Public sector must source more British food

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has pledged that a future Conservative Government will require all central government departments to ensure that the food they serve meets British standards of production.

Speaking at the Party Conference in Manchester today (6 October), the Shadow Environment Secretary said that there is a clear role for the Government to lead by example to boost sustainable food sourcing in the UK.

In future, all Whitehall departments will be required to procure food that meets British standards of production, as indicated by the official ‘Red Tractor' scheme, wherever this can be achieved without increasing overall costs.

It was also announced that Zac Goldsmith, a leading ‘green' campaigner and Parliamentary Candidate for Richmond, will lead a new advisory group to draw up plans for extending the sustainable food procurement requirement throughout the public sector.

Announcing the policy, Mr Herbert said: "Every year the public sector spends over £2 billion on food.  But not a single rasher of bacon served to our Armed Forces is British.  The Treasury buys barely half of its food from Britain. Labour's failure to back local produce is shameful.  Government should lead by example.  

"So today, I'm announcing that under a Conservative Government, all Whitehall departments will be required to procure food that meets British standards of production.  This policy will be enforced wherever it can be achieved without increasing overall costs.  And all the evidence is that local food needn't cost more - in fact, it often leads to savings."

Mr Herbert added: "We don't want to stop there.  We want to see hospitals, schools and local authorities buying food sustainably.  So Zac Goldsmith will lead a new advisory group to look at how we can extend our policy across the public sector.  We're taking this action because we care about local food and we care about the countryside."



Notes for Editors

1. The full text of Mr Herbert's speech is available at [link to follow].

2. In February 2009, an ICM survey revealed overwhelming public support for British standards for food served by the public sector - 90 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: ‘food served in hospitals, schools and the armed forces should be produced to British standards'. Only 10 per cent supported the view that food should be sourced at the cheapest cost to the taxpayer.

3. The Red Tractor Scheme was launched in 2000. It is a national standard that guarantees that food comes from farms and food companies that meet high standards of food safety and hygiene, animal welfare and environmental protection.

Christopher N Howarth