“Where is the Land Use Framework?” asks EAC

The UK Government has failed to deliver the much-awaited Land Use Framework in 2023 as pledged, hindering crucial scrutiny of plans for food security, the Chair of the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has said.

In its report, Environmental change and food security, the EAC said it expected the government to publish the framework by the end of 2023, following a commitment given in oral evidence. But in the government’s response, published today, ministers say that the framework will be published on an unspecified date in 2024.

The government also fails to designate food security as a “public good,” as the committee had recommended. The committee found that any decline in food security would have profound implications across society, and called for the government to incorporate food security more explicitly in Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs), the UK’s post-Brexit financial support system for farmers.

In its report, the committee found that the UK is already experiencing the impact of climate change on food security. Record temperatures in 2022 limited yields of British crops like broccoli or cauliflower, while extreme weather abroad caused empty shelves for some fruits and vegetables last year.

The government’s response points to the Prime Minister’s recent announcement of £15 million funding towards preventing food waste from farms. Having recommended targeting food waste as a “quick win,” the committee welcomes this funding, but observes that government plans to tackle food waste need to be accompanied by measurable targets and credible timescales for implementation.

The government has also proposed publishing an annual Food Security Index, similar to the committee’s proposal for an annual Food Security Report. Ministers claim that the index will present the key data needed to monitor levels of food self-sufficiency.

The response is published on the same day that MPs plan to debate food security in the House of Commons Chamber, with members of the Environmental Audit Committee, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee and the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee all expected to take part.

In his speech opening the debate, Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Philip Dunne, is expected to note the government has not honoured its pledge to publish the Land Use Framework in 2023, and question why it will not designate food security a public good.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, said, “From the farmer’s field to supermarket shelves, the UK’s food security affects us all. When the public find fewer of their favourite fruits or vegetables available, because of extreme weather events which can no longer be dismissed as ‘freak occurrences’, they experience the impact of climate change directly.

“I welcome the government’s recent announcement of funding for the prevention of farm food waste, an encouraging and confidence-boosting step. To strengthen its efforts, the government ought to consider setting robust targets and a credible timescale for implementation. I also look forward to a decision on compulsory food waste reporting by businesses.

“Moving towards more regular updates on food security data is also a positive move. The government should prioritise finding the parliamentary time to make this commitment a statutory obligation on ministers.

“But it is extremely disappointing that the Government has not been able to honour the pledge, given by a minister in oral evidence to the committee, to publish the Land Use Framework in 2023. Any more delay could see this plan vanish for further months as the general election approaches.

“At present, we are unable to determine whether the government is approaching this challenge with the required seriousness. We encourage the government to publish the Land Use Framework without delay, and to explain its decision not to designate food security as a public good.”

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