Oxford farming conference

Food policy to be key to next Labour government

By Michael Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oxford farming conference Food

Labour has pledged to put food policy at the heart of a new “industry strategy”, while introducing a more joined-up approach to food safety and health challenges, if it is successful after the general election on May 7.

Shadow food and farming minister Huw Irranca-Davies set out Labour’s vision for the food industry in a wide-ranging exclusive interview, filmed at the Oxford Farming conference on Wednesday January 7.

“Food would be part of an industrial strategy within the UK – so jobs and growth and skills and the food sector as an entity that can help pull us out of where we are economically and help to deliver growth for the UK,”​ he said.

A key part of that strategy would be a more co-ordinated approach to food policy, which took a long-term view of the sector’s challenges and opportunities, he claimed. “I think there’s a real demand out there from industry, from manufacturers, from farmers – all through from the manufacturing sector to supermarkets to say: ‘Give us some idea you have a long term plan for the industry.’”

‘Floundering from one good idea to another’

Irranca-Davies accused the government of “floundering from one good idea to another, with no consistency of thought”.

Labour also intended to ensure the food industry fell under the remit not just of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) but also the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department of Health (DoH).

BIS, DEFRA and health ministers

“So you would have BIS, DEFRA and health ministers actively working together to deliver long term food security within the UK and to maximise our potential for exports.”

On the Public Health Responsibility Deal, Irranca-Davies acknowledged the progress made by manufacturers in curbing sugar, salt and fat. But he warned far more action was needed to resolve the twin problems of malnutrition and obesity.

Would that result taxes on sugar, salt and fat or restrictions on advertising promotions​? “You’ll have to wait until we make our announcements very shortly,” ​said Irranca-Davies.

  • This video was produced by Laurence Gibbons. Watch out for more video news and views next week from the Oxford Farming Conference featuring: environment secretary Elizabeth Truss, Irranca-Davies and UK Independence Party agriculture spokesman Stuart Agnew.

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