Local food

This week I've been at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.  It's been a very busy few days, with a lot of meetings and fringe events to attend, many of them relating to rural affairs.

On Tuesday I gave my speech as Shadow Environment Secretary and drew attention to the serious environmental challenges we are facing. 

I also highlighted the fact that our public sector spends a staggering £2 billion on food.  And yet not a single rasher of bacon served to our Armed Forces is British.  The Treasury buys barely half of its food from Britain.  And, worse still, Downing Street doesn't even know how much of its food comes from this country.

It's simply not good enough.  Government should lead by example.  And that's why I announced that under a Conservative government, all Whitehall departments will be required to procure food that meets British standards of production. 

And we don't want to stop there.  I want to see hospitals, schools and local authorities buying food sustainably too.

It's important that this doesn't increase overall costs at a time when the public sector needs to tighten its belt.  But the evidence shows, where it's happening, that it actually produces savings.

The important thing is that we source food as locally as we can.  In doing so we'll be cutting down on food miles, thereby helping to reduce our impact on the environment, and we'll be supporting our farmers and producers who are the custodians of our countryside.

It's not as though we don't produce high quality food in this country.  As the MP for a large rural constituency in West Sussex, I'm constantly reminded of this and need no convincing.  Our farmers and producers provide us with some of the best food you'll find anywhere in the world. 

I saw this in June when I attended the launch of the Sussex Food Awards at the South of England Show near Ardingly.  Dozens of businesses in Sussex have now been accredited under the Sussex Breakfast scheme which encourages local hotels and restaurants to buy local.  And I hope more of us will sign up to the ‘Eat Local' message.

Michelle Taylor