Food security law voted down by Senedd
A Tory Senedd Member’s bid to introduce a law aimed at providing Wales with food security has been narrowly defeated after it was opposed by the Welsh Government.
Peter Fox, who represents Monmouth, proposed the Food (Wales) Bill, which would have imposed a legal duty on the government to create a more formal food strategy and to establish a Food Commission.
Despite being backed by the Conservative and Plaid Cymru Senedd groups, it was defeated by Labour MSs, who voted against it. Jane Dodds, the only Liberal Democrat MS, abstained.
Proposing the Bill, Mr Fox said: “The Bill will place a duty on Welsh Ministers to make and publish a national food strategy. Evidence that came from Stage 1 scrutiny of the Bill was overwhelmingly in favour of a national food strategy.
But there were also strong views expressed that a national food strategy must be anchored in legislation to ensure that future Ministers and future governments would be bound by the duty to deliver it for the longer term.
“Similarly, there was wide support for the inclusion of local food plans in the Bill, that flow from the food goals and the national strategy, that would ensure that food policy was delivered at a local level in a consistent and targeted way. To ensure accountability, the Bill sets reviewing and reporting duties for Welsh Ministers and public bodies.
“This will ensure that things are being done properly, and if not, that there is an explanation of why and how that can be changed. And, of course, underpinning all of this, the Bill will establish a Welsh Food Commission, as an independent body to promote and facilitate the achievement of what is required in the Bill. The Food Commission would also provide independent advice and guidance to Welsh Ministers and public bodies on their duties.”
But Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths argued that establishing a Food Commission was unnecessary and would be bureaucratic and costly.
She said: “Further legislation in this area to require a detailed plan-setting framework, as this Bill proposes, risks adding complexity and reducing the resource available to address the challenges that Peter and others have rightly identified. It does not add to the tools already available to pursue food systems that are fit for future generations.
“I believe that the action we must pursue to confront the challenges across food systems with the urgency that they require is to use the powers that we already have, not only the powers available to Government, but working with public bodies, communities, food producers and other businesses, who all bring their own ideas and abilities to the table.
“The way in which the work of the Food Commission in England has struggled to move forward, while food poverty has soared, illustrates the difficulties of taking the approach put forward in this Bill.”
The Bill’s further progress was defeated in a vote of 25-24.
Commenting after the vote, Mr Fox, himself a farmer, said: “It is incredibly disappointing that both Labour and the sole Liberal Democrat in the Welsh Parliament failed to back the Food (Wales) Bill. In the light of Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, food security should be at the forefront of our minds.
“Be in no doubt, this was a vote against increased food security, a vote against creating a more joined up food strategy and a vote against urgent action to tackle food poverty. At the very least, Labour and the Lib Dems have kicked the can very far down the road to the detriment of the people of Wales.”
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