Pwyllgor yr Economi, Masnach a Materion Gwledig
Economy, Trade, and Rural Affairs Committee25/01/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Darren Millar AS||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Paul Davies|
|Substitute for Paul Davies|
|Hefin David AS|
|Luke Fletcher AS|
|Samuel Kurtz AS|
|Sarah Murphy AS|
|Vikki Howells AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Andrew Tuddenham||Soil Association Cymru|
|Soil Association Cymru|
|Andy Richardson||Bwrdd Diwydiant Bwyd a Diod Cymru|
|Food and Drink Wales Industry Board|
|David Thomson||Ffederasiwn Bwyd a Diod Cymru|
|Food and Drink Federation Cymru|
|Dylan Morgan||National Farmers Union Cymru|
|National Farmers Union Cymru|
|Gareth Parry||Undeb Amaethwyr Cymru|
|Farmers Union of Wales|
|Rhys Evans||Rhwydwaith Ffermio er Lles Natur|
|Nature Friendly Farming Network|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Claire Fiddes||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Gareth Howells||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Jennifer Cottle||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Lara Date||Ail Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:34.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:34.
Bore da, bawb. The Chair is unable to attend today's meeting, therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, I call for a nomination for a temporary Chair for the duration of today's meeting.
I'd like to nominate Darren Millar.
Are there any counter nominations? I see no counter nominations. I'd like to invite Darren Millar to come up and take the Chair for the meeting. Thank you.
Thank you very much for that drama and start to the meeting. I'm delighted to be able to Chair this meeting today. I can see that all the participants are present, so we'll go straight into the items on our agenda.
I want to welcome our panellists today. We'll be taking evidence on the Food (Wales) Bill in just a few moments, but we do have a few papers to note. We have also received, obviously, an apology for absence from the current Chair. Are there any declarations of interest?
Thank you, Chair. I declare an interest as an honorary member of the British Veterinary Association.
Thank you very much. Any further declarations? I can't see that there are any, so we'll go on to item 2 on the agenda.
We've got three papers to note. We've got a letter from the Minister for Economy on the ministerial forum for trade meeting, which took place on 9 January 2023. I will take it that that is noted. Item 2.2, we've got a letter from the Chair of the Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee to the Minister for Finance and Local Government. This is on a report in relation to the Supplementary Legislative Consent Memorandum (No.3) for the UK Infrastructure Bank Bill. I will take it that the contents of that are noted. And 2.3, we've got some letters from the Minister for Economy to the Chair of the Legislation, Justice and Constitution Committee on the business and industry inter-ministerial group meeting that took place on 17 January, including an update on the outcome of that meeting. Is everybody content to note those? Thank you very much indeed.
So, without further ado, we'll get straight into item 3 on our agenda, where we are taking further evidence on the Food (Wales) Bill. This is our third evidence session on the Bill so far and our first panellists are going to be giving us some oral evidence on the issue of land management, the impact of the Bill on land management. I'm delighted to be able to welcome to the committee in person today Andrew Tuddenham, head of policy, Wales, at the Soil Association. Welcome to you, Andrew. We also have Rhys Evans, sustainable farming lead Wales at the Nature Friendly Farming Network. Welcome to you, Rhys. We have Dylan Morgan, the deputy director and head of policy at National Farmers Union Cymru, and we also have, virtually joining us, Gareth Parry, senior policy and communications officer at the Farmers Union of Wales.
We've received written evidence, obviously, already from the witnesses and we're delighted to have you all with us. We'll get straight into questions, if that's okay, because we've got lots to get through on today's agenda, and I'll start, if that's okay. So, some people have suggested that the existing policy and legislation framework could be used to achieve the Food (Wales) Bill's intentions, including the Minister. Do you believe that that is the case, or do you support the need for legislation in the form of the Food (Wales) Bill? We'll start with you, Andrew.
Thank you. Bore da. I think the Bill represents a really key opportunity to provide a properly joined-up approach that I don't think is really in place. There are pockets of good practice across Government policy, but there isn't anything that is really tackling things at a systems level, which is what this Bill is proposing to do. So, what I mean by that is by joining together those good practices with the purposes, the reasons and the end goal, which is what the national food strategy could do. So, we don't really have that here currently, and, in fact, you could say that some of the approach, which is essentially building a grass-roots movement of good projects and programmes here and there across Wales, could be just perpetuating inequality of access to good food. That isn't really a situation that's going to help address some of these bigger issues that the food system sits beneath.
And Rhys. Rhys Evans, do you want to give us your perspective?
O safbwynt rhwydwaith, rydyn ni'n croesawu'r Bil bwyd. Rydyn ni'n falch o weld ei fod o wedi cael ei roi o flaen y Senedd, ac yn falch o weld polisi bwyd yn cael y sylw mae o'n haeddu, os liciwch chi. Mae bwyd yn ofnadwy o bwysig; mae o'n cyffwrdd ar bob agwedd ar ein bywydau ni—yr economi, yr amgylchedd, diwylliant, iechyd, diwylliant cymdeithas, cymunedau gwledig—ac mae ganddo'r potensial i wneud byd o ddaioni. Dwi'n meddwl mai dyna pam rydyn ni yma heddiw yma yn y bôn: rydyn ni'n cydnabod bod y system fwyd yn gallu chwarae rhan bositif yn ein bywydau ni. Rydyn ni hefyd yn cydnabod bod yna rai agweddau ar y system fwyd ar hyn o bryd sydd yn ddiffygiol, ac mae yna heriau a sialensau yn gysylltiedig â'r system fwyd.
Er enghraifft, pan rydyn ni'n dod i ddeiet ac iechyd, mae 60 y cant o Gymry yn dioddef o orbwysau neu ordewdra, pumed o oedolion yn bryderus am redeg allan o fwyd, un allan o chwech o rywogaethau bywyd gwyllt yn wynebu difodiant, ac mae cynhyrchwyr bwyd ar y cyfan yn derbyn incwm isel, ac rydyn ni fel ffermwyr yn ddibynnol iawn ar gymorthdaliadau. Felly, dydy'r statws cwo, os liciwch chi, ddim yn dderbyniol, ac felly i fynd i’r afael â’r heriau yma, rydyn ni’n teimlo bod angen polisi holistig, polisi sydd ddim yn edrych ar yr agweddau o’r system fwyd mewn seilo, ac mae angen gweledigaeth ar gyfer y system fwyd yng Nghymru, un sy’n cyfatebu beth rydyn ni’n ei gynhyrchu, beth rydyn ni’n ei gyflenwi â beth rydyn ni’n ei fwyta. Mae angen strategaeth ar sut i gyflawni hyn, ac angen system lywodraethu hefyd ar y system fwyd.
Ac mi fuaswn i’n cytuno efo Andrew yn dweud bod hynny ar hyn o bryd, yn y gyfundrefn bresennol, ddim yn bodoli, a beth ydyn ni’n ei gael yn aml ydy’r agwedd seilo yma lle dydy rhai polisïau a rhai rhaglenni gwaith efallai ddim yn siarad â’i gilydd a ddim yn cyd-fynd. Manteision y Bil, yn ein barn ni, ydy ei fod o'n gosod rhwydwaith, neu fframwaith, ar gyfer polisi bwyd y dyfodol, a dwi ddim yn meddwl ei bod hi’n bosib 'shoehorn-io' rhai agweddau o’r Bil yma i mewn i ddeddfwriaeth arall; dwi’n meddwl bod angen polisi bwyd penodol i fynd i’r afael â’r heriau yma.
From the view of the network, we do welcome the food Bill. We're pleased to see that it has been laid before the Senedd, and pleased to see food policy getting the attention that it deserves, if you like. Food is very important; it touches upon every aspect of our lives—the economy, the environment, culture, health, the culture of society, rural communities—and it has the potential to make a world of difference. That's why we're here today, essentially: we do recognise that the food system can play a very positive role in our lives. We also recognise that there are some aspects of the food system that, at present, are deficient, and there are challenges associated with the food system.
For example, when we come to diet and health, 60 per cent of the Welsh population suffer from obesity or being overweight, a fifth of adults are concerned about running out of food, and one out of six wildlife species face extinction, and food producers on the whole do earn a low income, and we as farmers are very reliant on subsidies. So, the status quo is not acceptable, and in terms of tackling these challenges, we feel that we need a holistic policy, a policy that doesn't look at aspects of the food system in silos, and we need a vision for the food system in Wales, one that corresponds what we produce and what we supply with what we eat. We need a strategy on how to deliver that, and we need a governance system as well.
And I would agree with Andrew when he said that, under the current system, that doesn't exist, and what we often get is the silo aspect, where some policies and some programmes of work don't speak to each other and don't align. The advantages of the Bill, in my opinion, is that it sets up a framework for food policy in the future, and I don't think it's possible to shoehorn some aspects of this Bill into other pieces of legislation; I think we need a specific food policy to tackle these challenges.
Diolch, Rhys. Dylan, do you want to add anything?
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Yes, well, I think we'll be supportive of the Bill as well, and we've been pleased to meet with Peter Fox as he's developed the Bill to the stage it is today. I wouldn't want to criticise what's gone on in the past with regard to Welsh Government and the action plans they deliver, because obviously, as we've seen in terms of the action plan 2014-20, the 30 per cent growth, £8.5 billion industry, Wales's biggest employer, we've obviously had a lot of success with that. But I think it's important that we continue to move forward, and I think putting forward a food Bill, putting food on a statutory footing, is extremely important with regard to that.
I think, ideally, what we would have wanted to see would be one comprehensive food and farming Bill for Wales. Unfortunately, whilst we've seen some progress with the agriculture Bill in terms of food having a higher priority within it than possibly where we started with 'Brexit and our land' four years ago, it still isn't sort of front and centre of that Bill. So, I think it is positive to have the food Bill, and we would see the food Bill working alongside the agriculture Bill, particularly through the national food strategy that's proposed within the Bill as well.
So, I think given the global food challenges that we face and the fact that we are now outside the common agricultural policy, I think the question is: can we afford not to put food front and centre with regard to Wales? And that's why we think it's very important that it becomes part of the statutory footing.
Thank you, Dylan. And I'll come to you now, Gareth. Do you want to tell us where the Farmers Union of Wales is at in respect of the Bill, just briefly?
Yes, of course. Thank you very much, Chair, and apologies to the committee that I was unable to attend in person today. The timing of this evidence session, really, from our point of view, is perfect, because I attended my second FUW farmhouse breakfast this morning, following our one in Cardiff yesterday morning, which is quite frankly a celebration of the Welsh produce that our farmers produce in Wales, and it brings us all together, really.
I would agree with what everybody else has said already, really. What we've seen in the past and notwithstanding the success that we've had in our food and drink sector, there seems to be a huge focus on how the food is marketed and more to do with niche markets and niche products, rather than farmers that supply commodity markets and mainstream markets, really.
So, there's certainly scope and opportunities here to do more when it comes to procurement, and what we've seen in some examples in the past is that certain procurement contracts can be carefully worded. So, for example, some contracts may state that they must ensure that all meat purchased is of UK origin, but within legislative, financial and practical constraints. So, that line can put a spin on what would appear to be a genuine procurement ambition, if you like, when actually, when we reach high inflation rates or pressures on public spending like we're currently seeing, then that line, really, could take that contract down a different path when it comes to food sourcing.
Although we regularly quote that, currently, 58 per cent of total public sector spending on food is with Welsh firms, I think Welsh Government figures state that it's estimated that only around 23 per cent is actually produce of Welsh origin. So, there is certainly work to do on public procurement and whether that's through this Bill—. We do welcome the Bill and for food targets to be placed in legislation, because we wouldn't want to see it being diluted, really, maybe in other Bills, and I'm sure that we'll come on to that again. Thank you.
Thanks for that. So, one of the suggestions that has been put to this committee and other committees is that the Bill's going to add some complexity and unnecessary bureaucracy to the current system of support that the Welsh Government gives to the food and drink industry, and, of course, the Bill itself, in its explanatory memorandum, sets out that there will be a cost to the introduction of the Bill, even though it's a framework sort of Bill. Do any of the panellists agree with that suggestion that there's going to be too much bureaucracy, unnecessarily, as a result of the Bill at all? If you don't, I'll come to Sarah, who's going to ask some questions. Yes, Rhys.
I think, in terms of the bureaucracy, the Bill itself is, I guess, more of a framework Bill. It sets the structures and the governance for the whole food system in Wales. In fact, I think it complements other pieces of legislation more than hindering in an added layer of bureaucracy. It probably gives a bit of purpose, direction and clarity to other Bills that are related to the food sector. So, no, I would disagree with that point.
Just in terms of the costs, I would challenge and say, 'Could we afford not to develop the Bill, really?' Just looking at the current costs of some of the issues in the food system, obesity, for example, costs around £3 billion a year to Welsh society. Every pound that we spend on food at the till has a hidden £1 cost related to environmental damage, and we waste a lot of food—400,000 tonnes a year, and if only 1 per cent of that was edible, that's 9 million meals there that you save. So, I think there are cost savings associated with having this framework; I appreciate that it might be difficult to quantify.
But, in terms of opportunities as well, there's a lot of evidence that local food systems allow for a larger proportion of revenue back into the local economy. The explanatory memorandum itself states that every £1 invested in local food yields £4, and the same with regenerative farming, agroecological farming. The network has a wealth of case studies showing how that sort of farming can be more profitable and, again, the memorandum—£1 spent on environmental standards returns £3.20. So, by reducing the costs, making savings and generating the income, I think there are long-term benefits, but it's difficult to think in long-term situations, because we want to see short-term wins, but I think we need to be brave.
Diolch, Rhys. I can see that other people are nodding, and I can see people wanting to come in. Is there anything to add specifically to that point that you have, or if not, we'll move swiftly on to the next question? Is that all right?
Just to echo it.
Okay, excellent. Sarah Murphy.
Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you for being here today. Welcome, Dylan, as well—Gareth, sorry, you were on the screen. Just to start with, then, I'm going to look at the food goals. Respondents to the draft Bill consultation said that the Bill should do more to ensure environmental protection and restoration. So, are you content with how the environment and food waste secondary food goals have been updated since the draft Bill? If I can come to you first, Andrew, if that's okay.
We do recognise that the Bill has moved forward in this respect, and it's provided a bit more flesh on the bones of an environmental secondary food goal, so I think that's welcome. The way they're worded is interesting, and I think, intuitively, they make sense, but from a legislative harmony stance, we're just thinking about how they should be worded in a way that's recognisable to other bits of legislation that are coming through. So, very specifically around the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, reference to 'resilient ecosystems' and 'enhancing biodiversity' might make more sense in this Bill. And something that also tackles climate change—as Rhys has said, the food system is fundamental to how we achieve net zero. So, I think there are some improvements that could be made in that respect to the secondary food goals.
Then, another aspect of the environmental aspects of those secondary food goals is how they're taken together. That, we don't think, is clear enough, or in the Bill, really, to ensure that all of those five secondary food goals are considered together and that policy can't just focus on one at the exclusion of the others.
Do you have a view on how to deal with that?
Well, one has to recognise that the environment underpins all our means of production and the food system, whether that's in Wales or whether that's overseas, it all affects and impacts on the food system. But, rather than a prioritised approach, it just needs to be something that requires the national food strategy, it requires the targets, and requires the food plans to really consider things holistically.
Okay, brilliant, thank you. My colleague is going to come in and ask some more questions about targets in a moment. Did anybody else want to come in on this? Anything you think should have been added in, or whether or not you're happy with the changes that were made. Dylan.
If we're talking with regard to what should be added in in terms of secondary food goals, I think a clear target and indicators around public procurement would be extremely important. That seems to be missing there at the moment. For the reasons that everyone's already outlined, I think that should be set within there. Andrew's talked very much about sustainable food production in Wales. It's having targets and indicators around assessing, maintaining and ideally enhancing climate-friendly food production in Wales, because what we want to be is world leaders in the production of climate-friendly food in Wales.
Thank you very much. Rhys, did you want to come in?
Yes. In terms of the primary food goal, no objections to it, per se, but, in the network's opinion, the primary food goal should be achieving food security in Wales. That would be underpinned by secondary food goals that would include the six interconnected dimensions of food security. This would include: availability, so the adequate supply of food; access to food, economical or physical; utilisation, which is food providing sufficient energy and nutrition; stability, so, access to food at all times and not compromised by certain shocks, so, think of the last six years—Brexit, COVID and the war in Ukraine have exposed a bit of fragility in the food system; sustainability, which includes the environment, the natural environment, biodiversity, climate and socioeconomic systems as well; and then, the last point around agency or sovereignty, so that we, as individuals or groups of society, have a say in what we produce, how we produce it, how it's supplied and distributed, and that citizens are involved in shaping food policy as well. As Andrew said, all these dimensions need to be looked at together. It's fundamentally important that we look at every single one and not in isolation.
Thank you very much. Gareth, can I come to you?
Thank you, Sarah. Just very quickly, we welcome the amended primary food goal in the latest Bill, which is to provide affordable, healthy and economically, environmentally and socially sustainable food. It obviously covers a range of aspects, but the only concern that we've got is that it's obviously really difficult to provide food that meets all of those goals. To have healthy, economically, environmentally and socially sustainable food that is also affordable for the consumer is obviously challenging. It's part of the reason, I guess, why this Bill is being proposed, really, to try and tie all of those aspects together and, at the end of the day, try to find that balance of being able to provide that sustainable food but also at an affordable price for consumers and the public sector.
In terms of the environmental secondary food goals, we welcome the expansion of the description, if you like. In the original draft, it was simply to do with lessening the environmental impact of food production, which is having a singular objective in terms of the environment that could be achieved with a number of unintended consequences. So, it's good that that's been broadened. This comes back to one of Dylan's comments before that having these environmental objectives may not necessarily mean having new initiatives and new things happening on farms, but can simply complement what the agri Bill and the sustainable farming scheme will endeavour to do as well. So, rather than it having a contradiction there, it should complement the draft agriculture Bill.
Thank you. Just to follow up, Gareth—. Thank you very much, Dylan for the NFU Cymru evidence paper that you provided, and you just related to it then when you said that NFU Cymru has called for public procurement and growing food production to be goals in their own right. Gareth, do you have a view on this?
Yes, certainly. It's not something that we included in our evidence submission, I must say, but, yes, we would support some sort of target for public procurement within those secondary food goals, given that, at the end of the day, one of the main purposes of the Bill, really, is to join the dots between how the food produced in Wales is then marketed and distributed across the public sector and within Wales. So, yes, we would support that additional goal, then, in secondary food goals.
Okay, thank you. Andrew, do you, as well?
Just to follow up on that, I think Wales has got a huge opportunity to do some catching up with other parts of the world. So, France, for example, introduced a percentage reduction target for ultra-processed foods in the national diet through its food law. In Denmark, there were targets for doubling the consumption of organic food, as well as doubling the amount of land farmed organically. The Scottish Government is looking at this. So, I think there is that opportunity—huge opportunity—with procurement within this Bill.
Indeed, just to expand on that, we had considered, 'Well, is there actually a need to identify on the face of the Bill at least the areas that need targets, and to actually specify what sort of indicators there should be?' It's up to, then, the national food strategy and the commission to put some numbers to those things.
Okay, thank you. Just my final question, then, and Rhys, you've mentioned food security, but the Food Policy Alliance Cymru advocated for the concept of food sovereignty over food security. The explanatory memorandum says that there will be no reference to food sovereignty on the face of the Bill, but the environment and food waste goals have embedded similar core principles. Do any of you have a view over one over the other, or do you think that makes a difference?
If I could just follow up—Rhys, you'll probably say a lot more than me—but I think there is the opportunity with the Bill to actually provide the means whereby citizens can have more of a stake in how their food system is designed. One of the things that the current approach, through project funding and looking at local food initiatives and partnerships, is doing is actually building this real grass-roots movement of people who are really passionate and interested in how their food is produced and how others are fed. I think there's a resource there that could be tapped into, but the Bill doesn't really speak about that. So, I think there's the opportunity to have more proper co-design built into the Bill. Thank you.
Okay, brilliant, thank you. Rhys, did you want to come in? Do you have a preference?
Well, not really; I don't think we're that precious about terminology, as such. It's more about the underlying principles—that's the most important aspect, if you like. You can call it food sovereignty or you can call it food security; as long as it embeds or includes the six dimensions that I mentioned earlier, then we would be happy with that. Agency or sovereignty would be a subset of that overarching food security, in the definition that I used; I appreciate that others would want the term to be used, 'food sovereignty', but as long as the underlying principles are there, I'm happy.
Just quickly to come back on the point around procurement—
If you can be brief, because we've got lots of questions to get through.
Yes. I agree with more public procurement, but not to fall into the trap that local food automatically means sustainable. You can have local food systems that are sourced from intensive polluting systems as well. So, I think agroecology should be a golden thread that runs across this. So, the 10-point principles of agroecology, if we met those, and if they could be included somewhere in the Bill, then you would meet the secondary food goals and the primary food goals.
Thank you. Just very quickly, if I can ask Dylan: food sovereignty or food security?
Again, I'm not precious over terminology. I think, from our perspective in Wales, we will always need to buy in some foods that we can't produce in Wales, and overproduce some foods as well that we need to export. I think what's important is the role that we play in global food security, and I think, going forward, Wales is well placed, as I mentioned earlier, to be a leader in sustainable food production and be able to export climate-friendly food to the world. So, it's making sure that the food we produce, we produce to those highest standards and, as I say, play our role in terms of Welsh, UK and global food security.
That's an excellent point. Thank you. And finally, Gareth.
Yes, I haven't got much else to add, really, Sarah, to what the other panellists have already said. As long as it achieves those food security—. Particularly given the pressures we've seen over recent years, food security has been brought into light, really. So, as long as it can underpin that, really. I think we'd be happy with either wording, really.
Okay. Thank you very much and thank you, Chair.
That's great. Thank you. I'm going to come to Sam Kurtz in a second. If I can just encourage the panellists, if you can be really succinct, we may be able to get all of you in. It would be great—. If you dissent with a comment made by somebody else, then absolutely we want to hear from you. If you're simply going to repeat it, it would be better if we could skip through quickly, so that we can get to the other questions so we can make sure that we can give attention to them. Sam Kurtz.
Thank you, Chair. Just quickly, off the back of Sarah's questioning, in terms of the sustainable farming scheme that is currently going through co-design, does the introduction of a Wales food Bill alter, or do you see that that could alter, the outcomes of the sustainable farming scheme, given, potentially, more reliance on food in public procurement, et cetera and more sustainable food? Does that alter the sustainable farming scheme at all, or have the potential to? Dylan.
I think we've got to make sure that the two completely align, Samuel, really. I think, when we're talking about some of the things we're talking about in terms of indicators and targets around food, it's making sure that those are completely aligned to what will be in the agriculture Bill, and then we've got that, as you say, agenda for growth across both of those. That's where I see the national food strategy and the food commission playing a really important part to bring those two together. So, there's an opportunity to take these two forward at the same time, really, isn't there, to make sure, as I mentioned in my initial statement, that they're complementary.
Yes, just very quickly, we've been long lobbying for food security to be included as a public good, if you like, within the sustainable farming scheme. So, yes, they need to be aligned, but, if anything, it should place even greater focus on the importance of food within future agricultural support schemes.
Yes, I would just say that the sustainable farming scheme at the moment, it just looks at how food is produced, predominantly. It doesn't look at what we produce, who eats it and where it's consumed, which are equally important. So, I think they do complement each other, and I think the timing is quite good. So, for example, you could link local food plans to a sustainable farm review. It's a chance for farmers to perhaps diversify the food that they grow on their farms, access new markets et cetera. So, I think that it's an exciting opportunity.
Yes, just to say that there should be an interaction between the two. The national food strategy should set the context and the framework, and really help to resolve how much food and what type of food is Wales producing within these sustainable boundaries, principally the environment being that. There's also the opportunity of procurement, which could be a way of enhancing uptake of the sustainable farming scheme if there's an advantage to getting into public supply chains.
Excellent. Thank you. And then, Dylan, you mentioned food targets and, specifically, the 'Beyond Recycling' strategy includes targets for food waste and the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 includes emissions targets. So, is there a risk of duplication or misalignment with existing targets with the food Bill?
I don't think that is an issue. I think what you can do is bring some of the existing targets that are out there, whether statutory or non-statutory, within the food Bill as well. If you look at the Welsh Government action plan, for example, they've got a number of targets that I think could fit into the secondary food goals. But, at the moment, those are advisory, not statutory. I think it's important to put them on a statutory footing. But also I think, overarching all of this, it's important to have, I think, what I'd call some strong targets. In the previous action plan, we had that goal of a 30 per cent increase in turnover of food in Wales. We don't seem to see that now. So, I'd like to see a real, clear target overarching everything else, which, again, would fit into the food Bill and fit into the agricultural Bill, which has got sustainable growth of the Welsh food and drink sector integral to that. We need to go beyond the £8.5 billion and the 0.25 million people employed in the food and drink industry, because it delivers benefits for the whole of Wales, doesn't it?
Excellent. Gareth, I saw you nodding along.
Yes. There are certain public procurement targets within the programme for government and also the co-operation agreement between the Labour and Plaid Cymru parties—for example, to increase the public procurement percentage up from 52 per cent. So, surely, this Bill would help achieve those targets that are already set or already within those programmes or those agreements. But what we want to see here, really, is that—. As we've got different Members of the Senedd from different political parties having different ambitions, really, for Welsh public sector procurement, what we need to ensure is that, whatever those targets may look like in future, they actually are achieved for the benefit of Welsh food producers and the consumer, really—so, irrespective of political differences, if you like. It almost seems like there are a number of different procurement ideas and targets, but we need to bring them together, really, so they are meaningful and they are achieved in the future.
Thank you. Rhys.
Yes, in terms of targets, a suggestion of ours would be to incorporate some of the Food Policy Alliance Cymru targets from 'Priorities for a food system fit for Future Generations'—that's a mouthful. So, that includes food for all, food for public health, a net-zero food system, farming for nature and climate, and sustainable seafood as well—because I'm mindful that's an area that perhaps is given less focus in Wales, but it's an important area—and then sustainable food sector jobs and livelihoods. So, I think targets associated with those cover the secondary food goals.
In terms of misalignment, I would challenge and say, 'Do we know whether misalignment already exists? Does everyone have a comprehensive knowledge of what all the different targets are from Government?' I guess part of the issue here for this Bill is trying to address those, I guess. Having a framework Bill like this can help co-ordinate and inform target setting, and I guess any misalignment can be identified and addressed through that mechanism.
Yes, that risk is best managed through the very solutions that this Bill proposes, we think, and that is through having a food commission and governance and a food strategy that links through to local plans, and they, in turn, dovetail with well-being objectives and plans as well. So, I think you need the whole thing together to manage that risk.
Okay. Would it be a fair assessment of the panel's views on this then that those policy targets, strategy targets, that are out there already in the ether—bringing them under a food Bill and putting them on a statutory footing strengthens the ability to deliver those targets?
I can see everybody nodding.
Exactly, and it allows, as well, for proper scrutiny, then, doesn't it, really, because the Minister's got to report back to the Senedd.
Okay, that's helpful. Moving on to the Welsh food commission, I note respondents to the draft consultation on the Bill felt that a commission could have a stronger role in developing the targets and the national strategy, or even lead on the work. Andrew, I'd be interested to know your views on that.
Ultimately, accountability should rest with the Minister, as proposed in the Bill, but, yes, we do feel that the commission has got a central role, more than just an advisory role, in actually putting together a draft, if that is also then coupled with, as I mentioned earlier, the ability of citizens to get involved in how that's shaped. So, I would lean towards what you've just suggested there, Sam.
Okay, thank you. Rhys.
Dŷn ni'n croesawu sefydlu'r comisiwn bwyd. Roedd yna sôn efallai y buasai hwn yn gallu disgyn dan bortffolio comisiynydd cenedlaethau'r dyfodol. Dwi'n teimlo bod angen comisiwn ei hun i wneud hyn, efo comisiynydd bwyd. Mae ambell i un wedi mynd mor bell ag awgrymu bod angen Gweinidog dros fwyd hefyd. Ond, ie, Llywodraeth Cymru ar ddiwedd y dydd fydd yn perchnogi'r targedau a'r strategaeth. Nhw fydd yn cael eu dwyn i gyfrif pan fyddan nhw'n cael eu craffu gan y Senedd ac ati, ond eu bod nhw'n dwyn ar arbenigedd y comisiwn i lunio'r strategaeth a'r targedau ac ati.
We welcome establishing a food commission. There was talk that this could fall into the portfolio of the future generations commissioner. I think there needs to be a commission to do this, with a food commissioner. Some have gone as far as suggesting a food Minister as well. But, yes, the Welsh Government, at the end of the day, will be owning the strategy and the targets. They'll be accountable and they will be scrutinised by the Senedd, but they will draw on the expertise of the commission to draw up the strategy and targets.
Okay. Diolch. Dylan.
Yes. I think it's very important the commission is integral to developing the targets and taking forward the national food strategy. I think that will be a key role of the commission. What's going to be crucial is making sure that the commissioner and the commission, that we've got the right people on there, with the skills, expertise and experience to be able to deliver that.
Thank you, Sam. Yes, I think there would be a role for the food commission here to bring together stakeholders across the food supply chain, really, in Wales to help with the work of the commission, but also maybe potentially reduce the costs that are set out within the regulatory impact assessment of running a commission. So, there's an opportunity here to use the knowledge and experience from stakeholders across the supply chain to help with this work. What we also would like to see is, when Welsh Government Ministers seek advice from the commission, that that advice and guidance from the commission is considered seriously and it isn't a tick-box exercise, as we've seen with other commissions in the past, maybe not necessarily Welsh Government commissions, but in the UK as well.
Great, thank you. Rhys made the point there as to the NFFN, their preference for a food commissioner rather than a chair. I know Peter Fox in a previous panel mentioned a chair and a panel of expertise, a board of expertise. For the other three panellists, then, I just wanted to pick up on your thoughts on the NFFN's thoughts around that. Gareth.
To be honest, we haven't really considered which one we would prefer in terms of the Bill. Yes. So, I'll leave it there. We're quite neutral on it, really, I think, Sam.
Okay, thank you. Dylan.
It's apples and pears from our perspective. It's having the commission in place to be able to undertake that work. What you call them, whether it's a chair or a commissioner, I think we're relatively flexible.
I think having a food commissioner elevates the Bill and the policy on a par with other things that are of central importance to Wales's well-being. So, it feels right, but I'm not really qualified to comment on the finer points of governance. But if I could just go back to a point that Dylan made about the make-up of the food commission, because this is related, I think there could be something in the Bill that actually requires expertise from across all food goal areas on that commission, something that's quite specific, ensuring that there is this holistic approach taken.
Excellent, thank you. That's great, Chair.
Diolch. Luke. Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. If I can stick with the thread around targets, in our last evidence session, timescales was a point of conversation. Obviously, the regulations setting the targets need to be made within two years of the Bill coming into force—so, three months after Royal Assent—and those targets as well need to be reviewed every five years. Are the timescales in the Bill for targets appropriate? I don't just mean in terms of just making them, I also mean in terms of reporting on them and reviewing them. I'm not sure who wants to start on that one. Dylan.
Just from our perspective, I think, ideally, we'd like to see it shorter than two years. I think annual would be ideal. But we respect that, often, things take a little bit longer than anyone would like, particularly when starting up. I think it's important, if we've got these targets and indicators, if we see issues or concerns or problems, that there are mechanisms in place, really, to be able to address those quicker than waiting another two years to see whether things have improved or not. Again, talking about alignment with other Bills, and I'm particularly talking about the agriculture Bill, I think, when we're talking about some of the targets and the indicators, it's making sure reporting periods align between the two as well.
Any additional comments on that? Rhys.
Jest i ddweud bod pum mlynedd i adolygu i'w weld ar yr wyneb yn amser reit hir, ac y dylai fod, fel roedd Dylan yn ei ddweud, yn fyrrach. Ond mae'n mynd i gymryd amser, yn enwedig sefydlu'r comisiwn a chael yr aelodau yn eu lle ac ati. Bydd y comisiwn yn chwarae rôl fawr yn gyrru hyn i gyd ac yn cynghori ar y targedau, felly dwi'n meddwl ei fod yn bwysig bod y sefydliadau yna yn eu lle i gychwyn, a gweld sut aiff hi wedyn.
Just to say that five years for review on the face of it seems like a long time, and, as Dylan said, ideally, it should be shorter. But it's going to take time, particularly the establishment of the commission and getting the members in place. The commission will play a major role in driving all of this and providing advice, so I think it's important that those organisations are in place at the outset, and then see how it goes after that.
Diolch. Roeddwn i'n gweld bod Gareth hefyd wedi rhoi llaw lan.
Thank you. I saw that Gareth also had put his hand up.
Diolch, Luke. Yes, I don't have massively much to add here, but what I just want to emphasise here is that food supply chains are extremely sensitive to global events, even local events. So, as Dylan referred to, really, maybe annual reporting would allow us to see the patterns much more clearly, because they'll take years, for example, now for us to recover from the impacts we've seen over recent months and years. But also it will take time for us to see the benefits of the implementation of this Bill as well, so it's a bit of a catch-22 in a sense. But, alongside the implementation of the sustainable farming scheme and the Agriculture (Wales) Bill, the transition period is set to end towards the end of this decade, so it will take time for food systems and supply chains to adapt, and for us to see the results.
Just to support those comments and really just to say that it should be seen as an investment. So, one or two years to get the commission up and the national food strategy ready, that should serve for the next decades. So, I think that's a good investment.
Thank you. Thank you for that. Just to touch or come back to the agri Bill for a second, Dylan, do you think that the Bill fits in with the agri Bill?
Yes, I do. As I said, if NFU Cymru were designing primary legislation from scratch, we would have had a comprehensive food and farming Bill, so it would all be included in one Bill to make it clearer and easier. That's not the case. As you say, we're pleased to see that food is included as one of the key objectives of the agri Bill, but it's still not quite front and centre as we'd like to see it within the Bill. So, on that basis, we are pleased that the Food (Wales) Bill has got the potential to be able to be delivered and come in almost in parallel with the agri Bill, and what we need to make sure—and I think the onus is on all of us—is that there is that alignment. I think the national food strategy could play a really important role in making sure that happens, really, and overseeing that to make sure that we don't see—. There's been a criticism in the past, I think, within Government of siloed working sometimes between agriculture and food. I think is a great opportunity to bring it all together.
Great, diolch. Just on the explanatory memorandum, the Bill says that the food systems would be based on sustainable management of natural resources principles. Does the panel or anyone on the panel think that this should be on the face of the Bill?
Roeddwn i'n mynd i wneud pwynt am hynny. Mae'r terminoleg, o bosibl, yn reit bwysig yn y ddeddfwriaeth yma. Hynny yw, yn y sustainable farming scheme, mae gennyt ti 'sustainable land management' fel fframwaith; yn Neddf yr amgylchedd mae 'SMNR'; ar wyneb y Bil yma, 'system fwyd gynaliadwy'. Mae pob un ar yr wyneb yn swnio'n debyg, ond mae yna wahaniaethau cyfreithiol digon gwahanol. Felly, buasai cael ychydig bach o gysondeb rhwng y gwahanol ddeddfwriaeth yn fuddiol, yn fy marn i.
I wanted to make a point on that. The terminology is perhaps important in this legislation. In the sustainable farming scheme, you have 'sustainable land management' as a framework; in the Environment Act, you've got 'SMNR'; and on the face of this Bill, a 'sustainable food system'. On the face of it, they all sound similar, but there are legal differences. So, having a little bit of consistency between the different pieces of legislation would be useful.
Any additional comments on that point? No. I appreciate I'm jumping around a bit, but a final question, Chair, just on the consultation and collaboration requirements within the Bill. Do you believe it's sufficient? A couple of stakeholders have suggested that the role of public bodies, for example, should be strengthened in their requirements for collaboration on the targets. If you do not believe it's sufficient, how would you like to see that Bill amended? Andrew.
I'd just refer to my earlier comments, in that I think there is—. I'm not entirely sure how it would be done; that will be something we'll have to think about and provide further evidence on. But, yes, something that requires more co-design. But that on its own may not be sufficient, and then we have to look at the make-up of the commission and who are the other independent experts that Ministers may consult with, and what the Bill says about those people, to ensure that there is representation from across all food goals in terms of input.
Thank you, Andrew. I appreciate that there are some unknowns in this process. Unless there are any additional comments, I'll hand back to the Chair.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. I want to bring in Vikki Howells now, who's joining us virtually this morning. So, Vikki, over to you.
Thank you, Chair, and good morning to our witnesses. I've got a question on global responsibility, and I'd like to direct it to Rhys, first of all, because it arose from a comment that we received from the Nature Friendly Farming Network. Rhys, could you expand on your thoughts on whether the Bill does enough to minimise Wales's environmental footprint overseas, by considering the sustainability of imported resources? And I'm particularly thinking there of just how much we are able to do, operating within a global market.
Thank you. As the network, we're happy to see the mention of global responsibility in the Bill—it was something that we called for. And I'll just highlight the recent 'Wales and Global Responsibility' report, which highlights that food commodities, in the main, imported from overseas to Wales—food commodities but also commodities that we use indirectly to produce food in Wales—do contribute towards global environmental and social issues as well. So, just as an example, we import around 190,000 tonnes of soya into Wales each year, 80 per cent of which is used for livestock feed, but 80 per cent of that feed comes from countries that are at high risk of deforestation and have human rights issues. So, a reliance on this source is problematic from an environmental, social and economic point of view. So, it's great to see that that is addressed in the Bill and that we can't just look at Wales's food system in isolation. And I think that the same is true with the war in Ukraine—it's highlighted how dependent we are on nitrogen fertilizer, for example, from overseas, and how volatile some of these prices are as well, which has squeezed the pockets of farmers. Whether the Bill is strong enough, I'm not sure, but the fact that it's there is a positive thing. And I think that you'll appreciate that we, and Dylan, and Gareth, and others around the table are working with stakeholder groups on sustainable alternative proteins for livestock. But I think that having a Bill that sets the framework and the direction of travel of what we want the food system to look like—what a good, sustainable food system looks like—can help inform our global responsibility.
Thank you. Could I ask Dylan if there's anything he wants to add to that?
Look, I think NFU Cymru, alongside NFU, obviously, ran a campaign a couple of years ago and we got over 1 million signatures to ensure that the UK wasn't impacted by food coming into this country that doesn't meet our own high standards. So, it's very important to us. I think you maybe touched on it in your question, Vikki—I think the concern there possibly is around the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020, really, isn't it, and what potentially we can do in Wales, because if produce comes into the UK, it can be sold anywhere in the UK under the internal market Act. So, what can we do to stop, potentially, those products that aren't produced to our standards being utilised in Wales? I think what we can do, though, again, is look to how we can support and incentivise sustainable food production in Wales, and I think that's something that the food Bill can help to deliver.
Thank you. And, Gareth, anything else from the FUW?
Thank you, Vikki. I think the Welsh Government has a role here to play and to lead by example, really, in terms of enhancing the Welsh food and drink industry. Obviously, the local procurement of our food can support supply chains and support our local producers, but by no means is it going to replace all Welsh produce that's sold in other parts of the UK and abroad, really. So, we need to be realistic here, but, obviously, this Bill hopes to join the dots in terms of where we can sell Welsh produce in Wales. We need to ensure that any future food strategies don't place our producers at a competitive disadvantage, particularly, as Dylan referred to, in the context of signing free trade agreements with massive food exporting countries. So, we see this Bill as an overarching Bill and to set targets, but we don't want to see it place additional burdens or restrictions on our producers, really, when we are, then, also competing against other countries across the world.
Thank you. I'll just check whether Andrew's got any views there, particularly on fertilisers.
Well, yes, just to reiterate Rhys's points about the inputs that are sourced from overseas, and really unsustainable imports of feed in particular, which the Soil Association has been campaigning about regarding poultry feed, the soya that's produced in the Amazon. I mean, these aren't just out-of-sight-out-of-mind issues. The way that that's impacting the global climate system will affect Welsh producers, so it is absolutely within the interests of a national food strategy to take a view on this, notwithstanding the realities, as Dylan has touched on, regarding the internal market Act. Maybe that's something for the sustainable farming scheme to be alert to, to ensure that the right sort of farming practices are rewarded.
Okay, thank you, Vikki. I'll come back to you. I'm going to bring in Hefin now—Hefin David, who's also joining us virtually.
Just to follow up on that, does the panel think the Bill aligns with legislation across the UK in the context of the UK supply chain, and at an international level too?
Who wants to start with that? Rhys.
Yes. I don't see how it doesn't. You know, Scotland have got their Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. They're leading the way, and we can duplicate what they're doing there, really, and go a step further and show even more leadership. Obviously, the Wales food system is intertwined in a internal UK food system. We are, in Wales, a net exporter of food and very reliant on the UK, especially for red meat exports. So, there should still be dialogue and co-ordination between the four UK countries, but I don't see it as an obstacle or a hindrance.
Anyone else? Anything to add, Andrew?
Well, of course, food security, sovereignty, or just how we produce our food in Wales is not just a matter for farming and the food sector in Wales; it's governed by things like UK trade policy, the internal market Act, common frameworks. So, all of these things have some leverage over a national food strategy. That's not to say that this Bill isn't needed, though, and wouldn't be effective, because a food commission would be able to understand and assess the impacts of those and shape the strategy accordingly.
So, with that in mind, can I look more local, then? As set out in the explanatory memorandum, how will the Bill allow new opportunities for farmers to sell in local markets in Wales?
Well, I think that's more about the opportunity of bringing people together, isn't it, and I think that's what the local food boards would be looking to do—bringing public procurement, bringing local authorities, bringing the NHS, bringing farmers, bringing the food service sector all together, to have those discussions and to look at ways about how you can make sure that local food is sourced locally and how you can add value to food production in those areas, really, isn't it. So, what it's really doing is bringing that together and, hopefully, with the food commission overarching that, you've got the ability to share best practice throughout those boards as well, because there is good practice happening in Wales. I was in a meeting last week and hearing the work that some Gower farmers are doing with Swansea schools and Castell Howell, really, to try and bring local food into schools there. So, it's about making sure that the good practice in Wales is shared everywhere.
Okay. And can I ask about the requirement—just on impact assessments and food production—for Welsh Ministers to carry out regulatory impact assessments on proposed new regulations? What are your views on that suggestion?
Yes, can I—? From the FUW's point of view, we'd support that proposal. We don't want to see a lack of recognition of food within regulatory impact assessments. A fine example—and the committee will be well aware this—is within the water resources regulations. Within our submission of alternative measures, the first thing that we said is that, at the moment, those regulations focus on one single objective of reducing agricultural pollution, and it doesn't take into account any other measures in terms of, for example, the number of farms in Wales, the number of cattle, and the impact that may have on other regulations and on food production. So, that's just a good example to show why the consideration of food, when regulations or legislation is introduced, is still so important, because sometimes there may be unintended consequences of certain policies that aren't currently considered, at least.
Chair, I'm conscious of time. I'm going to stop there.
Thank you. The clock has pretty much beaten us, but I will allow Vikki to come back and just ask her final two questions. And then, in response to these questions, we'll ask each of the panellists—. If you've got any further comments you want to add, in terms of any areas that we haven't covered, then please do add them to your responses to Vikki's two questions.
Thank you, Chair. We'll try for a quick-fire round of whether the witness have identified any unintended consequences of the Bill. I'm happy for anyone to go first.
Let's start with you, Dylan.
Perhaps I'll turn it round, really, to the consequences of not having a comprehensive food and farming strategy and primary legislation in Wales.
Okay. Thank you. Rhys.
I agree with Dylan. I would say, just to reiterate, there's a danger of not looking at the food goals holistically and a danger of prioritising one or two over the others.
Gareth, I'll come to you next, virtually.
I've got nothing much to add, really. But very quickly in terms of one of Hefin's quick questions, only around 5 per cent of lamb produced in Wales is currently consumed in Wales, so I think the fact that 95 per cent of the lamb that we produce here is consumed in other parts of the UK or abroad is just one really good example of the opportunities that this Bill will create. Thank you.
Dylan and Rhys got my points.
Great. Vikki, final question.
Final quick-fire question, using the same format. If the Bill didn't progress, what would our stakeholders like to see the Welsh Government doing in terms of policy and process?
That's a difficult question, you know, because I'd be tempted to say that public procurement and local food plans are really important, but they only really work effectively if they're backed up by a national food strategy that's overseen by a food commission. So, I don’t really want to be drawn into how do we scavenge bits of this Bill. I think it's a whole package, I'm afraid.
Anything to add, Rhys?
No, just to say that we would probably still be calling for a food Bill.
I just think there's a concern that we could stagnate in Wales unless we move forward with this Bill. Rhys talked about what's going on in the rest of the UK; there's the fact that we've left the common agricultural policy and the various food and farming strategies we have there. As I say, stagnation is my concern, unless we move forward.
And the final word to Gareth.
Thank you, Chair. Food is extremely important, and what we wouldn't want to see is—. For example, the Welsh Government claimed that they're doing what the food Bill is setting out to do by simply adding an amendment into maybe the agri Bill or the procurement Bill. So, we don't want it to get lost, really, into another Bill, just to tick a box.
Excellent. Okay. On that final note, I just want to thank our panellists for their evidence today. You'll receive a copy of the transcript of today's proceedings, once it's produced, so that you can correct anything if the record is incorrect.
We're going to now just take a short break and reconvene at 10:45 in order to hear from our next panel. Thank you.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:34 a 10:48.
The meeting adjourned between 10:34 and 10:48.
We are going to resume our meeting today. We're now on item 4 on our agenda of the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee. We're still considering the Food (Wales) Bill, and we've got our second panel session of the day, taking evidence from food producers and processors. I'm delighted to be able to welcome to today's meeting David Thomson, the director of strategy and devolved nations at the Food and Drink Federation Cymru, and, also, Andy Richardson, who's joining us virtually today—he's the chair of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. Welcome to you both.
This is our fourth evidence session; we've been working through this Bill. We've got other sessions to go, and, of course, later in the process, we'll be hearing from the Minister, and we'll invite, also, the Member in charge back. But, if I may, we'll go straight into questions, in order that we get through all the areas that we want to touch on today.
Can I ask the Food and Drink Federation, first of all, if I may, just about your membership? I know that you've got extensive membership across the UK. What's your membership in Wales as a proportion of the industry?
As a proportion of the industry, it is a reasonable size. What we tend to represent are larger food and drink manufacturers, so, in particular, those who will have a manufacturing facility in Wales, for example Princes, who've just opened their new factory in Cardiff at the start of December. So, as a proportion, we have a relatively small proportion of our membership that's in Wales, but they tend to be larger businesses who employ larger numbers of people.
And how many members would that be, specifically?
Around 35 members in Wales.
Around 35 members. Okay, that's great. You've argued in your written evidence that a policy-based approach should be given a chance before the introduction of legislation in the way that's proposed by Peter Fox in the Food (Wales) Bill. How do you respond to the chorus of voices in the opposite direction that say that we need this Bill in order to bring things together and put things on a legislative footing?
Thanks again for the opportunity to be here. The food and drink industry in Wales is a significant part of the manufacturing base in Wales—15 per cent of value added. So, we really, really think that it's important to recognise the great work that the Welsh Government is already delivering as part of their food and drink strategy. In fact, as you said, I'm director of strategy and devolved nations at the FDF, and I get to see different parts of the country as part of that, and Wales actually has a really good track record of supporting in particular the food and drink industry and food and drink culture.
I think what we would say to respond to the question of whether we need a legislative basis is that, actually, we would expect and we see all Governments in the UK taking different approaches to this. And, in some cases, there is a legislative basis, for example the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act 2022. In England, they have the national food strategy and a range of different strategies that are pulling things together. I guess it's a choice for Wales as to how it would like to take that forward. I think the danger is that putting things on a legislative basis might actually stifle some innovation, it might stop people acting on opportunities, and it might mean that there is, perhaps, the opportunity for less of a balance, I think, than is currently there in the Welsh Government's approach. I think part of the issue is that there's lots and lots of good stuff happening. There are areas where we would want to see more co-ordination, but do we really need a law to do that?
So, you don't want to upset the apple cart that's already been delivering, in some sense.
That's essentially your position. And what about the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board? Do you want to tell us what your views are on these matters, Andy Richardson?
Again, thank you for the opportunity to present today. I really appreciate that. I think it's really important that we distinguish. The purpose of what is trying to be set up in the Bill is very noble. It's really important we try to join up resilience, health, economies, et cetera. So, I think what the Bill is trying to achieve is absolutely right. I think what's really up for discussion is how we do it.
I think the challenge we have is that we've got a lot of good things in Wales. We've got a really good vision for the food and drink sector, but I think there's a real danger that actually we don't build on what we've got already. What I mean by that is: would it not be better to clarify the set of outcomes that we want to achieve in Wales and then ask the existing departments to look at existing legislation to see whether it's actually delivering those outcomes and whether it can deliver those outcomes, before we go headlong towards a Bill, setting up a food commission, et cetera? So, what I'm saying is that it's very right what we're trying to do, I'm just wondering whether the Bill is the right way of doing it.
Thank you for that. One of the issues that the Minister has raised in her response so far to the Bill is she has suggested that it's going to be resource consuming, bureaucratic for those people who have duties under the Bill, and perhaps even for the industry—the food-producing industry and processing industry. David Thomson, do you have any views on that?
Yes, we would agree with the Minister in this instance. We're clear that it will introduce unnecessary complexity and bureaucracy, at the very least from an industry point of view and potentially from a resource point of view for Government. I'd agree with Andy that the aim here is very laudable, we want people to be talking about food and drink, we want people to be thinking carefully about food and drink as we go forward, but the complexity and bureaucracy could potentially be very, very difficult.
I think I'd set that into, possibly, three different things. So, first, actually, is the targets, which I know we'll come on to, and how the Senedd goes through setting those targets. The debate around the targets, the interacting complexity of those targets is going to be very difficult to parse and work through. So, that in itself is going to be very difficult. There are going to be enormous issues in terms of consistency and enormous issues where some of those targets are going to clash with each other. As you go forward, that is inevitable, because it is such a complex and difficult area. And I think if something like the Bill is enacted, then you have complexity in terms of the way that the public authorities respond to the need to come with a plan. So, if you can think about all the debates that you'll have in the Senedd, those will be multiplied across all of the different local authorities as they grapple with the same questions and issues. For example, last week in Scotland, we had the City of Edinburgh Council sign a charter to promote veganism in Edinburgh. How does that fit with the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act 2022? How does that fit with the need to consult on industry—on the kind of things that they're going to do? And how does that fit with the economic and social circumstances of Scotland? And you'll have all of these debates going on at every level amongst the public sector in Wales. So, the question: is that the right thing to be doing, or are there different things to be doing?
And then, we would argue very clearly that resilience of the supply chain has got to be an important aim of the legislation if it goes through. We would also argue very clearly that, if decisions are being made about industry, then industry needs to be part of those discussions. So, the resources of industry to actually respond to these multiple discussions and support those discussions at different levels across the whole of the public sector in Wales is going to be very, very limited. And so, the danger is, actually, you get negative outcomes for industry because there isn't that level of engagement there. So, all of these suggest a lot of complexity and all of these suggest to us a lot of bureaucracy, as we go forward, and we haven't really had to face that in Scotland yet, because while the legislation was enacted last year, the Scottish Government's Cabinet Secretary suggested that it will be well into next year before we have a commission and the first of these local food plans.
Okay. With respect to the point that you made about, I think it was Edinburgh council—City of Edinburgh Council—of course, anybody can made a declaration that they're going to promote veganism, at any government level, at any time.
Surely, having a strategy would help to give a long-term view, and the underpinning that this Bill, some people would argue, will bring with the legislative framework might help to avoid unilateral declarations in one part of Wales versus others and help to bring everything together so that everyone's fighting as a team Wales on the same page.
I can absolutely see that argument. I suppose we would say: do you really need legislation to do that, or are there not better ways to achieve that through the different tools that are already there?
And the same question to you on this issue of potential for resource-consuming bureaucracy, if I may, Andy Richardson: what are the views of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board?
Yes, thank you, Chair. Just on your comment there that you made about team Wales, that was really important because I think we certainly want to make sure that we're all on the same page—I think that's important.
So, what the Minister said about being bureaucratic and time-consuming, I think is right, but I would say that time-consuming is not a bad thing if it achieves a good outcome. I think the bureaucratic point is a different point. I think we do need to learn from other examples of where this has been tried, and all of you will be aware of the national food strategy that Henry Dimbleby did—the so-called UK national food strategy. You'll probably be aware that Henry did an awful lot of work and his team, and the bottom line is that not much of it has been picked up. And that is something that I think, if we do go down this route in Wales, we need to be very mindful of, to make sure that we learn the lessons of not just the UK national food strategy, but also we learn the lessons of where this has been done around the world. Because it's very easy to sit in these rooms and sign off the legislation and say, 'We'll set up a strategy'; it's much, much harder to actually do it. And really, I wouldn't want us to go down this route, have a massive expectation of what it's going to deliver and then it delivers nothing at the end of the day in 12-to-18 months' time.
I would, Chair, just come back to the point I made a second ago: I think, when you look at the purpose and the objectives of the Bill, if I'm being honest, I find them a little bit nebulous, and I think there is a real need to really pin those objectives down. And what I would do is, before you introduce a Bill, I would challenge the different departments to say how they currently deliver those objectives. And it may well be that you've already got the strategy in place; it just needs pulling together. And I say that with the best of intentions, because I just don't want Wales to go down the route of bureaucracy. Hopefully that's helpful.
Okay, thank you very much, Andy. Sarah Murphy.
Thank you very much, Chair. I'm going to ask some questions about the food goals now. So, to begin with, are you content with how the secondary food goals have been amended from the draft Bill? David.
I think so, but I think there is a significant amount of work still to go, and as I said in my previous answer, I think, as the Bill passes through the various stages, then I think there's going to be significant further amendment to them, and really, it's quite difficult to take a view. I mean, the experience of the good food nation Act in Scotland is multiple amendments at very late stages in the parliamentary process. So, I think that's where the potential danger lies—it's how you ensure that you end up with good secondary food goals through the parliamentary process, when there will be an enormous amount of time pressure and a lot of political pressure to do that.
So, for us, the secondary food goals, I think we understand where they're coming from, we understand what they're trying to do, but what we would like to make sure is that the industry element and the resilient supply chain element is in each of them. And, secondly, we were very alert to the danger that there might be additional wording changes, or amendments to those secondary food goals during the parliamentary process, which could mean that there is the difficulty of things getting in there that actually nobody wants as a reasonable outcome.
Okay, thank you. Andy, I'll come to you next.
Thank you. Again, I'll come back to my previous comment that, being honest with you, I find the goals quite nebulous; I find them very easy to agree with, because they're very commonsense, but I think, to be meaningful, before we go down this route, we just need to be much clearer on making them more like outcomes, more like smart objectives. Casting ourselves forward to five or 10 years' time, what is it that we want to achieve in Wales? So, I think the answer is being much clearer on the outcomes, rather than just putting in goals there.
Thank you very much. And it's been suggested by the Food and Drink Federation that the goals should support the industry to stay competitive. So, do you want to just expand on that a little bit?
Yes. So, competitive and resilient—these are important parts for the food supply chain, and nothing has indicated that more than the last few years, really, as we've seen across the UK. And I think it's important, therefore, that, particularly in Wales, we've got a situation where Welsh foods can be exported, and exports of Welsh food have increased by 20 per cent to £558 million in 2020, so that's an important part of the industry. But also, critically, to meet the broader UK market, which is where most of it is produced for. So, from our perspective, any legislation or regulation that is in place needs to make sure that it continues to allow Welsh food companies to be competitive in that very competitive market.
Okay. Thank you very much. Andy, did you want to come in on this as well?
Yes. The only point I wanted to make was that there's something in here about resilience and global supply chains—hopefully, this is to your point—that I think we must be careful of not missing. Something that's really important to me is not just about the food system in Wales, but where we fit within the global economy, and there is a bit of work that needs to be done, whether it's this Bill or not, that actually understands our supply chains in Wales, and it's about imports and it's about exports as much as anything, and it's about resilience. We all know the lessons we've learned from COVID, Brexit, and particularly the Ukraine, and I would challenge anybody to show me a bit of work that has looked at the importance of importing and global trade, and Wales's position within that.
Excellent, thank you. And then, final question. I'll come to you first, then, Andy. Are you clear on how these goals will be achieved?
No, and that was the point I was making about outcomes. So, it's very easy to sit in these rooms and criticise, and I'm not trying to do that. I think the goals are very noble and they're in the right direction. They need to be much smarter goals, more specific, and, as I said a second ago, we need to be clear about what we want to achieve in five or 10 years' time, and then I can answer your question, and I think it needs a bit more work in that regard. Thank you.
Thank you. Can I just ask as well: have you seen the Food Policy Alliance Cymru proposal around how to have more integrated food goals? In that, it says that, instead of breaking them down into almost like ministerial portfolios, really, it's more about setting out that we want sustainable jobs in food, we want net-zero food targets. Have you seen that? If not, what do you think about that? Is that what you mean—more integrated, more about outcomes and goals rather than by department?
Yes, I'm aware of it, but I haven't read it in detail. But that is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about, and I would like to get it even more specific than that. What you've mentioned there, again, they're very important objectives, but they just need to be much more measurable, and if you make it more specific, then people can get their heads around it more. And if we leave it too at the nebulous level, it's very easy for—I don't know—Government departments and industry to take it or leave it. So to say, 'Our aim is to'—sorry, I'll get the wording right—'Our aim is to be more sustainable in the future', everybody gets it, but no-one really knows what to do to deliver it because it's not specific enough. So, hopefully, that's getting the point across, and that will play to the Chair's comment a minute ago about team Wales, because then we can all align around those rows. So, I would spend our time working on the objectives before we come up with a tactical strategy.
Okay. Thank you very much. Finally, David.
So, no, I haven't read the Food Policy Alliance Cymru document. However, I agree with Andy in a lot of ways that we need to be driving towards a clear goal that everyone can aim for and everyone can get behind. I think, if I agree with Andy's comments, that, at the moment, it seems that there are multiple different goals, and how they interact with each other is going to be really, really difficult. I understand that it's going to be Welsh Ministers' job to set targets as part of the Bill, and I think that's just going to be really, really difficult. We'll probably come on a bit later to talk about the interaction with other regulation as well. That's an important point too.
Thank you both very much. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you. I'm going to bring Sam Kurtz in.
Thank you, Chair. Just to come back to the point, Andy, about you mentioning the targets being nebulous, the goals being nebulous, I think, in listening to the Member who brought forward this Bill and his team last week, because this is a framework, an overarching framework, and he himself is not in Government, so, therefore he won't be the Minister enacting this Bill, there's a relative intention there to allow it to not be interpreted in whichever way it wants to be interpreted by the Government, but it gives the strategy, it gives the framework for that Government then to enact the Bill. Would you agree—? This is slightly more because of the politics of it, but is that a point that you can understand why it's done in that way?
Yes, absolutely, and that's really helpful—thank you for helping me on that. So, if we acknowledge that that's the stage we're at, then, the logical progression is to go to this next stage of much clearer objectives and outcomes, and that may be the next stage before we dive headlong down into a Bill.
Excellent. That's helpful. But specifically around food targets, then, David, you mentioned potential duplicates and misalignment. Do you see that there could potentially be misalignments with some of those targets that are already in existence in policies and strategies—not law, as it were?
Yes. I think there could be, because, again, you're going through a parliamentary process in order to deliver this, and, of course, that means that there will be elements where current Government policy does not align with whatever the regulation is, especially, not just as it's a Member's Bill, but we've seen that in lots of pieces of legislation in history. So, I think there is a danger there. And I guess when we talk about those different bits of regulation, I know there are things around agriculture that are still to be defined in Wales; there are things in those kinds of spaces, but there are actually other things as well, things like potential legislation to ban promotions of particular types of food, potential regulations on extended producer responsibility for plastic packaging, and regulations on the deposit return system. How those all fit within that framework when you've already got policy intent in place is going to be, potentially, again, quite difficult and complex.
The only thing I was going to add was a slightly different point, about siloed Government policies. Can I talk to that—is that okay?
Okay. Yes, yes, please do.
Thank you. So, the one thing that really hit me, reading all the paperwork—there was a stat, I think, that 63 per cent of people thought that Government strategies or policies weren't aligned, and somewhere else it was very clear about policy silos. And that's really frustrating, because, in Wales—. I'm really proud of the work I do in Wales, because we have such things as the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, we have a food vision. So, it's a joining-up issue, in my mind. We've got the instruments, we've got the ambition; it's very clear that people are saying that policies are not aligned between departments et cetera. So, again, I think that the problem that we're trying to solve is lack of clarity on the specific objectives—sorry, that point again—and then asking different departments how their policies deliver and align with those. And I think that that's the problem that we're trying to solve. It's not dissimilar to what this Bill is trying to do, but I think it's really important just to point that out.
Okay. Just quickly then, the million-dollar question: how would you see the alignment of that occurring—those strategies?
So, what I would do is, I would agree, personally, five or six specific objectives that we have to achieve to deliver what the Bill was saying. Because I think that the purpose of the Bill is dead right—it's health, it's the social economy, all of those things. I would agree five, maybe six, specific objectives, then I would ask Government departments how their current policies deliver those, and then, depending on what the answers are, you decide whether there is alignment or whatever needs to be done. I think that it's quite a simple process, but, obviously, a lot of work.
Okay. Thank you. Moving on to a food commission, I'm just wondering what the panel's view is on a food commission, or whether that would be, as the Member who's put forward the Bill believes, a chair and a board, but we've heard evidence this morning where they believe it would be an individual commissioner. I'm just looking to hear the panel's view on what they would see, potentially, around that commission/commissioner role. David, yourself.
So, it's difficult, really—it kind of depends on what the duties and functions of the commission are, and what resources it needs to deliver those. So, that's part of it. If there is a layer of scrutiny of the plans, then that requires a significant amount of resource, I would imagine, which would require a team, a board and a commissioner. If it's to set or interpret the Welsh Government's food vision, as to how that then applies to public sector agencies, and then the public sector agencies decide what they want to do within that framework, then, again, that's a team, but it could just be a commissioner—it doesn't necessarily need a wider board. So, depending on the functions it ends up with, it depends, really, there. It is an additional public body, potentially; it is additional public money to go into that resource. And there are, potentially, overlaps with other organisations, the Food Standards Agency—in Scotland, we've had a great debate about the Scottish Food Commission and Food Standards Scotland and how they sit together—the Welsh food board, which Andy's chair of, and others. So, actually understanding where it fits in that firmament is quite important as well.
Okay. Thank you. Andy.
Thank you. Again, I'd agree with what David was saying. I think, firstly, we've just got to consider how this fits with the existing food and drink board—so, that's the board I chair. I'm not being defensive—it's a public appointment; we're on rotation. Importantly, we don't get paid—it's all voluntary. The upside of that is that it leads to a much more open, honest, collaborative discussion with Welsh Government, and I've never worked in such a place where it's been so open. On the downside, we have day jobs, and therefore we can't spend as much time as we would like to. So, that leads on to the commission. Again, Dave's point is about, well, it depends on what you're asking it to do. My instinct is, in the early days, you go with a food commissioner—one person—because that person can oversee all the things we've just talked about and all the things that I've suggested you could do. It's someone who is a focal point, someone who can pull the bits together, someone who could provide energy and be a catalyst. My worry in setting up a commission is that (a) it takes, I don't know, at least six months, maybe 12 months, to set up a commission. By the time you've had the first few meetings and you've concluded something, it's a year later, and, before you know it, you're two or three years down the line. We haven't got two or three years to wait—we need to get on with it. So, that's where I would agree with the Minister. I find a commission quite bureaucratic, but I kind of like the idea of a food commissioner, to just get it going and put some energy behind it.
Because it's an interesting point. The previous panel mentioned the food commissioner as that sort of head, someone to lead on this. And then we've heard as well about the expertise that, potentially, could be there on the commission, on the board. But Swansea Bay University Health Board have suggested that food industry representatives aren't included on that, for independence. I was just wondering about your thoughts on that point. David, yourself first.
It's a ludicrous suggestion. I understand why they're making it, because they're making it from a public health point of view, at the very least, but it's a ludicrous suggestion. If you're going to have a Welsh food policy and Welsh food plans that meet all of the things that are set out in the overarching objectives of the Bill, then you need industry input, otherwise you're making decisions about the industry without the industry, and that's not really appropriate at all, in particular given the importance of the industry to Wales, in terms of the production of food. So, we would strongly rebut that argument and say that, if you're going to deliver something that actually delivers for Wales, you need to include industry as part of that.
Great, thank you. Helpful. Andy.
I think you probably know I'm going to agree with that. I absolutely agree with what Dave said there. I think it would be crazy, for several reasons. One is industry people have the insight that you need. Secondly, they are the means of delivering any change that you want. Ideally, you don't do it through legislation, you do it because businesses want to, because their customers want them to. But my adage is I totally believe in saying that it's not choosing people for what they represent, but it's choosing the person for their energy, drive and enthusiasm. So, I really don't care where they come from. It would be mad to leave out industry, but it's getting the right people with the energy and the drive. But, again, I would not start by setting up a commission. I really wouldn't start there. You may end up there, but don't start there.
Okay, that's helpful. Thank you, Chair.
Okay. Luke Fletcher.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. If I could start with the national food strategy, would a national food strategy add value to existing Welsh Government policy? David, shall I start with you?
Yes, sure. Yes, I think it would. Whether there needs to be a legislative basis for that is a different question, but, having seen various national food strategies, the Welsh Government's food vision and others, then, yes, absolutely. A look at how food and drink relate to all parts of Wales’s Government and public sector would be very, very helpful. We think the food vision in Wales already supports that and works to enable those robust and resilient supply chains that I've talked about. But there is more that could be done. So, anything that continues the dialogue and continues the debate around food and drink in Wales has got to a positive. So, we would support, with or without legislation, more work on national food strategies. We've seen that in England and we've seen that in Wales as well. So, it's really important that food is at the heart of debate.
Thank you. Andy, any view from the industry board?
Yes. My personal view on this is that we absolutely do need a national food strategy. If it's just about making food, then that's not good. If it's about the scope that we've talked about here—and I'm reading through my notes: sustainable food, food security, socioeconomic well-being and enhanced consumer choice, to take the words from the document, the Bill—then, yes, if it can include those, then I think the national food strategy is important. Again, referring to my point at the beginning, though, let's learn the lessons from the UK national food strategy. Henry Dimbleby spent hours and hours doing that work and, in my view, it's largely not been picked up. So, we need to find out why that wasn't picked up and what were the lessons learnt, because it's very easy just to say, 'Let's come up with a national food strategy.'
Thank you. So, in the context of the Bill then, that national food strategy, who would you see being the person who should lead on that work? A number of respondents to the draft Bill, for example, said that the commissioner could have a stronger role in leading that national strategy. Would you agree with those views? Or who do you see leading that?
Not necessarily, partly for the point that Andy’s set out. The Dimbleby review ended up not really being part of Government, really. It ended up going off on its own path and at UK Government level ran out of Secretaries of State who were willing to support it, I think. So, actually, my argument would be the Welsh food Minister—it should be their job.
Would you agree with that, Andy?
It's an interesting one. If I'm being honest, what's the measure of the success? That Government and industry and academia and non-governmental organisations buy up to what's in a national food strategy. So, I think it's got to be a collaboration between those four parties. The question is: who chairs it? You could argue this is for the food commissioner to do, if you get the terms of reference right—not the food commission; the food commissioner as an individual.
I think it's important that the Minister is accountable for the policy role, but I do wonder whether it's more of a collaborative endeavour, led by someone independent. So, I'm thinking quite carefully over that, because we do have to be really careful. On one side, what Dave said is right—Henry went away, he came back to Government, and Government cherry-picked what they wanted to use and didn't pick up what they didn't want to use. We can't have that happen. So, it's some way of driving those four parties together. As I said before, it's about getting the right person, who's got the time and energy to do it.
Thank you. If I could also touch on local food plans, and I suppose this question is more directed towards the Food and Drink Federation, David. In evidence on the draft Bill, you said that the reported process on the local food plans in the Bill is insufficient. What would you like to see, then?
I would like to see—. Notwithstanding the bureaucracy that I talked about earlier, we'd like to see a way to support local businesses and to support the food and drink industry as part of that. And I think the other element is: actually, where are they set? Are they set independently, so each public authority has to come up with a food plan itself, without guidance or otherwise, or is it set within the tone set out by a national food strategy, and, potentially, direction by the commissioner, if you get to those stages? So, I think actually being clear about how the things interrelate, and, in particular, I think, where there are impacts on businesses or others, how they work within the broader framework, has to be part of that. And, I don't think—at least when I last looked—there was perhaps enough detail about how that might work.
And would the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board agree on that point? Andy.
So, I think, in terms of local food plans, this is really one of my concerns, that if more money is going to be going to businesses, consumers, via local authorities—and I understand that's the way it's going—then you're beholden on the local authorities to have a plan. That's fine. What worries me is that if those plans are all different, if those local authority plans are all different, and, in this context, if they treat food and all the things we've talked about differently, you could have lots of different plans, some of them which prioritise food, some of them that don't. And collectively, they can't be leveraged to the benefit of Wales the nation. So, what I'm saying is that it worries me about the local food plans. There needs to be an element of co-ordination, principles agreed between them, and some real clever thinking about how we leverage all of those local plans to deliver something effective for Wales. I am concerned about that, in all honesty.
Okay, Luke? I'm going to come now to Hefin David, who's virtually in the meeting there. Hefin, over to you.
Yes. All good. I'd just like to explore this issue in the explanatory memorandum that says the Bill seeks to provide opportunities for farmers to sell their produce into local and regional Welsh markets. Does the panel have a view on how that would be achieved, and is that realistic?
Okay, I'll start. So, yes, it would be great if that was achieved, as long as we don't lose the point earlier around being able to compete commercially anywhere, actually, in the UK and across the globe. So, yes, if there can be more short supply chains and that supports the supply chains to be more resilient and competitive, then, really, those are the kinds of outcomes that we would like to see.
How does one make that happen? Well, you need a strategy to deliver into those local markets. And that can happen in multiple ways. It can happen through supporting 'meet the buyer' events at local level, with local hotels and shops, and others. It also requires quite a lot of work, both with businesses in terms of business development to allow them to support the development of products that will meet the needs of those local markets, and it also requires a bit of adaptability around local food procurement in the public sector as well.
Okay. Notwithstanding the fact that it's a framework Bill, do we really need a Bill to do all those things?
Andy, what about your views?
Yes, I think you can't argue with what the tactical objective is, but it is that: it's a tactic. I think it's very important that we do that, and public procurement is a big part of that. But, I would far prefer to focus this Bill on strategy and then decide whether we get down into tactics, and what you just mentioned there is a tactical response to a strategy.
Okay. And does the Bill, in your view, align with current legislation and policy across the UK and at an international level as well? Do you think that it fits snugly with that?
We'll start with you, Andy Richardson, this time.
Thank you. So, the answer is that I don't think many parts of the world are as joined up as we're proposing in the Bill, but I think it does fit snugly. So, your question, Hefin, was specifically about does it fit. So, I think it does fit, but I think if we can find a way of delivering the aims of this Bill in a smart way for Wales, joining up, we will be yet again way ahead. Dave may argue this because he's from Scotland, but I think we will be way ahead in Wales again on a number of things, and with other countries. So, hopefully that answers your question.
Yes, and I think I'd go back to some of the issues with other bits of regulation that I mentioned previously. So, I'm not as convinced as Andy that it does fit snugly, because of the way that Governments in Wales and in other parts of the UK work their policy and regulation. So, for example, in Scotland, we have a Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act that's in place, which should fetter the Scottish Government in terms of what it does, and yet, without necessarily directly listening to industry or otherwise, the Scottish Government are promoting health promotion restrictions, which will get a law proposed in the next couple of weeks; extended producer responsibility, with a differential impact in Scotland; and they're already delivering a deposit-return scheme that doesn't necessarily mesh with the rest of the UK. So, actually, where is the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act in all of these things, and where are the duties that are in that Act to work with the industry being delivered by different elements of policy? So, for me, I don't think the Welsh Bill will necessarily fix that, and I don't think it's expected to. So, for me, there are always spiky bits of regulation that have an impact that will be well outwith the areas set within the objectives of this Bill. And, of course, in England as well, where many people will sell into from Wales, there are all sorts of other bits of regulation that have a differential impact.
Okay. Are you finished there, Hefin?
Yes, thank you.
I'll bring in Vikki, then—Vikki Howells.
Thank you, Chair. I'd like to ask, notwithstanding comments that have already been made, whether our witnesses believe that the Bill offers sufficient flexibility to allow future challenges in the food system to be addressed.
So, it depends, because Welsh Ministers, in the Bill, can change the secondary objectives. They can go through a process to change those secondary objectives, potentially by talking to the commissioner about it. So, yes, there is a process for those objectives and targets to be changed. I think, though, that we have to question whether the legislative process is the right way to actually change those objectives in the right time.
If you think back a year, we didn't have an invasion of Ukraine, we didn't have the need to flex and support food and drink businesses, we didn't have an energy crisis that required significant support for businesses across the piece. That's just a year. If you think back three years, a COVID pandemic that totally changed the way that people bought their food, interacted with food and actually produced food in many ways, and then a few years before that the decision to leave the European Union. All of those things have long-lasting impacts. All of those things have required changes in policy, understanding and support, and, on all of those things, the Governments across the UK did change policy, understanding and support. I think the danger of ossifying that kind of approach in regulation, which this has the potential to do, means that it's a lot harder and a lot longer to flex and make those changes. So, for me, yes, there is a mechanism to do it. Whether that mechanism is actually, again, unnecessary bureaucracy when events change the way that governments look at food production is an interesting question.
Andy Richardson, anything to add?
Thank you. Thanks, Vikki, for the question. So, you're asking about flexibility in the Bill and I think the answer is 'no, I don't think the Bill does give enough flexibility'. And that's why I'm suggesting that we give the flexibility by following a process where you agree what outcomes, what objectives you're trying to achieve and then ask Government departments and organisations how they're currently delivering them, and then you decide whether you need a formal Bill or commission, yes? So, I would just allow a little bit of wriggle room. The benefit of that is you keep departments on side, the benefit of that is that you can do it much quicker, the benefit is that actually you can work with an existing framework, and also you stress test those. And that doesn't mean saying that we're being soft; I just think it would be a much better outcome. So, that would give you a much more flexible approach. I'm worried that, as it stands, the Bill is just too bureaucratic and it'll take too long to set up.
Thank you, both. And my second question is around unintended consequences—if there are any other unintended consequences that you think we should be aware of in addition to what you've already stated. And I'm thinking in particular there about the evidence that we've had from the Welsh Local Government Association and the Food and Drink Federation on additional pressures for food businesses and public bodies.
So, I can start. Yes, at the moment, we're in unprecedented territory in terms of pressures on food and drink businesses. We have massive increases in raw material costs, whether that's at the farming level or the production and processing level. We have very volatile supply chains, partly as a result of the energy crisis, partly as a result of the war. We have changing government response to supply chain security across the globe. All of that means that raw materials and things like that are always under constant review and intense inflationary pressures. We're in the seventeenth month of food price inflation increase, so it is unprecedented. I've been doing food and drink for 15 years and I've never seen anything like this, even in the crash of 2008-09.
So, at the moment, the food and drink industry is absolutely on its knees in terms of the internal pressures of just making sure that they deliver food and drink to people around the country. So, all of that means that the capacity to absorb additional regulation and to participate in the way that we would want them to do in the development of any of these plans, either national or local, is very, very limited and the pressures are very, very intense. So, for me—we'll be arguing this around any regulation actually—it's really, really difficult to see how food businesses have any additional flex to engage with them.
Thank you. Well, there are three things, Vikki, for the intended consequences. First is the point I've raised about timing. It will take a long time to set up the commission, the chair and deliver something, and I wouldn't underestimate how long it will take to do that. Secondly, if you're not careful, businesses will get defensive rather than see it as an opportunity. We've all seen examples where it's set up wrong and businesses see these things as a threat. We want them to be inspired by it. So, that's a thought. And the final thing is the aligning up with the UK. We need to be really careful how this aligns with UK Government policy. I'm not saying we're beholden to it, but, actually, if we're smart, we will align and even provide leadership for that. So, there are three areas I think we just need to look at. Thank you.
Thank you. And a final question from me, if I might, Chair, just to ask our witnesses, in addition to comments they may have already made, if there's anything else they'd like to tell us to address the issue, if the Bill didn't progress, of how they might like to see Welsh Government policy and processes change.
I'm sorry to raise the point again: I think what I want to see is a common understanding of what the objectives are. Four or five—or six, sorry—objectives that we need to deliver the purpose of the Bill. So, I agree with the purpose of the Bill and I think it's really important, but we shouldn't lose those and we just need to be clear about the four or five things that we need to achieve. If you do that, you'll succeed; if you make it too complicated, it will not happen, it won't get traction. So, we shouldn't lose that.
I agree with Andy, and I think the challenge for the Welsh Government, I think, is going into the financial situation that we've got over the next decade, essentially, and how they are able to continue the great work that's already been in place. So, actually, being clear about how they're going to do that and being clear about how they're going to deliver that, I think, is going to be the important thing. So, it's just making what's in the vision a reality.
Okay, thank you. Any more questions from Members? If there aren't, feel free to make any final comments as witnesses.
Nothing from me. Just thanks for the opportunity, and I'm very happy to engage as we go forward.
And can I thank you for contributing to this important piece of work that we've got in scrutinising this Bill? We will send you a copy of the transcript of today's proceedings, and you'll be able to review that for anything that's factually inaccurate. It will be available to you in due course. Thank you very much indeed, David Thomson and Andy Richardson.
Thank you very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
We'll now move to item 5 on our agenda and I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to exclude the public from item 6. Are all Members content? I can see that we are, so we'll move into private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:37.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:37.