Parliament November 2015

Recent Parliamentary questions have tackled food waste, R&D and fly-tipping, Catherine Paice reports

Media attention on food waste prompted a House of Lords written question from Baroness Jones of Whitchurch, asking whether the Government would encourage supermarkets to abandon strict cosmetic specifications for farm products – ie, the uniform, even shapes and sizes found on supermarket shelves – which result in edible food being wasted.

A response was still awaited as Farm Business went to press, but Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Rory Stewart (Con, Penrith and The Border), answering questions in the House of Commons, said: “Supermarkets and retailers are a very important part of the Courtauld agreement [a voluntary agreement aimed at improving resource efficiency and reducing the carbon and wider environmental impact of the grocery sector]. I pay tribute to some of the retailers: Tesco has made progress on bananas, and there has been progress from the Co-op on potatoes with the Marfona range, which reduces potato waste by 30%, but I absolutely agree retailers have to play a larger role in reducing food waste in general.

“We should also pay tribute to Tesco for running a new app with FareShare, and Morrisons, which has announced it will be putting all the food within the sell-by date over to charitable purposes. This is a really good lead and is showing that a voluntary approach is working.”

Back in the Lords, Lord Greaves wondered what assessment had been made on the fly-tipping statistics for England in the past year, and what action would be taken as a result. Most councils are urging support and vigilance from local communities after 900,000 fly-tipping incidents were reported in England last year.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble said: “Tackling fly-tipping is a priority for the Government. We will be giving councils the power to tackle smallscale fly-tipping through penalty noticies as an alternative to prosecutions, in spring 2016.”

Other action includes working with the Sentencing Council to strengthen its guidelines for sentencing for environmental offences, and making it easier for vehicles suspected of being involved in waste crime to be stopped, searched and seized, while the DEFRA-chaired National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group will continue to promote good practice in the prevention and clearance of fly-tipped waste.

In a written question in the House of Commons, Sir Nicholas Soames (Con, Mid Sussex) wanted to know if DEFRA had assessed the effect on productivity of privately-funded research and development.

Farm minister George Eustice (Con, Camborne and Redruth) said DEFRA and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, also involving Agritech Strategy’s Leadership Council, had carried out an assessment and the outcomes would be published by the end of November.

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