storage through increased use of biomass and reducing leakages.
The problems of food security are very different in different parts of the world. In south-east Asia, which is clearly one area where food insecurity can be a major issue, the problem is to do with urbanisation. There are already large cities, which are getting larger. Problems arise from the disease of crops, pollution and the steady increase in urbanisation. The issues in Africa, where there is perhaps greater insecurity, often arise from the lack of economic opportunity, the lack of fertiliser and massive urbanisation-starting from a much lower base, admittedly-which has increased by around 50% in the past 10 years or so. You can see dramatic changes. A question arises: how will this massively changing demography in Africa and elsewhere be supported? Who will be able to do the production? Agricultural systems that are fit for purpose will be needed. Agriculture will change, whatever the scale on which it operates.
Therefore, there are opportunities for the rest of the world, not least the United Kingdom, to participate in supporting and underpinning the agricultural sciences. That will involve the biological sciences, the use of water and furthering our understanding of nitrogen. We have been exploring that for many years but we are only beginning to understand some of the opportunities to use more efficient systems. Genomics and other new sciences are already showing benefits in animal and plant breeding, even with so-called orphan crops-those that are not so readily traded in international markets. On emerging technologies, my noble friend referred to GM but one could refer also to nanotechnology and others. It would be simply rash, to say the least, to say that none of these was appropriate. They may or may not be appropriate; there must be a proper risk assessment.
It will not be agricultural science that delivers totally. Financial services, the communications sector and a whole raft of interventions-political, economic, sociological and technological-will be involved. I gather that there will be a new version of the Foresight report soon, which I am delighted to hear. It must spell out in detail the targets and measurements of success for each of those interventions.
Lord Giddens: My Lords, I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for initiating this debate on a manifestly important topic. I speak as a member of the aforementioned Sub-Committee D. I know that other members are here, too; they all seem to be clustered on the other side for some reason. As the noble Baroness mentioned, food security has zoomed up the global agenda in recent years, and rightly so. A range of reports have been referred to, a number of them from the UN. There is the Royal Society report, Reaping the Benefits, and the Government's Foresight report, which is one of the best to be produced on this issue recently.
As the reports do, I want to discuss the issue on a global level. Noble Lords will forgive my being slightly didactic by sketching the backdrop to the world as I see it today. The industrial civilisation in which we live is spreading across the world. It is the first truly global civilisation in history and is far more advanced than any other civilisation has been. It is discontinuous with previous civilisations. Looking at the history of civilisations, one observes that they tend to go down a little and then gradually up. Around 1850, civilisation starts to rise steeply. I suggest that we have essentially created a new world, with which we do not have experience of dealing by looking at history. This is one reason why it is so hard to cope with the risks that we have created. Essentially, we face what I call "new-style risks", associated with the globalisation of industrial civilisation.
New-style risks are not like old-style risks, which can be covered by insurance companies. I can unfortunately tell you your chances of being involved in an accident every time you get into a car, because there is a long series of events on which to base them. With new-style risks, which are about present trends accelerating into the future, you cannot use that kind of risk calculation. That is one of the reasons why we tend to be in denial about those risks. We are in a civilisation in which the risks that we have created for ourselves-these are all humanly created risks-are rising steeply, but we are not in a world that is getting close to managing their consequences, or even to accepting their seriousness.
Climate change is the granddaddy of all these things. Imagine it: we are on the verge of radically and irretrievably changing the world's climate. There is no way of getting greenhouses gases out of the atmosphere once they are there and they will be there for centuries. What are we doing? Virtually nothing. Anyone who saw the IEA report that came out today will see that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is still increasing, not decreasing, and it is increasing by more every 10 years than it did in the years before.
Three of the biggest new-style risks are climate change, population growth and world urbanisation. We have no experience of any of these. In 1850 there were still fewer than a billion people in the world. It is not that long ago in historical terms. We are now almost certainly coming up to there being 9 billion people not that far into the future. This is likely to happen, and some people think that there could be as many as 11 billion. This is an extraordinary transformation in the history of the world; it is totally different from anything that we have had to deal with before.
In the case of food security, each of those three risks-climate change, population growth and urbanisation-overlap. Sir John Beddington, who was referred to earlier, spoke of a perfect storm affecting the future of world society. He said that from a 2010 baseline we would need to create 40% more food, 30% more water and 50% more energy by 2050. Failure to generate these could produce massive conflicts over diminishing resources. To me, the world is like that old joke. A guy jumps off a skyscraper-in the City of London, let us say-and, as he falls, people on every floor hear him say, "So far so good, so far so good". That is about our approach to the risks that we face globally. We have to get on with it. We have to make far more of a dent in these risks than we have so far.
How can the UK contribute? In my view, it can contribute in four ways. First, the Government should support research, including blue-sky research, around the edges of nanotechnology, for example, and other areas that directly affect food production. We have to increase productivity of crops and their resilience in the face of climate change, as the Foresight report noted. Brazil has made amazing strides in these respects and we should learn from best practice around the world.
Secondly, as was said by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, any solution must involve biotechnology, which I take to stretch quite a long way beyond GM crops, as well as conventional breeding techniques. Sir David King, another former Government Chief Scientific Adviser, got himself into trouble when he declared that food insecurity in Africa was partly the result of anti-GM campaigns. Obviously, there is a balance of risk. The risk of not feeding the world's population is much larger, I think, than the risks involved in biotechnology.
Thirdly, we must counter changes in diet that are going on across the world and transforming our world dietary habits. It is weird to live in a world where 1 billion people go hungry and 1 billion people are obese or radically overweight. To me, the fast food corporations do not pick up the consequences of their advertising campaigns. They have to be picked up by publicly funded health services.
Finally, and fourthly, we must get to grips with food waste. It is estimated that some 40 per cent of food in the UK is wasted, if you include supermarkets, shops and restaurants. That is absurd in a world struggling to feed itself. I would welcome the Minister's comments on any of these points.
Lord Taverne: My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to follow my noble friend because few Members of this House have contributed more to debates about
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At Rothamsted Research, which is one of our oldest and most respected research institutes, a trial crop of genetically modified spring wheat is being tested in the field, with all these aims in mind. A group called Take The Flour Back has announced that it intends to destroy this crop next Sunday. The issues that this raises are enormously important, which is what I intend to talk about.
First, I should declare an interest. Ten years ago I founded the charity Sense About Science to promote good science and respect for evidence. Some anti-GM campaigners have denounced it as a pro-GM lobby group. It is nothing of the kind. It is a charity and not a lobby group. It has refused all financial support from the agricultural industry. In its first five years it was not concerned with genetic modification at all. While I have written and spoken about genetically modified crops, the charity has mostly concentrated on other subjects. Indeed, many of your Lordships have been closely associated with our work and have often expressed great appreciation of it.
Turning to the trial crops, the wheat has been modified by the insertion of a gene for a pheromone that repels aphids because it releases a chemical that they do not like. They do not like the smell. Furthermore, it also attracts the parasitic wasps which destroy aphids. Laboratory tests have produced good results but the trial is necessary to see if it works in the field.
Anti-GM campaigners say the crops have not been tested. They are right. That is what the trial, which the campaigners want to stop, is for. Who can justify suppressing evidence before you know what it shows? They allege that the wheat may be toxic to people and endanger our health. But the pheromone concerned is found naturally in some 400 other plants, many of which are consumed every day. For example, it is present in hops used for brewing beer. However, this is a trial and the crops are not for human consumption but to see if aphids are repelled in the field.
Campaigners are concerned about the environment-so they claim. They fear that the trials may spread the gene to other plants by cross-pollination. Wheat self-pollinates. Its pollen is heavy and is not blown far by the wind, and no cereals are grown within 20 metres of the site. But what harm could anti-aphid pheromones do that are already present in other plants? In fact, this wheat would greatly benefit the environment by reducing the need to protect it by spraying it with pesticides. At present, farmers can protect wheat only by spraying pesticides that kill the aphids.
What if the vandals succeed in destroying the crop? The environment will not benefit and the chance of developing a worthwhile crop that would reduce the use of pesticides will be lost. Publicly funded research will suffer. The cost of security for protecting trial crops from vandals is huge and only large companies can afford such trials. But this modified wheat will not be patented and will be supplied to farmers at minimum
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Finally, democracy suffers if a tiny minority can impose its view against all the evidence, prevent the acquisition of important knowledge and decide which scientific experiments may or may not be permitted. This happens in dictatorships; it should not happen in a liberal democracy.
Lord Stern of Brentford: My Lords, I join other speakers in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for raising this vital issue. In my remarks, I shall draw on my experience as a professor of economics at the London School of Economics, my work on development issues for four decades, and my experience as chief economist of the World Bank.
Let us be clear at the outset on one key practical and conceptual proposition, which is vital for the understanding of this issue and for the construction of policy. I hope that it is obvious, but it is important. People go hungry or starve because they do not have the wherewithal to acquire food. Usually, they do not have the income to buy food because of all the prices that they face. For subsistence farmers this may arise because their farming activities have failed; for agricultural workers it may be because droughts or floods are so bad that employment has collapsed; or, for workers outside agriculture, it may be because there is severe unemployment or underemployment. Thus, this issue concerns the real incomes of very poor people. It is about poverty.
Noble Lords do not have to worry much about their own food security because our incomes are sufficiently high. We make a serious analytical and policy mistake if we argue that food security is simply about food supply or fluctuations in agricultural markets, important though they both are. Thus, we should support DfID and other development institutions in their focus on raising incomes and fighting poverty wherever it is in the world. We also should support DfID in its emphasis on entrepreneurship and private sector opportunities in raising the incomes of poor people. We should encourage all development institutions to continue to devote their energies to health and education, which is key to opportunity, particularly for women. As I said in my maiden speech, the evidence is clear that women generally make better use of opportunities and allocate resources more wisely and responsibly than men.
The volatility of food price and the availability of food matter. Locally, these depend not only on how markets function but also on transport and storage infrastructure, and governance. Thus, for example, it is
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Having said that, it is clearly vital to examine food production in a world where population is likely to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion or more in the next 40 years. As my friend from the LSE, the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, emphasised, in many parts of the world, particularly the rich world, food and resources are wasted by casualness or greed. But throughout the world they are wasted as a result of bad policy, poor storage and weak infrastructure. A recent McKinsey report on the waste of these resources has documented in great detail this waste. Thus there is great scope around the world for raising the productivity of land, water and energy by better techniques and policy. How this is done should be a priority for governments and development institutions, which all too often have drifted away from rural and agricultural issues.
I give five examples. First, using degraded land in Indonesia could make a major contribution to increasing food production, reducing greenhouse gases and increasing incomes. Secondly, in Brazil there is one head of cattle per hectare. That cannot be a good use of land. The animal has to look for about 100 metres before it sees a friend; it must be pretty lonely. Thirdly, slash and burn agriculture is widespread across the world. Fourthly, water and energy in India are squandered by the unwillingness and inability to price properly, thus also restricting vital investment. Finally, agricultural research could deliver on great potential, ranging as others have remarked from low-till agriculture, to better seeds, to the use of algae for protein in animal feed, which could substitute, for example, for soya and reduce the pressure on rainforests.
I must also stress the extraordinarily destructive potential of climate change. Its effects are largely in terms of water-that means floods and inundations; storms; drought and desertification; and sea-level rises and sea surges. They all damage livelihoods, especially of poor people. We saw the effects, for example, of the floods in Pakistan in 2010, when one-fifth of the country was under water and 20 million people were directly affected. We see now the devastating effects of the continuing drought in north-east Africa. Both events are likely to have been strongly influenced by climate change. I invite noble Lords to consult chapters 3 and 4 of the report that has just been published by the International Food Policy Research Institute on the impacts of natural disasters and their links with climate change on agriculture and food security. We are seeing all this on the back of just 0.8 degrees centigrade increase in global surface temperature since the 19th century. On current policies, we may be heading for 3, 4, or 5 degrees centigrade by the end of the century above the benchmark 19th century level. At the higher levels of possible temperature, hundreds of millions, possibly billions, would have to move. That would likely result in the generation of the greatest insecurity of all-extended and severe conflict.
There is a great deal we can do across the board to reduce emissions, particularly in agriculture. For example, we can increase land and water productivity, and thereby reduce pressure on forests. And we can work to realise the great potential in second generation biofuels, including cellulosic ethanol. This means that food and biofuels become complements, not competitors and substitutes; cellulosic ethanol is made from the waste from, for example, corn or wheat after the grain has been extracted.
As I conclude, I pose two specific questions to the Government. Why has the UK failed to meet its commitments made at the 2009 G8 summit in Aquila in Italy on agriculture and food security? If I understand the numbers correctly, the UK committed $1.7 billion of the $22 billion total, with delivery estimated within three years. So far, the UK has fulfilled only around 30% of its pledge. Given the Secretary of State's commitment to supporting the Prince of Wales initiative calling governments around the world to undertake an economic review of their national food security, what progress has been made?
Food security is largely about economic development and overcoming poverty. No doubt resources in the rich world are under great pressure at this time of economic crisis, a crisis which we have ourselves created in the rich world. But this is surely not a time for us to forget that we are rich and it is not a time to forget about our common humanity.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I offer some thoughts about food security from the perspective of international development. We have had some amazing, impressive and helpful perspectives about scientific and technological approaches, and I want to offer some thoughts from the perspective of people who suffer from the need of food and that element of the food security issue.
Noble Lords will know that the Christian faith operates through people gathering around a table to share food-people of any culture or race. That is a great picture of an international family and sharing around a common table, which most human hearts can assent to and desire. As we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Stern and others, the fact is that many people do not participate or do not even feel that they are at a common table. That is the risk of the food security issue, which is why I welcome the Government's concern-and the statement from the Prime Minister yesterday about a summit to consider those issues during the Olympics, when a lot of people will be in this country.
Christians also talk about word and sacrament-that is, you do not just talk about things, you have to do things and act them out as a sign of how things could be better. That is what people who feel excluded from the table are looking for and longing for. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, about growing population, and about climate change and industrialisation. All those things are threatening the sustainability of human life across the globe for millions of people. Therefore, we have to look at our own consumption patterns and the needs and demands of our brothers and sisters.
I am not going to push this common table analogy too far, but I shall make one last reference. St Paul, writing at a very early stage of Christians trying to gather round a common table, noticed in Corinth that some people took a whole lot of food and drink and got drunk and had a good time and quite a lot of other people did not have anything at all and were not noticed. That is a pretty sharp picture of what human behaviour is often like.
There are two ways of looking at that in our own context. One is the issue of what is called tax justice, for which I have a particular concern. In many countries where crops are grown the result and profit of that enterprise is not reinvested in the country for the well-being of the people who could be round the table in that part of the world; it is shifted out and piled up in front of other people in another part of the table so that they can live well and other people are excluded. That is happening more and more, and is a very major issue about food security. By contrast, Christian Aid, Oxfam and other agencies are trying to work in partnership with people on the ground. One billion people are either landless or small farmers; they need folks alongside them to see their needs and then to use the technology and wisdom that is around to grow things from the bottom up, in partnership with people who are excluded from the table and suffering enormously.
I ask four things of the Government. First, can they target their investment in the area of food need and security to have a special emphasis on the partnership with local people through agencies that can work through genuinely local people, discern their needs and target the technology and food changes appropriately? Secondly, what is the Government's view on tax justice, which is excluding many and piling up the resources from agriculture in a very few places for the benefit of a very few people. Thirdly, how are the Government going to continue to monitor global institutions such as the UN and the World Bank so that their policies take account of the partnership needs of people at a micro level and not simply just act at a macro level? Fourthly, as we have heard, there is an issue about obesity in our own society, which is costing a fortune. How can the Government take a lead on our own consumption patterns, and on how we literally pile up trolleys in the supermarket and act out what St Paul warned us against-of looking after ourselves and ignoring others? That might say something about advertising and other ways in which messages are conveyed in our society.
I congratulate the Government on their concern with this area. I hope that they consider some of these questions and pay particular concern to human beings-brothers and sisters-on the ground, who need partnership and targeted and tangible signs of hope.
Lord Gardiner of Kimble: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Miller for initiating this important and timely debate. Just a few days ago, food security was an issue discussed by the G8 leaders with those of Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania. It must remain our overriding objective that all people have access to
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The brief sent by Save the Children highlighted its work on the global crisis of malnutrition. It is a shocking fact that every hour of every day 300 children die because of malnutrition. Lack of food, particularly in Africa, is becoming ever more acute and grave. Over 18 million people across west Africa face a growing hunger crisis triggered by crop shortages, rising food prices and political insecurities.
The moral obligation to help tackle this crisis is not just for government but extends to civil society organisations and business. Through the Department for International Development, the UK Government are contributing to tackling the issue of food security. One of the department's key approaches is working with international partners, Governments and private sector and civil society organisations to create an environment that supports farmers and agricultural development. The G8 leaders pledged to promote investments in sustainable agriculture as a strategy for taking millions of Africans out of poverty. That pledge includes securing private sector financial support. Indeed, DfID has announced that 45 leading firms, including Diageo, Unilever and Vodafone, will invest £2.5 billion in developing African agriculture and sign up to a new code of responsible investment. That investment is hugely encouraging and private businesses, with their resources and expertise, can help to advance agricultural sectors in developing countries so that they can lift themselves from poverty, hunger and malnutrition.
As the world's population continues to grow, the issue of food security will become ever more pressing. Much of the demand will be driven by developing countries, but British farmers will have an ever more important role in meeting this demand not only at home, but abroad by increasing agricultural exports. British farmers are fundamental to domestic food supply; I should declare my farming interest. We have seen a decline in food self-sufficiency here over the last 30 years. Defra statistics show that the UK's self-sufficiency has consistently dropped since the highs of the 1980s. In terms of the UK's self-sufficiency in all food types, in 2009 the figure was 59%, down from a high of 78% in 1984. We have the expertise and agricultural skills to reverse that, without jeopardising the farmers' essential role in the custodianship of the land and environment. The British farmer is responsive to the diverse set of requirements that we place on the countryside-habitat, biodiversity, recreation and tranquillity, alongside food production. We all increasingly recognise the balance that has to be struck.
To meet future demand for food, production needs to increase, but in an environmentally sensitive way so that we avoid creating even bigger problems. Agricultural science will play a vital role in raising productivity. Through better animal disease control, improved irrigation and water management practices, and better fertilisers, food yields can be increased in an environmentally
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I am extremely glad that under this Government it is recognised that there is a need for policies on food security both at home and abroad. Increasing imports is no longer the answer. We are extremely fortunate to have Ministers in Defra who come to their task with direct and practical experience of agriculture. As the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said, the challenges for the world are immense and, by 2050, 40% more food, 30% more water and 50% more energy will be required. Those are not figures for the faint-hearted, but with resolution and ingenuity we must rise to those challenges.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness for having introduced this debate so well. Her instinctive priorities are, as usual, absolutely right. I should declare an interest as a former director of Oxfam and as a trustee of Saferworld.
For many millions across Africa, world food security is a distant dream; food insecurity is the endless reality as they struggle to survive. As of today in west Africa, hunger affects more than 18 million people, with approaching 1.5 million children suffering acute malnutrition and 3 million at risk. Violence and turmoil in Libya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and northern Mali have reduced regional employment opportunities. With its front-line experience, World Vision recently described how the migrant workers of Niger have had to return home, and now clashes in Mali have resulted in 300,000 internally displaced people. World Vision tells of 255,000 refugees arriving in the region of Tillabéri, one of the areas already worst affected by food shortages in Niger. All that has made a grave regional situation still worse; 50% of children under five suffer chronic malnutrition, leading to the death of 300,000 children from causes rooted in that.
Droughts and food shortages are not new to the region, but climate change is accelerating the rate at which they come. There used to be longer periods of separation, which enabled communities to restore their means of livelihood-their crops and livestock-and to rebuild their resilience. The immediate crisis is just two years after the 2009-10 crisis, which was only five years after the 2004-05 crisis. We are not only talking about west Africa. Half the population-4.7 million people-in South Sudan are threatened by food insecurity; in the Horn of Africa, 9 million people are food insecure; the BBC reports that 10 million are food insecure in Yemen, with all its globally dangerous political tensions, and that 5 million require emergency aid; and there are reports of increasing food insecurity across southern Africa.
The immediate, appalling suffering and disease are not anything like the whole story. There are long-term consequences for the productivity of people acutely weakened by hunger, the long-term adverse effect on mental and physical health, the impossible pressures
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The UK Government deserve credit for having remained committed to their overall targets and to their L'Aquila undertakings on global hunger. Their commitment to fund the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme with £20 million in its first year was also welcome. These help to provide moral authority to push hard for a more ambitious programme on food and agriculture when the UK hosts the G8 summit next year.
There are other in effect more sinister-some would say-issues strategically affecting food security. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, in its current Grow campaign Oxfam spotlights land grabs. Demand for land has soared as investors look for places to grow food for export or crops for biofuels, or simply to buy up land for profit. In too many instances, land sold as unused or undeveloped is in fact being used by poor families to grow food. The Land Matrix database includes deals that are reported as approved or under negotiation worldwide between 2000 and 2010 as amounting to 203 million hectares. This is equivalent to over eight times the size of the United Kingdom. Too often these deals trample over the rights of local people.
Back in May 2001, the Committee on World Food Security agreed voluntary guidelines on the responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the context of national food security. These represent the first international norms on tenure of land and other natural resources. They are a significant first step towards ensuring that local communities are empowered to stop land grabs and to benefit themselves from responsible investments. They are not perfect but they are a start. What specifically are the Government doing to highlight these guidelines and to encourage their application? I hope that the Minister will cover this in his reply.
That report stresses that such policies increase vulnerability and inequity in the overall distribution of food. The European Commission is currently preparing a report to look at the increased EU demand for biofuels in supplier countries. This provides a real opportunity to ensure that the negative impacts of biofuels both on food prices and in driving land grabs in developing countries are taken into account in the EU's renewable energy directive. I hope that Ministers are as a priority engaging with those in the EU who are preparing this
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Baroness Parminter: My Lords, I, too, thank my colleague, my noble friend Lady Miller, for initiating this debate. As another member of the aforementioned EU Sub-Committee D, we are only too aware of the challenge of providing nutritious food in the face of a growing population, increasing resource constraints and the effects of climate change.
It has been estimated that food accounts for a third of Europe's greenhouse gas impacts. Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide and methane produced from agriculture is key if we are to make food production more sustainable. To that end, I welcome the £12.6 million committed by Defra and the devolved Administrations to research the impacts of greenhouse gases in agriculture. The UK Government need to co-ordinate and work with private and public partners to ensure research and development priorities support sustainable diets, looking at how we can grow crops using less water, delivering greater nutritional benefit and reducing reliance on fertiliser and pesticides. Research priorities must support both agro-ecological farming practices as well as projects for agricultural development based on cutting-edge science. Why? Because GM technology is no silver bullet, as the Foresight report, The Future of Food and Farming, rightly concludes.
Public opinion in the UK remains sceptical of the technology and without public consent products will not be sold in supermarkets. As a representative of the retail industry put it to me recently, "The public will accept GM foods only when they are on a cliff edge with nowhere else to go". Before any decisions about GM cultivation in the UK are made, two things must happen. First, the UK Government must have the evidence on the environmental impacts and potential for cross-contamination of other farming regimes by GM crops. Two weeks ago, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee called on the Government to set up an independent body to research, evaluate and report on the potential impacts of GM crops on the environment, farming and global food systems. The committee is right that an initial focus of such research should be on the scope for, and risks of, the co-existence of GM crops with conventional and organic farming regimes. As my noble friend Lord Taverne rightly said, this would enable us to make the science-based decisions required.
Secondly, no decisions about GMOs should be made without clear evidence of public acceptance of GM food. Food is essential to all citizens and they have the right to be part of the decision-making process. Next year marks a decade since the previous Government's national conversation on GM food. This Government must engage now with a sceptical public in a way that ensures that they are well informed on this issue.
Consumers are central to the issue of food security in another way, too. We need to reduce global consumer
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What we waste is as important as what we eat. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, rightly highlighted that 40% of food in the UK is wasted. Up to half of that food waste comes from households. Good progress has been made by retailers and local authorities, with government support, to cut that figure, but we need to reuse food that does not need to be thrown away and recycle that which is not fit for consumption. Charities such as FareShare and FoodCycle are working hard to reduce food waste and food poverty by taking surplus food and delivering it as food parcels and warm healthy meals to people in the local community. The Government should do all that they can to promote the redistribution of surplus food to charities.
There needs to be more focus on stopping food waste going to landfill. If placed in landfill, food waste releases methane, which is 21 times more powerful than CO2. In reviewing the UK's waste policy, the Government should set a target date for their stated aim of no food waste to landfill. A deadline of 2020 would certainly focus minds. In the mean time, local authorities should be encouraged to increase the separate collection of food waste as well as increasing the resilience of their local food economies.
A number of major towns, cities and counties, including London, Sheffield, Kent and Brighton, are working hard to promote local food security. Bristol City Council, through its food plan, is pioneering in the UK a food systems planning process that supports the development of a resilient food system: safeguarding land for food; increasing urban food production and distribution; protecting key infrastructure for local food supply; supporting community food enterprise models; and safeguarding the diversity of food retail. I would like to see the Government encouraging every city to produce a food plan as a means to increase food resilience, support local food businesses and help more people get involved with food production.
In conclusion, tackling the challenge of delivering food security in the UK will require action at all levels: the Government, local authorities, industry and consumers. An important step to delivering co-ordinated action by all those players would be for the coalition Government to produce their own national food strategy. There is widespread support for such an initiative, including from producer representatives such as the NFU and major retailers. In his reply, I hope that the Minister will comment on whether the Government intend to produce such a strategy and a delivery plan that should focus on both the sustainable production and the sustainable consumption of the UK's food.
We have heard how fortunate we are to live in the United Kingdom, where there is food and safe water for the majority. I say the majority, but an increasing number of food banks are operating in the United Kingdom, often through the churches and faith communities, ably supported by the Trussell Trust. The poorest in our society are subject to food insecurity, and this should not be forgotten in the broad range of other issues that we are discussing.
I am fortunate to live in a part of the country, Suffolk, that is a proud food producer that is conscious of its own brands and makes the most of that. However, it is not a complacent part of the country. Early on in my time there, I met a group of Christian farmers and others who were acutely aware of the issues of availability of grain stocks throughout the world. We met during a severe shortage, and there were only days left before the stocks ran out. Those people were aware of their place in the food chain throughout the world.
New Anglia local enterprise partnership has green pathfinder status from the Government and is spearheading ideas about sustainability. The east of England is well placed to strengthen a local approach to sustainability and to see whether market towns might be re-established as centres for local trade in food. There is a question about how local sustainability can be achieved in a proper balance with the large retailers. We heard in debates earlier this week how the supermarkets have delivered huge benefits and provide a great variety of food at low cost. However, as fuel costs rise and questions about the sustainability of imports come to us, a more local and complementary approach is surely essential.
However, considering the size of the agri-food sector, we cannot go into a rural idyll thinking that we can all go back to our roots. It is the UK's largest manufacturing centre and a major source of employment to around 3 million people. Half a million are employed in primary production on land and sea. It is a significant sector.
Sustainable agriculture, as we have heard, will depend on first-class scientific research. Supporting that and overcoming its negative image will be vital. This is where education comes in. The land available is finite. We are also concerned to retain our biodiversity and all the habitats for wildlife. Those issues are all too easily lost in giving over land to biofuel production and other sources. Achieving these aims requires investment in people. We have already heard anxieties about young people going into agriculture-and that is certainly right. I gather that the average age of a farmer in this country is 58. Where are the accessible routes for young people to enter agriculture?
However, there is one sector of food production that we have not yet touched on. In February this year, I was privileged to attend a consultation at St George's House, Windsor, relating to the fishing industry in this country. St George's House, like many other church-based
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The social and cultural aspects of food production, and indeed consumption, are vital, as noble Lords have said. It is a tough question, but one that we should ask. How can our expectation of continuing to eat the diet that we enjoy be modified? We have heard one idea about moving away from meat and dairy to more plant-based consumption, but how do we face up to the issues of overconsumption and obesity? We have heard much about that and I have a load of horrific figures, but there is no point repeating them. It is all very obvious. There is also the issue of food waste. My figures suggest that up to 5.3 million tonnes of available food is wasted each year, at a cost of £12 billion or £480 for an average household.
This is why education is so important. The things that help children and young people to understand more about the country are much to be commended. The Suffolk Agricultural Association buses in thousands of primary school children each year to look at the processes of agriculture just before the Suffolk Show every year, and pays for the transport so that schools are not faced with those costs. That sort of education will be vital for the future, and I hope that many other related initiatives will find increasing government support.
I echo what has been said. There is a complex task ahead of us, but if we are to ensure that all have access to good quality, affordable and nutritious food-worldwide and at home-sustainability has to be a top priority for government.
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, for introducing this debate. We could do with far more than two and a half hours to discuss such a major difficulty that faces us.
The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change produced in March this year another report, Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change. It is an excellent report, but my initial thought was that mankind has faced climate change since mankind appeared on the scene. There have been at least 75 major temperature swings in the past 4,500 years. Indeed, the Norse empire was brought to an end when the west coast of Greenland became uninhabitable at the start of the mini ice age in the early 1300s.
"Agriculture is at the nexus of three of the greatest challenges of the 21st century-achieving food security, adapting to climate change, and mitigating climate change while critical resources such as water, energy and land become increasingly scarce".
That is a very good summary of the problem that we face and we have to set it against population growth in the world. For the first time, 50% of the world's population lives in urban surroundings. As my noble friend Lord Gardiner and the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, said, we will need 30% more water, 50% more energy and 40% more food by the middle of this century, and we are getting towards the halfway mark for that. There are 7 billion people in the world and one has to remember that 20% of them-about 1.5 billion-are dependent on land that is currently degrading. Therefore, even if there were no increase in the population, the problems would already be getting more acute.
Water has also been mentioned and there are undoubtedly going to be considerable problems there. The population on the banks of the Nile is expected to double to 300 million by 2025. Looking further afield into Asia, there is the potential for water wars. If one thinks that China is going to build eight dams in the foreseeable future, taking water away from Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, one can see that the existing problems are going to be exacerbated by another country's actions. How fortunate we are that we live on a funny little island off the north-west coast of Europe and that the only rivers we share are between Northern Ireland and Ireland, and a couple of rivers between Scotland and England. We do not have a problem compared with the rest of the world.
We have talked a little bit about waste and diet but what has not been mentioned is that food for the poorest 10% of households in the UK accounts for 15% of their budget, whereas for the richest 10% it is only 7%. Therefore, any hike in food prices will increasingly hit the poor.
It is terribly easy to set out the problems. Every noble Lord has done that and they are all experts on this, whereas I am not. However, it is much harder to set out the solutions. One can find some solutions in the report of EU Sub-Committee D. I am the third member of that sub-committee to speak today and there are two quotations that I should like to read out. The first is in Chapter 1-the introduction-and is from Mr Paolo de Castro, MEP, chairman of the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament:
That was said by the head of cabinet of DG Agriculture. That, I think, highlights the problem that we face. Any solutions that we put forward are going to be hampered by the institutional framework in which we work and also by politicians-that is, politicians with a small "p".
A recent report that we have just published concerns water-the problem of fresh water in Europe and the difficulties that that is going to pose for us. One of our recommendations is that in certain circumstances water prices will have to rise. Again, for the poorest in the country that will come as a nasty shock. Which politician standing for election wants to go around saying that food and water prices will have to rise? There is a small political negative in all that. It is also very difficult for politicians to tell the rich that in future they will have to eat less, particularly less meat, when, as one gets increasingly affluent-and there are more and more affluent people throughout the world-the one thing one wants to do is to eat meat and more of it.
Going back to the institutional framework in which we work, I again draw your Lordships' attention to our report on innovation. With diseases such as bluetongue and the latest Ug99, rust in wheat, we have to have new technologies and innovation. At the moment, that is all tied up with the words "genetically modified foods", but that is a very blunt term-rather like using the drought to cover every water shortage. We have to use biotechnology, just as we use nuclear as part of the energy solution. However, at the moment, the EU is preventing that innovation. Its reaction to innovation in the GM world is rather like a wet hen behaving badly in a thunder storm. We have to do more and I hope that my noble friend and the Government will pursue this matter in Europe because, without innovation and support for the research at Rothamsted that my noble friend has just mentioned, we will go backwards, not forwards.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Miller for introducing this timely debate. I declare myself the fourth member of Sub-Committee D to be speaking in this debate.
I spent the first half of April in Egypt. While wondering about the degree to which methods of cultivation seemed to have changed very little over the past few millennia-donkeys still seem to be the main means of transport-I nevertheless found fascinating the narrow bands on each side of the floodplain of the Nile that had been the centre of civilisation three or four millennia ago. When we returned to the UK, there was an interesting programme on BBC Four, which I happened to see, about the sudden collapse of the first kingdom in about 2000 BC. What had been a relatively high level of civilisation suddenly disintegrated. Archaeologists are increasingly of the view that the reason was a major famine caused by the failure of the rains in the upper Nile valleys in what are now Uganda and Southern Sudan, which feed the Nile. Luxor, where we were, had not received any rain for 46 years, but the Nile had traditionally provided the fertility of the Nile valley.
When the Nile failed, the fertility of the valley failed. Hieroglyphs of that period, around 2000 BC, indicated that it was a very serious famine. They were stories about people having to resort to eating their own babies and years of famine-the sort of famines there are now in west Africa and the Horn of Africa, which the noble Lord, Lord Judd, spoke about. This
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The Foresight programme and report, The Future of Food and Farming, put together the four issues that John Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, talks about as his perfect storm: population growth, climate change, the exhaustion of easily accessible fossil fuel energy, and increasing competition for water resources. Above all is the issue of population growth-from 7 billion today to an expected 9 billion, or even more, in 2050.
The key question for food security is: will we be able to feed all these people? In the 20th century, when arguably we faced an equally fast growth in population, we were able to do so by pulling more land into cultivation by the very profligate use of fossil fuel fertilisers-fossil fuels in the form of fertiliser-which underpinned the green revolution, and by building huge dams such as the Aswan and Three Gorges dams to provide for irrigation.
However, none of this is possible any longer. We need our forests and wilderness areas to absorb our carbon dioxide emissions. We are running out of easily accessible fossil fuel energy. Water resources are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive to manage and climate change is causing total unpredictability in rainfall, periods of drought, and so forth.
Nevertheless, I suppose I am slightly surprised at how optimistic in some senses the Foresight exercise was. There were three main messages in the priority themes that it picked out. First, it is vital to spread best practice. Knowledge transfer and exchange are the key to this. One of the problems that we face-this has come out in what many noble Lords have said-is that we have the knowledge today but people are not using it. It is therefore vital that we develop forms of farm advice and advice systems that spread the knowledge that we have. It is not necessarily a question of developing GM, although that may play a part. We must disseminate best practice.
Secondly, we need to invest much more in research and development. The noble Earl, Lord Caithness, mentioned the study on innovation that we in Sub-Committee D made. Out of that came the fact that the EU spends €400 billion on the CAP and only €2 billion on research. This will rise to about €4 billion, but it will still be a miserable 1% of the total. The European Union target is to spend 3% of GDP on research, which would equate to something like €12 billion. The UK's research effort is, in relative terms, lower than that of Germany or France. We have superb, leading-edge research institutions, but again we fall down very badly on dissemination.
The final issue, to which my noble friend Lady Parminter referred, is reducing waste. It is appalling that more than 30% of the food produced in the world is wasted. The noble Lord, Lord Stern, spoke about the methods by which that waste could be easily prevented. So much could be used to feed those who are undernourished.
There are questions that we need to put to the Minister. Are we doing enough to promote research and development? Are we doing enough to disseminate knowledge and develop farm advisory systems? Are we doing enough both at home and in international circles to make sure that things are done? There is a great danger of feeling satisfied by coming to agreements in talking shops; the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Stern, instanced the promises made in the G8 summit that were not met. What we are desperately looking for, both in this area and that of climate change, is leadership-not only from our Government but in the wider world-to try to get things done, as distinct from just talking about them.
Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: My Lords, like other noble Lords I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for securing this extremely important debate. As many noble Lords said, the issue should be extremely high on both the domestic and international agendas.
While there is a high level of food security in the UK, there is also, as other noble Lords mentioned, a very high level of food waste. I will concentrate my remarks on that area. Shockingly, some 30% to 50% of all food produced is never consumed. In the developing world this is for a variety of reasons, which boil down to inadequate infrastructure or adverse weather conditions. In the developed world the problem is far more behavioural. People buy too much, are resistant to buying wonky fruit and vegetables and demand new and exciting food every night, with leftovers not being used. Food that is safe to eat-a total of 7 million tonnes a year-is chucked in the bin, largely because people are scared by stringent food labelling and cautious about sell-by and best-before dates.
Until a couple of decades ago, the old adage, "Waste not, want not", was well understood, but today it no longer rings true. It is absolutely wrong that wonky and ugly fruit and veg, and offcuts of meat that we have forgotten how to cook, are thrown away. I recently came across Rubies in the Rubble, an admirable social enterprise based in Covent Garden market, which makes jams and chutneys out of surplus produce that would otherwise be sent to anaerobic digestion. Organisations such as this should be nurtured, encouraged and supported to ensure that productivity is born out of what would otherwise be wasted.
Earlier this month I participated-along with a number of other noble Lords including the Lord Speaker, who bravely took part during the week of State Opening-in the Live Below the Line challenge, living on £1 a day for five days for all our food and drink to draw attention to the 1.4 billion people who live on the equivalent of £1 a day every day of their lives for much more than their food and drink. Although we all found the challenge difficult, in this country we have such an abundance of choice that if I could not find a cheap tin of baked beans in one supermarket, I was bound to in the next. Incidentally, I was struck by the fact that cost of a tin of value baked beans had increased from 25p last year to 29p this year. We in this country have become accustomed to this huge choice, even when living on a tight budget, but is it really sustainable in the long term?
I should like to take this opportunity to draw attention to a couple of examples of innovative campaigns, all in their different ways making a real difference. Incredible Edible is a scheme that started in Todmorden in Yorkshire and has now spread to 23 towns and villages across the UK. From their beginnings with herb gardens, local people now plant and grow vegetables and fruit all around their town. They use land outside the fire station, the railway station, the health centre-where they replaced thousands of pounds worth of shrubs with apple and pear trees-turning all available local space into vegetable patches and herb plots for anyone in the town to come along, pick and take home their produce, promoting healthy living and a real sense of community, as well as the start of genuine local food security.
I commend the Mayor of London's Capital Growth campaign, which aims to support 2,012 new growing spaces in London by the end of 2012. Currently at 1,719, it is an eminently achievable target. Jamie Oliver's Kitchen Garden campaign and the Government's task force, led by Garden Organic, are promoting vegetable patches in every school in order to further educate future generations and address the issue of food security, and at the same time are helping to reduce the growing epidemic of obesity in this country, which, as was referred to earlier, is another huge problem waiting for us down the track.
An appropriate infrastructure must be created to connect up demand and supply. As mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, FoodCycle, with its community cafés, and FareShare, which distributes surplus food to local charities and organisations-they are both known to the Minister-are tackling these issues at different levels of the supply chain, making sure that food that is still good gets to those who are at risk of food insecurity. For each of these different models, all tackling waste and food insecurity in different ways, there are many other local initiatives and examples. I ask the Minister please to do what he can to make it easy for such organisations to innovate and flourish.
I declare an interest. I farm in the north-east of England and chair the Centre of Excellence for UK Farming, which seeks to bring together scientific research knowledge and to find better ways of applying that knowledge in practice. I am a trustee of the Lawes Trust, which owns Rothampsted Research, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, has mentioned, is the subject of demonstration this weekend.
The importance of this subject cannot be underestimated, as has been said by a number of speakers today. The global challenges are well understood. Some of us had the privilege of hearing Sir John Beddington last evening at a seminar ably chaired by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. I shall not repeat the analysis of the challenges we face of climate change, population growth, changing lifestyles, urbanisation and so on. It has been well rehearsed this afternoon. We in Britain are part of this global challenge-we are likely to have 70 million people here-and have a role in supporting the global population, as we have heard. We need to find solutions and demonstrate leadership.
Picking up on the issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, our investment in science, technology, innovation and skills is critical. I know that my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, is personally very committed to this agenda; he and I discuss it regularly. I also applaud the Government's decision to maintain the current level of spend on scientific research against a background of significant cuts in public expenditure elsewhere. However, I seriously question whether the current level of spend is enough, in view of the scale of the challenges we face. The previous Administration slashed expenditure on research and development, as did the Administration before that, believing that we had barns full of surplus food across Europe throughout the 1980s and 1990s and we could afford to cut back.
Unlike most other areas of public expenditure, budgetary cuts in public expenditure on R&D in agricultural and food research have been taking place over 20 years. As a consequence, we have seriously reduced our capacity, institutions have closed, departments have shut down, and a contraction in capacity is a real concern in terms of both facilities and scientific knowledge in certain disciplines. The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, mentioned soil as an example.
I will give noble Lords another example. During this time, spend on horticultural research has fallen by about 40%, with the two remaining institutions struggling to survive. Production of fruit and vegetables overall has continued to decline-at a time when we are being encouraged to eat five portions a day. We are currently consuming fewer than three, so we need a 40% increase to achieve a healthy diet. Where would that come from if we could achieve that increase in consumption?
We all accept that economic growth has to be the current priority for the Government, but we need to encourage the production of local and regional food
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We need sustainable solutions that help us to increase food production, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on chemical inputs, and protect and enhance our ecosystems and habitats, all in the face of a reduction in available land and water and increased weather volatility as a result of climate change. We cannot achieve that with our current resources and a fragmented approach to the challenge.
These are really important responses. Addressing climate change, increasing food production and encouraging healthier lifestyles and diets are all long-term challenges and involve at least six government departments.
The noble Lord, Lord Knight, and I had discussions yesterday with organisations that are trying to give schoolchildren a better understanding of the countryside, food, farming and environmental issues, and the Department for Education has a key responsibility in encouraging a change in behaviour through better informed classrooms. We certainly need joined-up and integrated policies to address these key strategic issues. I am really concerned about how the Government are going to deliver the accepted recommendations of the report and I support the need for a more strategic approach to these challenges.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I should begin by declaring my interest as a rather faded and ancient peasant farmer producing wine and a few other things in Provence, although with nothing like the elegance of my noble friend Lady Miller, who has introduced this great debate.
One thing about being tinged with ancienty is that you learn that in order to determine the future it is not a bad idea to look back to the past. Perhaps we need not go as far back as my noble friend Lord Caithness, to the ice age, but in my case it is fairly simple. It is an accident of birth than entitles me to be a peasant farmer and I am proud of it. Our first wine was shipped to what is now the United Kingdom in the second century BC, to Hengistbury Head, near Christchurch, and presumably it went up maybe to Stonehenge. Your Lordships will perhaps remember
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When I joined your Lordships' House, I listened to debates, sitting on my own. I have made the point before that I did not know that when the Government changed you changed from one side of the House to the other, as nobody told me at the young age of 25. My Chief Whip then suggested that it might be a good idea to make a maiden speech. I have to say that did not know what the word maiden meant. When I asked what I should speak on, he said I should speak from my own experience. My own experience was relatively limited, due in particular to a shortage of food during the war, where, at my prep school, we had only Pom, Spam and powdered egg. I had been brought up in Canada during the war and when I came back I was practically starving.
I learnt, too, that there is a strange thing about the United Kingdom, with a family who were the first people to ship meat from Australia and exploited sugar in the Caribbean. We are not self-sufficient. For the record, I will give the House the Government's food situation in the year of my birth, 1937. We had to import 93% of our maize, 86% of our barley, 64% of our wheat, 73% of our meat and 95% of our cheese-after the recession, there was a need to produce less milk and more wheat-96% of our tea, naturally, 90% of our cocoa, 79% of our coffee, 79% of our rice and 68% of our sugar, as well as 67% of our butter, 90% of our spices and of course more than 80% of our fertiliser. Much of the latter was guano from Latin America, where William Gibbs "made his dibs on the turds of birds", as I think it was explained originally.
At my prep school, I got into trouble when I said I had eaten a banana, because no one had seen a banana. I think, and will put on the record in Hansard, that there was a shortage of food. As my noble friend was explaining just now, there is enough food capability and production in the world. If we look back at our own history and the Council of Trade, the reason why we went out into the outside world was because we needed food. We went out to grow and produce all over Africa. The whole of the Commonwealth began initially not so much with the mineral resources but with the potential to create added value on the land.
Why did we get rid of the crown agents of the Commonwealth Development Finance Corporation and why do we not look back to what these countries actually produced? In the days when I did some economic research into agriculture, it was usually to predict what was going to happen to food and I always got it wrong. I came to travel through India and Africa and then gang up with the French in Francophone territories, compete with them, and ask where, what and how we produced. Naturally, sugar was one of those things. Sugar came from the Caribbean. I remember being down in Cameroon with my noble friend Lord Jellicoe when he became Leader of the House and a director of Tate & Lyle, sitting with the president there, who said, "Please, please help us to grow sugar with the Garoua sugar project". However, Tate & Lyle got a bit nervous about Africa because it was a dangerous place
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I turn to what I suggest we should do. We should go to these countries where we were before, place orders for what they used to produce and could produce, and give them an off-take agreement. With that agreement, they could fund almost anything. One of my favourite areas, which I have raised before, is the Sudan, which was to have been the bread basket of the Arab world. The Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development under Saeb Jaroudi provided, for people like me, a major grant to look at the possibility of growing grain and exporting it, as we had done before in other parts of Sudan with cotton. If we look at our shortage and what we need to import, and can somehow find a way with the private sector to direct that demand into placing orders where we, using the latest techniques and avoiding the problems of pollution, can help to grow, to deliver to the ports and to have the off-take, we are in good business.
Not so long ago, I suddenly found that I met some gang from Chicago who were very interested in all of this. Some wanted to speculate on the grain market and others on production. A lot of help on this, surprisingly enough, came from Israel. They then suggested to me that it might be possible to produce pork bellies. Thinking of some of the prejudice of the Arab world to the pig-but the pig is a forager and the Romans walked around with it-I was quite intrigued. They wanted to know when grain could be produced because there was a forward market. What I am saying is that if we can use our knowledge, our technology and our historic relationships to revisit these countries and to sit down and help them to grow what we would willingly buy, we could make a major contribution.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, for instigating this debate and congratulate her on her timing. There can have been no more topical time to discuss this, given the establishment of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition by the G8 last weekend and given that we are in the build-up to the Rio+20 conference. There can be few more profound issues for this or any other Parliament to grapple with, and this debate has demonstrated the merits of having a House of expertise and experience to address such a complex issue. As we have heard, there is an interplay of issues such as food production, food distribution, sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services, population change, energy supply, water supply and, of course, climate change, so authoritatively discussed by my noble friend Lord Giddens and by the noble Lord, Lord Stern, who asked a key question of the Minister on the Government's failure to meet the 2009 G8 commitments-a point reinforced by my noble friend Lord Judd.
As has been clear, the debate is against the backdrop of the Foresight report by the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir John Beddington, which
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"The case for urgent action in the global food system is now compelling. We are at a unique moment in history as diverse factors converge to affect the demand, production and distribution of food over the next 20 to 40 years. The needs of a growing world population will need to be satisfied as critical resources such as water, energy and land become increasingly scarce. The food system must become sustainable, whilst adapting to climate change and substantially contributing to climate change mitigation. There is also a need to redouble efforts to address hunger, which continues to affect so many. Deciding how to balance the competing pressures and demands on the global food system is a major task facing policy makers".
To demonstrate the scale of the challenge, it is also worth reminding the House of some of the statistics: a world population of 7 billion, rising to 9 billion by 2050, with currently around 1 billion going hungry every day; demand for water will increase by 30% by 2030; the amount of arable land per head has almost halved since 1960; agriculture accounts for up to 30% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. Consumers in rich countries waste, as we have heard, as much as a quarter of the food that they buy and, in more than half of industrialized countries, 50% or more of the population is overweight-I declare an interest. Some 40% of the US corn crop ends up in gas tanks instead of in stomachs.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, reminded us of the fragility of political norms if we ignore this potential perfect storm. This is a crucial subject for ongoing debate in your Lordships' House. I ask the Minister to use his influence on business managers to see if they would consider an annual debate with more time, as requested by the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, on this most fundamental of subjects. It is not possible to do complete justice to this in the remaining time that I have available, so I will focus on just three or four points.
The first is the great 21st-century food challenge: how to produce more food sustainably. The issue was addressed well by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne. As my honourable friend the shadow Secretary of State for Defra, Mary Creagh MP, said at the Oxford Farming conference this year:
In government, my right honourable friend Hilary Benn published Food 2030 to set the then Government's vision for food policy over the following 20 years. I do not know if the Minister has read it. I hope so, but I also ask him if the Government endorse it and if not could they not produce their own vision to attempt to draw some of these themes together for us to debate? We hear about sustainable intensification, but we need some flesh on the bones of the soundbite.
The Government need to give certainty to farmers and businesses wanting to invest in renewable energy such as solar and anaerobic digestion. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Parminter, I would like more action
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This brings me to my second point about tackling food poverty. We are, sadly, familiar with the images of people struggling to avoid starvation in Somalia, Kenya, or the Sahel region of Africa. We know the global pressures that we face in competing for food and water supplies. In the recent past, no one in this country has worried too much about food prices or food security. Now, I am afraid, we also need to be alive to the challenge of food poverty here at home. Last year food prices in the UK rose by 6%, more than in any other EU country except Hungary.
When Ed Miliband first used the phrase "the squeezed middle" to describe families feeling the effect of rising food prices, energy bills, pay freezes and job losses there was scorn from our friends in the media. I am happy to see that that phrase has now entered the English language. The consumer prices index estimates that we spend 12% of our income on food, but jobseeker's allowance for a single adult is currently £71 a week. If the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, is right that poor people spend an average 15% on food, that is £10.65 a week. The noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin, talked about living on £1 a day and I pay tribute to her fundraising and what she has done in organising that with noble Lords, but I challenge the rest of us to spend £7 or £10.65 a week on food and to eat healthily and well. I do not think that it is possible. This is why we are seeing the rise of the food banks and FareShare schemes mentioned by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.
The third point I will make is to ask the Minister the Jamie Oliver question. If we are serious about changing cultures so that we eat more healthily and more sustainably, surely we need to start in schools. Why are we letting academies off the hook on the school nutritional standards? Bringing them in was one of the most important things I was able to do in government, and it is scandalous to see them being eroded away as all secondary school become academies. Turkey Twizzler 2 is just around the corner.
Finally, I want to talk about the threats from commodity speculation facing the global food supply chain. We need a fair market for food. That starts with international action to tackle the commoditisation of food. Increased volatility in commodity prices makes it difficult for UK farm businesses to plan. World commodity prices have risen steadily over the past decade, and some economists and hedge fund managers are now concerned about the impact this could have on the global cost of food and other commodities. Ten
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There is a vicious circle where commercial producers and purchasers pay more to hedge and need to hedge more as financial speculation has increased market volatility. The problem is not so much commercial hedgers-the food producers-but excess speculation caused by Wall Street selling its latest financial products that in turn raises food prices. The UK Government have recognised the impact of world commodity prices, exchange rates and oil prices on food prices, but they failed to support French moves for greater transparency during the French presidency of the G20, so the US has had to act unilaterally.
The answer to many of these multilayered global problems is global co-operation and global leadership. This was one of the points made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby. While, as the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, reminded us, this is not just down to Governments, they have a key role. So my final question is: will the Prime Minister find time between "Fruit Ninja" and football photo opportunities to show the kind of leadership we saw when the previous Government made Africa and climate change their priorities for their presidency of the G8, and that Gordon Brown showed in April 2008 to form the G20 to mitigate the worst of the global financial collapse? That is the sort of leadership we now need to deal with this issue. I hope we will keep returning to this subject, and I look forward to what the Minister has to say.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer for tabling this debate. I also thank noble Lords for making such valuable and insightful contributions. I am delighted to respond on this important issue. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Knight, that it is a subject to which this House should return on a regular basis.
Food security is one of the most pressing issues our global population faces, and I assure noble Lords that it is given the utmost importance by this Government. This debate has been called at an important time. As my noble friend said in introducing the debate, the Foresight report, The Future of Food and Farming, published its one-year review yesterday and just last week, as several noble Lords mentioned, the Environmental Audit Committee published its report, Sustainable Food. My noble friend Lord Caithness and other noble Lords pointed to the excellent reports by European Union Sub-Committee D. Many of the conclusions of these reports overlap with issues raised here today on food security.
We are preparing for the Rio+20 summit in June, where the world will debate how to sustain our planet. As my noble friend Lord Selborne and other noble Lords pointed out, this debate has global scope as this is a global topic. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and my noble friend Lord Gardiner reminded
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We have had a number of references to the recent prominence of this issue in your Lordships' House. Perhaps it was the price hike of 2008, but I trace it back to the speech, which has been referred to, of Sir John Beddington at Chatham House, in which he drew the world's attention to his "perfect storm". We know that the global population, currently 7 billion and rising to 9 billion by 2050-indeed, rising by 1 billion in the next 13 years-will impose increasing demand for water, land and energy. This, combined with a changing climate, means that food security is one of the world's greatest challenges.
The noble Lord, Lord Giddens-indeed, many noble Lords-referred to the excellence of the Foresight report. That report on the future of food and farming concluded that Governments across the world must take action now to ensure that a rising global population can be fed. The challenges set out in the Foresight report are of great relevance. This Government will build on the work set out in the one-year review, published yesterday, some of which I can touch on here.
I will respond to a number of questions which my noble friend Lady Miller posed, which I can perhaps then use to address other matters which noble Lords have raised during the course of the debate. My noble friend asked especially about Defra's assessment of intensive dairy proposals. I assure her that the department is undertaking scientific research to better understand the welfare and other issues associated with the development of so-called "super dairies". We will continue to consider any evidence that comes to light, which may determine whether action becomes appropriate. However, sustainable intensification is about much more than this. It is about producing more from less. It does not necessarily mean just increasing size of production units. It may be done at any scale.
My noble friend Lady Parminter joined my noble friend Lady Miller in talking about carbon footprinting. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Stern, with his direct experience of the effect of carbon in the atmosphere, also mentioned this. I have seen for myself at the Scottish Agricultural College, adjacent to the Roslin Institute, the work that is being done to monitor the effect of diet and genetic lines on carbon emissions from cows and cattle. We are working to encourage businesses to understand and to include carbon impacts in making their business decisions.
Of particular concern to my noble friend Lady Miller was the question of soils. I agree with her that soil lies at the heart of a successful crop production system. We are looking at the forthcoming EU soils framework. We support the idea of protecting Europe's soils, and agree that there is a need to deal with serious soil degradation in some parts of Europe. However,
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My noble friend Lady Miller also asked about co-operation. I agree that, in many ways, some of the weaknesses that farmers have faced have come about because of the difficulty of marketing their products in an increasingly competitive world. We recognise the value that agricultural co-operatives can bring both in this country and elsewhere in the world. In the autumn, we will consult on the implementation of European legislation in the dairy sector, which will increase the scale on which dairy producers can collaborate and allow them to negotiate as producer organisations on the price of milk. I hope that I have covered most of those questions.
My noble friend asked about bees. I was in a meeting today at which this topic came up. I can assure noble Lords that bees are recognised as being an important element of pollination by insects. On the question of pollinators, Defra has contributed £2.5 million to the Insect Pollinators Initiative and £10 million will be available over five years to look at the decline in all pollinators. Defra and the WAG are implementing the 10-year healthy bees plan, which was launched in 2009 and provides practical support for beekeepers. I hope that helps my noble friend with some of the specific questions that she asked. I am grateful to her for giving me advance notice so that I could give her some prepared answers on the subject.
Several noble Lords talked about the role of international negotiations being at the bottom of solving a global problem on an international scale. In June, the world will meet to plot the path to sustainable development and green economic growth at Rio+20. As we know and as I have already said, the G8 and G20 presidencies have identified food security as a priority issue. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Stern, that the action plan agreed at the meeting of G20 Agriculture Ministers in June signals the success of the UK in pushing for transparency in the global food market. We see the great virtue of getting agreement globally if we are to get leverage and have effect.
We want to maintain the momentum on an international scale. I know that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, Mrs Spelman, has championed the cause of food security, sustainable agriculture, water security and sustainable energy forming the core of the new sustainable development goals. My noble friend will know that the Deputy Prime Minister, who will lead our delegation to Rio, shares a similar enthusiasm. Therefore, I like to think that the Government have in place a position that enables us to drive these issues internationally.
A number of noble Lords have talked about food waste. Tackling waste is crucial to food security. Some £12 billion-worth of food that could have been eaten is
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My noble friend Lady Parminter mentioned the consumer's role. The noble Lord, Lord Knight, perhaps stretching the point a little far by trying to bring education policy into a food debate, talked about healthy eating in schools. I can assure him that that is still government policy and I am sure it is the policy of all schools.
On food waste, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich gave us the figures and we should be grateful for the way in which he pointed out how this issue accounts for a considerable element of the wasted household budget in every household. My noble friend Lady Jenkin gave us her practical experience and we should be grateful for the way in which she has brought this issue to the fore. She has used this House to raise this matter and our consciousness of it.
I, too, applaud the work being done by Fare Share and FoodCycle, which act in a private capacity. I have tried to encourage a number of people in the food industry to support these projects, which have enormous benefits in their support for communities and families less able to afford food. They also have benefits for reducing food waste, which is a positive scandal.
In addition to the contribution to global food security expressed by my noble friend Lord Gardiner, the UK farming and food sector is very important to the UK economy. It is the largest single business sector in the economy. The whole food chain contributes £87 billion per annum and 3.6 million jobs. As a sector, it contributes to the delivery of the Government's long-term economic objectives on trade, green jobs, growth and development. This Government are acting across the food chain to stimulate growth, to facilitate international trade and to drive fair competition.
It would be remiss of me if I did not comment on the work done by Jim Pace in his recent tour of China where he has managed to secure a market for British pig meat, which could be extremely valuable and important for the pig production industry in this country. Last week, I received a delegation from Hong Kong. I was handed a letter saying that the delegation was happy that the animal health provisions in this country now permit the importation of British beef to Hong Kong. These are important developments for our industry and for the global reach of British agriculture. A thriving, competitive economy where our products are freely traded on the international market will deliver resilient, stable and affordable supplies to consumers.
My noble friend Lord Selsdon is always an interesting contributor to any debate. He pointed to the decline in self-sufficiency here at home, what we can do about it and what we can do to stimulate the capacity of other countries to produce more. In a way, my noble friend Lady Sharp gave us the answer; namely, to use the knowledge that we have on our farms. The point was
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Noble Lords will expect me to mention the Taylor review-although I do so not out of any vanity-which sought to bring this issue to the table. Since being in office, I have been working to make sure that the principles espoused by the Taylor review are effectively delivered. I have been working closely with David Willetts, the Minister with responsibility for science, on this project. Today, he has announced grants from the BBSRC worth £250 million to research institutes. This includes specifically £14.5 million for a genome analysis centre in Norwich.
We are working across the board. The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, asked about nanotechnology. We have set up a joint strategy forum on nanotechnology, which he and I co-chair, and we are seeking to cover a number of other issues.
There is a whole question arising from R&D skills, which of course are extremely important if we are going to be able to deliver these matters. We managed to get through the debate without talking very much about the CAP. But of course when it comes to agricultural policy, making sure that we get a successful outcome from the CAP negotiations will be very important for this country and for this issue.
I conclude by saying that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Knight, that we should make sure that the usual channels take up this issue so that we have regular debates and we can see the progress that we are making. A lot is going to go on in the next few weeks, specifically on sustainable world development-and at the bottom of that lies food security. My noble friend Lady Sharp exhorted the Government to provide leadership here and overseas. I assure her and indeed all noble Lords that that is precisely my purpose and that of my colleagues at Defra.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I warmly thank all noble Lords who have spoken and the Minister for his very detailed and thoughtful reply. In doing so, I congratulate him on securing that £250 million for the science budget. It cannot have been easy, and the interview today on "Farming Today" with the director of the BBSRC was a good one, because it showed how the budget would be distributed very generally. We will be glad to see that, and to know that it will not be over-focused on one thing.
I am grateful to noble Lords for focusing on the issue of waste. As so many contributors said, it is ridiculous that we are worrying about feeding more people when we have almost enough food in the world to feed the 9 billion that will be. It is just that we waste it by throwing it away here or it failing in storage in the developing world.
This was an incredibly useful debate. I would very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Knight of Weymouth, about commodity speculation. That probably
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Baroness Kramer: I very much thank the House for giving me the opportunity to bring forward a debate on small business and credit and the failure of high street banks to offer that credit and therefore the alternatives that we must look at. I warn the House beforehand that I am going to focus in the time that I have on two areas of particular interest to me, so I thank the other noble Lords who are going to participate in this debate in advance, because they will expand the conversation way beyond the range which I am capable of introducing.
There is very little dispute today that small and micro-businesses especially are struggling to access credit from the five high street banks that dominate banking in the UK, and that has been going on since the crash of 2008-and there were underlying problems before them. The Breedon report was very good; it quoted recent data that showed that 33% of SMEs applying for a loan were rejected and that the decrease in the supply of loans to SMEs in the UK has been much sharper than in other countries. We have a piece today in the FT that says that small businesses lament the shrinking pool of credit. If we needed a real illustration, the entry of Wonga into this field with potentially 2% of interest per week says in every way that there is a very serious vacuum. The truth is that the view of high street banks in this country is that "bankable" credit is a very narrow term indeed. Most lending for SMEs over past years has effectively been a form of real estate; it has not been an assessment of the business plan. It is not just that the high street banks will not do this lending-they cannot. They no longer have local knowledge; they do not have trained credit staff; they are now into a form of centralised tick-box commodity-type lending activity. The contrast is sharp with the German savings banks, the Swiss cantonal banks and the US community development banks, which are a backbone to SMEs in Germany, Switzerland and the United States. In those countries, lending has increased since the crash.
The banks that I just mentioned have a common characteristic: a social obligation as part of their mission, as well as profit-so not just a sole profit-maximisation obligation. Those banks are tied to a specific geography, so they are forced to make a success out of local businesses and to take a long-term view; they cannot diverge into other ways of earning money. Dr Thomas Keidel, who is very senior in the German savings bank association, talked to some in this House,
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I argue that, frankly, this is a tier of banking that we do not have in the UK. We have some valuable community development financial institutions, credit unions, funds and banks. I have visited many, including a brilliant business enterprise fund in Bradford, but they are small and fragmented, and their geographic coverage is fairly random. I know that the Government will say that there is now an agreement with the British Bankers' Association that high street banks that turn down a credit will then refer that small business to a local CDFI. However, that is relatively meaningless unless CDFIs are coherent and comprehensive as a sector and have sufficient funding to meet demand. At present, the CDFI sector in this country is swamped. One of the banks calculated that if they were really going to meet need, they needed something like £125 million of potential lending a week, but they are nowhere near that. The irony is that plenty of investors would like to get engaged with the sector, especially social enterprises, charities and philanthropic individuals, as well as commercial players. With the additional growing capacity to raise funds through the new sector of social impact bonds, there is huge potential to support an equivalent to the local and community banking sector.
We have to remove the regulatory barriers to new entrants into the banking system in the UK, which prevents social entrepreneurs and others getting new banks started. The FSA would say that nobody applies, but look at the experience of Metro Bank, the only bank in recent history with a new banking licence. We all know the numbers-something like £25 million to get regulatory approval, in two and a half years. Consultants in the banking arena all say to anybody interested, "Don't even try. See if you can buy a banking licence, but otherwise forget it in the current climate".
I refer anybody questioning the barriers that come through the regulator to a very good piece called Street Cred by Civitas. It is a bit melodramatic, but it underscores all the difficulties that people face. I have talked with people in the US, and they reckon that it takes roughly six months and costs $2 million to get a new bank started. That is a very different situation.
The Government must develop a specialised bank licence and an appropriate set of capital requirements for small local-community banks undertaking the social impact obligation. We need off-the-shelf packages for small bank start-ups to provide economies of scale,
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I wish to make two suggestions. First, RBS is, frankly, an albatross around the Government's neck. If RBS's branch network were used to create a community banking network, we could see a massive and rapid step change in this area. Secondly, we should examine what kind of lending high street banks undertake, see where the gaps are, and whether they are genuine gaps. It seems to me that there is an argument for saying to those banks, "We are not going to make you undertake this lending but we will have you fund someone else who can through capitalising a local community bank".
In the time I have left I wish to say a few words about the innovative online lending platforms. I am not talking about companies such as Wonga but about the platforms that have investors on the one side and borrowers on the other and offer non-exploitative lending rates. They are new in the field and have grown up in the past two years-for example, companies which offer crowd financing and peer-to-peer financing. I am sure that noble Lords find that term hilarious. This industry has significant potential but is begging for stronger regulation. There is an enormous fear in the industry that a couple of cowboys might come in and create havoc, resulting in terrible headlines, investors fleeing and the regulator intervening in an incredibly heavy-handed way. It is crucial that the Government provide a more constructive regulatory framework which is proportionate and does not stifle the industry's growth but which engenders confidence in the industry so that it can move forward.
I do not want to pretend that the Government have done nothing in this area. I am sure that the Minister will list what they have done. I acknowledge that things have been done but not on the scale that is necessary to support our SME sector. It is vital that the Government understand the limitations of the high street banks instead of constantly telling them that they should lend to these companies. They will not and cannot do that. The Government must have a coherent plan to fill this vacuum and must enhance the opportunities for local banks and quality online lenders. One of the problems is that there is no one in the structure of government at the moment who leads on this issue. It is split between BIS and the Treasury, and within the Treasury there must be five Ministers covering different parts of it. The Government should identify a champion to try to resolve this problem and take it forward. If they do not, we will not sustain our small businesses which are the backbone of our economy and we will give all the space to our competitors.
Lord Popat: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, for bringing such an important and timely topic before the House. She made some important suggestions and comments, on which I would like to expand. For many years I worked as a business and corporate finance specialist, financing small and medium-sized businesses and helping them to secure bank finance either to start or to expand their businesses. We used to process their applications within the day, and many of those firms have gone on to be huge employers that contribute to our communities and our country.
The idea of small businesses securing finance in 24 hours is one that will probably amaze younger entrepreneurs. It is unfortunate that securing finance for micro-businesses in today's market is at best time-consuming and uncertain, and at worst impossible. The business-friendly climate that I encountered in Britain in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s has unfortunately given way to uncertainty, bureaucracy and great difficulty. Nowadays, many small businesses find that it takes at least a month just to set up a bank account in the first place, let alone to get finance.
While I entirely believe and support the Government's commitment to rebalancing the economy and boosting the private sector, the climate for small and micro-businesses, particularly in regard to funding, will have to change considerably before we can make the Government's vision a reality.
I wish to muse briefly on bank borrowing. The coalition agreement makes it clear that ensuring that credit is available to SMEs is essential for supporting growth, and should be a key priority for the Government. They have announced a number of policies to support this aim, including, of course, Project Merlin, as well as the enterprise finance guarantee scheme. The intentions behind these policies are undoubtedly good, but with Project Merlin the often optimistic statistics regarding bank lending do not seem to match the experiences being felt by small businesses.
I hear every day from friends and associates in the business world that lending from banks is very difficult. With the uncertainty generated by what is happening across the eurozone, I do not anticipate that this situation will change for a considerable time. In addition, many of the schemes offered by the Government-in particular, the business department-often experience very low levels of participation. Perhaps worse, many of these schemes are unknown to many of the small businesses that could most benefit from them. As a brief aside, I wonder whether the communications strategy at BIS could be better targeted so that these schemes are heard about beyond Westminster.
We must look beyond these measures and, as this Question urges, at the alternatives. The financial avenues available to small businesses are still plentiful but require some creative thinking and a culture change. One of the difficulties we are experiencing is that FTSE 100 companies are currently holding approximately £130 billion in their bank accounts. At the same time, many small businesses and entrepreneurs are sitting at home with a fantastic idea or product, but cannot make them commercially available without significant investment. There must be a way
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We could also encourage the establishment of alternative providers of capital. In the 1970s, a large number of finance companies were licensed under the Consumer Credit Act and provided business finance to small and micro-businesses. Companies such as Forward Trust, Lombard North Central and First National Securities provided an invaluable service, particularly to leasehold corner-shop owners, as I was at the time. When I first went into business in 1977, I lent from Forward Trust, and while it was expensive it was a specialist company that was willing to take risks. Unfortunately these firms were victims of their own success, and were taken over by the banks. There is, in my opinion, a clear gap in the market for firms of this nature if we can encourage them back. In addition, I meet many high net-worth individuals who are keen to invest in small new ventures but are concerned about doing so. I would like to see the Government explore ways in which wealthy individuals can be encouraged to support start-up businesses in which they are not directly involved.
A related point is that we should encourage smaller businesses to explore new equity financing arrangements. This can help to bring in the capital needed to allow companies to grow and, if coupled with expertise or guidance, may well increase the chances of a small business succeeding, particularly if it is in the early stages.
In the UK, we are fortunate to have significant venture capital funding options for businesses. However, these are often restricted to specific geographical areas, certain specialised industries or businesses of a certain size. I should be interested to know whether the Government have any plans or incentives to help to expand the venture capital industry so that many SMEs that currently miss out can benefit from this very useful industry.
It is worth taking a moment to consider two other points. This Question is clear about looking for alternatives to high-street banks. It is my personal view that, if we were to reduce the barriers to entry for the banking industry and encourage competition, our SMEs would benefit most. By encouraging new banks-particularly local, regional and community banks-new sources of capital will become available to SMEs. In addition, by granting full banking licences to other international banks, such as those from India and China which do not currently do large amounts of business in the UK, or by supporting the creation of new banks, small businesses across the country will feel the benefits and have access to new sources of credit.
My final point is that, while I fully support the need to find new sources of capital for micro-businesses and SMEs, we should not decouple this from ways in which we can reduce the costs that these businesses incur. I know that this week's publication of the Beecroft report has created some debate about the best way forward, but the Government have a duty to do all they can to reduce the considerable regulatory and fiscal burden on small businesses.
We need a radical new approach to small businesses generally, not just to how they find alternative sources of finance. I would appreciate my noble friend's comments, especially on the areas that I have suggested: the speed at which we can raise finance; the need for BIS's communication strategy for small businesses to be well targeted; whether we can make effective use of the £130 billion of deposits held by the FTSE 100 companies to help small businesses; whether we can do something about high net-worth individuals; and whether we can do more about our venture capital funding. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, said, there are many barriers to starting a new bank. How about issuing a full banking licence to some of the foreign banks that have cash liquidity?
Lord Myners: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, on securing this debate. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Popat, who brings a great deal of relevant business experience to our debate. I also look forward to hearing the reply from the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, who also has a very impressive career record in banking and financial services. Although the number of speakers in the debate may be small, with the single exception of me the quality of contribution will no doubt be exceedingly high.
It may be helpful to set some context for this issue. First, lending by UK banks to corporate borrowers, excluding financial institutions and real estate, represents less than 5% of the assets of the UK banking sector. Secondly, small businesses, and in particular the smallest of small businesses, tend on average to be net lenders to banks rather than net borrowers: that is, they run working capital cash surpluses and do not rely on debt from any source to support their business. They do of course rely on the banks for services, particularly for payment processing.
Chart B on page 7 of the Bank of England's Trends in Lending, published in April 2012, shows that net lending to SMEs continues to contract at a rate of about 5% per annum. In fact, this has been the case since 2009 and it is not limited to the UK alone; it is a global phenomenon. It is observable in the United States and in the euro countries that lending to small companies is contracting.
Despite the fact that lending is contracting, terms are widening. An economist might say that that suggests prima facie evidence that if banks can charge more in a market of contracting demand, there must be inadequate supply so that the banks can charge more generous-some would say penal-terms. I am not at all persuaded of that. As a Treasury Minister I wrestled with the issue of whether declining commercial lending was a function of banks not lending or of borrowers not wanting to borrow. I certainly did not find a convincing answer to that question and I do not think that the current Government have either. I suspect that we will never be able to find the answer. I remind noble Lords that this is not a distinctly UK phenomenon. It appears to be happening elsewhere in the world.
I think that the widening of terms is a consequence of effective competition among market leaders. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, referred to the dominance of our five major lenders. Indeed, the report of the Independent Commission on Banking highlighted on page 167 that the concentration and absence of effective competition was at its most acute in the SME sector. Personally, I think that the Royal Bank of Scotland should never have been allowed to acquire NatWest. I declare an interest. I was a director of NatWest at that time and have no doubt that it needed remedial treatment, but the economic consequences of the concentration in SME lending was damaging to the economy.
We must, of course, await the White Paper, due to be published on 14 June, detailing the bank's proposals on ring-fencing. I sincerely hope that the Government will show real determination to implement the recommendations of the Vickers report, and in particular take urgent action to reduce the extent to which the taxpayer continues to be at significant risk of failure as a consequence of the investment banking operations of a number of UK banks-not, I hasten to add, limited to those that are owned by the taxpayer in a significant part.
The noble Lord, Lord Popat, referred to Project Merlin. It did not deliver the gross lending target that was set for it, but it was not the right target. Again, I wrestled with this in government. Mr Vince Cable was very clear. In an interview in the Daily Mail before Merlin, he said that the introduction of a gross lending target as opposed to a net lending target would,
I think that the right honourable Vince Cable was correct and that the Treasury's approach to defining the objectives of Project Merlin were right. Indeed, it is to the Government's credit that they did not renew Project Merlin because the banks were quite frankly running circles around them in achieving those gross lending objectives.
We shall see how the new programme of credit easing operates. It does not involve direct lending to small businesses; it involves reducing the funding costs paid by the banks. We have heard very little about credit easing and have seen very few cases of small businesses claiming that they have been rescued or significantly supported by credit easing. I am very sceptical about whether it will work in practice. I hear that one of the major banks is offering cashbacks to SMEs through credit easing-in other words, not reducing the level of debt at all. The Government need to look very carefully at whether that initiative will work.
The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, referred to the case for new banks, and I think that the noble Lord, Lord Popat, did as well. We have seen two banks sold recently-at least one, Northern Rock, was sold; and Lloyds Banking Group is still trying to sell the business under the code name Project Verde, which has to be disposed of under the state-aid remediations. It was interesting that these banks sold not at book value but well below it. That is quite telling when we consider the attractiveness of being involved in banking.
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We heard comments about alternatives such as pay-day and peer-to-peer lending. We need to keep them in perspective; they are very marginal and will not have a transformational impact on the UK economy. They might be of some benefit to individual borrowers but they are not the solution to the problem of generating economic recovery. Similarly, the proposals from Mr Tim Breedon-worthy, well argued and thoughtful as they are-must again be seen as marginal, at least in the short term. Reducing the dependence on banks as a source of credit and encouraging bond markets, as one sees for instance in America, is a good and laudable objective, but it will not help us out of the current mire of the double-dip recession. For that, we need to see fundamental economic adjustments.
The core issue is not that our banks are not willing to lend, or that they are constrained by capital, but that people do not want to borrow any more than they need in a climate where the business and economic outlook is highly uncertain. The absence of confidence, to which the Government's economic policies have been a contributory factor, is leading to a lack of appetite for borrowing, investing and growing businesses. While we may look for fault on the banking and credit availability side, the real issue is whether we can articulate coherent and credible strategies that will get the economy moving again. To date, the Government have not shown evidence that they can do that. They and the Bank of England seem to be following policies of financial repression. However, I am hopeful that circumstances are changing and that there will be a greater appetite on the part of the Government for taking positive measures to stimulate and promote economic growth without going back to aggressive deficit-growth strategies.
Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lady Kramer for securing this very timely debate. It is humbling to follow such a great expert as the noble Lord, Lord Myners. I cannot begin to compete with him but I, too, will attempt to put the issue in context.
It looks likely that some of the institutional giants in the world of banking may go the way of the dinosaurs. Nothing lasts for ever, and they resemble nothing so much as the cruise liner "Costa Concordia", wallowing in the shallows of the Mediterranean and waiting to hit the rocks. Mindful of that, we must read the runes and suggest alternatives. It is a banal truism to say that financial services are vital to the health of
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Project Merlin, which was referred to, was meant to increase the flow of bank loans to businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises. Although the banks agreed to this, in practice little was achieved; there was no magic. Project Merlin would have been named more aptly, Project Tommy Cooper. The failure was symptomatic of how the banks are not serving the needs of the economy. We need to raise our sights and contemplate alternatives.
As the noble Lords, Lord Myners and Lord Popat, said, much of the western world, including the UK, are in for a protracted period of zero growth at best, or negative growth at worst. The UK will experience a society and economy similar-although, I hope, not with the same magnitudes-to that of the 19th century. The Victorian age, Dickensian and ghastly though it was for so many, nevertheless inspired the creation of a whole range of remedial initiatives. These included the rise of the co-operative movement, the formation of building societies, credit unions, mechanics institutes and the like. Self-help and mutuality constituted the operating principles of the time, with the main emphasis being on the local and communal. As my noble friend Lady Kramer said, the banks in those times were much more focused on serving the local and regional areas and were by no means all centred on London.
Globalisation has, of course, brought many economic benefits but also costs, including the recent disasters within the financial services industry. We need to recreate the local to offset the worst excesses of globalisation. We should learn from our Victorian predecessors. The Victorians, of course, inhabited an era of increasing economic growth, whereas for us it will be the reverse. That makes it all the more important. It would be sheer folly to think that existing arrangements and institutions will be able to adapt themselves. Already commentators are adding to the "too big to fail" character of banks a "too big to manage" dimension. It is interesting that in today's FT there is a report which states that,
If history may be a guide, so, too, can comparative experience. I refer to the extraordinary example of Mondragon in Spain. Starting in 1956, a range of industrial co-operatives have developed. Central to their growth has been their own bank, to which they subscribe and from which they borrow capital. As co-ops, they are owned and controlled by their employees. They are also restrained in the size of their labour force, and above a defined limit the individual co-op has to split up and divide into two. There are now over 250 constituent co-ops in the Mondragon federation, employing nearly 84,000 people. It is the seventh largest enterprise in Spain.
Co-ownership, of course, has long been a much cherished Liberal Party and Liberal Democrat party policy. The late Lady Seear was an ardent advocate of co-ownership on these Benches. In the mid-19th century there was a good deal of cross-party support for wider share ownership. Now there has been a revival of
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The ground is becoming more fertile for the planting of the seeds of a new thinking. Some fruitful new signs have emerged. For example, there is the issuing of local currencies in Lewes, Brixton, Totnes and elsewhere; and the facilitating by Mr Ivan Massow's "Business Angels", whose peer-to-peer lending encourages companies with more than adequate cash reserves to make loans to credit-strapped companies. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Myners, thinks this is small beer. I hope it will become catching and grow.
However, much more needs to be done. We need a champion along the lines of the late Lord Young of Dartington. Michael Young pioneered the rise of the consumer movement in the last half of the 20th century that unleashed a social and economic revolution. That is what we need here. Someone with that kind of vision, lateral thinking and organising flair is sorely needed now to address the pressing problems we face, none more so than in the area of the local provision of banking credit. There are, alas, too few Michael Youngs, which is why I suggest a co-operative of intelligent, like-minded pioneers to think up and bring about the radical changes that must be wrought.
We must not drift or sleep-walk into the future. As a response to the continuing crisis, mass protest, though wholly understandable, is not the answer. That answer will come only from radical and new ideas. The focus must be on the small scale and communal. If the Prime Minister's advocacy of the big society is to have any chance of becoming a big deal, small and communal enterprises will form its essential components.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I, too, welcome this debate and the success of the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, in achieving it. It has been a very interesting debate so far and I would like to discuss, if you like, the other end of the telescope: the needs of small businesses that have contracts with large companies.
Due to the way that the large companies have set their terms, these SMEs seem to need more and more finance in order to create enough working capital to keep going. It is very sad that some of these major companies are taking action to make it more difficult for SMEs to continue. They do not seem to realise that if they do not have the SMEs, their own businesses are not going to succeed. I will describe two case studies-one good, one bad-and I certainly am not blaming banks for the situation, I am blaming the companies. It is an issue that needs some action.
First, the good company is Network Rail-it may surprise your Lordships to hear me cite Network Rail as a good company, but actually in the past five years, from being a pretty bad customer, it has turned out to be a very good one. In November, it launched a fair payment charter for its suppliers, which it signed with 30
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