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Sustain responds to the Queen's Speech

The Queen's Speech sets out plans for seven Bills on agriculture, fisheres, trade and the environment. Sustain responds.

Public Domain Pictures

Public Domain Pictures

On Thursday 19 December the Queen delivered a speech outlining the new government's priorities and plans for legislation. Of more than 30 bills, seven were related to Brexit, including agriculture, fisheries and trade. There was also confirmation of a new environment bill, but, disappointingly, no mention of childhood obesity at all in the 151 page briefing document that accompanied the speech.

Responding to the Queen’s Speech (19 December 2019) Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain said:

“There are things to welcome in this speech, like a commitment to tackle poor air quality, subsidising farmers for farming sustainably and the commitment to give people more information about how their food is produced. However, we are greatly alarmed by the determination to put off tackling net zero greenhouse gas emissions until 2050, which is too late. We are in the midst of a climate emergency that requires bold, decisive action now."

“We are also very disappointed that this government has chosen to not legislate for a legal Right to Food. Hundreds of thousands of children are going to bed hungry, and they deserve better. All the other main parties committed in their manifestos to tackle the shocking rise in need for emergency food banks. The Conservatives seem out of step with their fellow parliamentarians and with most people’s sense of a fair and decent society in which everyday hunger is a thing of the past.”

On agriculture

Vicki Hird, campaign co-ordinator on sustainable farming policy at Sustain said:

“We’re pleased with the government’s continued commitment to our ‘public money for public goods’ approach, rewarding farmers for enhancing the environment, improving animal welfare and producing high quality food more sustainably. We’re also pleased they intend to bring forward powers to improve transparency and fairness in the supply chain, which we have long lobbied for.  I would have liked to see a specific reference to multi annual budgets, which farmers so desperately need to transition to new ways of farming and a commitment to tackling net zero much earlier than they intend. We need urgent action on that now."

“We need to get moving with this agenda, with appropriate transition support, as any delay will just postpone the much needed changes and cause more confusion.”


On fish

Ruth Westcott, campaign co-ordinator of the Sustainable Fish Campaign said:

"The Fishing Bill needs to have a clear date by which fishing quotas are set at sustainable levels (Maximum Sustainable Yields) – that date should be 2022. “Taking back control” of our waters is not a route to sustainable fishing in and of itself – there are plenty of UK fish stocks, such as scampi and scallops, that are in such a parlous state they are being de-listed from menus by responsible companies. The government needs to take this opportunity to invest in much better data, monitoring, and a recovery plan for all our fisheries or we will miss out on the chance to increase jobs and boost incomes in UK fishing."

"The challenge for the majority of our fishers is that even though the UK gets the second-largest share of the EU quota, UK law allows it to be bought-up by large, foreign-owned vessels and traded for profit – leaving just a small amount of fish for our own fishers to catch.  The Prime Minister is ignoring the needs of British coastal communities and just looking after big business by not committing to change that system. It’s hard to see how Brexit will deliver any benefits to small-scale fishing fleets without a much fairer system."

"Recovering fish stocks could lead to  45% higher landings, worth £1.4 billion every year to the UK economy or 1.1 billion extra portions of fish for consumption here or export."

On trade

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain, said:

“While it is pleasing the government says it will not compromise on our high environmental protection and food standards, it needs to go further and say it will not undermine our farmers by signing trade deals involving low standard and low animal welfare produce such as chlorinated chicken and hormone beef."

"We’re pleased that the Government specifically mentions driving positive global change through trade. We look forward to hearing more about how our future trade deals could be good for the climate, nature, animals and farming systems. For example, we expect the government to reject meat produced with the use of medically critical antibiotics. We’re disappointed they haven’t outlined how they intend to engage parliament and the people in setting trade objectives. So we will continue to press for a proper transparent process.”

On obesity

Barbara Crowther from the Children’s Food Campaign said:

“Every child deserves a healthy start in life. We’re bitterly disappointed that obesity is not mentioned at all in the Queen’s Speech or briefing notes that accompanies it. While we didn’t necessarily expect new legislation, there is plenty of unfinished business on childhood obesity and prevention that the government should just be getting on with - it is alarming that there is no mention of this anywhere. If the government is to meet its own goal of halving childhood obesity by 2030, it should be signalling this commitment loud and clear. They have a job to convince us they will give this the priority it needs, and our children the healthier food environment they deserve.”

On the environment

Kath Dalmeny, chief executive of Sustain said:

“We are encouraged that the government intends to enshrine environmental principles into law, backed up by legally binding targets, tackle poor air quality and establish a new environmental regulator. But we will be watching carefully to make sure they don’t use our exit from the EU as an excuse to weaken our environmental standards. We are also horrified that this government is seeking to put off reaching our net zero targets for greenhouse gas emissions until 2050. They need to be doing much more, much faster in order to stave off the climate and nature emergency that we are in.”

Read seven ways in which we must hold our new government to account for their promises on food, farming and fishing


Published 19 Dec 2019

Good Trade Campaign: Campaigning for good trade that benefits people and the planet at home and overseas.

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