The King’s Speech sets out the laws that the Government would like to pass in the next parliamentary session, but with a general election widely expected to be announced for the autumn of 2024, this means any legislation proposed will have around eight months to get through Parliament. Here, Sustain's Orla Delargy sets out what we would like to see.
The King's Speech will be read out at the state opening of Parliament on Tuesday 7 November. It sets out the laws that the Government would like to pass in the next parliamentary session. A general election needs to be held some time before the 28 January 2025 but is widely expected to be announced for the autumn of 2024. This means the legislation proposed in this speech will have around eight months to get through Parliament.
There has been a lot speculation about what the Government is planning, but given the multiple challenges facing our food and farming, these are the bills that Sustain thinks really should be in the speech:
A Food Bill
The independent National Food Strategy argued that to secure national food security and address the twin challenges of diet-related ill health and climate change we need a framework of clear, long-term targets, ongoing political attention and a joined-up approach across governments, industry and communities.
A Food Bill would set ambitions for a thriving food industry which would create more and better jobs and could include other key food system policies that require legislation, such as procurement reform, mandatory reporting and food labelling, and ensuring farmers get a fair deal. It would enable the Government to take bold action and lead by example where it has a direct role in the food system – eg putting in place legally enforceable standards for public sector catering. By setting goals and the ability to monitor progress against them, a Food Bill would drive innovation and embed long-term change.
Expanding the remit of the Food Standards Agency would mean they can report on progress and provide advice to Government.
A Finance Bill
A Finance Bill would introduce new salt and sugar levies on industry to help make our food healthier, while raising revenue that can be invested back into children’s health. [For more on this, please see Recipe for Change]
A Business Bill
A new Business Bill could strengthen the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator in order to create fairer supply chains for farmers.
A Planning Bill
A new national Planning Bill could ensure that climate change and nature recovery are material planning considerations in all new developments. Planning reform could also ensure all intensive indoor livestock units require an environmental permit and need planning permission to go ahead - not just the largest ones - and support local areas to reject planning applications from damaging industrial farms that pollute our rivers.
A Healthier Food Advertising and Promotion Bill
A national bill could include an outright restriction on unhealthy food and drink advertising across all outdoor sites – like we have with tobacco. There’s no need for any unhealthy food to be advertised anywhere – not least when the evidence of impact on public health and cost to the NHS is taken in to account. Local governments are implementing restrictions in their areas and are fighting off lobbying from deep pocketed junk food companies – a national approach in legislation makes more sense.
A School Food Bill
A new School Food Bill could support a wide range of measures to transform quality, funding and access to healthy food across the education system. For Sustain and the Children’s Food Campaign, this could include a progressive phasing out of means testing for school meals by 2030, replaced with comprehensively funded, nutritious school food for all children, from nursery to sixth form college. It could support a whole healthy school approach, with nutrition across the curriculum, and build on the current Food Standards Agency pilot to ensure healthy School Food Standards are being met as a statutory requirement. It could also expand the School Fruit and Veg scheme to more children (it currently covers only key stage one).
Published 6 Nov 2023
Sustain: Sustain The alliance for better food and farming advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.
Orla is Head of Public Affairs for Sustain and also leads the communications for Sustain’s work on Good Food Trade. She is working hard to promote the opportunities and threats for food, farming and fishing as we exit the EU so we all have decent food to eat at the end of the process.
Head of Public Affairs
Support our charity
Donate to enhance the health and welfare of people, animals and the planet.