Pwyllgor yr Economi, Masnach a Materion Gwledig

Economy, Trade, and Rural Affairs Committee

19/01/2023

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Hefin David MS
Luke Fletcher MS
Paul Davies MS Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Samuel Kurtz MS
Sarah Murphy MS

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Aled Evans Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol
Legal Services
Elfyn Henderson Y Gwasanaeth Ymchwil
Research Service
Gareth Rogers Rheolwr y Bil
Bill Manager
Katie Palmer Synnwyr Bwyd Cymru/Cynghrair Polisi Bwyd Cymru
Food Sense Wales/Food Policy Alliance Cymru
Peter Fox MS Aelod Cyfrifol
Member in Charge
Professor Terry Marsden Prifysgol Caerdydd
Cardiff University
Samiwel Davies Gwasanaethau Cyfreithiol
Legal Services
Simon Wright Prifysgol Cymru y Drindod Dewi Sant/Wright’s Independent Food Ltd
University of Wales Trinity St David/Wright’s Independent Food Ltd
Tyler Walsh Staff Cymorth Aelod o'r Senedd
Member of the Senedd Support Staff

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Claire Fiddes Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Jennifer Cottle Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Katy Orford Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Lara Date Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Robert Donovan Clerc
Clerk

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 09:33.

The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.

The meeting began at 09:33.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiannau
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da, bawb, a chroeso i'r cyfarfod hwn o Bwyllgor yr Economi, Masnach a Materion Gwledig. Dwi wedi derbyn ymddiheuriadau oddi wrth Vikki Howells. Dwi ddim wedi derbyn unrhyw ymddiheuriadau eraill. A oes unrhyw fuddiannau hoffai Aelodau eu datgan o gwbl? Sam Kurtz.

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this meeting of the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee. I have received an apology from Vikki Howells. I haven't received any other apologies this morning. Are there any declarations of interest that Members would wish to make at all? Sam Kurtz.

I'm an honorary member of the British Veterinary Association.

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Unrhyw un arall? Na.

Thank you very much. Anybody else? No.

2. Papurau i'w nodi
2. Papers to note

Symudwn ni ymlaen, felly, at eitem 2, sef, papurau i'w nodi. Mae yna pum papur i'w nodi. A oes yna unrhyw faterion y hoffai Aelodau eu codi o'r papurau yma o gwbl? Na. 

We'll move on to item 2, which is papers to note. There are five papers to note there. Are there any issues that Members wish to raise arising from these papers at all? I see that there are none.

3. Bil Bwyd (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 1
3. Food (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 1

Symudwn ni ymlaen, felly, at eitem 3 ar ein hagenda. Dyma sesiwn dystiolaeth gyntaf y pwyllgor i ystyried egwyddorion cyffredinol y Bil Bwyd (Cymru), sy'n Fil Aelod a gyflwynwyd  ar 12 Rhagfyr, ac a gyfeiriwyd at y pwyllgor hwn at ddibenion craffu. Mae Peter Fox, yr Aelod sy'n gyfrifol am y Bil, yn cael ei wahodd i roi braslun o ddarpariaethau'r Bil. Gaf i estyn croeso cynnes i Peter Fox a'i dîm? Diolch iddo fe am fod gyda ni y bore yma. Rŷn ni fel pwyllgor yn edrych ymlaen at ei gyfraniadau fe. Cyn ein bod ni'n symud yn syth i gwestiynau, gaf i ofyn iddo fe a'i dîm gyflwyno'u hunain ar gyfer y record?

We'll move on to item 3 on our agenda this morning. This is the committee's first evidence session considering the general principles of the Food (Wales) Bill, which is a Member Bill introduced on 12 December, and has been referred to this committee for scrutiny purposes. Peter Fox, the Member in charge of the Bill, is being invited to outline the provisions of the Bill. May I extend a very warm welcome to you, Peter Fox, and your team? Thank you very much for joining us this morning. We as a committee are looking forward to hearing your contributions. Before we do move to questions, may I ask Peter and his team to introduce themselves for the record, please? 

09:35

Good morning, Chair, and good morning, Members. It's a pleasure to be with you this morning. I'm Peter Fox, the Member in charge of the Bill. I'm supported today by Tyler Walsh, who works with me, together with Sam Davies from legal services and Elfyn Henderson from Senedd Research. I'm also joined by other members of the Bill team: Gareth Rogers and Aled Evans. Perhaps before I start answering any question, Chair, I would just like to put on record my thanks to the Commission for the support they've wrapped around me to help me get this far. 

Thank you very much for those introductions. Perhaps I can kick off this session just by asking you—. The Welsh Government, of course, has made it absolutely clear that it wants to deliver its food vision by working seamlessly across wider policy agendas, such as public health, communities, sustainability, the circular economy, decarbonisation, trade, skills and tourism. And, as you know, the Minister has made it quite clear that she doesn't believe that this Bill is required. Can you just explain to us why you believe this Bill is necessary? 

Thank you, Chair. Yes, the Minister has made it pretty clear that she doesn't feel it's necessary to have this legislation, and we've disagreed all the way through. Whilst there is acknowledgement that there are good pieces of policy being developed across the Government in relation to food, there isn't any overarching principle that acts as any governance over all of those. So, many a time, parts of the policy agenda here are not always in synergy. They're not always talking to each other, and that's been recognised through some of the consultation that we've done. 

Why I've always believed that there is a need for a Bill is not just the fact that we need to maintain our food security, and all of those things that are attached to it; from a governance perspective, we need to make sure that there is some overarching guiding holistic governance that every part of the food system should aspire to, or be overseen by. Otherwise, we're going to get inconsistency of interpretation around the food system through the various different Bills. That has been recognised by, like I say, people who have responded to our consultation.

As a result of the current system, you see different bodies interpreting different rules in different ways, and having more of an inconsistent approach to the food system across Wales. That doesn't lead to a sustainable food system where everybody's pulling against those key principles of trying to create sustainable food and addressing our food security, and the societal issues relating to that. Because we mustn't forget that this Bill is not just about food—it's clearly about sustainable food production, but it's how we use food, how we address the societal issues. Currently, the suite of legislation in this area isn't addressing that full holistic picture.  

The rural affairs Minister, of course, has said that the proposed Bill is resource-consuming and bureaucratic. How do you respond to that? 

I would say the current system is obviously resource-intensive and bureaucratic, because there are so many areas fighting against each other instead of pulling together in one way. If anything, my Bill can come forward with a more focused approach that every part of the food system should align to, and, actually, that can reduce resources; it can actually make the Government and the country more efficient, and the food system more efficient. So, no, I absolutely stand against that. 

If I can just come in on this as well, I think, quite frankly from my perspective, it's a disappointing comment by the Minister, and I know, obviously, the Minister stated this during the debate when Peter introduced this Bill. As Peter said, the fact is that what we've done with this Bill is provide a framework for the governance of the food system here in Wales. What we've tried to do in this is to allow the Welsh Government and public bodies to rationalise and to refocus their existing food-related policies and legislation. Because, as the Member stated, the current system is quite fragmented, there's not really a chain of accountability, there's not much scrutiny. So, we don't really know much about the entirety of the food-governance system. We focus a lot on agriculture, food production, for example. We focus a lot on exports—and this is something that the Welsh Government is quite keen on—but what we're not focusing on is how we use food and what we're doing with the food system to enable us to meet the goals that we've set and to also respond to societal challenges that we're facing. And it can be a much more effective tool than it is currently.

What we're trying to do, through this, is to allow a new focus on exactly what are we doing, what are we missing, and what can we do to make the food system work across the entirety of it and to work for communities. So, public bodies, the Welsh Government can identify duplicate areas of spending, they can identify areas of spending that aren't achieving what they want them to achieve, refocus those efforts, repurpose resources, and then really have a directed, focused approach on particular goals, which are set out in the secondary food goals, so we know exactly what resources are being put to what and what they're achieving in the long term as well.

09:40

As far as this piece of proposed legislation is concerned, what exercise was done to ensure that the Bill suitably complements existing and developing legislation and actually avoids duplication? I ask that question because, obviously, we see, for example, the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill is currently progressing through the Senedd, which, of course, puts a statutory duty on public bodies to consider socially responsible public procurement and to set objectives and publish a procurement strategy. How will your Bill complement that sort of legislation?

This Bill is a framework Bill. It doesn't look to contradict or frustrate or get in the way of any existing legislation; indeed, it sits above those areas. It sits above the existing legislation, it sets a high-level direction of travel for the food system by establishing the principles that the food system should work towards. So, in summary, whilst existing legislation looks at how food is produced and used, it doesn't set out how the system should be governed, that is how food is used and accessed by people and how food interacts with every part of our lives. So, it doesn't get in the way of; it complements. It actually gives more purpose to the existing legislation that's in place.

Thank you for that. Tyler, you want to come in on that. 

Yes, just really quickly. The explanatory memorandum sets out quite extensively our mapping of existing policies and legislation here in Wales, and we've also done some analysis, then, of what's going on in England and Scotland as well. But just to really set out for the committee what we've identified here, and just using the Agriculture (Wales) Bill and the social partnership and public procurement Bill as examples of this, obviously, on one side, you've got the agriculture Bill setting out the new sustainable farming scheme, support for food production, and on the right you've got the social partnership and public procurement Bill around socially responsible public procurement. But these are just two pillars of the food system. What we don't have is that governance of, you know, 'Okay, yes, it's great that we're encouraging more food production here in Wales, but then, what are we doing with that? Are we just exporting that food straight out of Wales and it's not actually accessing our communities?' It's great that you're asking public bodies to be more mindful of how they can use their procurement channels for social good, but then, if they can't access the local produce that they need because we're focusing on exporting Welsh goods, then that really defeats the whole object of socially responsible procurement. So, you've got bits of legislation that are good—and I think we'd all welcome that—but again, we don't have legislation in place, we don't have a plan in place, for how the food system is joined up. It's far too fragmented, different policies are doing different things and speaking to different things, so it's a bit of a mismatch at the moment. There are good policy intentions, but, actually, how we're fulfilling these policy intentions isn't, to be honest, hitting the mark at the moment.

09:45

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you, Peter, for being here today. I can see that a tremendous amount of work has gone into this, and it's very comprehensive. I'm going to start at the beginning, with the food goals. With the primary food goal, it states that the goal is,

'the provision of affordable, healthy, and economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable food for the people of Wales.'

But, it has been pointed out by Swansea Bay University Health Board that, under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, it should also include 'cultural'. So, why didn't you include the cultural element of sustainability also?

Thank you, Sarah. I think I'd need to understand, really, more about what you're meaning by 'cultural' in the sense of the food system and how that relates to where we're going, because what we believe is that the very nature of what we're prescribing with the food goals, within the secondary goals and the various elements of work that will be flowing from that and the outcomes of that, do nothing but strengthen the cultural offer of Wales in many ways. By retaining a vibrant agricultural, local, sustainable system, maintaining those local farmers and producers, enhancing community projects, and everything else that could go together with that, actually, it enhances the cultural offer of Wales. It didn't need to be written on the face of the Bill, we didn't feel. It was inherent with everything we're doing. I think page 109 of the explanatory memorandum talks to its positive impact on the Welsh language, for instance. So, we believe that it wasn't necessary because it was inherent in what we're already laying out. I don't know if colleagues want to add anything to that.

Well, if I could just come in just to explain, then, what I'm referring to. The goal is Wales's vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language—that's what's in the well-being of future generations Act, and that is described in it as

'A society that promotes and protects culture, heritage and the Welsh language, and which encourages people to participate in the arts, sports and recreation.' 

I think there are probably many out there who would say that this would actually fit very nicely within this Bill as well. And, as you said, if it's already referred to, wouldn't it make sense to have it then included in the primary goal so that it's all integrated from the well-being of future generations Act? Is this something that you would consider?

Yes. I mean, I'm happy to work with the committee at later stages if we feel that there are elements of this that could be strengthened to satisfy more or make it more obvious how we will meet those aspirations of the future generations Act, even though we believe that we're totally doing that. So, I'm happy to work with the committee or the Government to strengthen those areas if that's felt that that's needed.

Wonderful, thank you. And then, in terms of the secondary food goals, which are laid out in table 1, stakeholders have raised some concerns that some of the goals may be given higher priority. Some felt that there needed to be a balance, whilst others called for a clear hierarchy for cases where goals work in contradiction. So, what are your views, and could the Bill be strengthened to ensure that your intention is clear?

I've never had any intention for there to be a hierarchy in those food goals. We could list them whichever way you wanted; they are all fundamental to achieving that overarching principal food goal. They are all equally important; they all have a fundamental part to play in developing that whole holistic food system, the sustainability of it, the educational needs around it and the social issues around it from a health perspective. They are all mutually enforcing, and it's important that they are separate and people can align to them. So, for me, they are all equally important. Some might have more emphasis for some people than others, but, collectively, they come together to create that robust food system that we need. 

09:50

Thanks, Chair. And thank you to the Member for Bridgend for her question. I think a really good example of this—and I know that the Member mentioned the well-being of future generations Act—and what we've done is use that Act as almost a template for this Bill. And, obviously, we've got the seven well-being goals there, which all work together, and it's an accepted idea that you break down your main ambition into more specific actionable aims. And, I think, that's exactly what the food goals are trying to do. Having one catch-all primary food goal would have done very little in terms of enhancing accountability and delivering against targets, which is something that we're trying to do within this Bill. 

So, again, looking at the well-being Act and the food goals, they're very similar in the approaches that they've taken. And, so, like I said, the well-being goals—everybody knows that they all work together; that they are mutually reinforcing, despite the fact that there are seven different individual goals. And this is exactly the intention that we have with our secondary food goals. And, I think, we are clear in the Bill, and the explanatory memorandum, that the secondary food goals work towards achieving the primary food goal.

But, again, I think this could be something that we could look at if it's still felt after the committee stages. But, at the moment, I think the Bill sets out very clearly how we intend to use the secondary goals going forward. 

Okay, thank you. And, then, my final question. One of the comments that we've had is that the secondary food goals are sectoral and work against the need to take an integrated approach to the food system. And, I suppose, for myself, looking at this, the goals are: economic well-being, health and social, education, environment and food-based. And, in my mind, then, that fits, I suppose, with the Welsh Government portfolios, which makes sense. However, I have to say, having read the Food Policy Alliance Cymru alternative to this, which says that it is too sectoral, to make it more integrated, they've suggested that, instead of setting it out in those ways with the goals, they could just be set out instead as saying 'food for all', 'food for public health', 'net-zero food systems', and, then, it's very clear what the benefit is, and it also works to align, then, the goals of Welsh Government rather than the portfolios. Another one I really liked was 'sustainable food sector jobs and livelihoods.' 

So, I have to say, I think this is a very good, interesting argument for another way of approaching this. What are your thoughts on this?

Thanks, Sarah. You raise a really interesting point, and Food Policy Alliance Cymru are a body that we've worked quite closely with during the drafting process. And the comments that they've made are something that was raised with us. Now, obviously, we've worked very closely—and particularly the legal team—with external counsel, who recommended the approach that we've taken, because it's very clear in its drafting what we intend to achieve. And, I think, we feel that it's easier to define and to measure its progress. And, particularly with the target-setting provisions that we have in relation to the food goals as well, I think it was important that we were very clear in what we were meaning by the particular goals.

And Food Policy Alliance Cymru, what they said in their paper, I think, is very well meaning, and, I think, complements what we are doing. I don't think there's any contradiction between what they're suggesting and what we are, but, again—legal colleagues will probably have a more in-depth opinion on this—from a Bill standpoint, from a draftings point, I think it's a much clearer approach that we've taken, and, then, we can ensure that there are streams of accountability stemming from these food goals. 

Thank you. I would have to come back and disagree on this. I don't think that they're similar; I think that one is sectoral, I think that one is integrated, as they've set out. I think, going forward, this is something that I certainly would like to return to and see what the pros and cons are of both approaches. But, for today, that's the end of my questions. Thank you very much, Chair. Thank you, Peter.

09:55

Okay. Peter, would you just like to respond to that?

Just a reflection on that. I thank Sarah for her comments. I'm still comfortable with the way that we've taken this forward. It enables the provision of strong targets, which can be easily understood alongside easily understood secondary goals. Again, now, as Tyler said, this is still in early stages. There is opportunity for us to consider things, but we took the advice of external counsel, and that's why we have it as it is.

Okay. Thank you very much for that. Before I bring in Hefin David, I know that Sam Kurtz wants to come in on this issue. Sam.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. In terms of food goals specifically, when we were researching the inquiry into the agricultural Bill, we took evidence on a committee away day from Carwyn Graves, the author of Welsh Food Stories, looking at the history of food, and how food in Wales has changed over the years. Sarah Murphy is doing a little bit of advertising of the very book on Zoom right now. In terms of these food goals and the targets specifically, is it a restoration of the things that we've lost in our food system, the reintroduction of food products that we no longer are producing in Wales, or is that something that you feel the agricultural Bill needs to pick up on, and then the food Bill sits overarching in terms of how that food is used?

The Bill is a framework Bill, and the agriculture Bill and the sustainable farming scheme will encourage farmers to produce more locally sustainable food, probably more diverse food. I'd be hoping that the development of the food strategy would be encouraging a greater diversification of locally produced food, which can put back some of the things that we've become dependent outside of the country on. That's responding to all of those massive pressures that have come, as we've seen from COVID, from Ukraine, where our food supplies are so vulnerable. So, it's very important for me that we actually become far more sustainable with our produce, and it gives a real opportunity for diversification, to put back some of those things that might have got lost over the decades, because it's in a very fragile state, I think, our food system, in many ways, certainly from a sustainability and a food security perspective.

Thank you, Cadeirydd. First of all, I'd like to say congratulations to Peter for this backbencher Bill. I'm sure that, across the Chamber, we've got respect for that, and given the content of the Bill, it confirms what I always thought, that he is actually a one-nation Conservative, which is as good to see from my point of view as it's possible to be.

So, just coming back to the response that you gave to Sarah Murphy with regard to targets, I think you said that the targeting was based on the advice you received, but the consultation process led to some respondents saying that you could actually have stricter consultation duties on Welsh Ministers when developing targets, but the Bill then wasn't amended in that respect. Would you like to comment on that aspect?

Thanks very much. With regard to targets, we set out a slightly different approach than we have with the consultation requirements on local food plans and the national food strategy, in that a higher threshold is placed on the Welsh Ministers with the targeting, that they have to go beyond consulting to seek advice from the food commission. Obviously, the food commission will be made up of a panel with specific expertise and experience in the relevant areas. I know what you're saying, but hopefully the seeking of advice from that commission would enable the targets to be tailored to what is achievable and make them much more quantitative in what they do. As I say, other parts of the Bill do have quite extensive consultation requirements on the party that is producing documents, but we just felt, and the external counsel felt as well, that, with the target setting it would be a better focus for the targets that they sought advice from the specialist commission that's being set up to deal with this area, really.

Okay, and what about the consequences for failing to meet the targets that it does set? Do you think that a degree more accountability would be better here?

10:00

Sam, could you go on? I’m struggling to hear a little bit.

So, with accountability, we felt again that—. With the accountability for failing to meet targets, the Welsh Ministers have to lay a report on the targets before the Senedd, and it was something where we felt that the best form of accountability would be for it to be completely transparent, open and accountable—it’s laid before the Senedd and the Senedd can scrutinise that, then. And we felt that was the best way to consider the targets and how they’ve gone towards achieving, or failing to achieve, them.

Thanks, Chair. Sometimes when people are coming on the screen, I struggle to pick it up well enough. I might need to use the headphones.

Yes, if you wear the headphones, it should amplify the sound for you.

Peter, did you want to come back in on the question?

Okay. Does anybody else want to just comment on that, or is that section completed? Okay. So, what about the annual reporting suggestion—the fact that, given the current volatility facing the agri-food sector, they might need specific target reporting timescales, because currently there’s no timescale for reporting on the targets on the face of the Bill?

I’m just trying to find the section on reporting. I thought we needed to report within a two-year period. [Interruption.] Item 6—yes, reporting duties. So, what the Bill says, Hefin, is that the regulations under section 4 must specify a reporting date for any target set. On or before the reporting date, the Welsh Ministers must lay before the Senedd and publish a statement stating that the target has been met, if the target has not been met, and, where the target has not been met, a statement must explain why the target has not been met and set out steps that the Welsh Ministers have taken or intend to take to ensure that the target is met as is reasonably practicable. So, you would assume that those targets will be monitored, and that reporting has to take place.

So, can I understand, then, the timescale for that? What would you intend that to be?

So, what we’ve done is to try to incorporate into that, because the targets will be different—by their nature the different targets will be of a different nature and they could be of differently achievable lengths, for example, one could be a five-year target and one could be one year—is that the regulations that set the targets can then specify different reporting deadlines for the different targets. So, that gives the Welsh Ministers an element of flexibility when drafting those regulations, that they can be bespoke and the targets can be set out with individual deadlines.

So, you’re saying that annual reporting wouldn’t work given the mixed timescales that are in place.

Exactly that, yes. We felt that it would keep the flexibility open that the targets could then be different in their nature and in their reporting length.

That brings me to my—. Sorry, did somebody want to come in?

I was just going to say that we must remember that this is a framework Bill. We’re actually leaving a lot of discretion to the Government to look at and change any of these things if they feel that’s appropriate. But we felt that what we’d advise on that reporting structure, as Sam laid out, was probably the most sensible way forward.

So, that brings me to the next point, which is the fact that there are many different reporting schedules there and different targets met at different times. Doesn’t that open up the risk that there might then be a misalignment to targets that are already in existence? To what extent have you considered that in the development of the Bill?

Yes, I’ll take this one. Thanks for that question. Tyler has already set out that the purpose of this Bill is to provide that overarching framework for the food system. So, I think the Member would contend at the moment that the potential for that misalignment exists now, and the purpose of the Bill is to have all of these different issues and targets and goals discussed together and that holistic view is taken so that, in implementing the provisions of this Bill, those misalignments, I think the Member would argue, would be less likely to happen.

So, would it be helpful, then, to have those misalignments set out at the very least in the explanatory memorandum?

10:05

That's an exercise that we could do—it's possible.

Yes, I think, Hefin, if that would be helpful for the Bill to move forward, we could explore how we could lay that out in addition to the explanatory memorandum. Tyler.

Yes, thanks, Chair. Just coming back on that from the Member, I think we do set some of this out in the explanatory memorandum, and from the evidence that we received, and again when we had Food Policy Alliance Cymru arguing,

'to date policy incoherence'—

sorry, I am quoting—

'has often led to mixed messages, missed opportunities and contradictory approaches'.

Some of the examples they give there are, for example, the minimum alcohol pricing strategy as part of the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017 versus the Welsh Government’s drink strategy and the targets in there, and missed opportunities to connect with the food and drink retail plan and the targets in that, and with 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' and the targets in that.

So, we've got examples here where there is a misalignment and, again, I'm not saying the Welsh Government intentionally does this, but I think those examples, for example, show very clearly that you have different departments looking at different things, and we're not considering some of the other strategies and some of the other plans that exist. And just coming in in terms of the misalignment of strategies, this is almost a consolidation exercise for Government, for public bodies, to look at what targets exist and what data they have on those.

So, Tyler, are you satisfied that the Bill, as presented, is clear on where you are consolidating from and what you are consolidating?

I think, with respect, we're in a very peculiar situation where we're designing a Bill that we would not be enacting, so, we've had to take an approach, where, as the Member in charge said, we have to give some discretion to Welsh Ministers who would be enacting this Bill. If we use this opportunity to describe, in our ideal world what we'd like to see, then that could cause contradictions with what Welsh Ministers think and what officials want to see and what they believe the legislation should look at. So, like I said, ideally we would be Ministers, we'd be Welsh Government officials and we'd be able to set all of this out, but we've had to leave a degree of flexibility for Welsh Ministers, with the intention for them then to look at some of these things further down the line. I don't know if Peter wants to come in.

No, that's absolutely right. Every man and their dog would have liked to have added something extra to this Bill. It was very soon into the process that advice to me was that we needed to make this very high level—very much a framework Bill, leaving as much discretion as possible to the Government and officials, working with the commission and anybody else they felt important, to shape this and to finalise it in line with those basic principles that we had.

Okay, and with that in mind, do you think it would be helpful to add a provision that Ministers should be able to revise the targets and would be required to revise the targets in addition to reviewing them? Do you think that would be in the spirit of what you just said?

Well, I'll bring Sam in. I know Sam can perhaps answer that.

Thanks for the question. If we look at the targets, when we discussed with counsel, the reason for the difference in terminology, and the revision of the plans and the strategy and the targets themselves, is just a procedural issue. If we look at the local food plans and the national food strategy, these are documents that are prepared and published by the Welsh Ministers and the public bodies respectively, whereas targets are actually set out in the regulations made by the Welsh Ministers. So, the process for setting them is a legislative one, whereas further legislation isn't required for the national food strategy and the local food plans. However, as we've touched on, the targets do have review provision in the Bill, where they have to be reviewed, and if it's determined that changes need to be made, the only way to action this is actually to amend those regulations—the Welsh Ministers would make new regulations, amending the previous ones. So, the difference in approach in the terminology of revising, and remaking, for want of a better word, just comes down to the procedural reality that new targets can only be made through regulations; they can't just be published.

10:10

Okay, that's fine. And we heard from the Welsh Local Government Association that five years is quite a long time to have a gap between the reviewing process of the targets, and they suggested 12 months to consider the appropriateness of targets in the light of the resources available. Did you consider that five years to be—? How did you come to the conclusion that five years was appropriate?

Is it five years on targets, or two years on targets?

It's five years on the report setting.

Oh, right. I think, Hefin, if I remember, it's—the terminology—. The first review must be completed within five years. Five years is the maximum date. If, for a reason, Ministers and officials found that targets weren't addressing the food goals in the way they were hoping to, you wouldn't expect them to wait five years before they reviewed that situation; you would hope that they would recognise where things weren't working and go back to the commission, and whoever else they need to consult with, to amend those targets, so they do deliver against the food goals.

Yes, so there's the opportunity to do it earlier. Was there a rationale behind the five years? Were you thinking about the Senedd term, the length of a Senedd term, or any other particular reason?

Yes. So, I think what we felt was that you need sufficient time for targets to be set, to be embedded, for policies then to emanate from these and for those policies to then take effect. So, what we felt was, five years, which would sort of be outside of a Senedd five-year term—what we've got now, anyway—I think means that there's a bit of continuity there in terms of looking at some of these targets across different Senedds, rather than at the start and at the end, and the pressures that are entailed in that.

So, I just think, in terms of five years, that we felt that that would be a sufficient timescale for policies to be developed, to be implemented, and then for that to trickle through the food system and to take effect. I think we felt that anything shorter might mean that, actually, when you review the targets, naturally, you might not be meeting some of those, and it might give a false impression of actually how far you've come in meeting that target. So, we wanted to give Welsh Government public bodies time to think about the next steps and to enable them then to really work on these policies, to get them implemented before we start assessing how they're doing. Again, as the Member said, there is some flexibility within the Bill as drafted, so public bodies can also review these as and when they see fit, if there's a particular rationale for doing so.

I think, Chair, the targets in this area are going to be different to the sort of targets we often measure around basics like waiting lists and things like that. So much has to change, perhaps, in some areas to align to these targets. They are going to take a while to bed in. We do need time for them to evolve; it'll be different. Some of the targets expected within the farming area will take quite some time to evolve. Changes to the education system might take some time to evolve to be able to embed those targets within the curriculum, or whatever. So, we think they need enough time to get embedded.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Specifically around the food commission, it's been suggested by some in the evidence that this is something that the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales could undertake. So, I'm just wondering why you, through the food Bill, are proposing a separate commission.

Several people have said that, and I put it on record that I'm really pleased that the future generations commissioner has been very supportive of our Bill and what we're trying to achieve here. I don't believe that at any time she suggested that she would like to take on the role of this additional expectation. I think, to be honest, it's such a wide brief, such an important brief, to actually bolt that on to the existing future generations expectations of monitoring local bodies, local government and everything, all of that important work that the commissioner has in that regard—we shouldn't be detracting from that by trying to extend her, or it may be a he, I'm not sure, in the future, but for them to suddenly have an expectation to oversee the delivery of such a massive piece of work—. The resources that would be required to equip that office to do that would be far better used to create, as I'm suggesting, a commission to focus wholly on that, making the best use of resources, but working in synergy and partnership with the future generations commissioner.

We have drafted the Bill in a way where there is synergy between well-being goals and food goals. So, I just don't think it would be a reasonable expectation. There wouldn't be any efficiencies through it, there wouldn't be the breath of expertise necessarily within that department; they would need to actually recruit everybody that would be needed to be recruited for a food-specific commission. So, I see no benefit at all, only, actually, an eroding of what that commissioner should be or will be doing in their own role as it is.

10:15

So, in terms of the sheer scale of the work, is that why you've decided against an individual commissioner to head up the food commission, rather than what you've suggested in terms of a broader food commission?

I was always of a mind that, to get the breadth of expertise that is needed within that commission role, it needed to be a chair and board, not an individual commissioner. We had long debates about this, and I still maintain that, and, actually, if you look at what Scotland have just put in in—. What do they call it?

Good food nation.

Good Food Nation (Scotland) Bill. They've just created a commission, chair and board. So, we're suggesting five to seven members. But, if you think across the food system, all that experience helping that chair to come to a collective decision—you know, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, often.

My view with this is that it's so important, because, within that commission, you're not going to want just representatives from the food-producing sector, but from the health sector, from the education sector. All of those strengths that are needed to come together to oversee the evolvement of this food system are quite fundamental. The commission, I think, is a fundamental—. It's not something the Government should be frightened of, even though I know they're against the principle, because this is here to help the Government put in a robust food strategy and  robust food system.

So, on that point, then, given the expertise that you're foreseeing on the commission, wouldn't it, as some of the respondents have suggested, make more sense for them to come up with the strategy, rather than Welsh Ministers, given the expertise available?

No, I think it's quite clear that the Welsh Government need to come up with the strategy, but in consultation with the commission and anybody else that they need to consult. This should be a Government strategy. Scotland have got one, UK Government have got one—we are getting left behind here, because the Government haven't got an overarching strategy. The commission, a massive advocate, supporting role, critical friend—they have the expertise to help shape the strategy and to help shape the plans. So, I think it would be wholly wrong to divest responsibility from the Government and say, 'That body should draft the strategy.'

Thank you. Just to come back to Sam, then, it might be beneficial for Members—. When you look at the Bill, as well, we have drafted it so that the food commission actually does have a role in a lot of the provisions that we have drafted in the Bill. So, for example, you've got section 5 of the Bill, which sets out that Welsh Ministers must seek advice from the food commission when making targets; section 13 of the Bill, Welsh Ministers must seek the advice of the food commission when making the food strategy; section 18 of the Bill, public bodies may consult with the food commission when making a local food plan. So, what we've done is intentionally drafted it so the food commission does have a strong role in overseeing a lot of the new governance arrangements, but also then, as well, so that the Bill isn't too onerous on the food commission. For example, you may have noticed, in section 18, public bodies may consult the food commission. What we recognise is that some public bodies already have some really good ideas on this policy, so we already have expertise in this policy sphere. We already talk about Caerphilly council quite a lot in there—a very much developed public procurement team. So, what we envisage is, actually, some public bodies will already have a head start in this, so they may not necessarily need as much guidance from the food commission as other public bodies.

So, I think we've got to strike that balance between the food commission overseeing a lot of this, but then not giving them the bulk of the work. Ultimately, it's up to Ministers to develop and to action policy, and then it's for the food commission to act, as the Member in charge said, as a critical friend, taking some of that burden away from Ministers. Because I know, sometimes, in politics, Ministers from all corners of the UK can be a little bit weary when you suggest setting up a new body. Sometimes it feels as if you're taking powers away from them. But we're in no doubt that, given everything that's happened over the past couple of years in particular, the Welsh Ministers have a huge workload on at the moment, so we don't blame them for some of these issues perhaps going under the radar when there have been such massive, massive issues. So, something like the food commission can actually help Welsh Ministers a bit by taking some of that workload from them and being able to actually have the time, develop the expertise, to start looking into these issues.

As Peter said, I think as well we've got to look at this Bill not just in terms of food. And actually some of the comments I think we had were we maybe perhaps made a mistake calling this a food Bill, because it's not just about food in isolation, it's how it interacts with health, with education, with the environment, health and social aspects of society. So, we need to get this right, and it's important that we do recognise that the food system can play a much more proactive role in a lot of the policy agenda that not just the Welsh Ministers want to achieve, but Ministers across the UK. 

10:20

And it's an important point then that the Welsh Government isn't subcontracting some of the decision making away in terms of scrutiny, because that gives us, as backbenchers, the opportunity, when it comes to the policy elements of this, that we are able to scrutinise and the buck stops with the Government in terms of those decisions, in terms of scrutiny. I can see you nodding along with that, Peter.

That's absolutely right. The Government have to report back to the Senedd. It's important that scrutiny—. Scrutiny is going to be fundamental to make sure that our food system delivers what it needs to for the future generations. So, yes, absolutely.

In carrying that forward then—you mentioning the commission and the level of expertise there—what provision have you provided in the Bill to ensure that there isn't a cliff edge of loss of that intelligence, loss of that expertise, should the chair and the panel go at the same time? That's a slightly more bureaucratic question, a technicality question, but, if this expertise is all existing in one commission at one time, to lose that expertise in one fell swoop would cause a black hole.

It is a dilemma. We did chew that over. What sort of system would you put in place to put them in in the first place? So, we'll bring one new member in, 'You're on one year'; 'You're on two years'; 'You're on three years', you know—. The reality is, in most organisations I've ever been involved in in my 25 years in public bodies, you see a natural movement through a five-year period. People will decide to leave and move or whatever; there will be opportunities arising. You've only got to look at school governors to see how that moves. I'm not saying that that's right. Perhaps we should put a more bureaucratic system in, which prevents that minute chance, I think, of there being a cliff edge. Again, this is a framework. The Government can decide to alter some of those. I'm right in that, aren't I? They can alter some of those things in consultation with the Senedd and the chair. I may have that wrong, but Sam will—

Other than the procedures set out in the Act. 

Other than the procedures set out in the Act.

Oh, right. So, yes, there are procedures set out in the Act to manage all of that. So, there are different perspectives on there. My view is that, within a five-year period, you've got time to build that expertise, you're using that expertise in the best way, and, if somebody drops out half way through, for whatever reason, you have continuity, and the next person comes on for a five-year term—it's not long before you've got that.

10:25

Can I just ask, then—sorry, Chair, this is my final point—who appoints? Is it the chair appointing the board? Is it Welsh Government appointing the chair and the board? What's the appointment process?

The Welsh Government appoint the members, in consultation with the chair.

And with Senedd Cymru.

Thank you, Sam. I'll now bring in Luke Fletcher. Luke.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. If I could start on the national food strategy, several commentators on the draft Bill said that there should be greater consultation and collaboration requirements for Ministers when developing a national food strategy. However, the Bill wasn't amended. Why was that? 

Yes. Thanks for the question. Section 13(2) of the Bill already provides that, when they are making the national food strategy, the Welsh Ministers must consult with independent persons that they consider to have relevant expertise and such other persons that they consider appropriate. It's hard to see, really, what could be done to strengthen that, particularly as it's a requirement on the Welsh Ministers, rather than a matter for discretion.

The only other option that I can see would be to set out an exhaustive list of consultees, but, obviously, this wouldn't be ideal because then you are limiting who they can actually consult. So, as it stands now, we feel that it's quite a strong consultation requirement as is, as there is no element of discretion. The Welsh Government has to consult when making the preparation, and, obviously, they'll take information from that consultation.

—similar to what you were saying earlier about ensuring that the Welsh Government had some flexibility in—.

And it allows for different consultees to be brought in, and it gives that flexibility of anyone can be brought in, if they're considered relevant and—.

Brilliant. Thank you. There were also stakeholders who wanted to see annual reporting on the national food strategy. How did you decide on the two-yearly reporting duties?

I suppose we could have put one year in, but it was decided, on advice, that two years would be a sensible approach. I think, again, that the terminology says 'within two years'. That gives flexibility to review earlier if things aren't working. Again, you'd hope that anybody who had had close contact with the strategy and its evolvement and monitoring, if they felt that areas were going wrong, they would want to review that sooner rather than later. That is the long-stop date. 

So, I imagine that it's the same rationale, then—. Because we have touched on the five years in terms of reviewing targets, because there were some concerns raised with the national food strategy and local food plans, especially given recent events. But I imagine it's the same rationale again, then—that there's that flexibility, so it's within those five years.

As I said in my opening at the beginning, this Bill is framework, but it sits above all other plans. Other plans can work to that overarching focus of creating that sustainable food system and having some holistic approach to every part of how the food system works, and how we use that food societally as well. So, it's no threat to any other area. In fact, all it does is strengthen, because it gives those areas a purpose to focus to when they are being monitored or reviewed themselves. So, no, I see no conflict.  

Can I just come in on that?

Just to add to the Member's answer there, in terms of the time frames, I think at the beginning there's bound to be some misalignment. I draw the parallel with planning policy. The Welsh Government introduced its national development framework a few years ago, whereas local development plans sit below that. But the local development plans are already in place, so it takes a bit of time, once the national overarching document is in place, for, then, the documents that sit below it—. When they are reviewed on their natural cycle, they then fall into line with the strategy document. So, there will be a bit of time to catch up. So, in the context of the food system I'm thinking about, the Welsh Government has its vision for the food business sector, but that was only recently published, so that may take some time for that to fall into line with the overarching strategy document; the same with the obesity strategy as well. So, time-wise, it may take a few years for everything to fall into place, but once you've got that overarching strategy in place.

10:30

Thinking about timelines, then, if we focus a bit more on the local food plans. How might the future generations commissioner handle, potentially, the process of consulting 22 local authorities, with all those plans coming in at one time? Do we feel that the future generations commissioner has the capacity to be able to deal with that many plans coming in all at once?

I think it's a point we had considered, that there could be some challenges on both the commission and the future generations commissioner, if they were being consulted to give their perspective on all of those things. I think, recognising there's a two-year expectation that these plans will be put in place, you would—again, I'm thinking pragmatically—not expect them all to leave it to the last minute. However, let's assume that everybody does. Perhaps there should be consideration for some framework to be put in place that could help with that process. Again, as Elfyn said, whenever you introduce something as significant as this, there will be a need to be flexible, to be able to adhere to where you want to go, and once you have that in train, then it's a lot smoother operation.

So, have you managed to consider any of the suggested alternatives—one from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, for example, that the food commission practically provides the framework for people to work to?

As a suggestion, I think that is something—perhaps there is an opportunity to do that. It may come out through the depth of these processes that that might come as a strong recommendation at some point. We're willing to listen to that. If that's perceived as a real pressure, a problem, we need to find a solution for it.

Okay. And in terms of public bodies' role in this—we touched on this earlier in terms of it being worded that they may be consulted—I just would like to get a better understanding as to why, again. Is it a matter of flexibility? Because there were a number of respondents to the draft Bill who felt that public bodies should have to demonstrate that they've consulted certain groups. 

When we look at the local food plans, they're intrinsically linked to the national food strategy. So, when you look at section 18(2) of the Bill,

'In making a local food plan, a public body must have regard to the national food strategy.'

Now, section 13 sets out the specific requirements that the Welsh Government has to satisfy when they're preparing the national food strategy. They must seek the advice of the commission; they must consult with the relevant individuals; so, our thinking was that the requirements there on the Welsh Government when they're preparing the strategy, hopefully will ensure that, when the strategy's published, it's comprehensive enough that the public bodies have enough information in it to use it as a reference point and a guide to be able to produce their local food plans mostly based on that.

With the national strategy in place, then, our hope is that a public body may decide that, as Tyler touched on earlier, they've got enough knowledge, they don't need to refer back to the commission to produce their plan, and they already have enough information to have a steer on how they're going to produce the plan without the need to refer back. I think that comes on, then, to when we drafted section 18(1) as a 'may' rather than a 'must consult', that we get back to the flexibility issue, that it retains the element of flexibility whereby the public body can consult with the commission if they wish to, but there's no requirement on them to do so, if they feel that the strategy has given them enough and they already have enough information to draw on for that purpose, then.

So, you wouldn't see any merit in potentially amending the Bill to require public bodies to consult, then?

I think my experience of local government and everything—and for those authorities, for instance, that are already looking at this area—local authorities inherently consult. They've got to get the thing right to deliver for the people they serve. For me, it would be a no-brainer that public bodies would consult and take the opportunity in the Bill, 'may consult' with whoever they feel appropriate. We have tried not to be overly prescriptive in this Bill, and given the flexibility to those bodies, in consultation with the commission, to do the right thing. I think the danger is if we became very prescriptive—. The advice I received was not to be prescriptive in trying to identify, because then I'd have the question, 'Why have you put that in there? You haven't been prescriptive in other areas—why have you done it in there?' So, we've kept this as flexible and as usable as possible for everybody who is named in there to do certain things.

10:35

Diolch, Luke. Now, the regulatory impact assessment says, 

'there will be a need for hands-on guidance to be provided by the Food Commission.'

However, there is no statutory duty to seek the commission’s guidance. Did you consider statutory guidance to be a requirement of the commission to support local food plan development?

Thanks, Chair. So, if we look at section 10 of the Bill, this sets out the functions of the commission. Now, amongst these are developing, and assisting public bodies to develop, policies in relation to food matters, whilst also advising, informing and assisting them in relation to those food matters. When we were drafting the Bill as a whole, really, we felt that there wasn't a need to require the commission to produce guidance, in relation especially to food plan development, and it goes back to what we touched on previously. It's envisaged that the commission will already be proactively providing information and guidance on an ongoing basis to public bodies to that end, to assist them in the production of these plans. And the framework set out in the Bill seeks to promote this ongoing co-operation and communication between the commission and the relevant public bodies. 

In addition to the information provided by the commission, public bodies will also, as I mentioned, still be drawing on the national food strategy that's produced by the Welsh Government. This ties in with the public bodies consulting on the local food plans that they may do if they want to, but there may be enough information there that they don't feel they need to. And touching again on section 18, where there is still that fallback consultation provision if they wish to consult, the commission will then be on hand to take that consultation and to provide that further advice and information.  

Okay. Now, you set out several expectations in the explanatory memorandum on how duties will be performed—for example, that the national food strategy and local food plans should be co-produced, though this, again, is not a statutory requirement. How will these expectations be met in the absence of statutory guidance, then?

I'll take this one. Diolch, Gadeirydd. The point has been made a number of times this morning that this is a framework Bill and it's there to facilitate the Welsh Ministers and to facilitate the public bodies. It doesn't intend to be too prescriptive; it's meant to be an empowering Bill. So, the thinking is the more requirements for statutory guidance there are, the less flexibility there is. There's a lot set out in the EM, and it sets out how the Member envisages the Bill being implemented, but that, of course, isn't in his gift, as has been said before. The Bill, the EM, they recognise that circumstances change. We've had so many big shocks to the food system—the war in Ukraine, the cost-of-living crisis, the pandemic. So, it does allow for, within the parameters of the Bill, if the Welsh Ministers and if the local bodies want to take a different approach—if they want to react to events as they unfold—they do have the flexibility to do that. So, issuing statutory guidance can work against that. There may be discussion through this process around levels of guidance or statutory guidance that can be had, but that's where the Bill team and the Member are coming from in setting things out like this.

Particularly on co-production, the EM is quite strong on co-production, particularly with the local food plans. There are local food partnerships in various parts of Wales. The Member envisages these plans as being something that's built from the bottom up, that they really involve the community, that they've got the community buy-in. We've also gone down the co-production line because it's very much a theme that the Welsh Government has, if you look at how they've developed the Agriculture (Wales) Bill and the sustainable farming scheme. We're wanting to mirror that, and as the Member has said, this Bill isn't here to take the place of existing Bills; it's there to support them, to help them to streamline, to bring them together. So, it's been written in such a way to complement the approach of co-production.

10:40

Okay. Thanks for that. I know that Sarah Murphy would like to come in on this. Sarah.

Thank you, Chair. What springs to mind for me here, so we're looking at statutory guidance, and you said that it's about advising, informing, guiding, but then there is no guidance. And it's about collaboration, encouraging co-production, and that they may consult if they want to. And what I would say is that—I'm also on the Equality and Social Justice Committee; we're in the second stage now, almost, of that Bill—and what I would say is that, we're having discussions in there around all of the things that you've said, and the beauty of that is that you would have the public bodies working with the Welsh Government and then also having the additional worker voice, which comes under one of the goals that you set out in the secondary goals about the economic well-being. So, I suppose my question is: why not put in an amendment or push for, basically, your primary food goals and your secondary food goals to be incorporated into the procurement part of the social partnership and procurement Bill?

Diolch, Cadeirydd. You know, as I said previously, we welcome the insertion of the principle of socially responsible public procurement within the public procurement Bill. But then, that does little to strengthen the capacity of other public bodies to help them consider how to source and use locally produced food, as well as enabling producers themselves to become involved in local procurement opportunities. You know, things like local food plans, they provide a more consistent direction of travel regarding the local food environment, what opportunities exist to engage with producers, and what opportunities there are to develop the local food environment.

The social partnership council has its merits, but as I stated earlier, we see that as one pillar of the food system, and there is a risk that, if we just tuck this away in existing legislation, if we tuck this away in an existing body, or a body that is intended to be created, then there's a risk that we will just be back to square one, that this is just going to be watered down again. With the social partnership council, there'll be a lot of other issues that need to be discussed as part of that body. So, again, we risk food policy being put on the back burner, because there are, quite rightly, a lot of other issues that need to be discussed.

Now, is there an opportunity for the social partnership council and the food commission to work together? Of course there is, and this is something that we are very mindful of, and I think we're in a very interesting position where we have two other Bills that are being developed, and we are very interested in looking at ways we can collaborate with the agriculture Bill and social partnership Bill and other existing pieces of legislation. But our position is, and has always been, that for too long, we've put food policy on the back burner.

You look at the Welsh Government, for example, and back in 2010, we had a very good—there was an attempt at a national food strategy. Well, over time, that was put on a shelf, left to gather dust, and that was replaced, then, with more of a focus on import and export. So, we lost the social part of food, we lost the health bit of food, we lost the educational side of food, because Government has decided the pros and cons and it wants to focus on imports and exports and the economic side of food. It's an interesting point—and again, I think we should look at collaborating with things like the social partnership council—but we just risk being back at square one, quite frankly, and I think it's a risk.

Okay. Can I just come in here, then? What I would say is that the social partnership and procurement legislation is much further along than this, right? And there is absolutely the potential for this to be put into legislation—your primary and your secondary goals. And it wouldn't be tucked away in legislation; it would be in Senedd legislation, whereas, playing devil's advocate here, your guidance that you've put in is not actually statutory guidance. So, this is far weaker than what you could propose for the social partnership and procurement Bill. So, my question is: have you been told, and have you had discussions with the Welsh Government about, whether or not this could have been put into the social partnership and procurement Bill, and still could?

10:45

Thank you, Sarah, for those critical challenges. I've had a couple of meetings with the Minister. The Minister has made it very clear right from the beginning that she doesn't believe that this is needed. She believes everything can be delivered through the current legislative framework currently in place, and what might be emerging. We disagree, and so do 73 per cent of those people who we've consulted, from major organisations and groups. They believe that there is a need for what we are suggesting here. The trouble is when you start trying to expect what's already there to deliver. I'll challenge back: where is the true education evolvement of how we're going to use food in the future? How are we addressing diabetes, obesity, malnutrition, everything in those societal issues that are not focused in any of those other areas? 

There is nothing here, in the Government, at the moment, that has a holistic approach to production, sustainability, food security, societal issues, health, education, and to create that long-term food system that we genuinely need in place. There are very many good pieces of legislation that are doing certain things in a certain way, but they're not aligned, they're not talking to each other, and they don't reference each other. We hear about a community food strategy that nobody has seen. The community food strategy is, I understand, totally underdeveloped. I believe that even in your last session with the Minister she suggested that she couldn't make advances on the community food strategy because she'd been investing too much time scrutinising our Bill, because there was only one person available to do it. Well, absolutely—that speaks volumes about the fact that there needs to be some overarching system in place in the Government to make sure we can pull together successful strategies that deliver against all of those key areas that I've just mentioned. I was astounded to hear that, because I could only see the community food strategy as part of what we're proposing with this wider holistic approach. So, I think that's why it needs to be set out on its own.

Just a really quick comment. I very much respect the suggestion that the Member for Bridgend raised. What I would say is that I think the current position at the moment, and very clear after the debate when we introduced the Bill, is that the Minister's position is that we don't need this legislation, full stop. No other alternative apart from the community food strategy has been raised with us, which is why I think we are so passionate about the Bill, because as we stand, as far as, I think, I'm concerned, we risk this just being, 'Here's the community food strategy. That's it. That's all you're going to get, Peter.' So, I would just encourage—. If this isn't the right way to do it, and there are other ways to do it, then I think, as we stand, the Minister would probably need to be convinced. So, I do hope that—. I think Peter would agree that we've had constructive engagement with the Minister, probably up until the introductory debate, where the position of the Welsh Government probably took us slightly by surprise, and the bluntness of the Welsh Government's position probably took us slightly by surprise. But, as the Member in charge has always said, we are very happy to work with everyone to find a way forward.

I'm conscious of time, but I think it's always been the case that I didn't mind this not being my Bill; I didn't mind giving it to the Welsh Government to evolve and shape and to help and assist. I hope that political differences don't get in the way of something so fundamentally important. 

I'll just point out some of the stats from our consultation: 100 per cent of those people who answered said that the system in Wales, the policy framework we have in Wales regarding food, was not sufficiently joined up—100 per cent. And these aren't just individuals; these are major players in the food system—academia, public services, councils, health boards. All of those people—it's 100 of them—say it's not joined up. Well, until we join it up, we will not have a sustainable food system in Wales, and we will be letting down many young people who are suffering from malnutrition, obesity and diabetes, and everything else related to abuse of food or the wrong use of food.

We have a moral obligation, I believe, to put this in place, because it isn't in place. If all of these things could have been achieved, why haven't they yet? Why isn't there a framework that adheres to all of those principles we're trying to achieve, and delivers those outcomes we're trying to achieve? There isn't anything, and it's high time there was. 

10:50

Thank you. Just to come in very quickly, Chair, just to say, Peter, I absolutely subscribe to everything that you're trying to do with this Bill, I absolutely do. There's no political differences here. What I'm saying is, looking at this—and this is our first session asking you these questions, and these are the kind of robust questions that we have to have—my goal, as I'm sure it is yours, and everybody's here, is that we get this done as quickly and as strongly as possible. What I would say is, at the moment, without the statutory guidance, with the targets not really being clear, I think that this does not do it either. I do think there are other ways, potentially, of doing this that should be explored, because that is the goal here—to reach all of these targets, but to do it in a way that is as quick, and, like I said, as robust as possible. So, like I said, we're at the start of a journey here, and I really do commend you. These are all the things that we should be doing. So, thank you very much. 

Thank you, Sarah. As I've said throughout this process so far today, we are on a journey. We are willing to amend and change. But hopefully, all of us in the Senedd, our aspirations are to deliver on what we're trying to achieve through this, and if we can make it stronger, by working with the Government, or whoever, so be it. 

Thank you very much, Chair. In terms of engagement, we've seen the consultation, and you've mentioned the percentage that have been in agreement with having this set up. How have you engaged with those public bodies, specifically those third sector organisations? Are you content with the outreach that you've done and the evidence gathered in preparation of this?

I'll take this question. There's been significant consultation on the development of this Bill. There were stakeholder round-table groups that were held with the Member and the Bill team, and then there was the public consultation over the summer. The same public bodies have been engaged with our work in putting together the regulatory impact assessment. That has been part of the policy formation of this Bill from the beginning. We've undertaken meetings with bodies regarding the formulation of this policy, and we've also extensively discussed what the impacts will be on those organisaitons. We've also included questions regarding the financial impact of the legislation in the formal consultation, which, in turn, has influenced the drafting of the Bill. So, at every point, from the beginning, the key bodies have been asked about the impact on them. 

In terms, then, of resourcing going forward in terms of this process and the current pressures that are there, is this resource-intensive, or is this something that can assimilate into what is already being done via resource quite seamlessly? 

For the RIA, obviously, we had to do some modelling on resourcing, and I relied on our team to research the various legislation that has happened across the UK, and what's happened here. You'll know that, within the RIA, there is a broad assumption of what the costs would be. It's still early days on this, but I recognise that any significant change like this will be resource-intensive. But, not to bring forward something like this is also not just resource-intensive, it's socially damaging as well, because we won't be able to make headway against some of those societal issues linked to malnutrition and the health issues. We're in a prime opportunity to set the foundations for a real change. That change won't happen overnight. This is a long process.

10:55

I know we've mentioned that quite extensively this morning around malnutrition, obesity, diabetes et cetera. Is there any modelling specifically available as to what moneys could be saved from the health budget by ensuring that this is resourced sufficiently? I know it's difficult to quantify, but has any modelling been done around that?

Yes, there has. Can I bring Tyler in on that, Chair?

As Peter has said, Sam, it's obviously very difficult to quantify some of these costs. In our discussions with stakeholders, I think, obviously, they were very much, 'This is how much it costs the NHS to treat diabetes or obesity', for example, and actually starting to put things into place that tackle some of these would inevitably have a positive cost impact on the health service.

Just going back to your original question, we've done a lot of work and colleagues have done a lot of work in terms of the RIA, working with public bodies about how some of this will work in practice and the costs to them. Again, public bodies are very good at reports and things like that, so this is something that they're already used to. As we've said, some public bodies, some councils, will be more advanced in this, so actually it would be less work for them. And then you could even have some of these public bodies assisting others with the formulation of some of these plans as well, so actually you've got a bit of a pooled resource, a pooled cost there.

I think it's important to say as well, as I mentioned earlier, that this is about rationalising what's going on already—what's being spent, where it's being spent, how it's being spent. So, there is an opportunity here, I think, for public bodies to recast their eye over what's going on and to look at actually not necessarily making savings, but efficiencies—you know, where could money be better spent and how it could be better spent to actually get some of the policy aims that we have across the line and to improve where we are. So, I think there is the potential for savings across the system, where these interact with our Bill, but as you said, you know, it's hard to quantify exactly, in a monetary sense, what that would be.

Interesting. So, in terms, then—. Let me figure this out in my head. I was listening intently there. If we're looking at this fiscally, would you say that those efficiency savings along the measures leave this potentially at a cost-neutral stage? Because of its overarching emphasis, does this allow you to make efficiencies in other places where, actually, this is the framework, as you mention it, that allows things to be streamlined and allows better health, better social and economic outputs for the people of Wales?

I think it's difficult to make all of those assumptions. The trouble is, in public life, that we look at everything in a financial, fiscal currency, don't we? We should sometimes think of things with a social currency, and they're not always easily measurable, because you have to actually forward-load resource and capacity to effect change. It could take 30 years to turn around the results of diabetes, for instance, through changing the way you do things. So, forward thinking with a social focus as well. Sometimes there is cost to change, but that cost is well spent. We spend moneys on projects and things because we can see an immediate outcome. Sometimes, when you're investing into societal change, you have to invest heavily in front before you see those longer term benefits. So, I hope—and I won't be here in 50 years' time to report if this is successful—that you'll say, 'Due to that Bill, look what has happened; look how we've changed society in Wales and the well-being of future generations.' It's not all about money. So, I couldn't put my hand on my heart and say that all of our assumptions would say this is cost neutral. I think it is too early for us to recognise this, recognising that it is a framework Bill.

Diolch, Sam. We started this session by asking you about how this proposed Bill actually fits in with Welsh legislation. Can you tell us how you believe the Bill aligns with legislation and policy across the UK? And to what extent did you consider the UK food supply chain when looking to develop this Bill?

11:00

Yes, it is—obviously, we gave it consideration and looked at everything that was around us. There were areas I would have liked to have been stronger on, like food labelling and things like that, but that would have meant a conflict with the United Kingdom Internal Market Act 2020. It was very important for me that we do create a Welsh policy. We were getting left behind—we’re getting left behind. So, it’s very much a Welsh Bill. Obviously, there would be possible implications across the border with supply chains. There could be huge opportunities as well. If local food plans open up near borders, it doesn’t necessarily have to be Welsh food going straight into those. It wouldn’t make sense, would it, if you’ve got an authority on the border, that you would hope food plans might be evolved that can attract food from a given area that might stretch over the border. So, I haven't looked—[Interruption.] Yes, do you want to come in?

Just a quick point from me, Chair, that if you’re asking about legislation across the UK, you only have to look at the legislation we mentioned earlier, the Good Food Nation (Scotland) Act 2022, which passed. That definitely shows the way the tide is turning in Scotland towards doing very similar things to what we want to do. And, actually, when that was voted on at their final stage of proceedings, there were 113 votes for, with none against and no abstentions, and 16 not voted. So, there was clear support, cross-party support, in Scotland for doing very similar things to what we’re trying to do here.

Yes, thanks for that, Sam. That was helpful. I don’t know if that answered your question appropriately enough, Paul, but that’s where we are.

Okay. Thank you very much indeed. I’m afraid time has beaten us. So, can I, on behalf of the committee, thank you, Peter, and your team for being with us this morning? Your contributions will be very helpful and useful for us in scrutinising this proposed Bill. A copy of today’s transcript will be sent to you in due course, so if there are any issues with that, then please let us know. But, once again, thank you very much indeed for being with us today.

We’ll now take a short break to prepare for the next session. Thank you.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 11:02 ac 11:16.

The meeting adjourned between 11:02 and 11:16.

11:15
4. Bil Bwyd (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 2
4. Food (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 2

Croeso nôl i gyfarfod Pwyllgor yr Economi, Masnach a Materion Gwledig. Symudwn ni nawr i eitem 4 ar ein hagenda, a dyma ail sesiwn dystiolaeth y pwyllgor i ystyried egwyddorion cyffredinol Bil Bwyd (Cymru). Gaf i estyn croeso cynnes i'n hail banel ni heddiw? A chyn i ni symud yn syth i gwestiynau, gaf i ofyn i'r tystion gyflwyno'u hunain i'r record, ac efallai gallaf ddechrau gyda Simon Wright?

Welcome back to this meeting of the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee. We'll move now to item 4 on our agenda this morning, and this is the second evidence session that the committee's holding to consider the general principles of the Food (Wales) Bill. May I extend a very warm welcome to our second panel today? Before we move to questions from Members, can I ask the witnesses to introduce themselves for the record, and perhaps I can start with Simon Wright?

Hi, I'm Simon Wright. I'm director of Wright's Food Emporium in Llanarthney and I also work for the University of Wales Trinity Saint David as director of food and rural economy.

Hi, I'm Katie from Food Sense Wales. It's a small charity hosted within the NHS, and it influences how food is produced and consumed in Wales. I'm also a member of the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board. We also provide the secretariat for Food Policy Alliance Cymru, which brings together people who are working in policy and practice around the food system in Wales. I'm also a director of Veg Power UK.

Thank you. I'm Terry Marsden, and I'm professor emeritus at Cardiff University in environmental policy and planning.

Thank you very much indeed for those introductions, and perhaps I can just kick off this session, first of all just by asking a very general question: how do you respond to the view that existing policy and legislation could be used to achieve this proposed Bill's intentions? Who'd like to go first on that? Katie.

Yes, by all means. I think that if that were the case, we wouldn't have the situation that we have at the moment with regard to the impact that our food system is having on our health and on the environment and on our communities and local food economies. I think if we had an effective, coherent policy approach to the food system in Wales at the moment, we wouldn't have the situation that we have with our high levels of household food insecurity. We wouldn't have some of the challenges that we have around the environment and the pollution of rivers and the degradation of our soils, for example, and we wouldn't have the situation where we have poor diets, including very low levels of fruit and veg consumption and high levels of both childhood and adult obesity.

Yes, I think that the problem we've got is that existing policies, while often well meaning, tend to be, overall, very fragmented. They tend not to deal with an all-Wales approach, and they tend to be fairly short-term in terms of various reactive forms of funding, which, in some cases, could be duplicated. So, I think the current picture for policy is one of a fragmented structure, and what the proposals are for is a much more integrated and joined-up approach, which can look to the future and set short-term, medium- and long-term goals, so it's much needed.

11:20

Yes, I'm definitely not one for introducing legislation and additional bureaucracy for the sake of it, but this is an area where I think we've got a serious problem with working in silos, and policy initiatives on food that tend to sit in the back seat of other policy areas, rather than in the driving seat and, as a consequence, can have unintended consequences, can duplicate in some areas, and certainly don't target resources and effort. So, I think this has been needed for a long time. People have been asking for it for a long time, including committees of the Senedd in recent years. So, I think it's absolutely necessary if we're going to put some framework in place that is going to drive food policy forward. I think that if we were taking this overall holistic systems approach, we'd find that the answers to one question may well be the answers to another question as well, and we need that kind of co-ordination and we need it desperately.

Thank you, Simon, and you mentioned there duplication, and this proposed Bill doesn't actually duplicate any other pieces of legislation, but do you believe that the Bill suitably complements existing and developing legislation? And the reason I ask that question is because, for example, the social partnership and public procurement Bill is progressing through the Senedd at the moment, which, of course, puts a statutory duty on public bodies to consider socially responsible public procurement and set objectives and publish a procurement strategy. So, do you believe that this proposed Bill actually complements that piece of legislation, for example, and, indeed, other pieces of legislation?

Yes. I think generally I do, and I think the explanatory memorandum does a good job of setting that out. I think that you've got to remember that this Bill is a framework for a food commission and for a food strategy as well. So, it has that role, rather than actually just putting additional obligations in place. So, there's a lot of development that will come as a result of this Bill, and that obviously has to fit in with other existing legislation. So, I think that's a really important part of it, but I don't see it as a barrier.

Yes, I think one of the issues here is that food falls between the cracks in terms of policy areas and sectors currently, therefore it's addressed in a secondary way as a policy area across the piste of Government policy. What this food Bill is trying to do is to bring that together and, actually, I think, to elevate food as a meta policy area within Government. That's a critical change; it's basically to say that food policy is up there with energy policy, economic policy, and that, basically, to address these issues, we need an overall approach. So, I think that that's a basic principle of difference to what exists currently.

And the point is that food, as we know, has two interesting characteristics. One is that it tends to get hit collaterally by a whole range of other factors—wars, economic changes, geopolitical issues—as we've seen, and pandemics, over the last few years. So, it's vulnerable; the food system is vulnerable to a whole range of external effects. At the same time, we know that the food system is a critical aspect for the health and well-being and sustainability of both the nation and individual households. So, from that point of view, it's a major organ for which we need strategic policy and to bring these things together. So, it's not about integration for the sake of it, or more government for the sake of it; it's actually to elevate the significance of food as a public policy area.

Yes, could I come in there? I've worked in the food scene in Wales for over 20 years, and I've worked in industry, I've worked within the NHS, I'm working in the third sector at the moment, and I've worked in local government, and what's really obvious to me is that there are pockets of excellent work happening across Wales in all different aspects of the food system, which, if anything, is causing greater inequalities across geographies and communities, because there isn't a steer from Government about what we want our food system to do for us in Wales. We don't know. We can't all pull in the same direction, and what this Bill is doing is trying to create a framework that is supporting the development of a vision so that we can all work and pull together in a collaborative way, and, I would argue, in the ways of working in the well-being of future generations Act, that will enable stakeholders to deliver what there's enormous energy on the ground to deliver for the food system in Wales, but also will bring that accountability to make sure that the changes happen in the urgent way, actually, that need to happen when we're looking at the state of the environment and our public health in Wales.

11:25

Thank you for that. I'll now bring in Sarah Murphy. Sarah.

Thank you very much, Chair, and thank you all for being here today. I'm just going to ask an open question to begin with: what are your views specifically on the food goals that have been set out in the proposed Bill? And Simon, as we're both on screen together, I'm going to come to you first, if that's okay.

Sure. I think the structure of that's quite important. I think you could place too much emphasis on this, in a way, because, as Katie just set out, what we're talking about is a framework here, and some of that clarity that is needed in terms of the way the secondary food goals are set out should come from the commission and from the food strategy. The balancing of those things needs to come from the commission and the food strategy, and so I'm not too fixated, actually, personally, on those food goals, because I think that the job on defining those in many ways, and the balance of those, is yet to come.

What Katie said is really, really important. This Bill, in many ways, is about Welsh Government leadership, bringing people around the table. That's what's really absent at the moment. I think it's really interesting, if you look at the consultation responses, nobody is really saying that the existing situation is good enough in terms of having an overarching food strategy, and that stretches from the farming unions through to non-governmental organisations, through to environmental organisations, et cetera. What you see there is a great opportunity, because people understand that there is a need to discuss, plan and look at a vision for the future. Without that, we're tending to a situation where we're forcing people into very defensive positions. So, the goals are there, and I think it's important that they're in the Bill, but what we're looking at here is a framework for putting that vision in place—that imagination project that we need to do.

Okay, thank you very much. I can't see, but would anybody else like to come in?

Yes. The secondary goals are legitimate in many respects. They follow on and interlink with the well-being of future generations Act, which I think is important. I think it's also important to see those goals as interlocking, not necessarily a hierarchy. They're in a Venn diagram, if I could put it that way; they're interlocking. And, having thought about this quite a bit, I think it's also important that. when and if the food commission and the food strategy were to get going, what they would act to do would be, again, to consolidate a lot of work and policy development across them.

So, one could imagine that there would be programme areas—let us take sustainable farming, we know that there is a sustainable farming scheme being developed. Well, the sustainable farming scheme would run through those goals and be impacting, positively, on those goals, clearly on the environment, but also on the rest of the system, similarly, areas of food procurement, maybe, also the development of community partnerships and local authority partnerships. So, what I would see would be that those interlocking secondary goals would form a framework through which policy programmes—existing and developing—would run through over a longer period. And I think this is another important point. 

I mentioned in my paper that the problem we've got increasingly since Brexit in the UK is that, okay, we may well have taken back control, but we've taken back short-term control, and we're becoming more, rather than less reliant, on political cycles and short-termism and, indeed, party political initiatives, in one way or another. Creating this statutory framework provides something that, again, is elevated above that party political, post-Brexit context and, as such, it gives an opportunity for Wales to programme and to plan over and above political cycles, and that's exactly what's happening with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and that's one of the major advantages of this proposed legislation. So, I see the secondary goals, as Simon says, as something that can be developed, worked on, refined by the commission and the food strategy, but also as vehicles through which different food policy programmes could be enacted.

11:30

Thank you. Katie, if I can come to you, because I was going to follow up specifically about Food Policy Alliance Cymru's alternative approach to the secondary food goals, which I read with great interest and I raised in the previous session that we had. Because, as it points out, they're kind of, at the moment, broken down, I suppose, as I see it, into being like Welsh Government portfolios, and whether or not that is integrated enough. And I thought this alternative approach was very interesting. So, it would be good to hear all of your views on this, but, Katie, could you talk to us a little bit more about that? I think, specifically, what I'm—. It mentions that there are contradictions, would this alternative approach, then, address those contradictions that are currently in the list for the secondary goals?

I think we have to appreciate that the food system really is a contested space and there are always going to be challenges around contradictions in the food system. The background to the work that Food Policy Alliance Cymru have done was really in the run-up to the Senedd elections, and looking at what we would think of as an ideal if we were looking at having a manifesto for the food system, and so, these have come across. The six goals from Food Policy Alliance Cymru have been developed over a couple of years, and it absolutely does try to do that bit about cutting across the different silos. So, we've got—you may have them in front of you—the food for all, really emphasising the need to eliminate the need for foodbanks; looking at public health and how we need to not just be looking at obesity, but we also need to be looking at the broader impact of our diet on health; looking at the net-zero food system, which, obviously, complements current Welsh Government policy and legislation; looking at farming for nature and climate; and increasing the amount of agroecological production.

Now, I think we were quite keen, on the face of the Bill, to have a more explicit purpose clause on the face of the Bill, to really describe what the Bill is doing and what its intent is, because we feel that that is missing, and, I think, looking at agroecology running through that as a theme is really important to us. Having said that, I have read the explanatory memorandum and understand why that might be challenging in a legislative context. So, that's something that we feel probably, then, could be drawn out by the food commission in terms of setting targets with the goals and looking at that farming for nature and climate piece more broadly across the food system. Then sustainable food procurement, increasing the amount of public procurement of food from organic and, again looking at agroecological Welsh producers. And finally, looking at sustainable food sector jobs and livelihoods, and looking for those people who are working within the food system to receive a fair pay for the work that they're doing.

I think, just going back to the beginning a little bit on this, because I think this is a really, really important point, the current value in the food system does not sit where it’s most likely to benefit our Welsh communities and businesses, because the farmers get very little return in the value of the food chain. There’s been a very good report from Sustain looking at interrogating this. We’ve just been through the COVID pandemic and we’re going through the cost-of-living crisis, and you’ll see reports of the massive profits that the supermarkets are making at a time when we’ve got 45-year highs on food price inflation, so there has to be a role in this Bill to think about how we bring that value in the food chain back into our local communities and rural economies as part of this picture, which is part of what that goal would look at doing.

11:35

Thank you ever so much. That’s a wonderful, very comprehensive answer there. I just wanted to come to Professor Marsden if that’s okay. You mentioned about the priority of the goals and how they should interlock—I like your Venn diagram. Because this is one of the concerns that have been raised—that some may be given higher priorities than others. So, some say that there should be a balance, whilst others call for a clear hierarchy, and I suppose what’s coming through at the moment is that it’s like, ‘Well, they should all interlock, and they should all work together, and they’re all equally important’, but I can understand why there are concerns about how this would really work in practice. So, what are your views on this, if I can come to you first, and then I can come to you, Simon?

Yes. I think that’s why I would suggest—. Again, whether this ends up as part of the Bill is another question, or whether it’s the work of the commission, in a sense. But it would be the work of the commission to put towards Ministers a plan, a strategy that would interlink these goals, and, of course, there are different entry points into the system. This is the important thing. If we take a systems approach, you don’t just have one entry point, you have several entry points. Now, I’ve put in my paper that one entry point here would be enhancing and developing the food economy. Now, that could be a programme of work on the food economy that would stimulate the infrastructure for the food economy, the skills agenda and also stimulate small business and social enterprise development. So, if we can think of examples of what the national food plan would do, it would stimulate the growth of the food economy by creating a much more diverse food offer and a diverse food economy in Wales. It would rebuild food outlets on the high street, for instance. It would look at planning policy to change planning policies, or modify them, in order to encourage different types of food businesses. So, an entry point into achieving the objectives, the secondary food goals, would be enhancing the food economy.

Another entry point, which is already ongoing in a sense, but in some respects at the moment is somewhat separate in organisational terms from what we’re talking about, is the sustainable farming scheme. Now, if we’re going to have a sustainable farming scheme—it’s a long time coming; it’s taking part of this decade to achieve—that will have to deliver a more regenerative agroecological farming system. So, you could say that the entry point is initially environmental and ecological, but it’s also about producing more sustainable food and sustainable diets. So, those are—

Sorry, can I just come back on that point? I suppose, you are right—it’s going to take time with the sustainable farming scheme. But what you said—and Simon, I think you were saying this before as well—is that, really, the strategy and the goal should be created by the commission, but really, then, if you think about how long it is going to take to process, potentially, this Bill, and then to set up a commission, and then to wait for the commission to decide the goals and the balance of it and what the strategy is, that’s also a really, really long time. And some would also argue that it’s not for the commission to set duties and legislation; it is the role of the Senedd and the Welsh Government to put that through, and then the commission is there to hold the Welsh Government to account, to ensure that they are doing what is in the legislation. But at the moment, from what I can see, this legislation doesn't have any statutory duties associated with it. So, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect here, and I guess what I keep coming back to is: nobody disagrees, I don't think, with the purpose of this, the objectives of this, but is there a faster way of doing this that doesn't require the legislation?

11:40

Yes, I'm happy to come in there. The reason that we need legislation for this is we have to look for the long term here. We have to do what we can now and we have to look for the long term. We have been calling for this approach for a long time, and I think the investment is needed to make sure that this opportunity that we have before us now is taken advantage of. It is going to take some time, and I think one of the really important aspects of the commission, for me, is the composition of the commission. We've talked about it actually needing to be led by a commissioner, rather than a chair, to ensure that we've got the right level of, I guess, seniority and impact there. But also, I think the membership needs to be cross-cutting and cross-sector, but it needs to be a membership that is a membership of networks, so that every member that sits around that table has sat behind it a network of organisations or communities that it can speak to in terms of helping to inform the development of the vision for Wales. It can't just be about five or six people advising the Minister, in my opinion.

Absolutely. So, it would be similar to the make-up of the social partnership council, then, but instead, I guess, of—well, unions would be involved, but you'd have those networks around the table as well.

Absolutely. We have—I can't emphasise enough—a fantastic groundswell of community food or a food movement, whether that be through the farming unions, through organisations like the Landworkers Alliance, the development of the network of food partnerships across Wales that are cross-sector and already working with public services boards, working across health boards, local authorities, communities and businesses to drive local food action. That's happening already, so there is a wealth of expertise and a willingness to be involved in this process. I think the energy that would be generated by the progression of this Bill would enable things to start happening on the ground in a more effective way, anyway, but it secures that for the future, too. 

Okay. Thank you so much, Chair. I'm very conscious of time, so I'm very happy to leave it there and we can follow up in writing with the other questions. Thank you.

Thank you, Sarah. I'll now bring in Hefin David. Hefin.

I've got a very direct and swift question, really. The explanatory memorandum makes clear that targets are going to be used to meet the standards, but, of course, there are already an existing plethora of targets out there. How can a misalignment be avoided? Is it likely, and if that happens and there are additional targets on top of current targets, how can the Bill resolve that? 

I think, in some ways, the issue is the other way around, in a way: are we going to miss existing targets because we don't have a co-ordinated policy? That doesn't concern me as much as the idea that if we don't set targets, I think that we don't show the correct level of ambition. Sometimes, it almost doesn't matter what the targets are, or doesn't matter too much. If we look at inspiring examples of where big changes have been made in the food system—so, Scandinavia, for instance, Copenhagen, Malmö—where they've made great leaps forward in the use of sustainable food, for instance, it's because they've had the nerve and the political ambition to set those targets and find ways of getting to them, rather than setting targets that are really based on seeing chinks of light between existing barriers at the moment. So, I think targets are really important. 

I just want to go back briefly to the question that Sarah raised in terms of the timings. Look, you know, ideally, we wouldn't be starting from here, but we are. If Welsh Government can come forward with another way of doing this that realises these objectives—. What I think isn't valid is to say that we're doing it at the moment, because we're not.

11:45

Okay. Is anyone else wanting to respond to Hefin's initial question at all? No. There we are. Fine. Okay, we'll move on. I'll now bring in Sam Kurtz.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Good morning—it's still just morning. Good morning to you all. With regard to the food commission, Peter, in the food Bill, is proposing that a food commission should be handling this, but there are some who are saying that this could be a role undertaken by the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. I just wanted to know the panel's thoughts on that proposal by some of the consultees with regard to the future generations commissioner's potential role. Katie, with yourself.

I definitely think there is a need to strengthen the future generations Act around the role of food, because, at the moment, there are no indicators for food, and the evidence of that is obvious when you go through the well-being assessments, which I have done, for all of the public services boards. So, I think that there is a need to—. My first point would be, regardless of anything else, there needs to be a strengthening of the well-being of future generations Act in regard to food. And, in fact, the outgoing future generations commissioner has recognised this, and she has also called for a national food strategy as part of her five-point plan for the cost-of-living crisis. But having said that, I don't think that this can be done through the well-being of future generations Act.

One of the main reasons is, it's a huge piece of work that requires an enormous expertise from a lot of different people. And I think one example that I will give would be the recent—and this is a piece of legislation, actually, that hasn't been mentioned in any of the documents, probably because it's so recent—is the proposed take-up of benefits Bill, which has recognised that there is a need to address an issue, which is maximising the uptake of benefits, and there's a piece of legislation that's been introduced to do that. And, in the same way, we need that for food; we need a recognition that we need to optimise our food system for the benefits of the community and for the planet and for people's health, and that's why I think the well-being of future generations Act can't do that within its current structure and format.

So, it needs, then, a separate food commission to look at this. I can see you nodding along, Terry. Would you say it needs a food commissioner to head that up, or, as Peter mentioned to us earlier, he was suggesting a chair and board of expertise? What do you think the make-up of that food commission would look like?

Well, I think, as I said earlier, I think a commissioner to bring the leadership, and I think it needs to be somebody who people will recognise. I think if you look at chairs of boards and things that we already have, like the food and drink board, probably nobody on the street would know who the chair is. So, I think it needs that leadership of a commissioner and, as I said before, the people around the table need to be made up of all the different parts of the food system that we should be representing in this Bill. And sitting behind those, in some kind of committee structure, needs to be those networks of people who are working within the food industry, within the food system. So, for example, you might have somebody from the Food and Drink Wales Industry Board or the food clusters sitting on the commission, and beneath that, they would then have all of that access to all of that network of food clusters within the food and drink sector. Or you may look to have, I don't know, the Landworkers Alliance, for example, and a network of membership that they have sitting behind them, representing land workers in Wales.

Yes, that's interesting. Simon, I can see you were nodding along to what Katie was saying at that point. Anything to add?

I don't really have much to add to it because I totally agree, and I think it's for that reason that it should include a commissioner. I think this has to be a great imagination project amongst the stakeholders, but also amongst the public. We have to be able to—. One of the problems that we face in lots of areas of policy these days is that it appears to be difficult for people now to imagine a better future. And in this area in particular, we need to be able to paint that picture, and so I think the commissioner role would be really important in being able to bring people together to do that job and to inspire people to that purpose.

There's one other thing I'd like to say, that sometimes in these conversations, there's an assumption that it's all about conflict between competing objectives, and competing stakeholders, to some degree. I think that, certainly in my experience in this area and in the conversations that I've had in the last few years—round-table conversations with everybody from the farming unions through to the environmentalists, et cetera, around the table—is that there's much more common ground than we think, and, actually, that answers to questions in one area—and Terry has already pointed this out—can be the answers to questions in another area. So, I do think that we should see this as—. The challenges are huge, but the opportunity for Wales is massive too.

11:50

Okay, that's interesting, because we as a committee have undertaken an inquiry into the agriculture Bill, and I think that was prevalent in a lot of that as well, that there's more common ground than is perceived, and it's interesting to hear you saying that around this Bill as well specifically. Terry, anything you'd wish to add around that?

Professor Terry Marsden 11:50:55