Public Procurement Bill highlights need to support British farmers

School dinner

Photograph: Steve Debenport

The NFU is supporting a private members’ bill which would introduce mandatory reporting on the proportion of British food supplied to the public sector.

Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, put forward a private member’s bill – Public Procurement (British Goods and Services) – which has had its second reading in the House of Commons today.

The NFU has worked closely with Ms Champion to develop the Bill which would amend two existing Acts of Parliament relating to requirements to be followed in public procurement. These include the need for a contracting authority to consider what proportion of the food originates from the UK.

Public procurement is the purchase of goods and services on behalf of a public authority, such as a government agency.

In December 2023, the NFU published its manifesto ‘Farming for Britain’s Future’ where we called on a future government to commit to identify opportunities to increase our market share of foods we can produce sustainably, including a commitment to source 50% of food into the public sector from British farms. The reporting of the origin of public sector sourced food is essential to monitor progress towards this ambition.

“This would guarantee more British farmers and growers delivering high quality, fresh, seasonal and affordable food to world-leading environmental and welfare standards into our schools, prisons, hospitals and the military,” said NFU Deputy President David Exwood.

Huge support for sourcing local

Despite the the public procurement of food encompassing a spend of over £2.4 billion, “disappointingly, there is currently no record of what proportion of this food is currently supplied by British farmers and growers”, said David.

“We know there is huge support across the country for food served in the public sector to be British,” David added, citing the NFU’s research, carried out by Deltapoll, which found that 76% of the public want the government to commit to sourcing at least half of all food for schools, prisons and hospitals from British farms.

We know there is huge support across the country for food served in the public sector to be British.”

NFU Deputy President David Exwood

Food procurement review

Earlier in the week, Defra Secretary Steve Barclay announced the appointment of Will Quince MP as an independent advisor to conduct a review into public sector food procurement.

Key elements of the review include looking at making the system more accessible for SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and farmers, and boosting animal welfare and environmental standards.

Will Quince worked in the food and drink industry prior to becoming an MP, and has since held ministerial roles at both the Department for Education and the Department for Health and Social Care.

Mr Barclay said: “We will ensure our schools, hospitals and armed forces are using their budgets to support sustainable food produced to the high animal welfare standards we have here in Britain, which are some of the best in the world.”

The NFU believes it is in both the public and the producers’ interests that our public sector utilises our world-leading food and farming industry to deliver safe, traceable, affordable, nutritious food.

Public procurement also puts value back into the local economy and ensure everyone has access to British food, regardless of where they live or income levels.

The NFU will be meeting the officials working on the National Procurement policy statement and the government’s independent advisor to improve food procurement.

We fully support Sarah Champion for introducing her Bill and encourage all parliamentarians to support it and back British food and farming.

See our manifesto asks

Our manifesto

Our general election manifesto – Farming for Britain's Future – outlines our key asks of the next government to ensure farmers and growers can continue to deliver for the environment, economy and local communities while producing more of the great British food we all enjoy.

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