Saturday, 31 October 2020

In support of decency in politics- backing forJeremy corbyn

Some letters senttoday to th epress in support of Jeremy Corbyn: In the 2019 General Election campaign The Mirror quite rightly argued for Jeremy Corbyn to become our Prime Minister instead of the odious, proven cheat and liar Boris Johnson One of the reason Corbyn was very popular among Labour members as leader was his very strong ‘moral compass’, with his strong support for the poorest people in our society and his resolute anti -racist stance during his fifty years in politics. I was thus sad to read your “Voice of the Mirror’ criticism of Corbyn (30 October), which agreed with his suspension. Corbyn is clearly not in denial about the Equality and Human Rights Report. He backed its recommendations in full. But he correctly said his opponents, including inside Labour, and much of the media, hugely over-inflated to the size of the anti-semitism problem in Labour. Opinion polls have found people thought 33% of Labour supporters had anti-Semitism accusations made against them. The true figure is 0.03%. History will judge Corbyn more kindly than the media has. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Morning Star editor Ben Chacko’s deconstruction of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report and the media reaction (Features, Oct 31- Nov1) should really be published in all the national UK newspapers, so their readership can properly understand what is going on. But, as MS readers all know, the very last thing such newspapers will publish is this critique: instead they variously got bilious articles from Dame Margaret Hodge MP (Mail), discredited former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (Mail) and turncoat, former Labour MP, Lord Mann (Express), piling in attacking Corbyn, with a common theme: lack of facts. Amidst the rancorous bloodletting inside the Labour Party over the EHRC report, facts and details get lost. Let me address one interesting and important one. In the ECHR, one key finding I their report highlights makes mention a controversial mural painted in 2012 in east describing it as “anti-Semitic”, without qualification. When this controversy first broke - after a complaint by former Jewish MP Luciana Berger, (then Labour) - I investigated why this had caused such a huge contemporary political furore, and discovered interestingly that the mural’s Los Angeles –based artist, Mear One ( real name: Kalen Ockerman), stated it depicts 6 real people – not caricatures- turn of the 20th century businessman and bankers: Morgan, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Warburg, Carnegie & Alistair Crowley. But crucially in respect of the emergent political furore, only 2 of which were Jewish. My best clear source was the liberal Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz (“A case of censorship of political art or a whitewashing of offensive anti-Semitic graffiti Haaretz, 14 October 2012 The reporter, Anshel Pfeffer, whom I take to be Jewish, wrote of: “six men elderly white men, some with, for lack of a better description, what seemed like noticeable Jewish features. They were playing a game of monopoly using real money, their giant board laid on the naked backs of downtrodden naked human beings of different color…A century ago, this was the heart of Jewish London, with tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants pouring in from Eastern Europe. Pfeffer added that Ockerman himself seemed to have had an interesting take on the nature of anti-Semitism. In a YouTube clip on his personal website, he said "I came to paint a mural that depicted the elite banking cartel known as ‘the wizards of Oz’, they would be playing a board-game of monopoly on the backs of the working class." The Ha’aretz report said Ockerman strenuously denied that was an anti-Semitic statement saying on his Facebook page that "a group of conservatives do not like my mural and are playing a race card with me. My mural is about class and privilege.” That article was published in Israel A second article I came across was published in the Morning Star on 5 April 2018, “Mear One’s mural – bad art and bad politics” by Nick Wright ( Morning Star, Thursday, April 5, 2018 by Nick Wright. He wrote perceptively: “Labour is weathering a co-ordinated campaign which combines criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies and persona with an intensified drive to brand any criticism of the murderous policies pursued by Israel’s rulers with anti-semitism. The EHCR report and Jeremy’s suspension are the pre-planned outcome of the process to stop this country ever electing socialist prime minister. The media establishment has closed ranks in a very sinister common cause between the Mirror from the soft left to the Daily Mail, The Sun and Torygraph on the far right. A very bad development for British democracy

Thursday, 29 October 2020

The political crucifixion of Jeremy Corbyn

The media reporting today has been an unmitigated disgrace. Few reporters seem to have even read the EHRC report before personally attacking Corbyn. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> The extreme right wing Government of Israel has finally got its prize, as centrist Labour leader Keir Starmer suspends left wing predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, who had been the only leader of a socialist party in Europe who unequivocally backed the Palestinian cause in Israel. How did this come about? Everyone interested in this, should read in full the Equality and Human Rights Commission report, as I have done this morning. The EHRC set out its investigating stall as follows: “Our investigation focused on whether the Labour Party committed unlawful acts of discrimination or victimisation relating to race or religion, or harassment relating to race: • race: meaning Jewish ethnicity • religion and / or belief (religion): meaning Judaism.” It stated: “We found that the Labour Party, through its agents, committed harassment against its members in relation to Jewish ethnicity in the case of two individuals, Ken Livingstone and Pam Bromley.” It added: “The following types of antisemitic conduct by Labour Party agents contributed to our finding of unlawful harassment by the Labour Party. In each of the examples below, we found that the Labour Party was responsible for the conduct because the individual was acting as an agent of the Party. Article 10 will protect Labour Party members who, for example, make legitimate7 criticisms of the Israeli government, or express their opinions on internal Party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the Party, based on their own experience and within the law. It does not protect criticism of Israel that is antisemitic. 7 Where we refer to legitimate criticism of Israel, here and elsewhere in the report, we mean criticism that is not antisemitic. In many more files there was evidence of antisemitic conduct by an ‘ordinary’ member of the Labour Party, who did not hold any office or role, whose conduct the Party could not be directly responsible for under equality law. The unwanted conduct complained of in this group related to social media comments that: described a ‘witch hunt’ in the Labour Party, or said that complaints had been manufactured by the ‘Israel lobby” Then, on Page 44, the EHRC states the following: Interference in decisions on whether to investigate Under the complaints process, as we explain in Chapter 4, GLU staff should decide whether or not to investigate a complaint. LOTO [Leader of the Opposition Office] staff should not have any role in these decisions. However, we saw examples in our complaint sample where LOTO staff made or influenced this decision. “A complaint was made in April 2018 regarding the alleged support of the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn MP, for an antisemitic mural. In an email to the GLU, LOTO staff said that the complaint should be dismissed, stating that: ‘the complaint itself seems to fall well below the threshold required for investigation and if so surely the decision to dismiss it can be taken now’. LOTO staff amended and approved the GLU’s written response to the complainant to include details on Jeremy Corbyn’s actions in relation to the mural. LOTO staff therefore directly interfered in the decision not to investigate in this case.” (emphasis added) It is clear the EHRC takes at face value that because a complainant had objected to a particular mural, this complaint was a factually objective complaint. In their highly hostile book ‘Left Out: the inside story of Labour under Corbyn’ authors Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire spent many pages (pages 101-127, in a chapter titled ‘For the Many, not the Jew’) looking at the political fall-out over the reaction of Corbyn to seeing this mural, which they describe without any hint of questioning as an “anti-semitic artwork.” Why would they consider this mural as anti –Semitic? I wrote about this in an earlier blog, in some considerable detail- something the UK mainstream media has not bothered to do - as follows: Tuesday, 5 March 2019 Banking on the anti-semitic truth In a long and painful interview (“Luciana Berger interview: Corbyn and Labour’s antisemitism crisis,” Times, 2 March 2019; with pregnant independent group MP, Luciana Berger by Rachel Sylvester - The Times newspaper’s premier political interviewer - which focused on the former Labour MP’s allegations about anti-semitism in the Labour Party, Ms Sylvester wrote that “She [Berger]was the first MP to demand an explanation from Corbyn of his decision to defend a 2012 mrual depicting Jewish bankers balancing Monopoly board on the backs of the poor.” I wondered why this had caused such a huge contemporary political furore, and discovered interestingly that the mural’s artist, Mear One, has stated it depicts 6 real people, (only 2 of which are Jewish) : Morgan, Rockefeller, Rothschild, Warburg, Carnegie & Alistair Crowley. The articles below give a range of contradictory interpretations and opinions. Mural in London's One-time Jewish Heart Sparks Debate on anti-Semitism Is a recent coat of paint applied on a wall in the East End of London a case of censorship of political art or a whitewashing of offensive anti-Semitic graffiti? Anshel Pfeffer Haaretz, Oct 14, 2012 7:03 PM LONDON - On Friday morning, as I walked through Shoreditch in eastern London, the white paint was still wet. Previous graffiti scrawled over the mural in recent days hadn't been enough to hide the message and someone had done a more thorough job and the main offensive image had been totally covered over in thick paint still congealing. Anti-Semitism or Censorship? In an ongoing dispute over the limits of artistic expression, an elaborate mural in the old East End of London has been repeatedly vandalized and finally covered over by anonymous hands. The mural was painted over a 5-day period late last month by Kalen Ockerman, who paints under the pseudonym of Mear One, a Los-Angeles based artist has been painting large graffiti-style murals on city walls around the world. The painting on Hanbury Street depicted six men elderly white men, some with, for lack of a better description, what seemed like noticeable Jewish features. They were playing a game of monopoly using real money, their giant board laid on the naked backs of downtrodden naked human beings of different color. Over them hung an image similar to the Freemasons symbol on the Dollar bill and the Illuminati, much beloved of conspiracy theorists. To bolster the global conspiracy message, Ockerman had painted a man holding up a sign saying – "The New World Order Is The Enemy of Humanity." Not surprisingly, Ockerman had barely completed his work when local residents and politicians began complaining that the mural was offensive and controversial for the anti-Semitic image of Jewish bankers living off the poor working class and at the heart of a shadowy global cabal. Many residents though had shown enthusiasm for the mural and encouraged Ockerman during the painting and were opposed to its removal. In recent years, Hanbury and other streets around Brick Lane have become a popular venue for street artists and a number of intricate designs, many of them with political themes, adorn the walls around. A century ago, this was the heart of Jewish London, with tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants pouring in from Eastern Europe and the neighborhood was dotted with synagogues, kosher stores and workshops where Yiddish was the main spoken language. Most of the Jewish families and businesses are gone now, the synagogues nearly all closed down and it has become a largely Muslim area, with immigrants from South Asia opening up dozens of curry restaurants. As cost of living is rising in the city, more young professionals are buying up houses and apartments and the gentrified neighborhood is becoming a trendy place for clubs and restaurants, with the murals lending it an edgy ambience. But did Mear One's message go a bit too far? Lutfur Rahman, the elected mayor of Tower Hamlets, the London borough in which Hanbury Street resides has past links to Islamist groups and was seen so controversial that the Labour Party decided not to field him as its candidate and he was instead supported by the far-left anti-Israel Respect Party. But even for him, the mural seemed to be a bit too much and in a statement he wrote that "whether intentional or otherwise the images of the bankers perpetuate anti-Semitic propaganda about conspiratorial Jewish domination of financial and political institutions. I am of the view that where freedom of expression runs the risk of inciting racial hatred, as for example when the EDL (English Defense League) attempted to march in Tower Hamlets last year, then it is right that such expression should be curtailed. I have therefore asked my officers to do everything possible to see to it that this mural is removed." But long before the council's officers acted, Marxists slogans were scrawled over the mural and then in blue, someone painted a Star of David and "No to Anti-Semitism." And then came a blanket of white paint. But was it intentional? Ockerman himself seems to have an interesting take on the nature of anti-Semitism. In a YouTube clip on his personal website, he says "I came to paint a mural that depicted the elite banking cartel known as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, the ruling class elite few, the wizards of Oz, they would be playing a board-game of monopoly on the backs of the working class." But he strenuously denies that was an anti-Semitic statement saying on his Facebook page that "a group of conservatives do not like my mural and are playing a race card with me. My mural is about class and privilege. The banker group is made up of Jewish and white Anglos. For some reason they are saying I am anti-Semitic. This I am most definitely not... What I am against is class." Mear One’s mural – bad art and bad politics Nick Wright Morning Star, Thursday, April 5, 2018 Narratives around the Illuminati, Freemasonry and conspiracies cannot be disentangled from deeply suspect discourses in which alien semitic elites are the controlling forces in our lives, argues NICK WRIGHT Mear One's mural LABOUR is weathering a co-ordinated campaign which combines criticism of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies and persona with an intensified drive to brand any criticism of the murderous policies pursued by Israel’s rulers with anti-semitism. I was once branded an anti-semite. It was the during the Thatcher/Major years and I was editing the newspaper of the trade union for executive civil servants. Our cartoonist, the brilliant, award-winning Frank Boyle, drew a series of strips which called out the Tories for their dogma-driven privatisation policies. One depicted the Cabinet as bloodthirsty pirates of a distinctly unsavoury disposition — chief among them a swarthy, hook-nosed, carbuncled cutlass-wielding figure in a striped vest, battered pirate hat. A flood of letters arrived, a good proportion using strikingly similar phrases, rather obviously co-ordinated and some clearly unfamiliar with the actual cartoon and more generally concerned at the left-wing character of the union’s policies. To my surprise I was accused of publishing anti-semitic images. In discussion with one or two of the more reasonable of my correspondents we were able to agree that the conflation of stereotypical Cornish pirates with the anti-semitic depiction of Jews was too far-fetched to be taken as evidence of intent. But it was a useful illustration of how an image can possess an ideological power that transcends both literal meaning and the intent of its creator, the context of its creation and thus have an impact on an audience already sensitised by their own ideological position and their life experiences. This was a useful experience in my next job working at the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. It is in the light of this experience and after several decades of anti-racist and anti-fascist activity that I approach the question of the now-destroyed East End mural that is the pivot on which the latest assault on Corbyn turns. Lest I am accused of gratuitously circulated anti-semitic images, I can claim that, in four years at art school, two years specialist art teacher training and three years of post-graduate research as an art historian, I encountered many medieval, Renaissance and modern art and design objects imbued with anti-semitic notions. These artefacts possessed a wide currency in the times in which they were created but nevertheless remain the object of critical scrutiny. We must bring the same approach to the examination of the mural depicted here. Called Freedom for Humanity, it was painted by the Los Angeles-based graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman, also known also as Mear One. We can describe the formal features of the mural thus — against an apocalyptic background that includes rather ambiguously crafted elements of industrial production and power generation sit six elderly business-suited men playing what appears to be Monopoly. The surface on which they are playing rests on the backs of crouching, naked, possibly androgynous figures and includes a pile of currency notes and tokens that signify industrial production, oil extraction, property ownership and, perhaps, in the case of a miniature Statue of Liberty, political values. To the left foreground a man is carrying a poster placard that proclaims: “The New World Order is the enemy of humanity” while his left arm is raised to a clenched fist. To the right a melancholy mother holds her baby. Rising above the central group is a pyramid and all-seeing eye, sometimes taken to signify Freemasonry and more universally recognised as an element in the design of US dollar bills. It is conventional to catalogue the formal features of a work and the processes used. We can see that the artist works in a contemporary medium using commercially available saturated spray colours. We know from basic research and observation that the artist is proficient in this medium and a high degree of preparatory work and a measure of expert draughtsmanship and technical expertise is evident. This conclusion is supported by a film, available on social media, which shows the process under way. So, having described the content how do we analyse its meaning? We can of course, go with our immediate, subjective impressions. This clearly is what many people have done. Judging by the social media discussion, some have even ventured an opinion without actually looking closely at the work. But to understand more fully we need to ask what is the painting about. One way is to take its title. Freedom for Humanity has a clear and transparent political meaning. In a game of chance and skill six white men dispose of power and wealth while the oppressed and the propertyless support the structures which permit this disparity of means. But this is not enough. Context is all-important. As it is public art we already know something about the audience, we know it was made in 2012 and destroyed by the local authority. We know who made it. We know from the BBC report at the time that the artist said his artwork was not targeting Jews. We need to locate the mural in relation to other work, including that of the artist himself, the local and global politics of its production and display and we need to understand how the public discourse around the work was originally constructed and how it has been reconstructed in the present moment. This takes us to the contested meaning of the painting and the significance of the central group. The Times on March 24 this year reported that Corbyn had been forced to apologise after initially defending his apparent support for “a mural depicting Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of the poor.” The day before, The Guardian had said the that mural pictured several “apparently Jewish bankers” playing a game of Monopoly. The Guardian was on the same wavelength as the Daily Telegraph, which reported that Corbyn had questioned a London council’s decision to destroy an anti-semitic mural “which depicted a group of Jewish bankers counting money on the backs of ethnic minorities.” A more careful, or perhaps better informed, Jewish Chronicle article told us about the identities of the six. It said the “controversial” artwork depicted a group of businessmen and bankers sitting around a Monopoly-style board and counting money. At the time, in 2012, there was relatively limited coverage of the mural’s destruction. Reportedly, on Facebook, Corbyn, then a backbencher, had suggested that the artist was in good company. “Rockefeller destroyed a Diego Rivera mural because it includes a picture of Lenin,” he said. A Labour spokesman at that point claimed Corbyn was standing up for free speech. It is unclear whether Corbyn, who is fluent in Spanish and very well-informed about Latin American history, politics and culture, was mobilising his pre-existing cultural knowledge or if he knew something of the mural’s content. However, the connection here artistic freedom and Rockefeller, who is one of the (non-Jewish) figures depicted in the East End mural. In 1933 the Mexican communist painter Rivera was commissioned to paint frescos on the lobby of the Rockefeller building in New York. He titled them The Frontier of Ethical Evolution and The Frontier of Material Development, representing capitalism and socialism. When the patron Nelson Rockefeller pressed Rivera to remove images of Lenin and a Soviet May Day scene, Rivera refused and the mural was painted over. Rivera recreated the artwork in Mexico as Man, Controller of the Universe. There is little critical comparison between Rivera’s work and the contemporary mural. Working in plaster and more translucent media, Rivera deployed a rich and subtle colour palette, complex imagery, a vast cast of characters and drew upon a rich heritage of political understanding which articulated popular and revolutionary currents of thought. The technical differences in production are clear enough. Both are public art, both have an avowedly political content, both are didactic. However in scope and sophistication the works could not be more dissimilar. Given the highly politicised context of the present controversy this gives us a handle on the kind of criteria we must apply in evaluating Ockerman’s work Two immediate issues arise. First, are the bankers and businessmen all or predominantly Jewish? Second, in the light of the answer to this question, is the depiction of the characters anti-semitic? To quote Ockerman, “I came to paint a mural that depicted the elite banker cartel known as the Rothschilds, Rockefellers, Morgans, the ruling class elite few, the Wizards of Oz. They would be playing a board game of Monopoly on the backs of the working class. The symbol of the Free Mason Pyramid rises behind this group and behind that is a polluted world of coal burning and nuclear reactors. I was creating this piece to inspire critical thought and spark conversation.” We have to take him at his word. The problem is that the iconography draws on a very restricted set of references and these references are, in themselves, problematic. Set aside the passivity and subordination with which the oppressed are depicted. Look instead at the central figures who are depicted as distinctive types, painted with a clear reference, if distorted, to real historical protagonists. Even if only two of these six bourgeois, Warburg and Rothschild, are Jewish, we still need to make a judgement about the character and currency of their depiction. The draughtsmanship clearly exaggerates the distinctive features of all six men. The problem is that exaggerated depictions of Jews are created, disseminated and understood in a historically defined context that includes a powerful, even dominant, discourse that draws upon the long traditions of anti-semitism embedded in the dominant ideology and expressed, over the centuries, in the dominant visual culture, including both traditional art forms, religion, politics, popular culture and mass media. That these traditions are currently more diffused than hitherto and that today, for example, Islamophobic narratives are more virulent and produce more dramatically dangerous consequences than does contemporary anti-semitism is no justification for a lack of vigilance. In truth, the subterranean narratives around notions of the Illuminati, Freemasonry and bourgeois conspiracies cannot, in much popular imagination, be disentangled from deeply suspect discourses in which alien, semitic and covert elites are the controlling forces in our lives. Such notions run exactly counter to the kind of materialist analysis that take the real and existing features of contemporary class society and seek to reveal their workings. State monopoly capitalism operates at vastly more profound levels and bourgeois hegemony is maintained by vastly greater systems of ideological domination than are illuminated by Ockerman’s mural or accessible through his restricted political imagination. Inevitably, this mural was going to be understood in the context of existing traditions. If Corbyn had not risen to his present stature, this mural would have been long forgotten. The truth is that neither its formal construction nor its artistry, neither its political language nor its iconography, is articulated with sufficient levels of complexity and sophistication. It simply collapses without sufficient theoretical or ideological underpinnings into an inversion of its creator’s avowed purpose. This is bad art and worse politics. When, five years later, the long-forgotten facts around this painting’s destruction are weaponised in a new coup against Labour’s popular realignment, we can only marvel that the theoretical poverty of these latter-day art critics is matched by their political hypocrisy. I am reluctant to criticise Corbyn, who is the most transparently honest and principled leader of the Labour Party in decades. It is true that his 2012 defence of artistic freedom might have been expressed with more circumspection and today a more robust defence might counter some of his more unprincipled opponents. But the unceasing assault on him is so obviously manufactured that I suspect its effect has a limit and that itself has more traction with a metropolitan and political elite than with broader masses of people. It is possible to discover in the mountains of social media data instances of clear anti-semitic intent. More common are maladroit formulations, poorly constructed arguments, ignorant and lazy conflations of terms that are logically distinct, along with arguments that reflect various levels of conscious and unconscious bias. The diligent will find examples of trolling that have their origins in the crude public language in some sectors as well as provocations of even more dubious origin. We can be sure that one agency or another is searching for any clumsy formulation or ill-advised comment that can be weaponised against Labour. That no such diligence is directed at the Tory Party or the media that serves bourgeois interest is clear enough indication that this is a project with a clear purpose. The many hundreds of thousands of Labour folk know this. Many millions more sense the artifice entailed in this campaign. It is instructive that in working-class Britain, which by and large is not deeply involved in this controversy, popular sentiment senses that Corbyn is the target. How else to account for the reports that crowds at boxing contests and football matches are breaking out in chants of Corbyn’s name. Already the spurt in Labour (and Momentum) membership is taken by more intransigent zionist opinion as proof itself of a wide currency of anti-semitism. Similarly, Corbyn’s seder night feast with a group of irreverent young Jews in his constituency itself is weaponised. Associating with the wrong kind of Jews is also anti-semitic it seems. The association of Blairite MPs with the campaign being waged by the Board of Deputies and the more obviously Conservative-linked Jewish Leadership Council will do them no favours with Labour supporters who know from their own experience just how limited is the purchase of anti-semitic ideas in the party and the broader labour movement. Interestingly, the non-zionist Jewish Voice for Labour is experiencing a new wave of support. We cannot disentangle the alarm that the zionist establishment feels at the success of the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions movement from this current offensive. Corbyn is the target because he maintains his principled solidarity with the Palestinian cause and remains opposed to the imperial war plans that pivot on Israel’s strategy towards its neighbouring states. The real danger is that in conflating, for narrowly sectarian political purpose, what is a fairly widely diffused currency of anti-semitic ideas with the more poisonous political anti-semitism that exists as a conscious ideology this campaign runs a real danger of reinforcing the latter. It is not enough to point out that the most reactionary trends in zionism act on the basis that the existence of anti-semitism is the principal validation of their political project. Anti-semitism needs to be confronted at every level — not as a privileged category of political action but as part of a conscious movement to assert the universality of human values. Calling out the crude conflation of zionism with Jewish identity is the basic building block of any project to combat anti-semitism. That this necessarily entails a principled criticism of its mirror image in the most virulently reactionary trends in present-day zionism is a powerful demonstration of dialectical truth. Jeremy Corbyn isn’t alone – everyone in the Labour party should have recognised how offensive that mural was Contact author @MikeSegalov The Guardian, Wed 28 Mar 2018 15.04 BST Last modified on Sat 16 Feb 2019 Comments 548 ‘There is more than a visual connection in this mural to antisemitism – the messaging is full-blown Nazi.’ Photograph: Mike Kemp/Corbis via Getty Images Some forms of antisemitism are self-evident in their manifestation: neo-Nazis wielding swastikas, denial of the Holocaust, vile sentiments known as the “blood libel”, which suggest that Jews harvest the blood of Christians with which to celebrate religious festivals year on year. Most of us would recognise these as bigoted and hateful, an attack on a community that has for centuries experienced prejudice across the world. In the days that have followed Jeremy Corbyn’s offensive Facebook post coming to public attention, there has been outrage from what appear to be two distinct camps. Some Labour members are deeply troubled by the situation, while others argue ignorantly that the Labour leader has done nothing wrong. What has become obvious in the past few days, however, is that many simply do not understand the content of this mural and why it is so deeply offensive – this is a more subtle antisemitic sentiment, which takes contextualising to understand. Considering the Jewish community makes up just 0.5% of the UK’s population, and that for many of us the closest we will have to an education in the history of discrimination faced by Jewish people amounts to a few months of GCSE history and Inglourious Basterds, it’s possible a simple explanation could rectify the confusion once and for all. First, make sure to actually look at the mural. Don’t take a fleeting glance as you prepare to tweet your outrage, but pause for a moment and take it all in. Sitting around a table is a group of rotund men: one has a full beard, and is counting money. That, in and of itself, is an antisemitic symbol. It’s not just the big, hookednoses and evil expressions that make this iconography offensive and troubling, these depictions mirror antisemitic propaganda used by Hitler and the Nazis to whip up hatred that led to the massacre of millions of Jews. This extends to the table these figures are sat at, resting on human bodies, as the Nazis also depicted. Context here is also important. If you haven’t yet, then research The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. An entirely fabricated text printed first in Russia during the early 1900s, it purports to document a meeting of Jewish leaders setting out plans to take over the world by controlling the media and press, and fostering religious conflict to subjugate non-Jews across the globe. There is more than a visual connection in this mural to antisemitism – the messaging is full-blown Nazi too During the 1920s and 1930s the Protocols were a key element of the Nazi propaganda programme – at least 23 editions were published by the party in the two decades that preceded the outbreak of the second world war in 1939. The domination of the world by hooknosed men wielding power and money? There is more than a visual connection in this mural to antisemitism – the messaging is full-blown Nazi too. In other contexts Illuminati conspiracies are light-hearted and funny: it’s not antisemitic to joke that Kanye West and Taylor Swift are part of a secret, triangle-based plot to conquer the world. But the employment of an Eye of Providence symbol (often associated with the Illuminati and Freemasonry) in the offending mural is clearly antisemitic. Racist conspiracy theorists also long claimed that Jews are in control of the Freemason network – think the Rothschilds and George Soros. That is antisemitism too. If you’re left in any doubt, just read the words of Mear One, the street artist who painted the mural: “Some of the older white Jewish folk in the local community had an issue with me portraying their beloved #Rothschild or #Warburg etc as the demons they are,” he has written. Of course there are some people – within Labour and outside of it – who are pleased to have any excuse to attack Corbyn. Their motivation might be unpleasant, but the “weaponisation” of antisemitism is somewhat less troubling if it can perceived to be there in the first place. A small handful of people in Labour’s ranks know only too well the connotations in this mural, yet continue to defend it. There is no space in the Labour party for you. Progressive organisations are better off without you inside. Labour can’t just pledge to kick the antisemites it finds out of the party: it needs to make a plan for combating bigotry in opposition and for entering government too. The Chakrabarti report from 2016 into antisemitism in Labour must be implemented fully. A party bureaucracy that has slowed the process down cannot be allowed to do so any longer. Labour must pledge to improve the national curriculum – better political education is needed in schools across the country to ensure murals like this are understood for what they are. There must also, starting now, be better investment in educating Labour’s 550,000-strong party membership. A party that prides itself on its commitment to equality can and must do better. It’s somewhat understandable that some people jumping to Corbyn’s defence now do so as a kneejerk reaction, as years of smears have made members defensive. This, however, is no such nonsense. Corbyn is no antisemite, but he displayed a lack of judgment and awareness that he – and it appears some members – need to address. Time must be taken for reflection and education, or it will prove impossible to ensure the left is never blind to this issue again. • Michael Segalov is the news editor of Huck magazine • BookerX 28 Mar 2018 15:50 567568 Corbyn's probably got the best anti-racism credentials in the UK parliament. Meanwhile Theresa May and virtually every other prominent Tory joined that party when it viewed apartheid South Africa as an ally and regarded Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. Reply o BookerX 28 Mar 2018 15:52 426427 This is the new Orwellian Britain where the Tories are presented as the anti-racist party. Labour anti-Semitism row: Hodge claims Corbyn 'misled' her BBC on line, 4 March 2019 bbc ON LINE, 4 March 2019 Image Image caption Margaret Hodge has written to Jerembout the party's approach to anti-Semitism Jewish Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge has expressed fresh concerns about how her party is handling accusations of anti-Semitism. In a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, she claims she has been misled over assurances that his office was not involved in any disciplinary process. "Either you have intentionally misled me or your staff have been misleading you," she complained. Labour has dismissed her suggestion as "categorically untrue". 'Bewildered' Dame Margaret's letter refers to a report by the Observer claiming that internal documents showed senior Labour figures last year opposed recommendations to suspend several party activists accused of anti-Semitism. § A guide to Labour anti-Semitism claims § Hodge stands by anti-Semitism attack on Corbyn § How Labour anti-Semitism saga unfolded The Barking MP wrote that she had been left "bewildered" by the account in the newspaper which "contradicts what you told me to my face last week". Skip Twitter post by @margarethodge Report End of Twitter post by @margarethodge Referring to a discussion she had with Mr Corbyn, she said: "I distinctly remember it being said that it would be appalling if staff in the Leader's Office intervened or had a role in complaints. "I was given categorical assurances that this does not happen and has never happened. "However, it is clear from the whistleblower's account [in the Observer] that your staff did intervene and have had a direct role in complaints." Dame Margaret also says she is disappointed that Labour peer Lord Falconer is being considered to lead an investigation into anti-Semitism in the party. Image copyright AFP/Getty Image caption Luciana Berger left Labour, claiming the party was institutionally anti-Semitic Dame Margaret told BBC Radio 4's Today that Mr Corbyn had given her "absolute, copper-bottomed undertakings that there was no interference in the complaints process by his inner circle, by his top team". However, she claimed "a whole number of his top team, not just one person, lots of them" were involved in decisions about individual complaints, adding: "They interfere and they lower the sanctions. People aren't suspended, they're just given a warning letter. "What is so awful about this is that Jeremy always proclaims zero tolerance of anti-Semitism. When it comes to the actual cases, if they're his mates he doesn't demonstrate zero tolerance." She added she had seen "so much evidence" of political interference, adding: "Trust in him is gone." Dame Margaret also questioned whether Lord Falconer was the appropriate person to conduct an inquiry into the party's handling of anti-Semitism allegations. 'Chakrabarti fiasco' The former Lord Chancellor is considering whether to take on the role and wants reassurances from the party that he will be given the resources he says he needs. Image caption Labour is seeking to appoint Lord Falconer to carry out an inquiry He has said he wants to examine claims Labour is institutionally anti-Semitic and how to restore faith in the party's disciplinary procedures. He told BBC Radio 5's Pienaar's Politics many Labour members believed the treatment of cases depended on "who your friends are". But Dame Margaret said she did not think Lord Falconer was independent enough. She claimed his inquiry could be a repeat of the one carried out by Labour peer Baroness Chakrabarti in 2016, which found that the party was 'not overrun by anti-Semitism'. § Anti-Semitism row MP suspension 'unfair' § Labour peer in talks over anti-Semitism role "We need somebody totally outside the Labour Party otherwise this becomes another Chakrabarti fiasco," said Dame Margaret. She claimed Lord Falconer had "bombarded" her with phone calls last summer, when she was facing disciplinary action - later dropped - over an angry confrontation with Mr Corbyn, to try to "force me to give an apology". In response, Lord Falconer said: "I am shocked she thought I was trying to pressurise her into apologising for calling Jeremy Corbyn and anti-Semite. I was just trying to urge the party to drop their complaint against her." He told BBC Politics Live presenter Jo Coburn he would be independent of the leadership and investigate any complaints of anti-Semitism in the strongest possible way, but he had not yet accepted the job. Skip Twitter post by @Jo_Coburn Report End of Twitter post by @Jo_Coburn 'More robust' A Labour Party spokesman said: "Any suggestion that staff in the Leaders' Office overturned recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue." He added: "Since becoming general secretary, Jennie Formby has made procedures for dealing with complaints about anti-Semitism more robust. "Staff who work on disciplinary matters have always led on investigations and recommendations on individual cases." Ms Formby - a former Unite union official - is the most senior employee of the Labour Party and is in charge of its 400 or so backroom staff. The party's leadership has been accused of tolerating a culture of anti-Semitism by a number of MPs who have quit the party, including Luciana Berger and Joan Ryan. Ms Berger said she had come to the "sickening conclusion" that the party had become institutionally anti-Semitic and that she was "embarrassed and ashamed" to stay. 'Loss of trust' Mr Corbyn has insisted he is "committed to eliminating anti-Semitism wherever it exists". "Prejudice and hatred of Jewish people has no place whatsoever in the Labour Party," he said earlier this year. Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has spoken of a "complete loss of trust" in the party's processes and has asked MPs to forward anti-Semitism complaints to him as well as the party. That call prompted Ms Formby to accuse Mr Watson of "unacceptable" behaviour and claim he was trying to undermine her work. Revealed: Corbyn’s policy director defends member suspended for anti-Semitism Steerpike Spectator Blog, 5 March 2019 A fresh war broke out this week between Labour MPs and the party leadership over how impartial Labour has been when dealing with anti-Semitism disciplinary cases. The fighting began after the Observer reported this weekend that Corbyn advisor Andrew Murray had personally lobbied for the party to be more lenient toward a member accused of defending an anti-Semitic mural. Labour HQ has since hit back and insisted that ‘Any suggestion that staff in the leader’s office overturned recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue.’ But Mr Steerpike wonders if Labour MPs are right to be worried about meddling, when Corbyn’s top advisors have shown themselves willing to defend their friends and allies who have been accused of anti-Semitism. Mr S can reveal that Jeremy Corbyn’s executive director of policy, Andrew Fisher has certainly been unable to keep out of disciplinary cases. While Fisher is not directly involved in the Labour disciplinary process, in 2016 he did lobby on the behalf of a Labour party member who had been suspended for defending Ken Livingston’s comments on Hitler and Zionism. Fisher made the comments one year after becoming Corbyn’s chief policy advisor: The Labour member, David White, had been suspended after he suggested in a tweet that Ken Livingstone’s description of Hitler as a Zionist was ‘largely accurate.’ He has since been readmitted back into the party. Mr S wonders if it helps though, having friends in high places… Antisemitism row: Corbyn staffer said member should not be suspended Labour supporter who praised antisemitic artwork should instead be questioned over views, said Laura Murray Heather Stewart and Matthew Weaver Tue 5 March 2019 15.05 GMT Jeremy Corbyn had admitted that the mural used antisemitic tropes. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images Senior staff in Jeremy Corbyn’s office advised against suspending a Labour member who had defended an antisemitic mural, leaked emails reveal. Laura Murray, one of two Labour staffers seconded this week from Corbyn’s office to provide administrative support to the party’s complaints team, suggested the member be questioned further about her views, rather than suspended immediately, the private email exchange suggests. The correspondence will further inflame the row within Labour about the handling of antisemitism cases – and Corbyn’s personal responsibility. Veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge wrote to Corbyn on Monday, saying she believed she had been misled about the role of his staff in the handling of cases, after the Observer revealed the involvement of senior members of Corbyn’s team. The latest emails concern a Labour member who described a controversial mural showing hook-nosed bankers as “great”. Corbyn himself had himself admitted the work used antisemitic tropes. “I think it’s a great mural. No way should it be painted over, it should be preserved,” the member said. In the exchange from March last year, first obtained by the Times but also seen by the Guardian, Labour’s head of disputes suggests imposing an “administrative suspension” on the individual, saying it is “in the immediate interests of the Labour party” to do so. But Murray replies that the post suggests ignorance, rather than antisemitism – and suggests that instead she is sent a list of questions asking, “why she doesn’t realise that the mural is antisemitic, if she is disregarding the views of Jewish people who find the mural to be antisemitic etc.” She continues: “Obviously if her answers show an unwillingness to be educated about these tropes then decide how best to proceed re: a suspension from there onwards.” The Guardian understands that in other cases, Laura Murray recommended that tougher sanctions be applied than party staff were suggesting. Murray’s father, Andrew, who is chief of staff at the Unite trade union, and seconded to advise Corbyn part-time, is copied in to the email. Corbyn’s director of strategy, Seumas Milne, his chief of staff, Karie Murphy, and Labour’s general secretary, Jennie Formby, as well as several other officials are also copied into the correspondence. Andrew Murray told the Observer at the weekend that he had been asked to “give advice on 13 individual cases relating to alleged antisemitism, to assist in getting through the backlog”. A Labour spokesperson said: “Selecting a handful of cases from nearly a year ago, under defunct processes, is seriously misleading. This is a deeply unfair attack on staff working in good faith to apply the party rule book to individual cases and get through the backlog of unresolved complaints Jennie Formby inherited.” Earlier, Charlie Falconer, the former lord chancellor examining Labour’s record on antisemitism, warned that it was “beyond mad,” for staff to be seconded directly from Corbyn’s office to the party’s complaints unit. Labour insisted the staff would only be providing administrative support. But Falconer told the Guardian: “It would strike me as beyond mad, where the allegation is that the leader’s office interferes with cases, to send someone from the leader’s office in – not to impugn the individuals concerned.” Labour has said the direct involvement of members of the leader’s office in handling complaints was, “a hangover from the previous process, which Formby overhauled when she took up her post”. A Labour spokesperson said: “Since becoming general secretary, Jennie Formby has made procedures for dealing with complaints about antisemitism more robust. Staff who work on disciplinary matters have always led on investigations and recommendations on individual cases. Any suggestion that staff in the leader’s office overturned recommendations on individual cases is categorically untrue.” Formby has clashed with Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, over the issue, criticising his call for Labour MPs to copy him in when they report cases as potentially breaching data protection laws. But Andrew Murray is copied in to the email exchange about the mural using his union email address, which would also appear to raise concerns about the sharing of personal data. Falconer told the Guardian he still intended to take on the role of “surveillance commissioner” for antisemitism cases, and hoped to ensure the process was “bathed in light”. He said he planned to produce a report for the next meeting of Labour’s ruling national executive committee in May – but then to remain in place and provide ongoing scrutiny. “People feel that the leadership may interfere in cases. Unless you have got someone there all the time, you don’t get confidence,” he said. And Falconer rejected claims by Hodge that he had “bombarded” her with calls last summer urging her to apologise after she accused Corbyn of antisemitism and racism. Hodge wrote to Corbyn, accusing him of misleading her about tackling antisemitism, or being misled himself, in a further escalation of party infighting on the issue, following the revelations in the Observer. The MP for Barking and Dagenham wrote that the story contradicted assurances Corbyn gave to “my face last week”. Falconer’s appointment, to scrutinise the party’s complaints process, was meant to help build confidence about the handling of past complaints, and ensure the process is robust. But Hodge said: “Last summer when action was being taken by the Labour party against me, I was absolutely bombarded by telephone calls from Charlie Falconer. They were not about the rights and the wrongs of the case. They were all about trying to force me to give an apology. He’s not independent.” She said a review by Falconer risked a repeat of what many regard as an ineffectual report on the issue by Corbyn loyalist Shami Chakrabarti. Falconer said he made “five or six” calls to Hodge over a series of five or six days, and was trying to act as an honest broker between the veteran MP, the leadership and party whips, over drafting an apology. “I was very keen to resolve it,” he said. “I thought we had friendly conversations about that at that time – but I obviously urged her too hard, and I’m sorry about that.” 1 comment: An eye opener1 July 2020 at 05:25 Haaretz twisted language, especially on racism: slaps it on cultural divisions or on safety but not on Arab Muslim racist attacks The "competetive" tantrum trend among hard Israeli left to utter the "racisn" terminology has been for some time. They are ever so loud on isolated cases of violent attacks against Arabs which we all condemn, of course. Yet, they are silent on every weekly attacks by racist Arabs targeting Jewish civilians (at times travelling for miles far away from own Arab town...). Of course it's Arab Muslim terrorism but it's also anti-Jewish ethnic racism and religious bigotry. Yet, will term any Israeli security measure as "racist." As if it's "not" saving lives, what it is really about. Will minimize Arab Islamic Palestinian use of its own population as human shields (at least since 1980 by Arafat), and Israeli attempts to evacuate before an anti terror operation. Will maximize exaggerate any claim of abuse. Incidentally, with all the heavily funded anti Israel groups in Israel. why isn't there any peace movement on the Arab Palestinian side, Hamas' Gaza or Fatah's Ramallah? If one specific community wants to keep its unique education, they immediately cry "racism". They are silent on every Israeli court case that favors Arab vs Jew. But ever so loud on any partial-discriminatory incident. Despite the fact, it is rather ultra-orthodox who feel most all out discriminated against, mainly prompted by anti Religious hatred campaign by hard left like Haaretz. These supposed "peaceninks", these same hypocrites, incite against, demonize Haredi ultra Orthodox conscientious objectors who refuse to serve in IDF draft in Israeli army. Haaretz and the like, are not just biased. But hate mongers. ANNEX Investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party Report Which countries is it relevant to? • ◦ Great Britain First published: 29 Oct 2020 We used our legal powers to investigate allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. This report sets out our findings and our recommendations for change. We looked at: •whether the Labour Party has committed unlawful acts, through the actions of its employees or agents • whether the Party has handled antisemitism complaints in a lawful, efficient and effective way • whether the Rule Book and the Party’s complaint handling processes have enabled or could enable it to deal with antisemitism complaints efficiently and effectively, including whether appropriate sanctions have been or could be applied • the steps taken by the Party to implement the recommendations made in the Chakrabarti, Royall and Home Affairs Select Committee reports Background to this investigation This investigation was prompted by complaints made to us by Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) in the summer and autumn of 2018. These complaints provided evidence of acts of antisemitism in the Labour Party, and of the Party’s handling of antisemitism complaints. The documents they provided to us included information about more than 220 allegations of antisemitism within the Labour Party, dating back to 2011. Complaints focused mainly on the use of social media by members, but also included political discourse in the mainstream media and behaviour at events and meetings. The JLM’s and CAA’s concerns were not isolated. Public concern around the Labour Party’s handling of antisemitism had grown since 2015. The Labour Party commissioned two inquiries into antisemitism in 2016: an overarching inquiry by Baroness Shami Chakrabarti and a specific inquiry into allegations of antisemitism at Oxford University Labour Club by Baroness Jan Royall. Also in 2016, the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) reported on its inquiry into antisemitism in the UK, following an increase in prejudice and violence against Jewish communities.the HASC report, ‘Antisemitism in the UK’ (2016), focused on the Party as a recent source of allegations of antisemitism in political parties. 2 Although it was not directly about the Labour Party, Despite these three reports, concerns about antisemitism in the Labour Party continued. On becoming the Labour Party’s General Secretary in April 2018, Jennie Formby declared tackling antisemitism a priority. However, over 20 elected representatives (including MPs, peers and councillors) resigned from the Party in 2018 and 2019, citing a failure to tackle antisemitism in their reasons. We met with the Labour Party to discuss our concerns, and considered the representations it made, before we decided to launch this investigation. Antisemitism in the Labour Party- Summary Our investigation has identified serious failings in leadership and an inadequate process for handling antisemitism complaints across the Labour Party, and we have identified multiple failures in the systems it uses to resolve them. We have concluded that there were unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination for which the Labour Party is responsible. While there have been some recent improvements in how the Labour Party deals with antisemitism complaints, our analysis points to a culture within the Party which, at best, did not do enough to prevent antisemitism and, at worst, could be seen to accept it. The issue of antisemitism within the Labour Party has been the subject of much scrutiny, most formally with three investigations in 2016, conducted by Baroness Chakrabarti, Baroness Royall and the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC). Since then, the Party has failed to implement the recommendations made in these reports fully, or to take effective measures to stop antisemitic conduct from taking place. It is regrettable that many of the concerns we raise here were first raised in these reports over four years ago. This reflects a culture that is at odds with the Labour Party’s commitment to zero tolerance of antisemitism.1 The Party has shown an ability to act decisively when it wants to, through the introduction of a bespoke process to deal with sexual harassment complaints. Although some improvements have been made to the process for dealing with antisemitism complaints, it is hard not to conclude that antisemitism within the Labour Party could have been tackled more effectively if the leadership had chosen to do so. 1 This commitment has been made since 2016. Tom Watson MP, then Deputy Leader, made the commitment in April 2016. It has since been reaffirmed in 2018 by Jeremy Corbyn MP, then Leader of the Labour Party. Sir Keir Starmer MP, the Leader of the Labour Party, has stated: ‘The principle of what I want to achieve is clear: if you are anti-Semitic, you cannot and should not be in the Labour Party. No ifs, no buts’ (see Evening Standard, 7 April 2020, ‘Keir Starmer: I apologise to the Jewish community – rebuilding your trust starts now’). Reply Forward

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Rishi vs Rashi: the politics of childhood hunger

Daily Mail political columnist, Andrew Pierce, characterized it as Rishi vs Rashi, in typical ‘tabloid-speak’. But the children-going-hungry debate has received some very serious political coverage. One evaluation was undertaken by a committee of the House of Lords. Peers, with their access to several restaurants subsidized by the taxpayer, are not known for going hungry themselves. But that privilege should not undermine the importance of their little-noticed report, released in early July this year. The Peers’ Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment report, HL Paper 85, titled ‘Hungry for change: fixing the failures in food’ ( contained a section on Holiday Hunger, which reads in full: 244. As outlined in Chapter 3, it is believed that around 3 million children in the UK are affected by holiday hunger.353 We welcome the Government’s decision, following a campaign by the footballer Marcus Rashford, to extend the National Voucher Scheme for the 2020 summer holiday: it will ensure that the most vulnerable children are supported. 245.Holiday clubs provide a buffer against hunger, but the work they do to educate and provide stimulating experiences for children is extremely valuable. These opportunities should be available for every child who needs them. We were told by Blackpool Council that: “the summer holidays present an additional challenge by causing ‘learning loss’ for children, disproportionately affecting those children from more deprived backgrounds–thought to be caused by social isolation and boredom as well as inequity in opportunities and experiences to enhance learning, compared to their more affluent peers.”354 246.Concern has been expressed that the closure of schools during the COVID-19 outbreak could increase educational inequalities between the richest and poorest groups.355 This evidence of a “learning gap” indicates that extra-curricular activities offered by holiday groups (which in one area included “sport sessions, family craft, cook and eat sessions, team around the school, trips to the beach and a high ropes experience”356) remain of paramount importance in reducing educational inequalities that could otherwise be perpetuated over school holidays. 247.In 2019, the Department for Education awarded £9 million through its Holiday Activities and Food programme to local organisations to establish local coordinators of free holiday clubs. The funding reached around 50,000 children in 11 local authority areas. Co-ordinators were based in local organisations to: “work with providers and services in their local area … they were responsible for funding provision in their local area”357. 248.The funding for local coordinators is welcome, but we heard that it is insufficient. Clubs are run largely by the charitable sector, and issuing funding through a bidding process does not allow for long term planning. Nicky Dennison of Blackpool Council told us that: “It is quite challenging for the third sector when funding suddenly becomes available; everybody wants a piece of the pie or feel that they want to deliver everything.”358 249.The Government’s programme aims to reach 50,000 children, but this will fall short of supporting the 3 million children who are affected by holiday hunger. Alysa Remtulla told us: “The response to holiday hunger is largely driven by the third sector and is piecemeal. It is like a postcode lottery which depends on where in the country you live and whether you have access to the work that the charity is doing … We would like to see a co-ordinated national response from the Government. At the moment, the Government’s funding for holiday hunger is around £9 million, which reaches 50,000 children—a small fraction of the children that we think might need those services.”359 250.We agree that provision of funding should be co-ordinated more effectively, and targeted to ensure it reaches the children that need that support. One proposal that was suggested to us was to make local authorities responsible for wrap-around holiday provision, and be provided ring-fenced funding to enable this.360 Local authorities are better placed than central Government to determine the needs of their populations during school holidays, but they cannot rectify the problem without sufficient resource. 251.Providing resources for local coordinators means that need can be effectively met in conjunction with local partner organisations, but for the purposes of accountability and consistency, this funding should be directed to the local authority. Holiday club coordinators should sit within the local authority, with ring-fenced finding from central Government. 252.Funding should be extended, without the need for bidding. Given the demand on Government funding following the COVID-19 outbreak, a targeted approach should be taken to fund coordinators in those areas which need provision. Area selection should be on the basis of eligibility criteria designed to capture as many areas in need as possible. 253. We recommend that the Government should significantly extend the funding provided through the Holiday Activities and Food programme to ensure that more children can access holiday clubs. It should use generous thresholds based on the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index to determine which areas should receive this funding The decision to increase the funding for lunches during school closures is welcome. The value cannot be allowed to regress once children return to school. The allowance allocated to schools for free school meals must be uprated to at least the level provided during the school closures and linked to inflation thereafter. (Paragraph 201) 1. The Government took unprecedented and substantial action to provide free school meals to eligible children who were staying at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 2. Under normal circumstances, schools do not provide free school meals to eligible children who are not in school. However, during the COVID-19 outbreak, we asked schools to continue supporting children eligible for benefits-related free school meals who were at home. In the first instance, we asked schools to speak to their suppliers and catering teams to arrange food parcels for collection or delivery. Where this was not possible, DfE established a national voucher scheme as an alternative means of provision. 3. Under the national voucher scheme, eligible children could receive a supermarket voucher worth £15 a week. The value of these vouchers reflected that parents would not be able to achieve the same economies of scale when buying food for their children from a supermarket as schools could achieve when buying in bulk for their pupils. 4. The free school meals factor in the national funding formula for schools increased in line with inflation in 2020-21. Both local authorities and schools have freedom to apply their own funding formulae locally. We recommend that the Government must undertake rigorous research on the impact of Universal Infant Free School Meals on health and attainment outcomes and use the results of this evidence base to inform future policy on school meals, including breakfasts. (Paragraph 212) 1. Take-up of universal infant free school meals has been consistently high since the policy was introduced in 2014. The evaluation of the pilots in Durham and Newham found that these meals created a culture where children sat down to eat with friends and teachers in a civilised environment: broadening social skills, teaching table manners and supporting equality and fairness by levelling differences in social background. 2. There have been a number of independent evaluations of universal infant free school meals, including by the Education Policy Institute in January 2019. Their findings showed that there has been a rapid increase in school meal take-up and many school leaders believe the meals have improved the profile of healthy eating across their school. Ministers come across as heartless and totally out of touch with public sentiment. I hope the voters remember this when they next get the chance to elect a Government. The government also made these equally heartless observations: “Providing certain groups of claimants with special terms for their advances and repayments would be incredibly problematic to implement. Any special repayment terms would raise equality concerns from groups of claimants to whom such terms were not extended. In addition, establishing a claimant’s eligibility for such treatment would require manual intervention and likely delay the initial payment of an advance. Instead, the Government believes it is right to concentrate on measures which ensure urgent support is available to those in need, whilst reducing the impact of advance repayments for all claimants. Claimants can also ask for advance repayments to be delayed for up to three months in exceptional circumstances if they cannot afford them.” “There are no plans to gather data on food security for those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), nor to establish a government-funded programme to ensure that all those with NRPF are able to access sufficient, nutritious food, beyond the existing support mechanisms and safeguards in place.” The Tory Government’s intransigence on this important public policy issue in the face of the excellent political lobbying by wealthy footballer Marcus Rashford, is politically incomprehensible. It is also immoral. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Annexes Government inaction on food insecurity puts most vulnerable children at risk The way Britain produces, manufactures, sells and consumes food is a barrier to healthy eating, hitting the poorest hardest, a group of Peers has said. And current Government policies, or lack of them, condemn many children to a life of ill health, cost the NHS billions, and damage the environment according to the House of Lords Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee. In a wide-ranging report, 'Hungry for change: fixing the failures in food', published today (6 July) the committee says that the Government's recommended healthy diet is too expensive for many families. Without enough time, knowledge and money to shop for healthier food, the poorest are most at risk from a system which actively encourages highly processed, less healthy food by making it cheaper, more heavily promoted and easier to buy. Urgent action is needed to ensure a healthier population, a healthier environment, to level up the most deprived communities and save the NHS billions spent treating obesity and avoidable diet-related diseases. People in Britain consume more highly processed food than those in any other European country, and Britain has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe. Adults and children living in the most deprived areas are about twice as likely to be obese than those living in the least deprived areas, contributing to a difference in healthy life expectancy of about 20 years between the richest and poorest people in the country. COVID-19 has made an already dreadful situation worse and should be a “wake-up call” for urgent action, according to the committee. Before the coronavirus pandemic too many people did not have enough money to feed themselves or their families properly, relying on food banks to survive. In the past few months the use of food banks has shot up by a reported 81 per cent. Lord Krebs, chair of the committee, said: “Problems of diet and ill-health have been staring us in the face for decades, but successive Governments have done precious little about it. While this affects everyone, people in poverty either can't afford enough to eat or have unhealthy diets. “Many of Britain's poorest families have little or no choice. They either go without food or buy unhealthy food because that's what they can afford and get hold of. “The Government knows about the problem. It's time to stop the dither and delay, endless talking and consultation, and get on with it.” Anna Taylor, Executive Director of the Food Foundation, said: “This landmark report clearly explains the raft of actions needed to tackle our nation's dietary inequalities which have been highlighted so starkly by the Covid pandemic. “This report shows that millions of families can't eat well unless they have sufficient income and an environment which makes the healthy choice the easiest. People can no longer wait for lengthy government consultations which languish in Whitehall. “Every day that passes where the odds are stacked against families securing a healthy diet is a missed opportunity to secure a healthy future for our children.” One in five people in Britain live in poverty and this country has one of the highest rates of food insecurity in the European Union, accounting for 20 per cent of all severely food insecure people in Europe. Agriculture is “environmentally unsustainable” too, according to the committee. If Britain is to meet its net zero emissions target to combat climate change, farmers must be supported fully and rewarded for environmental outcomes. The committee wants the Government without delay to: • Start to measure how many people live with food insecurity, and analyse why; • Understand the cost of a healthy diet and incorporate this into benefits calculations; • Act to curb excessive advertising and promotion of unhealthy foods by the food industry; • Step up pressure on the food industry to reduce sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and calories in processed food, and introduce mandatory requirements where change has not happened; • Ensure that food initiatives for disadvantaged children, such as Healthy Start and free school meals are properly funded, implemented and monitored; • Establish an independent body to oversee the implementation of a National Food Strategy and report annually to Parliament on progress; • Use the opportunity of the Agriculture Bill to encourage production and consumption of healthier food and ensure that it delivers the public environmental goods it is designed to. The report will be available on the Committee's website shortly after publication. Select Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment Hungry for change: fixing the failures in food Report of Session 2019-21 - published 6 July 2020 - HL Paper 85 ________________________________________ Contents Summary Chapter 1: Introduction The inquiry and the Committee’s work Box 1: A note on definitions Chapter 2: The current situation The food system at a glance Figure 1: Breakdown of Gross Value Added (GVA) per food sector and employment figures per sector Figure 2: UK Trade in different food groups, 2018 Figure 3: UK grocery market shares, 2017/18 Diet and health Health inequalities Figure 4: Life expectancy and healthy life expectancy by age, sex and deprivation decile in England, 2016-18 Diet and food production Current Government intervention Childhood Obesity Plans Agriculture Bill National Food Strategy The ‘real’ cost of food Conclusions Chapter 3: Poverty and food insecurity Box 2: Experiences of food insecurity Measurements of poverty Figure 5: Number and proportion of adults and children in relative and absolute poverty, before and after housing costs, UK, 2018/19 COVID-19 and poverty Food insecurity Box 3: Experiences of food insecurity COVID-19 and food insecurity Measuring food insecurity ‘Food poverty’: a misnomer Box 4: Experiences of food insecurity Hunger and food banks Box 5: Experiences of food insecurity Universal Credit and hunger People with no recourse to public funds Difficulty accessing a healthy diet Affordability of healthy diets Figure 6: The 13 main categories of average weekly household expenditure, UK, 2018/19 Figure 7: Average weekly household expenditure on the 33 main categories of foods, UK, 2018/19 What is the cost of a healthy diet? Figure 8: The Eatwell Guide Risks and priorities Practical barriers to accessing a healthy diet ‘Emotional bandwidth’ Box 6: Why don’t people just make soup? Chapter 4: The food environment An in-built system failure Experiences of the food environment Measures to address the food environment A critical consensus Table 1: Progress of proposals in Chapter 2, Childhood Obesity: a plan for action (July 2018) Suggested interventions to improve the food environment Government food programmes The Healthy Start Scheme Free school meals Box 7: Experiences of food insecurity Box 8: Experiences of food insecurity Public procurement The marketing and promotion of food Fast food outlets Box 9: Experiences of food insecurity Labelling Education and public health messaging Chapter 5: Reformulation and regulation Existing reformulation measures Voluntary reformulation programmes Salt reduction Sugar reduction Voluntary reformulation programmes: conclusions Mandatory reformulation The Industry View Barriers to reformulation Creating a level playing field Portion sizes The case for reformulation: conclusions Chapter 6: Food and the natural environment Impact of food production on the environment Figure 9: Percentages of UK pollution from ammonia and greenhouse gases derived from agriculture in 2017 What is a sustainable food system? The Agriculture Bill The case for a dietary shift Food production and public health Financial support for horticulture Resilience and continuity of supply Trade Production efficiencies Research and Development Food industry reporting Food waste Chapter 7: Governance, accountability and food policy Setting an ambition for the food system National Food Strategy: England Scotland Wales Monitoring and accountability The ‘right to food’ Co-ordination of food policy Summary of conclusions and recommendations Appendix 1: List of Members and declarations of interest Appendix 2: List of witnesses Appendix 3: Call for evidence Appendix 4: Acronyms and abbreviations Appendix 5: Experiences of food insecurity Appendix 6: Leeds Visit Evidence is published online at and available for inspection at the Parliamentary Archives (020 7219 3074). Q in footnotes refers to a question in oral evidence. Measurements of poverty 55.All measures of poverty rely, to some degree, on determining the amount of money available to people. The Government’s definition of poverty is based on the median household income without reference to expenditure other than housing costs. Other measurements, including those based on the recommendations of the Social Metrics Commission, (SMC)86 include measurements of other aspects of life which affect spending power such as savings and living costs. As defined by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), income must be related to necessary outgoings: “poverty is when your resources fall well below your needs.”87 56.The SMC recommended a new measure of poverty which is based on the extent to which someone’s resources meet their needs. There was broad support for this measure. Helen Barnard, Deputy Director of Policy and Partnerships at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, told us that: “The best measure that we have now is the Social Metrics Commission measure. This is particularly because it takes into account the inescapable costs—such as housing, childcare and the costs of being disabled—as well as your resources, which are income but also things such as liquid savings. Those two sides of the equation are very important: it is not just about how much income you have but about what things cost.”88 57.Garry Lemon, Director of Policy, External affairs and Research at the Trussell Trust, explained that by considering costs as well as expenses, “you can see that groups that have had policy solutions put in place for them are less likely to be in poverty than in the past. For example, particularly with older people we have seen an impressive decrease in poverty.”89 Mr Lemon suggested better understanding of poverty levels could help to improve policy making, and suggested that, “the decrease in poverty for older people is an example of where good evidence-based policy can make a real difference if the numbers are understood properly.”90 58.The headline poverty measures used in the UK count the number of individuals falling below a threshold of household income. One commonly used measure is people in relative low income (sometimes referred to as relative poverty). This counts people living in households with income below 60% of the median household income. Another measure is absolute low income (or absolute poverty), which counts people living in households with income below 60% of the median in some base year (usually 2010/11),91 uprated for inflation.92 Income can be measured before housing costs (BHC) or after housing costs (AHC). 59.The 2018/19 figures for the UK suggest that: • 11 million people (17%) are in relative low income BHC and 14.5 million AHC (22%). This includes 2.8 million children (20%) in relative low income BHC and 4.2 million AHC (30%).93 • 9.7 million people (15%) are in absolute low income BHC and 12.9 million AHC (20%). This includes 2.4 million children (17%) in absolute low income BHC and 3.7 million AHC (26%).94 These figures are also outlined in Figure 5. 60.Trend analysis of poverty statistics suggests that, over the longer-term, there has been a reduction in poverty rates since the late 1990s for children, pensioners and working-age parents. However, for working-age adults without dependent children, the likelihood of being in relative low income has increased. There are also suggestions that poverty rates as a whole have started to increase. Projections from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and the Resolution Foundation,95 indicate that: “The official rate of relative AHC poverty is projected to rise by over 2 [percentage points] between 2015–16 and 2021–22. All of the projected increase in relative poverty is driven by relative child poverty, which is projected to rise by 7 [percentage points].”96 Trends in the SMC measure are similar to relative poverty measured after housing costs (AHC), though the SMC measurement gives a lower percentage for pensioner poverty, and higher for poverty among children and people in families where someone is disabled than the official statistics.97 61.Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), highlighted that child poverty has risen significantly and that the figures for child poverty also highlight the levels of in work poverty. She stated that child poverty, “has risen by 500,000 since 2010, up to 4.1 million from 3.6 million. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, we expect that level to go on rising to above 5 million. Seven out of 10 of those children live with at least one parent who works.”98 Ms Garnham highlighted that the proportion of in work poverty has a particular impact on children in those families because fewer of them are entitled to support like free school meals which are based on receipt of benefits.99 Figure 5: Number and proportion of adults and children in relative and absolute poverty, before and after housing costs, UK, 2018/19 Source: Department for Work and Pensions, Households below average income (HBAI) statistics, (26 March 2020): [accessed 30 June 2020] COVID-19 and poverty 62.Following the outbreak of COVID-19, it became clear that the figures on poverty we received at the beginning of the inquiry may no longer reflect the current and future reality. The World Bank has estimated that up to 60 million people worldwide will be pushed into “extreme poverty” as a result of the pandemic100 and the UK will not be exempt from this trend. 63.Official national statistics indicating the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the UK labour market are not yet available but there are some clear indicators that coronavirus will have a significant effect on poverty levels. Some sectors have almost entirely shut down, 101 and a sharp recession appears likely.102 The Chancellor, the Rt. Hon. Rishi Sunak MP, told the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that: “I certainly will not be able to protect every job and every business. We are already seeing that in the data. No doubt there will be more hardship to come. This lockdown is having a very significant impact on our economy. We are likely to face a severe recession, the likes of which we have not seen, and that will have an impact on employment.”103 64.Analysis of YouGov survey data by the Food Foundation has found that 2% of respondents had lost all of their income, whilst 6% said they have had to borrow money or take out personal loans as a result of COVID-19.104 New Universal Credit claims increased dramatically at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Since 16 March to the end of April 2020, the Department for Work and Pensions received over 1.8 million claims for Universal Credit, over 250,000 claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance, and over 20,000 claims for Employment and Support Allowance. Overall, this is six times the volume that it would typically experience and in one week, there was a 10-fold increase. The rate for Universal Credit claims appears to have stabilised at about 20, 000 to 25,000 per day which is double that of a standard week pre-COVID-19. The DWP has stated that they issued almost 700,000 advances to claimants who felt they could not wait for their first routine payment and that the vast majority of these claimants received money within 72 hours.105 65.It appears that, financially, lower earners have been hardest hit by the outbreak, with one third of employees in the bottom 10% of earners working in shut down sectors, compared to 5% in the top 10%. Moreover, less than 10% in the bottom half of earners say they can work from home.106 Food insecurity 66.The term ‘food poverty’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘food insecurity’. Food insecurity has been described as: “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (e.g. without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing or other coping strategies).”107 Food insecurity prevalence is, therefore, a measure of individual or household inability to attain sufficient nutritious food. 67.Until recently, data on the prevalence of food insecurity was not collected routinely in the UK.108 There are, however, some other measures of food insecurity that were highlighted in our evidence that can be used to estimate its prevalence: • A 2018 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations found that between 2015 and 2017, 2.2 million people in the UK were severely food insecure.109 A report from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee suggested that this represented “the highest reporting level of any EU country, and means that the UK is responsible for one in five of all severely food insecure people in Europe.”110 • Results from the 2018 Food and You Survey, which found that: “80% of respondents lived in households with high food security, 10% in households classified as marginally food secure, and 10% reported living in households with low or very low food security.”111 68.Our evidence highlighted the use of food banks as a key indicator of levels of food insecurity. Figures from the Trussell Trust, which runs around 1,200 food bank centres across the UK, indicated both a concerning level of use, and suggested that the reliance on foodbanks was increasing. Figures published by the Trussell Trust figures showed that: • Between 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019, the Trussell Trust distributed 1.6 million three-day emergency food parcels. This represents a 19% increase on the previous year; • In the last five years, food bank use in the Trussell Trust network has increased by 73%.112 69.Based on the available evidence and despite the lack of official data on food insecurity, we think it is fair to conclude that there are unacceptable levels of food insecurity in this country. No one should struggle to access the food they need. Evidence from the Food Foundation, LSHTM and SHEFS reached a similar conclusion, stating that: “Due to the lack of standardisation and comprehensive measurement of food insecurity it is difficult to definitively state the prevalence. However, it is clear that food insecurity rates are too high, and despite being the fifth richest economy in the world, the UK has some of the worst rates of food insecurity in Europe.”113 Box 3: Experiences of food insecurity In a series of phone calls, facilitated by Sustain and Church Action on Poverty, the secretariat spoke with individuals who have experienced food insecurity. Cath from Newcastle said: “When you are trying to make meals, you want to make a meal that is going to fill everybody and unfortunately that means you use repetitive ingredients as well. So, for example, to buy frozen vegetable is a lot cheaper because you are getting quantity. So, if I can get three meals out of buying say a frozen bag of onions and peppers, what am I going to use? I’m going to use those packets three times in different meals.” “I don’t know anyone who doesn’t use what we call the yellow sticker aisle. We all do that. If you’re on a budget, you got to do that.” “You used to get your money fortnightly. That’s got to last two weeks. You need to make your bills, so your bills come out first, then your shopping. So you want that shopping to be as economical as possible, to last 14 days. In last few days, you may just have to eat once.” Source: See Appendix 5. COVID-19 and food insecurity 70.In-depth analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on food insecurity is not yet available but from the existing figures it appears clear that levels of food insecurity have risen sharply in a short space of time. 71.In April 2020 the Food Foundation commissioned YouGov to conduct an online survey to determine the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on experiences of food insecurity. Based on the survey, the Food Foundation estimated that: “More than three million people (6%) in Great Britain have gone hungry since lockdown began three weeks ago, reporting that someone in their household has been unable to eat, despite being hungry, because they did not have enough food.”114 Similarly, the Trussell Trust has reported an 81% increase in emergency food bank use during the last two weeks of March 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.115 72.An increase in food insecurity due to the COVID-19 crisis is not an exclusively British problem. Food banks in Spain and France have reported an increase in food distribution,116 and the Italian Government has allocated €400 million for food vouchers.117 Measuring food insecurity 73.In 2019, the Department for Work and Pensions announced that it would introduce household food insecurity questions to the Family Resources Survey,118 which it told us would “provide information on household food security, allowing us to investigate drivers and identify the groups most at risk.”119 This followed the introduction of a Private Member’s Bill by Emma Lewell-Buck MP calling for the measurement to be introduced.120 The Government told us that the first data will not be available until 2021.121 74.There was criticism within our evidence of the Government’s previous failure to routinely collect data on levels of food insecurity. Written evidence from the Government stated that: “There are no existing sources which give us complete, comprehensive information on an annual basis for the UK as a whole” and that the Food Security Assessment was last published as a whole document in 2010.122 75.Julia Gault, Deputy Director Labour Market, Families & Disadvantage at the Department for Work and Pensions, referred to food insecurity and its relationship to household income, stating that: “One of the things that is very clear from the existing evidence base is that it is really difficult to get a good handle on that in a robust, analytical way from the data sources that are currently available to us.” The Committee’s Chair, Lord Krebs, suggested to Ms Gault that: “… if you wanted to be critical, it is quite shocking that the Government do not know the basic facts about food insecurity, which is what you are telling us.”123 76.In response, Ms Gault conceded that: “We need to know more, and action has now been taken since April through the Family Resources Survey. We have been collecting more data to improve our understanding.”124 77.The decision to measure household food security through the DWP’s Family Resources Survey (FRS)125 was welcomed by campaigners, but concerns were expressed that this move does not go far enough to ensure data on food insecurity is regularly monitored and properly scrutinised. Doubts were also expressed over the level of commitment to making this measurement permanent. We consider that it is crucial that levels of food insecurity are properly monitored and understood, so that the policy to address it can be targeted effectively. 78.A number of respondents suggested that there was a distinct lack of Government action at a policy level that deals directly with food insecurity. Dr Loopstra and Dr Reeves from King’s College London suggested that: “It is not clear what efforts have been made at the policy level to improve food insecurity in the UK. Based on evidence available, it appears that food insecurity is increasing among low income and vulnerable groups, particularly those reliant on benefits. Changes in administration (i.e. through the implementation of Universal Credit), harsher sanctioning penalties, and loss of entitlements have repeatedly been identified as drivers of food bank use. This evidence has not been acted on by the Government.”126 79.The notion that food insecurity does not receive the dedicated attention it required was also echoed by the University of York IKnowFood programme, which suggested that: “the Government continues to see food insecurity as an overseas issue, with DFID the only Department to include them in its Single Departmental Plan.”127 The programme also highlighted that “there is no clear ministerial accountability for combatting food insecurity in the UK.”128 80.There were repeated calls for the Government to strengthen the evidence base on food insecurity to help inform its evaluations of related welfare and health policies. A number of suggestions were made as to how this might be achieved, including: • Monitoring the impact of food insecurity on health in the UK population by linking measures of food insecurity with indicators of dietary health. Dr Loopstra and Dr Reeves suggested that: “measures of food insecurity need to be integrated and maintained in existing health surveys (e.g. National Diet and Nutrition Survey, or the Health Survey for England).”129 Such analysis will be important because it remains unclear why food insecurity leads to hunger for some and obesity among others. When asked whether data from the Family Resources Survey would be examined alongside that from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, Will Quince MP, the Minister for Welfare Delivery at the Department for Work and Pensions said he would: “certainly be looking to sit down with my counterparts in the Department of Health and Social Care, because you are right in your suggestion that we would want to compare the two and then look at the evidence.”130 While this is welcome, a more robust mechanism for comparison is essential—an informal Ministerial meeting cannot fully explore the relationships between dietary quality and food insecurity. • A firmer commitment from the Government to robust monitoring of food insecurity over the long-term. Dr Manu Savani from Brunel University London called for: “Robust policy analysis and evaluation that relates food insecurity trends to wider socioeconomic context and reforms.”131 Professor Dominic Harrison called for food insecurity to be elevated to the level of a National Statistic.132 Similarly, Southwark Council called for: “A nationally agreed definition and measure of food security/insecurity that is repeated at regular intervals to pick up on the impact of substantial policy changes.”133 • That a food insecurity measurement should be enshrined in legislation. The Labour Hunger Campaign suggested that the Government should: “Enshrine a definition of household food insecurity in law and set government targets to eliminate it.” Amendments were also tabled to the Agriculture Bill, seeking the inclusion of a measurement of food insecurity into the Government’s measurement of food security which would be mandated by that Bill.134 • That policy to address food insecurity should be informed by engagement with people with lived experience. Dr Clare Pettinger and Food Plymouth CIC told us that: “there also needs to be more effective consultation and ‘bottom up’ involvement (co-production) with communities with lived experience so that their voices can form part of the policy changing and solutions.”135 • That there should be a dedicated section of the Government that deals with food insecurity, with some calling for a minister with accountability for combatting food insecurity in the UK. The University of York IKnowFood programme recommended that the Government: “appoint a minister with responsibility and accountability for combatting food insecurity within the UK.”136 81.There is very limited confidence in the Government’s current approach to monitoring food insecurity. Household food insecurity must be comprehensively and regularly measured, and subject to parliamentary scrutiny to ensure that trends in food insecurity can be linked to wider socioeconomic contexts and reforms and can inform policy making in other areas such as public health and welfare. 82.The relationships between dietary quality and food insecurity must be fully understood. The Government must commit to continuing to run the food insecurity measurement questions currently contained within the Family Resources Survey. To better understand the impacts of food insecurity on diet and related outcomes, the Government must determine how best to collect data on food insecurity and dietary intake in the same individuals. ‘Food poverty’: a misnomer 83.Key to addressing food insecurity was establishing whether it can be addressed separately from issues of poverty or whether food insecurity arises from poverty. We were told, unequivocally, that food insecurity is a direct result—indeed a symptom—of poverty. 84.The evidence was extremely clear on this point. Alison Garnham of the Child Poverty Action Group told us that: “Food poverty is just an example of a kind of deprivation that results from a lack of income… in many ways, food poverty is not distinct from other types of poverty.”137 Ms Barnard from the JRF agreed: “food poverty is one symptom of poverty.”138 As we have seen, poverty is characterised by a lack of resources. Generally, hunger is due to this same lack, that of financial ability to purchase sufficient food. Ms Garnham said: “There are a number of people in the UK who lack the income to buy the food they need”.139 Evidence from Exeter Foodbank supported this, citing income as the top driver of food bank use.140 85.A factor of food poverty (food insecurity) that makes it perhaps more visible than other forms of poverty is that, often, the food budget is the only budget which can be reduced—cuts can be made to a food budget that cannot be made to rent or fuel payments. Helen Barnard told us: “It is quite often one of the first things that people on low income start cutting back on or making trades about. Parents start skipping meals.”141 Food insecurity arises quite logically out of a lack of resources and does not exist in isolation from other kinds of poverty. As Ms Barnard said; “Someone skipping meals is also going to be going without all sorts of other things.”142 86.It was made very clear that poverty has a significant impact on those living with it. In relation to food insecurity and health, the key areas to emphasise are: • That poverty prohibits access to resources required for a socially acceptable standard of life; • That poverty affects emotional state, causing feelings of hopelessness and persistent anxiety. The toll of this can reduce the emotional energy available for important aspects of daily life; and • That poverty increases the risk of physical and mental health problems. 87.Some evidence we received was distressing and included details of people living in appalling conditions. We were told of parents skipping meals, lying to children and claiming that they had eaten, and children unable to concentrate at school due to physical feelings of hunger. We heard that effects ranged from debilitating physical feelings of hunger to social isolation, and a decreased ability to concentrate or make decisions. Magic Breakfast indicated some of the effects of hunger upon children: “School age children with severe hunger were more likely to experience stressful life events, had higher parent-reported anxiety scores and were more likely to have behavioural problems than children with no experience of hunger.”143 88.The mental and emotional aspects of poverty were also described to us. Helen Barnard described the effect of poverty as being: “Shut out from normal life.” She said: “There is [also] very often a sense of there being no way out. We quite often talk about this feeling of hopelessness. One of the parents we work with described it as like being stuck on a hamster wheel: you are running and running but never getting anywhere. You cannot give the kids the things that we know all kids should have to have a good start in life.”144 89.Ms Barnard told us that these pressures could lead to a ‘tunnel vision’ effect: “If you are really anxious and worried about things, you will psychologically focus in on a very small number of crucial things … those things you are focusing on cannot fail.”145 She described this narrowing in focus as a reduced ‘emotional bandwidth’. 90.Exeter foodbank provided us with some quotes from their foodbank users to illustrate what living with food insecurity means for people: “I am on my own with 2 children and came to the foodbank today because it’s the end of the school holidays. I have a part-time job—my children needed new school uniforms and shoes so we had no money left for food. We never have money for extras.” “I came to the foodbank today because we had no food, no money and we are in debt. I had an operation and was off work from October until January. I went back to work for a few hours a day and I now work 25 hours a week. While I was off work, I accumulated debt—rent, council tax and water rates. I was down and felt embarrassed about my situation.” “I’ve been ill for a couple of years and was made redundant due to my long-term sickness. I have really struggled getting help and have become very demoralized and let myself go and stopped caring. A friend forced me to come for help and I feel better being given some food and a friendly ear with a cup of tea.”146 Box 4: Experiences of food insecurity In a series of phone calls, facilitated by Sustain and Church Action on Poverty, the secretariat spoke with individuals who have experienced food insecurity. Monica from Oxford said: “Hunger does impact on your mental health and on your tiredness.” Tia from Blackburn with Darwen said: “You know everyone’s struggling but you just don’t know how much everyone is struggling because no one wants to talk about it. An older person who is struggling doesn’t want to talk about it because they feel embarrassed or they’re embarrassing their kids. Some people don’t want to talk about it in Darwen because there is such a stigma.” Free school meals 195.In England, the Government provides free school meals (FSM) to primary and secondary school pupils who qualify through receipt of some benefits.279 All infant students (from reception to year two) are entitled to free school means under Universal Infant Free School Meals (UIFSM). Serious concerns were raised with us about these schemes and their implementation, including concerns about eligibility criteria, adherence to standards, and the low value of the meals grant to schools. Two witnesses also raised serious concerns about unclaimed money “going missing”.280 Anna Taylor described the operation of FSM as: “bad implementation of what on paper is a good programme”.281 Box 7: Experiences of food insecurity In a series of phone calls, facilitated by Sustain and Church Action on Poverty, the secretariat spoke with individuals who have experienced food insecurity. Penny from Newcastle said: “They roll out the free school meals for the kids but then I’ve had families come to me and ask me if I can print those vouchers out because that’s the only way that they will get their vouchers to go to the shop to actually access the free school meals. If you don’t have a printer at home, that’s another barrier.” Source: See Appendix 5. 196.Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government issued guidance which states that schools are expected to continue to provide support. It outlines different approaches that could be taken through food parcels from existing providers. Where current provision cannot be extended in this way, the Department for Education has developed a centrally funded voucher scheme to be used at supermarkets.282 At the time of writing, the Department was unable to confirm how many vouchers had been delivered in a useable form, or how many eligible children had been registered.283 Funding 197.Since 2011, school meals (except UIFSM) have been funded through central funding for schools (the Dedicated Schools Grant).284 It is for the schools to make their own decisions about the use of this funding. UIFSM, which encompasses 1.5 million infants in England285 is funded by a separate grant under the Education Act 2002.286 198.To cover an anticipated increase in the number of pupils eligible for FSM “before the lagged funding system catches up”287 the Government issued a school-level meal cost grant for the 2018–19 and 2019–20 academic years. This is, annually, £440 per additional pupil, or £2.30 per day.288 It was made extremely clear to us that this amount of money is insufficient, both for the schools, and for the children. 199.Schools often allocate this money to pupils themselves via a card payment system, allowing students to choose what they spend the money on. Research by the Child Poverty Action Group has found that, often, the value does not cover the cost of a full meal: “When you talk to children in schools, they tell you that it is not enough to buy a full meal with: it will buy you a main course and a drink or a pudding and a drink, but you cannot get all three. So, while other children around you are having the lot, children on free school meals are not; they are having a very reduced calorie intake by comparison”289 The Government’s written evidence stated that it was supportive of schools which made the same meal offer available to all students. It agreed that this was important, both for reasons of nutrition and social wellbeing.290 Our evidence suggests that schools are not always achieving this: it is important that the Government remain committed to ensuring that all pupils, regardless of household income, can access nutritious food at school. 200.The National Voucher Scheme was set up to provide money for food during school closures to parents whose children would ordinarily receive free school meals. The value is £15 per child per week, as opposed to the £11.50 which would ordinarily be paid to the school. This appears to be the Government’s assessment of the cost of providing five lunches. Funding must remain at this rate. In anticipation of the response that schools can benefit from economies of scale where parents cannot, it is likely that this is more than outweighed by the costs to the school (and not to the parent) of staffing, equipment, facilities and transport. The funding provided by the Government to cover free school meals does not appear to fulfil the costs to the school of providing them. This is supported both by a report from the IFS and a leaked 2016 report commissioned by the Government, both of which found that there is pressure on school’s budgets.291 201.The decision to increase the funding for lunches during school closures is welcome. The value cannot be allowed to regress once children return to school. The allowance allocated to schools for free school meals must be uprated to at least the level provided during the school closures and linked to inflation thereafter. Eligibility 202.In primary schools, 15.8% of pupils are known to be eligible for, and claiming, free school meals. In secondary schools, it is 14.1%.292 203.Prior to April 2018, all claimants for Universal Credit were eligible for FSM. This was changed in 2018 to target those households with a net annual income of below £7,400 or who are on some of the legacy benefits. It has been found that under these proposals, slightly more children from low-income households will be eligible under the UC system—an increase of 50,000 children.293 204.There will be, however, a significant number of children excluded who would previously have been eligible. Though there are protections in place for existing claimants until Universal Credit is fully rolled out, the IFS study found that “About 160,000 (13%, or 1 in 8) of the 1.3 million children who would have qualified under the legacy system will find themselves ineligible under UC.”294 205.There was some concern that the eligibility criteria for FSM are too tight, excluding many who need this support. Alysa Remtulla, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Magic Breakfast, stated that: “the current eligibility criteria are becoming an increasingly unreliable determinant of need”.295 This is supported by a review by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) which found that under the Government’s plans: “only about half of children in the poorest fifth will be entitled to FSMs.”296 206.We recommend that the Government outlines how it intends to mitigate the impact that their eligibility proposals will have on those families who will lose eligibility for free school meals. 207.There have been some calls for free school lunches to be extended to every child.297 Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General-Secretary of the National Education Union, stated that a policy of universal free school meals would “end what our members report as the stigma for children who get free school meals.”298 Box 8: Experiences of food insecurity In a series of phone calls, facilitated by Sustain and Church Action on Poverty, the secretariat spoke with individuals who have experienced food insecurity. Tia from Blackburn with Darwen said: “Because it was such a small school, everyone was friends with each other but I never wanted to use my free school meals because sometimes you had to go in with a massive pink slip to get them and I just felt too embarrassed so I sometimes got my mum to put money on my card so I could use that instead.” Source: See Appendix 5. 208.Witnesses cited evidence on the impact of UIFSM, which has generally been positive, to argue for extending school meal eligibility criteria. Professor Defeyter stated that: “The take-up in that scheme has been phenomenal, and all the research reports suggest that it has reduced the stigma. More importantly, it is teaching our children good skills around what they consume”.299 An evaluation of UIFSM published in January 2020 also pointed to positive health outcomes. The study found that: “those exposed to UIFSM have significantly better bodyweight outcomes then they otherwise would, in terms of being more likely to be [a] healthy weight (1.2 percentage point by the end of the school year), less likely to be obese (0.7 percentage points) and have a lower BMI”.300 209.The use of evidence currently available as a basis for extending FSM is problematic. The witnesses advocating for extended entitlement of FSM acknowledged that the research on the impact of UIFSM had been somewhat limited. Professor Defeyter acknowledged that the research around UIFSM is “patchy” and that there had not been “proper modelling”.301 This was reinforced by an IFS report costing Labour and Liberal Democrat election pledges to extend school meal entitlement. It outlined some weaknesses in the evidence base, concluding that while there had been some research to indicate a link to attainment: “It’s not yet clear whether these policies would have big further benefits for children’s attainment or health.”302 210.There has been some study on the cost implications of different proposals to extend eligibility for FSM. In the 2019 general election, the Labour party initially proposed extending free school meals to all primary school children. The IFS estimated that, in 2024, this proposal would cost £850 million in today’s prices.303 A proposal by the Liberal Democrats (and later the Labour party) to extend FSM to all secondary school pupils whose family receive universal credit was estimated at costing between £280 million and £310 million. Coupled with the cost of universal primary free school meals also proposed by the Liberal Democrats, this could cost between £1.1 and £1.2 billion.304 211.We fully agree with Professor Defeyter’s view that the high costs of extending FSM have to be offset with the longer term gain305 but there has not been sufficient modelling of the impacts of FSM to establish what the longer term gain would be.306 We cannot yet recommend it on the basis of long term health benefits. 212.We recommend that the Government must undertake rigorous research on the impact of Universal Infant Free School Meals on health and attainment outcomes and use the results of this evidence base to inform future policy on school meals, including breakfasts. Missing money 213.One financial concern was raised by Anna Taylor and Professor Defeyter, who drew our attention to money for FSM that was: “going missing”.307 When pupils miss a day of school, or for some other reason do not use the money on their cashless lunch card, this money is not returned to the child. 214.Anna Taylor referred to this money being taken from the child and: “absorbed into the coffers.”308 Referring to a study she had conducted with Feeding Britain, Professor Defeyter told us that: “there is approximately £88.3 million per annum in the system going missing. Nobody, including the DfE, seems to quite know where that money is.”309 No information is collected by Government on this matter.310 215.Sarah Lewis, Director, System Leadership and Strategy (Early years and schools) at the Department for Education, said that recuperating and redistributing this money was a decision for school administrations: “Schools have the ability to give that money back to the children if they wish. We do not say they have to because free school meals are not a cash benefit for that individual child. It is money overall that is given to schools so they can ensure that children can access free school meals while they are in school. It is just set up in a different way.”311 216.It is not possible to exclude the possibility that some of the funding may therefore be lost to schools. Many schools have financial arrangements with the local authority, or with private caterers to provide school meals. The estimates we heard vary from £70 million312 to £88 million,313 but whatever the true figure, it is something which the Government should investigate further. Adherence to food standards 217.Following an independent review of school food, revised school food standards came into force in January 2015. These standards apply to all food served in maintained schools,314 including food made in and out-of-house.315 We have been told that, without enforcement, the school food standards are in practice, voluntary, and that this undermines the intentions of the regulations. 218.The school food standards and accompanying guidance documents are intended to help children develop healthy eating habits and ensure that they get the energy and nutrition they need for the school day.316 The food-based standards specify “which types of food should be served at school, and how often.”317 219.The standards mandate provision of some healthy foods and stipulate a list of less healthy foods to avoid.318 There is no mention of the Government’s Eatwell Guide, but the standards recommend that schools purchase food according to the Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF).319 220.Ms Lewis from the DfE told us that the Department was revising and updating the school food standards.320 It is unclear on what basis the Department is doing so; a consultation that had been announced in 2016, in Chapter 1 of the Childhood Obesity Plan321, and subsequently re-announced in Chapter 2322 (2018), has not yet been published. 221.The responsibility to ensure these standards are being met falls to school governing bodies for whom the Department for Education (DfE) has published guidance. These standards are mandatory for all maintained schools, pupil referral units and non-maintained special schools in England. Adherence is an explicit requirement in funding agreements for academies and free schools founded before 2010 and after June 2014.323 222.A critical weakness identified by several of our witnesses is that there is no mechanism or enforcement body to ensure that school food meets the required standards. Sarah Lewis confirmed that the Department does not monitor or enforce the standards: “No, we do not proactively go round and check whether schools meet the school food standards.”324 223.The Department appears to rely on parents to complain if they feel their child’s school is not meeting the requirements. Ms Lewis explained that they: “Rely on our regulatory system and we want parents to complain to us if they feel that schools are not meeting their statutory responsibilities.”325 The Government says that the standards were designed to be easily understood and that complaints should come through the school in the first instance.326 We feel this lacks an understanding of the real world practical scenario where parents may not feel able to challenge the school, nor have the available time and ‘emotional bandwidth’ to embark on a complaints process. 224.As a means of enforcing standards, reliance on parents is highly problematic for several reasons. Firstly: there are instances of what Anna Taylor termed: “information asymmetries”.327 Parents are not in a position to address nutritional standards which they may or may not be aware of, or be able to access information about–and this is a highly specialised task. Secondly, and more importantly, this places an inappropriate burden on parents to seek information from the school and report to the Department as to whether the Government’s own standards are being followed. As a means of enforcement, this is patently unfit for purpose, further evidenced by the Government’s admission that, to date, no action has been taken following a complaint made in this way.328 225.The guidance for governing bodies has no statutory footing and is thus inappropriate as a means of enforcement. Without a mechanism to monitor food provided in schools, there is no way to ensure schools are meeting the required standards. Alysa Remtulla, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Magic Breakfast explained: “The biggest challenge that we see is the lack of monitoring of the standards. Because of that, they are not necessarily enforceable. There is no watchdog or body that monitors how the standards are implemented.”329 226.It is a demonstrably ineffective approach. Witnesses highlighted a wide variation in school food standards across schools, which effectively amounts to a postcode lottery for nutritional standards. Nicky Dennison, Public Health Specialist for Blackpool City Council, expressed frustration with a lack of enforcement and provided figures for Blackpool: “ … across our 33 primaries; 11 schools meet the school food standard and the others do not.”330 Such a stark fluctuation of standards across England leads to children receiving widely variable standards of nutrition. Worryingly, since there is no enforcement mechanism or reviewer: we cannot estimate the scale of the problem. 227.We were made aware of some potential mechanisms to monitor food standards. The Local Authority Caterers Association (LACA) suggested that Ofsted, the education standards body, could play a role. They advocated for the inclusion of: “Enforcement and monitoring of the School Food Standards across all schools including academies and free schools, inclusion of the school food offer and food education programmes into Ofsted inspections’331Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General-Secretary of the National Education Union, however, felt strongly that monitoring should be specialised. In support of the need for an inspection process she stated: “If we look at food standards in schools, this should be done by people who know something about food standards. We cannot require Ofsted inspectors to be nutritionists and food standards experts as well.”332 228.The absence of any effective enforcement mechanism for school food standards means that the nutritional value of the food a child receives at school is one of chance rather than policy. It is difficult to understand what, in truth, the school food standards achieve. 229.Monitoring and evaluation of the school food standards must be centrally coordinated to ensure consistent compliance. The Departments for Education and Health and Social Care should establish a joint task force responsible for monitoring and enforcing adherence to the school food standards. The taskforce should have the power to publish the names of non-adhering schools and where necessary require the development of an agreed action plan to meet standards. School breakfasts 230.Some evidence advocated for increased support for breakfast clubs in deprived areas. Breakfast clubs, which are run in schools and sometimes with private sector involvement, can provide a nutritious breakfast for children who may not otherwise eat breakfast. There is some research to demonstrate that an extension of the Government’s National School Breakfast Programme (NSBP) could provide health and attainment benefits to children from lower-income households. 231.In November 2018, the Government announced a new aim to “improve breakfast for pupils in more than 1,700 schools by 2020.”333 The National Schools Breakfast programme (NSBP), which is implementing this pledge, is a Government-third sector partnership to provide free breakfast clubs for children in the most disadvantaged areas and is funded by up to £26 million. As of January 2020, 1800 schools were participating in the scheme.334 In that month, the funding was extended to last until March 2021, and there was additional funding announced to recruit up to 650 new schools.335 232.Magic Breakfast, one of the third sector delivery groups for the programme, explained that the purpose of the scheme was to ensure that no child is too hungry to learn: “A hungry child cannot concentrate on their lessons and misses out on hours of valuable learning. That means they fall behind their wealthier peers and that contributes to the educational attainment gap … Very strong evidence demonstrates that school breakfasts can play an important role in addressing this.”336 233.There is some evidence to suggest an attainment gain in schools which provide universal free school breakfast clubs. A study conducted by the IFS has indicated that pupil absences fell, and that some children made the equivalent of two months’ additional progress in reading and writing over the course of a year.337 Alysa Remtulla from Magic Breakfast referred to research which showed a link between breakfast consumption and achievement in GCSEs of two grades higher attainment,338 and a Department for Education assessment on the impact of attaining GCSEs, which indicated a lifetime productivity increase of between £55,000 and £283,000.339 234.Evidence from Professor Louise Dye outlined studies conducted by a University of Leeds research group on the effect of breakfast consumption. Their research had found that: • Breakfast consumption had a positive effect on cognitive function and that: “Tasks requiring attention, executive function, and memory were facilitated more reliably by breakfast consumption relative to fasting”; • There was a positive effect of breakfast on some classroom behaviours; • “Increased frequency of habitual breakfast was consistently positively associated with academic performance.”340 235.There are some limitations in the academic evidence on impact; the IFS study included a caveat that most of the gains are likely to be from the content or context of the clubs: eating healthier food or building stronger relationships with other pupils and staff while eating at school; rather than an overall increase in the numbers of children consuming breakfast at all. Furthermore, while relatively disadvantaged students were more likely to attend the clubs, the intervention was less effective at raising attainment of pupils from these backgrounds; there was limited impact on reducing socio-economic gaps in attainment.341 236.We received evidence of local councils establishing their own schemes to provide breakfasts for children at school.342 This evidence was extremely positive. One evaluation of a scheme in Blackpool found that: “Children eating free breakfasts consume significantly more healthy items for breakfast than non-attendees; that the scheme contributes to reducing nutritional inequalities; the universality of the scheme reduced stigma by ensuring no child is singled out for a free breakfast and children are happier [sic.] more alert after attending the free school breakfast.”343 237.Aside from the evidence on attainment, there is compelling evidence of need. One of the most shocking conclusions we reached in Chapter 3 was that there are many children in this country living with constant or intermittent hunger. We heard of several cases where parents cannot afford to feed children breakfast.344 Magic Breakfast also referred us to a survey of Head Teachers of whom 81% had seen a rise in the number of pupils arriving at school hungry in the last five years.345 Regardless of the impact of breakfasts upon attainment, it seems to us that where there are instances of deprivation so acute that children cannot otherwise eat breakfasts, they must be provided. School breakfast clubs provide a sensible and effective way for this to happen. 238.The Government has already extended the funding for the NSBP, and we note that the 2017 Conservative manifesto originally included a pledge to provide free breakfasts for all primary school children in England346: evidence that there is, somewhere, a political will for this programme. More, however, needs to be done. First, the programme is not reaching enough of those who need it. Second, the funding is time limited. 239.The programme does not currently reach all or even most of those who need it. Professor Defetyer referred to the Households Below Average Income statistics, estimating that by 2022: “Almost 30% of all children—or nine children in every classroom of 30—will live in poverty.”347 The National Schools Breakfast Programme was specifically targeted at the most disadvantaged areas. The measurement the Government uses to assess eligibility, the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) has been found to be: “quite an accurate measure of need.”348 The eligibility criteria that the Government has created based on this measurement is, perhaps, restrictive.349 The IDACI uses the postcodes of registered addresses to determine the likelihood that a pupil lives in an out-of-work or low-income family. A school will only become eligible for the NSBP if 50% of pupils fall into categories A-F, the highest levels of deprivation. Given that the programme is: “reaching about 20% of the children who we think are at risk of hunger”,350 it is clear to us that this threshold should be lowered. 240.Another key issue is that the funding is time limited. Although the Government has already announced a one-year funding extension to run the programme until March 2021. The idea is that this funding will “kick-start self-sustaining clubs”351 which will continue independently of Government funding. While warmly welcoming the programme, Ms Remtulla cautioned that it was not: “‘job done, problem solved’… The funding is only short term. After the year or two of support, schools are left to find their own financial support for their breakfast club.”352 Schools and groups of parents in the most deprived areas are beset with competing demands on their time, emotional bandwidth and money. While seed-funding is all very well, there is a very real risk that, when the money runs out, making further progress will be unsustainable. 241.We recommend that the eligibility threshold for the National Schools Breakfast Programme is lowered and funding increased to ensure that the programme reaches all of those who need it. 242.The National Schools Breakfast Programme must support and train facilitators to enable schools to access future external funding. 243.Notwithstanding Government support to access funds, central funding for the National School Breakfast Programme must not be withdrawn all at once, producing a ‘cliff edge’ effect. The funding must be removed gradually and only when schools are able to access reliable sources of funding to sustain the clubs. . Government response to the House of Lords report, ‘Hungry for Change: fixing the failures in food’ Introduction 3. The Government thanks the Committee for its report, ‘Hungry for Change: fixing the failures in food’. 4. The Government is committed to ensuring our food system delivers safe, healthy, affordable food for everyone, regardless of where they live or how much they earn, and which is built on a sustainable and resilient agriculture sector. That is why we commissioned Henry Dimbleby, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ (Defra) lead Non-Executive Director, to lead an Independent Review and develop a series of recommendations that will help shape our food system. 5. The National Food Strategy Independent Review will cover the entire food chain from farm to fork, building on work already underway in the Agriculture Bill, the Environment Bill and the Fisheries Bill. The scope will be England, but the strategy will consider our relationships with the devolved administrations, the European Union and our other trading partners. 6. Part One of the National Food Strategy Independent Review was published on 29 July 2020, and can be found here: It contains recommendations in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and preceding the end of the transition period with the European Union. The report examines how the food system was impacted by COVID-19, and features chapters on trade, health and food insecurity. Part Two of the National Food Strategy Independent Review will be published in 2021. It will include a root and branch examination of the food system and the economics that shape it. The report will also investigate issues of climate change, biodiversity, pollution, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases and sustainable use of resources. The Government has committed to responding to the Review’s recommendations in the form of a White Paper within six months of the release of the final report. 7. COVID-19 has brought the risks of obesity into sharp focus and makes it more important than ever to support all parts of the UK in achieving a healthier lifestyle. The Prime Minister wants to tackle this issue so that people feel fitter and healthier, we reduce our health risks, protect ourselves against coronavirus and take pressure off the NHS. This strategy is outlined in the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) recently published policy paper, ‘Tackling obesity: empowering adults and children to live healthier lives’, which can be found here: It includes: introducing a new campaign — a call to action to take steps to lose weight; working to expand weight management services available through the NHS; publishing a public consultation to gather views and evidence on our current ‘traffic light’ labelling scheme; consulting on companies providing calorie labelling on alcohol; introducing legislation to require large out-of-home sector businesses to calorie label the food they sell; legislating to end the promotion of foods high in fat, salt or sugar (HFSS), both online and in physical stores in England; and banning the advertising of HFSS products being shown on TV and online before 9pm. 8. It is vitally important for children to grow up with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to lead a healthy lifestyle. That is why we have made health education compulsory for all pupils at state-funded schools. At primary school, health education will cover the characteristics of a healthy lifestyle alongside important knowledge about healthy eating such as what constitutes a healthy diet, the principles of planning and preparing a range of healthy meals, and the characteristics of a poor diet and risks associated with unhealthy eating. At secondary level, teaching will introduce more complex topics, such as the characteristics and evidence of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, including the links between a poor diet and health risks such as tooth decay and cancer. 9. The food system affects many areas of our lives, and as such is incorporated into the work of several departments. The Government recognises the importance of coordination on food policy across Whitehall in order to deliver our shared ambition of ensuring that our food system delivers healthy, affordable and sustainable food that everyone can access. 10. The Committee has made a number of recommendations and conclusions. The Government has responded to the recommendations below. Response to recommendations The relationships between dietary quality and food insecurity must be fully understood. The Government must commit to continuing to run the food insecurity measurement questions currently contained within the Family Resources Survey. To better understand the impacts of food insecurity on diet and related outcomes, the Government must determine how best to collect data on food insecurity and dietary intake in the same individuals. (Paragraph 82) 11. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has included a set of food security questions to the Family Resources Survey (FRS) since April 2019, allowing the combined analysis of family resources and the impact on food security. The FRS is a National Statistic published under the Code of Practice for Statistics. Compliance with the Code provides confidence that published government statistics have public value, are high quality and are trustworthy. The Head of Profession for Statistics is accountable for the methods, content, and timing of the release of these statistics. DWP will continue to include the food security questions in the FRS, and publish them, as long as they meet the requirements of the Code. 12. Alongside this, Public Health England (PHE) will consider collecting data on food security through their National Diet and Nutrition Survey. The five-week wait for Universal Credit presents acute difficulties and requires urgent overhaul. While we cannot anticipate the findings of two Parliamentary reports dedicated to this topic, the Government must fully respond to the reports of both Committees. A replacement scheme must have regard to: • The recommendations of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee and the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee; • Analysis of the impact of repayments over a period of time on the ability to afford a healthy diet; • The imperative to avoid a situation where a person awaiting benefits has no choice but to visit a food bank; • Analysis of data pertaining to the increase in UC claims following the outbreak of COVID-19; • The possibility that different groups of claimants may require different arrangements for advances and their repayment; and • A continual and effective system of training to help claimants manage their money. (Paragraph 104) 13. No new Universal Credit claimant needs to wait five weeks if they need upfront support. New claimants can request up to 100% of their estimated Universal Credit upfront, and receive it within a few days of making their claim. We are ensuring that all new claimants are aware of this support when they first make a Universal Credit claim. 14. In the recent March 2020 Budget, the Government announced measures to make advances even more flexible, ensuring that claimants would not be discouraged from applying. The repayment time for advances has already been extended from six months to 12 months, and a further extension to 24 months was announced starting from October 2021. This means, instead of an average advance repayment of around £60 over 12 months, new Universal Credit claimants taking up an advance and repaying it over 24 months will have their monthly repayments reduced by around £30 per month, on average. Claimants can also ask for advance repayments to be delayed for up to three months in exceptional circumstances, if they cannot afford them. 15. DWP is constantly analysing the impact of both advance repayments and other deductions on indebted claimants. Analysis around the impact of repaying advances and other deductions helped to drive the October 2021 measures that will better support such claimants. 16. DWP published weekly management information on Universal Credit claims and advances from 1 March 2020 until the end of June 2020 at Going forward, information on claims to Universal Credit will be available as part of official statistics at 17. In publishing this data, we aim to support the information needs of society, parliamentarians and stakeholders. Universal Credit is one of the means of supporting individuals and families during these difficult times. 18. Releasing information on applications to Universal Credit ahead of the routine publication of this information in official statistics ensures a timely response, and gives society and stakeholders important information on the level of support that has been required by individuals and families. 19. As we move into the next phase of COVID-19 response and recovery we are continually working across government departments to review priorities. Analysis of this Universal Credit data is just one source of information used to enable us to monitor the evolving economic and labour market situation, and to help us to identify the most effective ways to support people both now and in the future. 20. Providing certain groups of claimants with special terms for their advances and repayments would be incredibly problematic to implement. Any special repayment terms would raise equality concerns from groups of claimants to whom such terms were not extended. In addition, establishing a claimant’s eligibility for such treatment would require manual intervention and likely delay the initial payment of an advance. Instead, the Government believes it is right to concentrate on measures which ensure urgent support is available to those in need, whilst reducing the impact of advance repayments for all claimants. Claimants can also ask for advance repayments to be delayed for up to three months in exceptional circumstances if they cannot afford them. 21. As well as advances, new claimants may be eligible for other non-repayable support. Claimants receiving Housing Benefit immediately before their Universal Credit claim will continue to receive this for the first two weeks of the new Universal Credit claim. From 22 July 2020, up to an additional two-week run on of Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and income-related Employment and Support Allowance will be available for all eligible claimants whose claim to Universal Credit ends their entitlement to these benefits. 22. Jobcentre staff have access to information on services and support available in their local area for claimants and will signpost claimants to national and local organisations which provide specialist debt and money management support. 23. In addition, support is available for Universal Credit claimants via the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS). MaPS helps Universal Credit claimants with personal budgeting and money management through its free helpline, printed guides and digital guidance. 24. For those Universal Credit claimants who are in most need of debt advice, MaPS will continue to work with DWP and other agencies to ensure that they are signposted and referred quickly to local provision. MaPS funds free-to-consumer debt advice in England through a network of providers including StepChange, the Money Advice Trust and Citizens Advice. We recommend that the Government produce an action plan to ensure that the gathering of data on food insecurity includes and records the situations of those with no recourse to public funds. Urgent planning must begin now to establish a Government-funded programme to ensure that all those with no recourse to public funds are able to access sufficient, nutritious food. (Paragraph 110) 25. There are no plans to gather data on food security for those with no recourse to public funds (NRPF), nor to establish a government-funded programme to ensure that all those with NRPF are able to access sufficient, nutritious food, beyond the existing support mechanisms and safeguards in place. 26. The majority of non-UK nationals visiting, studying, working or joining family in the UK are subject to an NRPF condition until they have obtained indefinite leave to remain. This is because in order to be granted leave to enter or remain in the UK, most non-UK nationals must demonstrate that they can maintain and support themselves and their families without posing a burden on the UK’s welfare system. The public interest principle for them to be financially independent is long-established. People who are subject to an NRPF condition are not, therefore, eligible to access taxpayer-funded benefits such as Universal Credit although they can claim contributory benefits providing they meet the eligibility criteria. 27. We recognise that some non-UK nationals may not be financially independent and yet still have a right to remain in the UK, which is why some exceptions are made to the NRPF condition. Individuals granted leave under the family and human rights routes, for example, can apply to have the NRPF condition lifted (a ‘change of conditions’ application) if they are destitute or at risk of destitution, if the welfare of their child is at risk due to their low income, or where there are other exceptional financial circumstances. On Thursday 30 July 2020, the Home Office released figures relating to ‘change of conditions’ applications, which are available at The figures show a high acceptance rate for change of conditions applications. 28. Migrants who are here without leave are also subject to NRPF, by virtue of their being in the UK without status. Individuals in this situation are encouraged either to regularise their status or to leave the UK voluntarily, for which support is available. Local authorities may also provide basic safety net support, regardless of immigration status, if it is established that there is a genuine care need that does not arise solely from destitution. To help them respond to COVID-19 pressures across all the services they deliver, including providing this support, the Government has allocated £3.7 billion to local authorities in England, and additional funding under the Barnett formula to the devolved administrations. 29. In response to other pressures arising from the pandemic, the Government has introduced a range of additional measures to provide financial protection for those affected by COVID-19, including those subject to NRPF. These include the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and rent and mortgage holidays. Further information on the support available to those with NRPF has been published at During the pandemic, the Department for Education (DfE) has also temporarily extended eligibility for free school meals to include some groups who have NRPF. 30. Employers are able to apply for grants under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for workers on the PAYE system. The Government has also extended Statutory Sick Pay, which is not classed as a public fund, to be payable from Day 1 rather than Day 4 and made Contributory Employment and Support Allowance available from the first day of sickness rather than the eighth, subject to other eligibility criteria. For those who file Self-Assessment returns, the Government has deferred Income Tax Self-Assessment payments from July 2020 to January 2021. The Government should be fully aware of the cost of eating the diet it recommends, and the ability of different demographic groups to access this diet. To underpin any national food strategy, the Government must, in its 2021 review of benefits rates, commit to giving its dietary guidance—the Eatwell Guide—a firm place in the development of policy. (Paragraph 127) The Government should embed consideration of the cost of the Eatwell Guide into calculations of benefit payment rates. (Paragraph 132) 31. The Social Security Administration Act 1992 requires the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to conduct an annual review of benefits and pension rates to determine whether they have retained their value in relation to the general level of prices or, for pensions, earnings. The up-rating process has traditionally relied on the September Consumer Price Index and May-July Average Weekly Earnings Figures. The legislation as currently drafted gives the Secretary of State a wide range of discretion as to how to up-rate a number of working age benefits and she can take into account the national economic situation and other relevant matters. 32. To embed the consideration of the cost of the Eatwell Guide into the calculation of benefit and pension rates would require an amendment to the up-rating primary legislation and would be a significant change to the current legislative regime. In addition, we do not think it appropriate to amend the legislation to change the way benefits and pensions are up-rated to put one particular issue ahead of others. 33. For these reasons we will not be including the cost of the Eatwell Guide in the calculation of benefit rates. We recommend that the Government should undertake a fuller assessment of the cost of a healthy and sustainable diet. The cost of the Government’s dietary guidance should be built in as a reference point to consideration of government interventions, including those relating to welfare and public food provision. (Paragraph 133) 34. The Government advocates a healthy balanced diet, based on the national food model the Eatwell Guide. The Guide depicts a diet that is based on fruit, vegetables and higher fibre starchy carbohydrates. It shows the proportions of the five main food groups that are needed for a well-balanced and healthy diet. It is appropriate for most people over the age of five and is suitable for those following plant-based diets. 35. The Carbon Trust conducted a sustainability assessment of the Eatwell Guide when it was launched in 2016. The analysis shows an appreciably lower environmental impact than the current UK diet. 36. PHE will explore options on assessing the cost of a healthy balanced diet. The value of the Healthy Start vouchers is insufficient. The vouchers must immediately be uprated. This uprating should be substantial, but as an absolute minimum it should enable recipients to purchase the same amount of food that could be purchased in 2009, when the scheme began. The amount must be linked to the Consumer Price Index thereafter. (Paragraph 184) 37. The value of the Healthy Start voucher is kept under continuous review. Frozen fruit and vegetables were added to the scheme in 2011 to help the voucher value go further. The Government has also recently amended the Healthy Start Scheme and Welfare Regulations to introduce pulses, and canned fruit and vegetables into the scheme from 1 October 2020, which will help make the value go even further. Comprehensive reform of the Healthy Start Scheme is long overdue. The Government must release a wide-ranging consultation addressing “root and branch” reform before the end of 2020 and appoint a Healthy Start champion to raise awareness of the scheme among individuals and retailers. (Paragraph 194) 38. DHSC is working to review the operation of the Healthy Start scheme and is considering opportunities to improve the scheme. In particular, DHSC is in the process of digitising the scheme to make it easier for families to apply for, receive and use Healthy Start benefits. 39. The NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) is delivering the project to digitise the Healthy Start scheme. As part of the project NHSBSA holds monthly showcase events for stakeholders, this includes representatives from NHS Trusts and local authorities. 40. NHSBSA will continue to communicate with all appropriate stakeholders in advance of each stage of the rollout of the digital project. 41. We have also recently made improvements to the Healthy Start scheme to support beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Healthy Start Scheme and Welfare Food (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2020, which came into force on 6 April 2020, removed the requirement for a health professional signature on the Healthy Start application form. 42. This supports people, for example pregnant women who are self-isolating, to apply for the scheme and reduces pressure on healthcare professionals. We have also temporarily extended the validity period of three sets of Healthy Start vouchers from eight weeks to 12 weeks, in response to concerns about delays with the postal system, and we will keep this under review. The decision to increase the funding for lunches during school closures is welcome. The value cannot be allowed to regress once children return to school. The allowance allocated to schools for free school meals must be uprated to at least the level provided during the school closures and linked to inflation thereafter. (Paragraph 201) 43. The Government took unprecedented and substantial action to provide free school meals to eligible children who were staying at home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 44. Under normal circumstances, schools do not provide free school meals to eligible children who are not in school. However, during the COVID-19 outbreak, we asked schools to continue supporting children eligible for benefits-related free school meals who were at home. In the first instance, we asked schools to speak to their suppliers and catering teams to arrange food parcels for collection or delivery. Where this was not possible, DfE established a national voucher scheme as an alternative means of provision. 45. Under the national voucher scheme, eligible children could receive a supermarket voucher worth £15 a week. The value of these vouchers reflected that parents would not be able to achieve the same economies of scale when buying food for their children from a supermarket as schools could achieve when buying in bulk for their pupils. 46. The free school meals factor in the national funding formula for schools increased in line with inflation in 2020-21. Both local authorities and schools have freedom to apply their own funding formulae locally. We recommend that the Government outlines how it intends to mitigate the impact that their eligibility proposals will have on those families who will lose eligibility for free school meals. (Paragraph 206) 47. The Government has not made any change to free school meal eligibility that would result in a child losing any existing entitlement to free school meals. 48. Free school meals are an integral part of our provision for families on low incomes and our wider actions to promote social mobility. We are supporting around 1.4 million of the most disadvantaged children through benefits-related free school meals, saving families around £400 a year for each child. This compares with 1.1 million children receiving benefits-related free school meals in 2017. 49. More widely, since 2014 we have expanded free school meals to include further education students, and introduced universal infant free school meals which ensures a further 1.4 million pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 receive a free nutritious meal each day. DfE would need to explore the impact of any further adjustment to free school meal eligibility and consider this alongside other funding decisions. We recommend that the Government must undertake rigorous research on the impact of Universal Infant Free School Meals on health and attainment outcomes and use the results of this evidence base to inform future policy on school meals, including breakfasts. (Paragraph 212) 50. Take-up of universal infant free school meals has been consistently high since the policy was introduced in 2014. The evaluation of the pilots in Durham and Newham found that these meals created a culture where children sat down to eat with friends and teachers in a civilised environment: broadening social skills, teaching table manners and supporting equality and fairness by levelling differences in social background. 51. There have been a number of independent evaluations of universal infant free school meals, including by the Education Policy Institute in January 2019. Their findings showed that there has been a rapid increase in school meal take-up and many school leaders believe the meals have improved the profile of healthy eating across their school. Monitoring and evaluation of the school food standards must be centrally coordinated to ensure consistent compliance. The Departments for Education and Health and Social Care should establish a joint task force responsible for monitoring and enforcing adherence to the school food standards. The taskforce should have the power to publish the names of non-adhering schools and where necessary require the development of an agreed action plan to meet standards. (Paragraph 229) 52. The Schools Food Standards provide the legislative framework to ensure schools provide children with healthy food and drink options, and to make sure that children get the energy and nutrition they need across the school day. The standards restrict food high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS). 53. Compliance with the School Food Standards is mandatory for all maintained schools. We also expect all academies and free schools to comply with the standards, and since 2014 we have made this an explicit requirement in their funding agreements. 54. Governors have a responsibility to ensure compliance and should appropriately challenge the headteacher and the senior leadership team to ensure the school is meeting its obligations. If parents feel there is an issue with the content of the food being served at their child’s school, they should in the first instance talk to the headteacher or senior leadership team, and should they be unhappy with the response, they may choose to make a complaint using the school’s own complaints procedure. It is right and fair that a school has the opportunity to address a complaint in the first instance, and many issues can be resolved between schools and parents at a local level. However, if a parent has been through the school’s complaints process and is not satisfied, they also can make a complaint to the Secretary of State, who can investigate. 55. DfE is working with PHE to update the School Food Standards to bring them into line with revised nutritional recommendations on sugar and fibre. The update will be coupled with detailed guidance to caterers and schools so that they are well prepared to adapt to the changes. DfE will consider this recommendation alongside its work to update the School Food Standards. We recommend that the eligibility threshold for the National Schools Breakfast Programme is lowered and funding increased to ensure that the programme reaches all of those who need it. (Paragraph 241) 56. DfE is investing up to £35 million into the National School Breakfast Programme, which aims to kick-start or improve breakfast clubs in up to 2,450 schools in disadvantaged areas, making them sustainable in the long run. Before the coronavirus pandemic, Family Action estimated that the programme was providing a healthy and nutritious breakfast to around 280,000 children every day. 57. The focus of these clubs has been to target the most disadvantaged areas of the country – including DfE’s Opportunity Areas – to help make sure every child gets the best start in life. This is based on an eligibility criteria using the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) deprivation scale – a nationally recognised indicator of need – to ensure fairness of provision is directed where it is most in need. 58. As the Committee notes, funding for the programme was extended by a further year until March 2021. As with all areas of government expenditure, DfE’s future departmental spending decisions is subject to the spending review, which is yet to be determined. We are working on identifying options for the future of school breakfast provision and will provide all interested parties with information in due course. The National Schools Breakfast Programme must support and train facilitators to enable schools to access future external funding. (Paragraph 242) 59. The funds for the National School Breakfast Programme are designed to kick-start or improve breakfast clubs in disadvantaged areas and make them sustainable in the long run. The programme co-ordinators, Family Action and Magic Breakfast, already work closely with schools to provide guidance and support to help them to keep their breakfast clubs continuing to operate once their involvement in the programme ceases. Notwithstanding Government support to access funds, central funding for the National School Breakfast Programme must not be withdrawn all at once, producing a ‘cliff edge’ effect. The funding must be removed gradually and only when schools are able to access reliable sources of funding to sustain the clubs. (Paragraph 243) 60. The National School Breakfast Programme was extended by a further year until March 2021, with up to £11.8 million being invested in 2020-21. These funds will help schools in the programme to continue with their breakfast clubs as well as enable our supplier Family Action to recruit up to an additional 650 new schools. DfE is working on identifying options for the future of school breakfast provision and will provide all interested parties with information in due course. We recommend that the Government should significantly extend the funding provided through the Holiday Activities and Food programme to ensure that more children can access holiday clubs. It should use generous thresholds based on the Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index to determine which areas should receive this funding. (Paragraph 253) 61. This summer, our £9 million Holiday Activities and Food programme will work across 17 Local Authority areas, providing thousands of children with access to healthy meals and enriching activities and building on the success of the 2018 and 2019 programmes. The Government has not made any commitments beyond the 2020 programme. The future of the programme will be considered as part of the forthcoming spending review and, like all programmes, will be considered alongside other government priorities. The benefits of high and robust standards for public procurement and public food offerings are clear. The Government must strengthen and develop the Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services to ensure that they fulfil their potential to create a healthier and more sustainable food environment. In particular, the revised standards should: • Apply equally and consistently to all Government procurement, including the NHS, prisons and the armed forces; • Apply to all private suppliers contracted to provide food for the above; • Require a significantly higher proportion of food to be produced in line with the Publicly Available Integrated Production or Integrated Farm Management Standard than is currently required; • Embed nutritional standards based on the Eatwell Guide; • Disallow any escape clause, as currently exists, for measures on the basis of cost; • Provide for an enforcement mechanism. (Paragraph 265) 62. The Government is committed to using public sector food procurement policy to improve the quality of food and catering services within the public sector. This is in terms of quality of produce and quality of food, as well as supporting local communities, better nutrition and improving sustainability. A number of government departments hold responsibility for public sector food provision. 63. The Government Buying Standards for Food and Catering Services (GBSF) are a set of standards owned by Defra that public sector organisations are encouraged to follow when buying food and catering services. It also includes a requirement that all food served must be produced in a way that meets UK legislative standards for animal welfare, or equivalent standards. 64. The GBSF sets out the minimum standards that must be adhered to, if food or catering services are procured via Crown Commercial Services (CCS). These standards are already mandatory across central government departments. This ensures that food and drink served on the government estate, including prisons, the armed forces and hospitals that are also required to follow the GBSF, encourages and enables healthier eating habits. Schools must follow the School Food Standards legislation but may also choose to use the GBSF in addition. 65. Defra is determined to strengthen its collective approach through collaboration across Government departments, industry, the devolved administrations and other partners to increase uptake of the GBSF and to exert a stronger influence in the public procurement space. During COVID-19 Defra worked closely with other Government departments to support them in making arrangements with their suppliers to ensure that food supply continues. 66. Due to the widely different food and catering requirements of public sector organisations, GBSF is required to be generic enough to support all sectors. Defra is working with the NHS to embed the GBSF into the National Healthcare Food Standards, and working with DfE to understand how the GBSF can fit into their School Food Standards. 67. The Government is not responsible for directly procuring food and catering services, and we do not define where food is sourced or what menus should look like. However, any private supplier supplying for the public sector is required to follow the specifications set out in GBSF. 68. Defra works with CCS to integrate our guidance into their new food procurement frameworks, therefore ensuring that private suppliers verified to supply to the public sector are compliant with our food policies. 69. Within the GBSF it is strongly recommended that farm assurance schemes and management plans, such as those stated in the recommendation, are used to verify compliance. The Balanced Scorecard is a supporting tool to use in order to procure food and catering services, and it states that independent certification schemes should be used to help identify suitable suppliers. 70. The GBSF already sets out requirements that all food served must be produced in a way that meets the high UK legislative standards for environmental and animal welfare. For example, all palm oil used for cooking and as an ingredient must be sustainably sourced. In addition, fish must be demonstrably sustainable and all food and drink must meet higher environmental production standards. When updating GBSF, we will work across the Government to understand if we can make this more ambitious to ensure that publicly provided food is of the highest quality. 71. Through the Plan for Public Procurement of Food and Catering Services, the Government is seeking to simplify procurement processes and the procurement landscape to open the market to more SMEs and local producers. To facilitate this Defra is working with CCS to develop a new platform to assist local producers to gain easier access to public procurement contracts. 72. It is important that the public sector leads by example in creating a healthier food environment on their premises. DHSC has responsibility for the nutrition standards in the GBSF. Defra has been working closely with DHSC to update the nutrition standards. On top of this, Part Two of the National Food Strategy Independent Review will include a comprehensive recommendation on what the Government can do to ensure that the food the state pays for directly – for example in schools, hospitals, prisons, and in government offices – is both healthy and sustainable. 73. As committed to in chapter two of the childhood obesity plan, DHSC and Defra have worked together and have consulted on strengthening the nutrition standards in the GBSF to bring them in line with the latest scientific dietary recommendations. PHE has provided advice and support to inform this work. DHSC will publish its response to the consultation in due course. 74. GBSF nutrition-related standards are underpinned by evidence-based dietary recommendations to reduce intakes of salt, sugar and saturated fat and to increase consumption of fruit vegetables, fish and fibre. They align with the Eatwell Guide which shows the proportions of the different types of foods and drinks for a healthy balanced diet. 75. The GBSF toolkit for suppliers and procurers includes a Balanced Scorecard approach to assessing the value of contract bids. It includes award criteria to reward good practice, and to further stimulate investment and innovation. Procurers are strongly encouraged to give sufficient weight to a number of criteria over and above cost, including quality, social impacts, environmental management and the benefits of consuming locally grown seasonal food. 76. Defra is currently looking at updating GBSF to bring it in line with updated policy and public procurement regulations. Defra will work with policy teams across the Government to strengthen and develop all policy areas and ensure that we understand where any escape clauses are and how best to update them. 77. The Government is working to improve how we can measure and evaluate the procurement of food and catering services across the public sector. For central government departments, GBSF compliance is currently measured via The Greening Government Commitment. This measures the actions that UK government departments and their agencies will take to reduce their impacts on the environment. 78. Due to the complex landscape across the different sectors, monitoring and enforcing compliance is best done at the local level. Users of the GBSF (both the contracting authority and suppliers) will need to consider how to monitor and manage compliance with the technical specifications and contract performance requirements agreed through the procurement. 79. We are working with the NHS to embed the GBSF and Balanced Scorecard into the National Healthcare Food Standards via a maturity matrix which will encourage a phased approach to implementation. As part of this work, individual NHS Trusts will be looking at how they can ensure that these standards are implemented and reported on to encourage continuous improvement, in a way that is suitable for their needs. 80. On top of this, the CCS is developing a food supply framework based on a dynamic purchasing system. When the framework is launched it will further help the Government deliver its commitments in this area and incorporate the ability to measure and evaluate the food that is being procured. The proposals in Chapter 2 of the Childhood Obesity Plan to impose restrictions on the advertising of HFSS foods were welcomed by a large majority of our evidence. The Government must, by the end of 2020, roll out these proposals both for television and online. (Paragraph 278) 81. Current advertising restrictions for HFSS products are failing to protect children from seeing a significant amount of HFSS adverts on TV and online. The advertised diet in the UK does not reflect a healthy balanced diet that would support the population to live healthier lives. Analysis from September 2019 shows that almost half of all food adverts shown over the month on ITV1, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky1 were for HFSS products. This rose to nearly 60% during 6-9pm, the time slot where children’s viewing peaks. 82. In response to feedback to our consultation on advertising, the Government intends to ban HFSS products being shown on TV and online before 9pm. We will publish our full consultation response by the end of this year. 83. The Government wants to go further online and we will publish a short consultation as soon as possible on how we would introduce a total HFSS advertising restriction online. It is our intention to implement both TV and online measures at the same time by the end of 2022. Proposals to end the product placement of HFSS foods in popular supermarket locations were welcomed. The Government must, by the end of 2020, enact them, ensuring that the ban covers the widest range of less healthy foods possible and includes small businesses. (Paragraph 287) The Government must, by the end of 2020, act on their proposals to restrict price promotions on HFSS products. (Paragraph 293) 84. In the UK we spend more buying food products on promotion than any other European country and these promotions are influencing preferences toward less healthy products. We want to work with supermarkets to support shoppers to purchase healthier options, shift the balance of promotions towards healthier options and maximise the availability of healthier products available on promotion. 85. In response to feedback to our consultation on promotions, the Government will legislate to stop the promotion of HFSS products by volume (such as buy one get one free and multi-buy offers) and location (at checkouts, the end of aisles and store entrances) both online and in store in England. 86. We will publish our full response to the consultation shortly. The Government must conduct a review on the use of licensing and planning to ensure that: a) local authorities are able to enforce exclusion zones of at least 800m around schools; and b) when use of a building subject to use class A3 or A5 is transferred, new planning consent must be obtained. (Paragraph 305) 87. The revised Healthy and Safe Communities planning practice guidance makes clear that planning policies can, where justified, seek to limit the proliferation of particular uses, such as hot food takeaways, where evidence demonstrates this is appropriate. 88. A planning application is always needed to open an additional hot food takeaway, and any such application would then be determined in accordance with the local plan policies. All planning permissions apply to the premises and not the owner, and unlike licensing, additional permission is not required when changing hands. 89. We know that in some councils, public health teams are already inputting on licensing decisions but not all food outlets need to apply for a license. Food outlets, such as takeaways, do not need to apply for a license from the council unless they want to trade between the hours of 11pm and 5am. 90. Street food vendors, such as ice cream vans and burger vans, do need licences from councils. We know some councils are already taking action in this space, for example Leicester City Council has introduced a street trading policy to prevent burger vans trading outside school gates, and Guildford Borough Council has a policy that requires at least one healthier meal option to be on the menu. 91. Councils should support the role that town centres play at the heart of their communities and promote their long-term vitality and viability. They will need to consider the interaction with the location of existing high streets, shopping parades and local shops as rigid exclusion zones could serve to undermine the viability of such long-standing retail uses. 92. The Childhood Obesity Trailblazer Programme, run in partnership between DHSC, Local Government Association and PHE, supports five local authorities to address childhood obesity at local level including local action to create healthier food environments through the planning system. A key part of the programme is to share this learning with others to encourage and empower wider local action across the country. This learning will help the Government to consider further actions we could take to enable ambitious local action. Immediately following the withdrawal of the permitted development rights introduced in March 2020, the Government should consult upon and enact a scheme to enable local authorities to charge out of home food outlets an amount of council tax which is in proportion to the healthiness of their food offering. (Paragraph 306) 93. To assist restaurants, cafés and drinking establishments that had to close in March to reduce the spread of coronavirus, a time-limited permitted right was introduced to enable them to provide a food takeaway and delivery service. The right is available until 23 March 2021, and after that date restaurants, cafés and pubs wishing to operate as a hot food takeaways will require an application for planning permission. This flexibility has helped restaurants, cafés and pubs to continue to operate during the COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions, and increased the availability of food to members of the public who may be shielding. 94. Non-domestic properties, such as cafés and takeaways, are liable for business rates rather than council tax. A property’s business rates bill is based on its ‘rateable value’ which represents the annual rent that a tenant would be willing to pay for it on the open market. Rateable values are assessed independently of Ministers by the Valuation Office Agency and we do not intervene in that process. This ensures that the burden of business rates is shared fairly amongst businesses around the country. While there are no plans to reform the business rates system in order to reflect the healthiness of any food offering that ratepayers provide, the Government is currently undertaking a fundamental review of business rates and is considering the assessment of rateable values and the effectiveness and operation of different reliefs as part of that exercise. The Government, in partnership with local authorities, should develop a scheme to support food retailer businesses, including those providing fast food, to develop and sell healthy alternatives. It should also determine and provide support to empower other kinds of food providers such as street vendors to sell healthy food in communities. (Paragraph 312) 95. The revised National Planning Policy Framework has a dedicated chapter on ‘Promoting healthy and safe communities’. It expects planning policies and decisions to achieve healthy, inclusive and safe places, which promote social interaction, are safe and accessible, and support healthy lifestyles, especially where this would address identified local health and wellbeing needs. 96. Planning can influence the built environment to improve health through improving access to healthier food for local communities. Local planning authorities can support opportunities for communities to access a wide range of healthier food production (e.g. allotments) and consumption choices (e.g. food markets and local shops). The Government must publish its consultation on how to address the marketing and labelling of infant food without delay. The responses to that consultation, and the related measures to ensure parents and carers have accurate information on infant food products must be published in 2020. (Paragraph 316) 97. DHSC will consult later this year on our proposals to help parents and carers of infants and young children to make healthier choices through more honest marketing and labelling of infant foods. We recommend that the Government conduct a review of labelling on food and drink products. The findings of the review should form the basis of regulations which address both date labelling and the standardisation and simplification of front-of pack traffic light labelling. The new regulations should be compulsory for all food manufacturers and retailers. (Paragraph 324) 98. The Government is committed to helping consumers make informed and healthier choices, and supporting consumers to understand the nutritional content of the food and drink they buy is key. To ensure UK labelling remains effective for consumers, we will consider a range of measures to build on the success of our current ‘traffic light’ nutritional labelling scheme. 99. The Government has launched a public consultation to gather views and evidence on our current ‘traffic light’ Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling scheme, on new international examples and to learn about how Front of Pack Nutrition Labels on food and drinks are being used by consumers and industry. 100. We want to hear how the public think we can build on the success of Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling in the UK to ensure it helps consumers make informed decisions about the food and drink they buy. This consultation will inform our next steps on labelling at the end of the transition period, now the UK has left the EU. 101. The ‘best before’ date indicating the date the food is best consumed before, and the ‘use by’ date indicating that the food must be used by this date for safety reasons, remains helpful to consumers and we know that most people (83%) know that food remains safe after the expiry of the ‘best before’ date. 102. The Government fully supports the valuable evidence-based work that Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) are doing in; • helping businesses apply the correct date in an appropriate way: ‘use by’ only when necessary, and both ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ providing as long as possible before expiry; • supporting consumers, both through public information and by guidance for on-pack information, to continue to increase the understanding of how to store food properly and understand the difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’; • providing comprehensive guidance on redistribution of surplus food to businesses, charities and other organisations; and • supporting information on the safe use of food beyond its ‘best before’ date for consumers. The Government should review the current zero-rated VAT arrangements on some food products which are known to be energy dense, and contain high levels of salt, sugar and unhealthy types of fat. It should commence this review before the end of the transition period in 2020. (Paragraph 378) 103. We note the Committee’s recommendation. Decisions about the tax system are made by the Chancellor at fiscal events, in line with the Government’s tax policy-making framework. As part of any future measures the Government sets out to tackle obesity and poor dietary health, it should develop and publish a consultation with industry on the issue of mandating maximum calories per portion. This consultation process must involve active engagement with SMEs and the catering sector. (Paragraph 392) 104. The reduction and reformulation programme, which forms part of the measures to reduce childhood obesity, encourages manufacturers to reduce the portion size of their products by setting maximum calorie guidelines and engaging with stakeholders during the process of doing so. Stakeholder engagement is a key element of PHE’s work on the programme, which has a particular focus on the eating out, takeaway and delivery sector including caterers. The engagement includes trade associations, and the PHE regions and local authorities, which helps to ensure that messages reach the wider sector including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 105. Although the focus of the programme is on larger businesses, as they contribute the largest amount of calories, salt, sugar etc into the diet, they are also relevant to SMEs. 106. Successful action has already been taken by some businesses to reduce portion sizes and reformulate products. The second progress report for the sugar reduction programme showed reductions in calories per portion for chocolate and sweet confectionery, and yogurts. We recommend that all reformulation programmes, both voluntary and mandatory, should be subject to transparent and regular monitoring. Progress reports need to be carried out on a regular basis by the responsible body and should include details of the companies that have successfully made reductions in the levels of salt and sugar in their products, to aid industry-wide reformulation. (Paragraph 399) 107. Reduction and reformulation progress reports are published regularly for each strand of the reformulation programme. These reports include assessments of progress by industry for the programme as a whole, as well as at individual business and food / drink category level where the data permits. This includes businesses with the biggest share of the market, and the top selling products, within each product category. We recommend that where voluntary approaches are adopted, the Government should make clear that if the industry does not respond comprehensively and swiftly then regulatory action will follow. Both the sugar and salt reduction programmes are unlikely to meet their stated targets. To ensure that necessary and significant public health improvements are actually achieved, the Government needs to face the reality of the situation and start to plan now for how further progress on reformulation might be delivered. The Government should set out now what mandatory action would look like, if sufficient progress is not made on the existing reformation programmes in the near future. Industry can then prepare. We ask that the Government does this by the end of 2020. (Paragraph 400) 108. We note that the voluntary reformulation programme is due to run until 2021. It would not be appropriate to make a decision about further measures until after the programme has concluded. 109. The process of voluntary engagement with the food industry to reduce levels of nutrients in foods has a strong track record, as acknowledged by the Committee, but reformulation takes time and the programmes of work are not yet concluded. 110. Work on reduction and reformulation is one aspect of government action to reduce obesity. 111. We have been clear where progress is not being delivered, we will consider what further action can be taken. We have laid down a strong marker, in the soft drinks industry levy, that the Government is willing to take regulatory action. Mandatory (fiscal) approaches can be highly successful, as evidenced by the Soft Drinks Industry Levy. As there is a proven mechanism for delivering successful reductions in harmful ingredients, in a way which has not had a significant detrimental impact on the industry, the Government must not delay in exploring the application of fiscal measures (such as further levies or changes to VAT) to other product categories where reformulation is not in line with Government guidance or targets. (Paragraph 401) 112. The Government is monitoring the effectiveness of the voluntary product reformulation programmes, and notes the role the soft drinks industry levy has played in encouraging the reformulation of soft drinks. 113. The Government has been clear, for example, that if the evidence shows that industry has not made enough progress on reducing sugar, we may extend the levy to sugary milk drinks. We recommend that the Government stands by its commitment to review the Soft Drinks Industry Levy in 2020, and commits to extending the levy to other drinks containing added sugar, including sugary milk-based drinks. It should also conduct work to explore the impact of lowering the current sugar thresholds to encourage further reformulation. It should rapidly determine which other food products high in sugar could be subjected to a similar levy. (Paragraph 402) 114. Sweetened milk based drinks are currently exempt from the soft drinks industry levy as they are a source of calcium and other nutrients. The Government has previously committed to review the exemption for sugary milk drinks from the levy this year, and further announcements about this will be made in due course. We are clear that dairy — or dairy alternatives — form an important part of a balanced diet. We note that the Government’s transition plan includes a commitment for largely unchanged funding for farmers until at least the end of the current Parliament. During this time, we urge the Government to undertake full and transparent consultation when considering the public goods that will be rewarded under the ELMS. (Paragraph 426) 115. The Government is committed to a full and transparent consultation of the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme design prior to full rollout in 2024. We also continue to work closely with stakeholders to develop the scheme design. 116. From 28 February 2020, Defra made publicly available a ‘Policy Discussion Document’ (PDD) outlining initial thinking of scheme design, principles and proposals including the classification and details of the public goods identified for ELM, and how the scheme could be built around them. Defra invited responses to the PDD in both written and online formats in two periods between February - April and then 24 June - 31 July 2020 (the intervening pause was due to COVID-19 restrictions). Throughout July Defra completed a series of live webinars open to public participation, again outlining the PDD details and giving the wider public the opportunity to question and listen to responses from the ELM team on proposals and the identified public goods. 117. Defra has continued to meet regularly with a strategic stakeholder group, the ELM Engagement Group, which is made up of circa 30 representatives across farming, environmental and other interested organisations, specifically to engage and consider the scheme progression and design. Defra has also run a series of ‘Satellite’ sub groups to look at specific areas of scheme design (Payments, Advice & Guidance & Spatial Priorities), and a series of ‘sector specific’ deep dives to consider sector concerns and views. 118. Defra is also running a ‘Tests & Trials’ programme with a variety of stakeholders, land managers, practitioners and NGOs to look at various components of scheme design and principals designed to deliver the identified ELM public goods. This commenced activity in 2019 and is planned to run for the duration of transition, into ELM rollout and beyond. Periodical reports of the progress and outcomes of these Tests & Trials will be published for public circulation. 119. Defra plans to run a ‘National Pilot’ with live practitioners in several phases between 2021 - 2024 to further test consolidated parts of the developing scheme design, and to feed into the iterative design process, in order to enhance ongoing and open consultation and learning. 120. Defra is also planning a further programme of public engagement in various formats including Agricultural Shows and events, attending third party organised events, and using related trusted networks and Arm’s Length Bodies to raise awareness of the of development and proposals of the ELM policy and to give the public opportunity to understand and feed in. The Government must ensure that every public good outlined in the Agriculture Bill is accompanied by a standardised framework to allow measurements and targets to be clear, consistent and easy to use. (Paragraph 429) 121. Clause 1 of the Agriculture Bill will provide Defra with the ability to spend money for furthering certain ‘purposes’. This will allow Defra to introduce its policies in respect of environmental land management, productivity, plant health and animal health and welfare. These purposes encompass the environmental public goods identified in the 25 Year Environment Plan that the ELM scheme is intended to deliver: clean air; clean and plentiful water; thriving plants and wildlife; reduction in and protection from environmental hazards; beauty, heritage and engagement with the environment; and mitigation of and adaptation to climate change. 122. Defra is in the process of determining in more detail what ELM will pay for. As part of this, Defra is considering which land management actions can create the intended environmental public goods. These actions will be supported with clear technical guidance on how to deliver the environmental outcomes. In addition, Defra will determine the range of indicators and metrics needed to monitor delivery of environmental outcomes. Defra will make sure that this additional information is communicated clearly and consistently and is easy to use. 123. Defra is also determining the most appropriate basis for payments for ELM, including whether we pay for actions or outcomes. As set out in the Policy Discussion Document, Defra anticipates that payments for Tier 1 will be action-based. Therefore, under Tier 1 farmers will not miss out on payments if, through no fault of their own, the intended outcome is not achieved. Defra also anticipates that Tier 2 payments will initially be based on actions. However, Defra could offer top-up payments for delivery of additional results or move towards a more results-based approach in the longer term. This would only be where output result indicators can be tested and proven to be feasible. Defra recognises that any agreed targets must be clear, realistic, practicable and measurable. 124. Defra currently monitors agricultural and environmental change in England using a number of indicators (for example ammonia emissions, farmland bird populations and chemical levels in rivers) that measure environmental outcomes such as water and air quality, and increased biodiversity. Defra will continue to use these and develop further indicators and monitoring options that relate to the public goods, in order to assess the benefits realised as a direct result of the new agricultural system, and in particular the ELM scheme. The Government must ensure that the ability to stipulate conditions for payments under the Environmental Land Management Scheme is both rigorously and fairly deployed. Where conditions are not met, enforcement action in the form of withholding payment must reliably follow. (Paragraph 431) 125. The Government is committed to ensuring that the scheme conditions are comprehensive and have sufficient infrastructure to be rigorously and fairly deployed. Defra proposes that this key area will be tested in the National Pilot, and a consultation on the enabling enforcement ‘Statutory Instrument’ was in circulation for the month of August, confirming our commitment and priority of this area of scheme design. 126. Defra is also using the National Pilot to trial new things, so a major consideration for our monitoring and enforcement approach is to minimise the chance that participants fear being punished for making ‘mistakes’. Defra wants to learn as much as possible from them about what works and what does not. The monitoring and enforcement approach needs to be fully attuned to this significant change from the past. 127. Where appropriate, Defra proposes that it would provide advice or guidance in order to support the agreement-holder to deliver aims and also to remedy breaches, if this is necessary. This is particularly relevant to the ELM National Pilot where it will be important for us to learn as much as possible about what works and what does not. Defra proposes that action against any breach is only taken when there is serious misuse of public money or fraud. Defra also proposes to have a provision to consider whether account should be taken of exceptional circumstances, possibly something akin to ‘force majeure’ or wider. 128. Using these proposals in the National Pilot will allow Defra to develop a modern, strong and comprehensive system for ensuring that scheme conditions are fairly and correctly deployed and subsequently enforced as part of the full roll out of the ELM scheme. The Government’s White Paper on the National Food Strategy must include a definitive outline of what constitutes a sustainable diet with regards to health, social and environmental impacts. It must be accompanied with a graded action plan and communications strategy to move towards this diet. (Paragraph 440) 129. The National Food Strategy Independent Review was commissioned to deliver safe, healthy, affordable food, regardless of where people live or how much they earn, and to restore and enhance the natural environment for the next generation in this country. We will carefully consider any recommendations that the final National Food Strategy Independent Review makes in relation to diet. The National Food Strategy should outline a comprehensive action plan to increase the demand for and consumption of fruit and vegetables. (Paragraph 445) 130. The Government will carefully consider appropriate measures to support the consumption of fruit and vegetables as part of our response to the final National Food Strategy Independent Review. We recommend that Government should list Public Health as a ‘Public Good’ under Clause One of the Agriculture Bill. Measures eligible for financial assistance to improve public health should be focussed on (but not necessarily limited to) those activities which increase demand for fruits and vegetables. (Paragraph 455) 131. The Government recognises that in many ways agriculture and health are connected. The Government is also putting public health at the heart of everything we do. That is why we are working across the Government to ensure that improving public health is a priority for government policy. 132. We want to encourage increased production of fruit and vegetables in a sustainable way, increasing both quantity and quality on a domestic level, and increasing exports. Clause 1(2) of the Agriculture Bill gives powers to provide financial assistance for the purposes of starting, or improving the productivity of, a horticultural activity. We are currently considering the best way to support the horticulture sector, and will work with the industry to design a replacement for the EU Fruit and Vegetable Aid Scheme. 133. The provisions set out in the Bill are designed to ensure that farmers, land managers and growers, receive the support they need in order to provide home-grown food produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards. 134. The National Food Strategy Independent Review will cover the entire food chain from farm to fork and will address the challenge of supporting people to eat healthy diets. Food imports must be required to adhere to the same health, environmental and animal welfare standards as food produced in the UK. To fail to do so would make a mockery of our stated environmental values, and irrevocably undermine British producers. The Government must set out how it intends to ensure that current standards are maintained in future trade agreements, and what safeguards will be in place to guarantee this. (Paragraph 469) 135. The Government has a clear manifesto commitment that in all of our trade negotiations we will not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards, and we are working to deliver that commitment. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 retains our standards on environmental protections, animal welfare, animal and plant health, and food safety at the end of the transition period. This provides a firm basis for maintaining the same high level of protection for both domestic and imported products. 136. Existing food safety provisions on the decontamination of poultry carcasses were transferred onto the UK statute book through the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and will continue to operate independently in UK law after the transition period. No products, other than potable water, are approved in the EU to decontaminate poultry carcases and this remains the case in the UK now we have left the EU. The UK has also transposed EU Council Directive 96/22/EC (as amended), which bans the import and production of meat using growth promoting hormone or beta agonist treatments and is UK law through national legislation for each administration of the United Kingdom. This will also continue now we have left the EU. 137. The Government has recently announced the establishment of a Trade and Agriculture Commission. This Commission brings together industry stakeholders including farming unions across the UK, using their expertise to advise on how best the UK can seize new export opportunities, while ensuring animal welfare and environmental standards in food production are not undermined. The Commission will provide advice to inform our approach as we negotiate free trade deals and promote our agenda at the WTO and other international fora, and to advance and protect consumer interests and those of developing countries. The Commission has a fixed six month lifetime, at the end of which it will submit an advisory report which will be presented to Parliament by the Department for International Trade. 138. Without exception, all imports into the UK will meet our high food safety standards. These standards, for both domestic production and imports, are overseen by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. These agencies provide independent advice to the UK Government and devolved administrations. They will continue to do so in order to ensure that all food imports comply with the UK’s high safety standards and retain the confidence of consumers and international trading partners. 139. Alongside this, the UK will repatriate the functions of audit and inspections that are currently carried out by the European Commission to ensure that trading partners continue to meet our import conditions for food and feed safety, animal and plant health, and animal welfare at slaughter. This will provide a standing, robust system that will work alongside border controls to maintain our high standards. It will ensure that trading partners have the necessary infrastructure and regulation in place to export safe food and animal products to the UK, which either meet or exceed UK import conditions, and will then ensure that these standards are maintained. 140. The Government is committed to the highest standards of animal welfare. We have committed to a serious and rapid examination of the role of labelling in promoting high standards and high welfare across the UK market, and to consult on this at the end of the transition period. We are going into all our trade negotiations clear that we will uphold our animal welfare standards and the values of our farmers in future deals and we will use the most appropriate levers available to achieve this. 141. The Government is clear that more trade should not come at the expense of the environment. In line with our international obligations, the Government will continue to ensure a high level of protection of the environment in new trade agreements. We are committed to upholding the UK’s high environmental standards and will consider the full range of mechanisms available to us. Prior to negotiations commencing, the Government published scoping assessments of the broad impacts of new free trade agreements. This includes a preliminary assessment of the potential implications for the environment. The Government will also publish a full impact assessment alongside the full treaty text at the end of negotiations. 142. More widely, the Government wants to go further and do better on environmental protection, and has no intention of lowering the UK’s already high standards. Leaving the EU is an opportunity for better regulation – looking at how excessively bureaucratic and disproportionate EU rules and processes can be reformed (for example, as set out by the Secretary of State on 27 July 2020 in relation to the new Environmental Land Management scheme for farmers ). We will champion the most effective policies and legislation for our environmental ambition. As part of measures in the Environment Bill, the Government will conduct a review every two years of the significant developments in legislation made internationally on the environment. This will ensure we keep abreast of developments in driving forward our domestic environmental protection legislation. The Government must provide sufficient and stable funding for research and development into agricultural technology and new ways of farming if sought after progress in increasing farming efficiency is to be made. (Paragraph 478) 143. The Government recognises the need for sufficient and stable long-term funding for research and development (R&D) in order to realise the goals of increased productivity, sustainability and resilience in the agri-food system, and has committed to invest 2.4% of GDP in R&D within 10 years. 144. The Government has committed significant funding to agri-tech and innovation through the £160 million Agri-Tech Strategy in 2013 and currently with the £90 million Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund ‘Transforming Food Production’ (TFP) initiative. TFP aims to put the UK at the forefront of advanced sustainable agriculture through transformative, game-changing industry-led R&D projects which will contribute to achieving net zero agricultural emissions. 145. Building upon these programmes, Defra is also developing an ambitious Innovation R&D package as part of the new policy measures for agriculture outside of the Common Agriculture Policy, planned to launch from 2022. This package aims to generate ground-breaking research and increase the uptake of transformative technologies and new approaches that could offer step changes in production efficiency and GHG reduction. 146. The Innovation R&D package will focus on supporting research to deliver a boost to agricultural productivity, sustainability, and resilience. Research will support the transition to low-carbon farming methods and contribute to delivery of the Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. It will improve the connectivity between industry, researchers, farmers and growers by coordinating research into strategic priorities and industry-specific hurdles, and accelerating the adoption of new innovation. The Government must ensure that the multi-annual financial assistance plans to be published under the Agriculture Bill are stable and not subject to substantive change: providing a sufficient amount of detail to allow farmers to make investment decisions. (Paragraph 483) 147. Clause 4 of the Agriculture Bill places a duty on the Defra Secretary of State to prepare, and then have regard to, multi-annual financial assistance (‘MAFA’) plans. The plans must be published and laid before Parliament and this will allow Parliament and stakeholders to scrutinise the strategic priorities for which financial assistance will be given. To provide stability and certainty, the first MAFA plan will initially cover a seven-year period whilst subsequent plans must be for a minimum of five years. The Government has set out its priorities and intentions, which are consistent with Defra’s 25 Year Environment Plan and does not expect that the plans will require frequent changes. If social, economic or environmental circumstances change and strategic objectives and details of financial assistance schemes within a MAFA plan need to be amended, the Bill makes it clear that this is possible. 148. The Government has already pledged to guarantee the current level of funding in every year of this Parliament. This commitment and the detail outlined within the MAFA plan will provide certainty for farmers and the sector to make investment decisions. Future spending allocations will be determined in the usual way at fiscal events. Should those events substantively impact on the strategic objectives and financial assistance schemes, then the Government is legally obligated to amend the plan — ensuring that there is always an updated plan available for scrutiny. Any investment in or policy change related to farming productivity, including investment in agricultural technology or land use must take account of the imperatives to avoid undermining the ability to produce food in the future, and to protect biodiversity and animal welfare. (Paragraph 488) 149. The Government is clear that food production and the environment can, and should, go hand in hand. Agriculture policy is devolved, and in England the Agriculture Bill will place an obligation on the Defra Secretary of State to have regard to the need to encourage the production of food in an environmentally sustainable way. 150. As we move away from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, the Government’s reformed agricultural policy will include measures to support a more prosperous, efficient and productive sector, which also has a positive impact on the environment. 151. We will provide grants to farmers, foresters and growers so that they can invest in equipment, technology and infrastructure that will help them to increase their productivity, improve animal health and welfare, and enhance the environment. These investments will not only improve business performance, but will also help to deliver environmental benefits by reducing inputs, emissions and waste. 152. We will also invest in innovation, with an R&D package that will not only seek to produce a step change in UK agricultural productivity, but will also enhance the sustainability, efficiency and resilience of UK food production. Our Innovation R&D package will include targeted research, focused on key strategic themes such as clean growth and climate-smart agriculture to enhance the sustainability of food production and help achieve the Government’s target of net zero emissions by 2050. 153. These productivity measures will operate alongside the Government’s flagship ELM scheme, which will help safeguard the natural assets that support domestic food production by rewarding farmers and other land managers for delivering public goods such as clean air, clean and plentiful water, adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, and thriving plants and wildlife. 154. We are also committed to maintaining the UK’s position as world leaders in animal welfare. Improved animal health strengthens animal welfare, and we are working to establish a new Animal Health and Welfare Pathway, developing a new way for the Government and farmers to work in partnership. Progress in tackling food waste will not be achieved without meaningful action from the retail sector. The Government should embark on a concerted effort to encourage sustainable purchasing behaviour from retailers. Consideration should be given to financial disincentives for retail or purchasing practices which lead to excessive prefarm gate food waste. (Paragraph 501) 155. The Government acknowledges that more can be done to reduce food waste in the primary production stage. 156. Conversations with industry have suggested that a principal cause of food waste on farm is unfair business practices at the point of first sale, where unreasonably late cancellations or late specification changes, among other scenarios, can lead to produce being left unharvested or rotting in the field. 157. We are taking action to clamp down on these kinds of unfair contractual practices through the ‘fair dealings’ powers contained in the Agriculture Bill. We intend to work with the farming and processing industries as we design the statutory codes of practice to be introduced under these powers. The recently published consultation into dairy sector contracts invites views about how the dairy supply chain can become more efficient. The Government intends to replicate this approach with other relevant production sectors in turn. 158. The Government also supports the Courtauld Commitment 2025, a voluntary agreement which aims to reduce food waste from farm to fork and is delivered by WRAP. Courtauld 2025 calls on food businesses, such as retailers, to work with their suppliers to reduce waste in their operations, including in primary production. 159. WRAP is at the international forefront of establishing a robust evidence base for pre-farm gate food surplus and waste, through aiding producers to measure and report their data. They have calculated that there is an estimated £1.2 billion worth of food waste in UK primary production. WRAP is using the findings of pilot food waste reduction projects in the strawberry and salad bag supply chains to develop guidance for other agricultural sectors. 160. The Government is supporting WRAP’s efforts to improve quality specifications, a priority area highlighted by growers, to improve resource efficiency in production and to improve relationships across the supply chain. We recommend that the Government should remain committed to responding to the National Food Strategy review with a White Paper within six months of the review’s publication. It should commit to action the review’s recommendations on publication. (Paragraph 516) 161. The Government remains committed to responding to the National Food Strategy Independent Review within six months of the final report, which is expected to be published in 2021. We will consider the recommendations from the Review, and will outline the Government’s policy intentions through a White Paper. Government must implement a mandatory reporting regime for adherence to clear and consistent sustainability and health metrics, as well as adherence to procurement standards. This should apply to all supermarkets, major food and drink manufacturers, public procurers and their contracted suppliers, and food outlets. (Paragraph 493) In advance of the publication of the National Food Strategy review’s final report, the Government should review levels of reporting on health and sustainability across the food system, to identify where gaps might exist in the current data sets that are available. (Paragraph 537) The Government should develop and introduce a standardised set of mandatory reporting metrics aimed at monitoring the performance of Government departments and assessing progress made by the industry towards making healthy and sustainable food more accessible. The Government and the industry should be required to report on progress against those targets on a regular basis. (Paragraph 539) 162. The Government will carefully consider appropriate measurement and evaluation as part of our response to the final National Food Strategy Independent Review, including a review of existing health and sustainability indicators. The Government must ensure that the appropriate Whitehall infrastructure is in place to ensure that the aims of the forthcoming National Food Strategy can be coordinated effectively across Government departments. (Paragraph 552) 163. The Government will ensure it has the appropriate infrastructure in place to consider the proposals within the National Food Strategy Independent Review across government departments, and will deliver a coordinated response. Given the success of the salt reduction programme under the Food Standards Agency, if industry fails to make the necessary progress against Government reformulation targets, the Government should return the responsibility for nutrition, labelling and reformulation programmes to the FSA, and provide it with the appropriate resources. (Paragraph 555) 164. The sugar reduction programme is making progress. Retailers and manufacturers achieved a 2.9% reduction in sales weighted average total sugar per 100g, for products included in the programme, between 2015 and 2018. Progress has been achieved in specific food categories, particularly for breakfast cereals (8.5% reduction) and yogurts and fromage frais (10.3% reduction). For out of home businesses, the simple average total sugar per 100g has reduced by 4.9% between 2017 and 2018. 165. There have also been continued reductions in sugar levels in drinks that are subject to the soft drinks industry levy. We have seen the average sugar content of drinks subject to the levy decreasing by 28.8% between 2015 and 2018. This is clearly a great success. 166. Nevertheless, the Government remains committed to reviewing what more can be done to make sure we meet our bold ambition of halving childhood obesity by 2030 and will continue to monitor progress and emerging evidence carefully. 167. The voluntary sugar reduction and reformulation programme’s final progress report will be in 2021. 168. We have been clear where progress is not being delivered, we will consider what further action can be taken. We recommend the establishment of an independent body, analogous to the Committee on Climate Change, with responsibility for strategic oversight of the implementation of the National Food Strategy. This should include the monitoring and reporting on progress made against the health and sustainability targets outlined in paragraph 538. This independent body should have the power to advise the Government and report to Parliament on progress. (Paragraph 563) 169. The Government will carefully consider the appropriate governance and accountability structures as part of our response to the final National Food Strategy Independent Review, including the case for an independent body. It is Government policy that new Arm’s Length Bodies should only be set up as a last resort, when consideration of all other delivery mechanisms have been exhausted. The establishment of any new body would need to be subject to rigorous cost-benefit analysis. The Government of the day is always accountable to Parliament.