By Joseph Willits
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In the spirit of accountability, speaking at Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs questions yesterday, Labour MP Tom Harris indulged other members with details of his own breakfast. Harris was welcoming the fact that 90% of food purchased by the House of Commons was British – 90% of which he had presumably enjoyed. After asking Caroline Spelman about jobs and growth in the food production industry, Harris asked what DEFRA's own percentage of British sourced food was:
"I think the whole House has a perfect right to know what I had for breakfast this morning. I started with sausages, bacon and egg—only one, of course, because I am on a health kick. In tucking in, I was reassured by the fact that 90% of all the food purchased by the House is sourced in the United Kingdom, encouraging British growth and British jobs. Will the Secretary of State tell the House not what she had for breakfast—too much information already—but what proportion of food purchased by her own Department is sourced in the United Kingdom?"
Spelman did not disclose her own breakfast to the House, and nor did she seem particulalry interested in Mr Harris', but she did reveal that only 18% of food purchased by her own department was sourced in the UK:
"World Trade Organisation rules mean that we can require purchasing to British standards in Government procurement, but we cannot require produce to be British. We adhere to those rules, and we actively promote Government buying standards involving all Departments sourcing food that is produced to British standards in order to promote those standards."
Harris had also asked Spelman what the Government was doing "to promote jobs and growth in the food production and environmental industries". Spelam replied that an export action plan "in the rural strand of the growth review that we [the Government] published alongside the autumn statement" would be published later this month. The Government she said, was taking various steps:
"an innovation summit to support the agri-food industry. We also announced a new £15 million loan fund for community renewables, a £15 million fund for rural growth networks and support for mid-sized businesses to access £6 billion a year of savings available from resource efficiency.