Pwyllgor yr Economi, Masnach a Materion Gwledig

Economy, Trade, and Rural Affairs Committee

16/02/2023

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Luke Fletcher
Samuel Kurtz
Sarah Murphy
Vikki Howells

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Angela Jones Iechyd Cyhoeddus Cymru
Public Health Wales
Ceriann Tunnah Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Betsi Cadwaladr
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board
Dr Amanda Squire British Dietetic Association
British Dietetic Association
Elaine Hindal British Nutrition Foundation
British Nutrition Foundation
Eryl Powell Bwrdd Iechyd Prifysgol Aneurin Bevan
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board
Kelly Small Cyngor Abertawe
Swansea Council
Pauline Batty Cyngor Sir Fynwy
Monmouthshire County Council

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Ben Stokes Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Evan Jones Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Gareth David Thomas Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Gruffydd Owen Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Jennifer Cottle Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Katie Wyatt Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Katy Orford Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Lara Date Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Robert Donovan Clerc
Clerk
Sara Moran Ymchwilydd
Researcher

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 09:32.

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

The meeting began at 09:32.

Penodi Cadeirydd dros dro
Appointment of temporary Chair

Bore da, bawb. Members are aware that the Chair is unable to attend today's meeting due to starting a period of medical leave. Therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, I call for nominations for a temporary Chair for today's meeting. Sarah.

Thank you. Are there any other nominations? Excellent. I therefore declare Vikki Howells has been appointed temporary Chair for today's meeting. I invite her to take the seat. 

Penodwyd Vikki Howells yn Gadeirydd dros dro.

Vikki Howells was appointed temporary Chair.

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

Good morning and welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Senedd's Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee. As the clerk has already informed the committee, Paul has begun a period of medical leave as part of his cancer treatment. I would like to send the committee's best wishes to Paul and his family during this stage of the treatment and note that we will elect a temporary Chair to cover the duration of Paul's absence at the end of this meeting. This morning we have received apologies from Paul Davies and Hefin David. Do any Members have any declarations of registrable interest?

Yes, please, Chair. I'm an honorary member of the British Veterinary Association.

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

We have a number of papers to note this morning. I don't propose to read them all through, but just to gain agreement from Members they're happy to note those papers. Fantastic. Thank you.

3. Bil Bwyd (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 5
3. Food (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 5

We are moving on this morning to our fifth evidence session on the Food (Wales) Bill. I'd like to welcome our witnesses to the committee this morning. I'd like to invite the witnesses to introduce themselves. If we can start in the room. 

I'm Ceriann Tunnah, a consultant in public health in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

Good morning. I'm Dr Amanda Squire. I'm representing the British Dietetic Association this morning.

Good morning. Bore da. I'm Angela Jones. I'm the acting national director of health and well-being for Public Health Wales.

Bore da, bawb. I'm Eryl Powell. I'm a deputy director of public health and I'm representing Aneurin Bevan University Health Board.

Thank you very much. For our witnesses in the room, you don't need to touch the microphones when you want to speak; they'll just automatically pick you up. It makes it easier. I'd like to begin with some questions to the panel, firstly on the case for legislation. Maybe if we start with Ceriann, how do you respond to the view that existing policy and legislation could be used to achieve the Bill's intentions?

09:35

As a health board, we were supportive of the proposed Bill, but we do recognise that potentially there could be other mechanisms that could be used. I think what we're very supportive of is the spirit of the Bill, which recognises that we need to consolidate the various aspects of the food system and how that impacts on obesity. From our perspective, there's a recognition that, sometimes, certain elements of the system can undermine other elements of the system, particularly the competing nature sometimes of economy and health. We are very supportive that, actually, the system comes together and recognises that they need to work in partnership, whether that's through this Bill or whether that's through other mechanisms. We recognise that there may be an opportunity to improve how we use those other mechanisms, but we did welcome the spirit of the Bill around that partnership working and the various aspects of the food system, particularly in the current situation around the cost-of-living crisis. 

Thank you. So, that's the view from Betsi Cadwaladr health board. It might be useful to gauge the view from Aneurin Bevan next. Eryl.

Thank you, Chair. Aneurin Bevan University Health Board is supportive of this Bill. We feel that this Bill is needed; we have serious and significant food challenges that are not adequately addressed via the existing policy. What is needed is a much wider food system approach. The challenges that we face relate to nutrition and health and are caused by food insecurity and poor diets. They're in relation to climate and nature and community prosperity. The view of the health board is that currently there is no national co-ordination of the food policy agenda across the food policy areas. The Bill provides the opportunity to create that vision and plan for a food system approach that would provide a long-term vision for what the food system could look like in Wales. Existing legislation doesn't go far enough in enabling us to achieve the intentions of the Bill. This Bill, we believe, would put food on a much stronger statutory platform with integration and collaboration across the ministerial platforms.

Thank you. Maybe if we go to Angela next, for the view from Public Health Wales. 

Thank you very much. I think it's a complex area. Obesity and the health and well-being side of the application of the food Bill is the particular area that we're interested in. The issue of obesity is really complex. Food is part of it, but it's broader than that in terms of the built environment and access to that as well. We have a global food market, so some of the areas of food control are outside of the control of Wales. Some of it is outside the control of the UK, but the UK Government has more significant control over some of the elements of food that come to us. So, it is a complex environment, and in dealing with that it's a whole-society approach. I don't think there's any easy, quick fix to this.

There are existing elements of legislation that support this. We've already got the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, which promotes the principle of sustainable development, and all public bodies must act in accordance with that. The ability to have local well-being plans and well-being assessments to be able to address some of these issues is already there. The question is the consistency of application locally in terms of whether the food environment is important enough to control through those existing mechanisms. But those existing mechanisms do exist already. It's a question of application of those. On the ways of working for that in terms of prevention and thinking long term, as I said, there is no quick fix; it's taken around 40 years or more for us to get to our current state of levels of overweight and obesity, and it will be a long journey for us to be able to turn that around. So, it's a whole-society approach that we need with that. 

The other area that we already have in policy is the 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales’ strategy. That looks at a whole range of areas, including healthy environments, healthy settings—so, looking at preschool, schools, working environments, hospitals as well, and communities. So, there are lots of opportunities around that to consolidate some of this work and co-ordinate it. There are elements around leadership and enabling change as well, and I think that would be helpful in terms of a consistency of approach across all bodies in Wales. And then there's also a life-course approach that's built into that. That's a 10-year strategy, and there are action plans to take us on that journey. Since that was set up, obviously, we had the COVID pandemic, which did cause problems in applying it and moving it in that direction.

One of the other legislative frameworks that we already have is the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. We've got different guidance in Wales to England. One of the biggest inhibitors for us currently is that the guidance attached to the Town and Country Planning Act in Wales doesn't enable local authorities to limit fast-food premises, for example, be they around schools or in high density in areas of high levels of obesity. We find that there are more fast-food premises in areas where there are high levels of obesity, and we're not able to control that, or the local authorities are not able to control that, through the existing mechanisms. But the food Bill, as is proposed, doesn't propose to look at town and country planning legislation. So, I think there are already existing enabling frameworks and legislation that we have, it's the co-ordination and application of those in a consistent approach that is most needed here, as well as further development around planning legislation to be able to control a lot of these premises that are already there or are increasing in certain areas as well.

09:40

Thank you. And finally Amanda, for the view from the British Dietetic Association.

Thank you. I completely agree with my colleagues and what they've all said so far, so I won't repeat what they've said. I represent the British Dietetic Association. We represent all of the dietitians in Wales, and we're a fairly unique profession in that we follow the whole journey of obesity. We're there at the treatment phase, we're there at the preventative phase, and we're also here at the legislative stage that supports the legislation that prevents obesity.

We've got, already, a huge number of fantastic projects across Wales, but what we haven't got is a joined-up and equitable approach to the projects that we've got. The community food strategy highlights a number of really good projects, but, in contrast to that, we have large expanses of Wales that are actually food deserts, and particularly healthy-food deserts. What we find is that we have some great ideas for healthy eating, obesity management and obesity prevention, but we haven't yet got is a whole, multi-agency approach to this, and as we all know, food is everywhere and it's everybody's business. But what we also find is that some of the poorer households in society currently, in order to achieve this healthy eating approach and to meet the standards for healthy eating, would have to spend 47 per cent of their disposable income on the foods that are required to meet these targets. So, what we need is a whole-system approach with everyone moving across from their silos into one approach, one strategy, and one mindset so that the food producers, the food manufacturers and then the food consumers are all in the same system together, rather than working at odds to each other at times.

Thank you, Amanda, and thank you all for your response to that question. A follow-up question from me—don't feel you all need to answer this one, I'll leave it open for anyone who wishes to chip in. The Minister for rural affairs has described the Bill as resource consuming and bureaucratic and argued that it doesn't bring a solution to the aims set out in explanatory memorandum. Do you have any views on that? Angela.

I've not seen any evidence that this approach would work. If there was evidence that it had been applied elsewhere and the use of goals and targets had improved elsewhere, I think that would be interesting to see how it could apply in Wales. The infrastructure proposed to be set up for here with the food commission and then with the requirements for the food plans would be quite resource intensive, without necessarily the evidence of effectiveness of that approach. Some of the questions I would ask are about the achievability of some of those goals, particularly when we have a global food market, and we've seen lots of food prices rise through things that are outside of our control in Wales or even in the UK—for example, the war in Russia and Ukraine that's affected the grain market. So, I think the objectives are laudable in here. I question whether we would be able to fully control some of these controls and targets in here, and I have not been witness to any evidence that supports this sort of approach. So, should it go ahead, I would suggest that we have really strong mechanisms for evaluation of the effectiveness of this as we go forward, because I think it would be a pioneering approach.

09:45

Okay. I'll just check if anyone else wants to come in on that. Amanda.

My colleagues across Wales, when I did a full all-Wales consultation of all dieticians in Wales, felt that the overall impact of this could be reduced if we continued with the multilayer approach. So, there are several layers: there is a primary goal, there is a secondary goal, and some of the wording of this isn't consistent. We have fed that back in our consultation feedback. I think what we're doing now doesn't work, so we have to look at a radical solution, whether it is this in its entirety, or whether it is this in a more simplified version, we feel strongly that something has to be done. We can't carry on as we are.

Okay, thank you. We'll move on now, then, to a series of questions on food goals, led by Sarah Murphy.

Thank you, Chair, and good morning, everyone. I'd like to start with a question to all of you. Some of our stakeholders have called for more emphasis on the nutritional value of food in the Bill in the food goals. Are you content with how the health and social secondary food goal has been amended from the draft Bill to try to address this? And, I'm sorry, Chair, I can't see in the room if anyone's putting their hand up.

The simple answer is 'yes'. We're happier with it. I think there is still room for looking at the wording of some of the goals, and some of the structure of the goals, and I think what are actually seen as primary goals should probably actually be an overarching aim, and the secondary goals actually be targets.

That's really helpful, thank you very much. Would anybody else like to come in and comment on that?

Yes. I would agree, really. The key issue is the targets, and for me, it's going to be what the detail is behind those targets. I would have liked to have seen health inequalities actually mentioned within those goals, but actually, that might come out within the targets. So, the primary focus, really, would be on the detail around those targets.

Thank you. And then, to follow up, Ceriann, Betsi Cadwaladr has suggested that guidance is needed for interpretation of the food goals as well, and you gave a really good example in your written evidence saying that, for example, education is a setting, but also it is a mechanism for behavioural change. I think what came through in the written evidence, really, was that this Bill is also meant to be about the future and changing our relationship with food in many ways. So, what are your views on that? If you want to expand a bit on it, Ceriann, and if anybody else, then, would like to come in and say how they feel about this.

Yes. I think, for us, the sense that we'd like to see in terms of the targets is making the healthy choice the easy choice, and I think what's going to be really important is that, when we look at those targets, we put key targets in place in terms of, for example, food retail environments, hot food takeaways, school food—actually, how are we ensuring that people are able to make healthy choices, whether it's guidance around how we position food, how we price food, how we embed fruit and vegetables within food options? So, for me, it's going to be really important that we actually look at the fact that food is delivered across all of those environments. I would probably say that, at the moment, the goals maybe don't really emphasise the fact that we deliver food across all of those settings and that it's really important that we recognise that we have to take responsibility for the food that we deliver. 

09:50

Thank you very much. Eryl, I could see you nodding. Do you want to come in?

Yes. I agree with several of those points. I think, probably, further work is required in terms of the descriptors that go with the goals, and that includes things like the framing of those goals. So, to get consistency across policy areas we'd probably advocate for looking at how we talk about healthy weight, rather than just a focus on reducing obesity. As has been mentioned already, I think a reference to health inequality should be explicit within those descriptors. 

The other point that we felt was quite important is that we need to avoid unintended impacts between those goals. So, we need to understand those goals in an interlocking way so that we don't have unintended consequences. For example, in relation to what may be affordable and good for health may not necessarily be as good for the environment or the local economy. And in some ways, when we look at it in this way, it illustrates exactly why we do need this food Bill and this legislation, because we do need stronger co-ordination across the breadth of the food system and we need to understand where there may be unintended impacts and where there may be trade-offs and how they may be approached. So, we suggest that those food goals do need further work with respect to the descriptors, and they do need to be understood as interlocking and not hierarchical.

And then just finally, there were a few areas, which I think have been touched on already, that are probably missing from those descriptors. So, in addition to no explicit reference to health inequalities, which, of course, is the challenge that we have in Wales that we really need to focus on, we also don't have a reference to sustainable food procurement or planning. So, I think those areas need to be considered as well within those food goals. 

Thank you, Eryl. That brings me on, actually—you touched on it there, but it has been highlighted that it might not be possible to simultaneously achieve all the elements of the food goals. So, some could be at odds with others. So, for other people on the panel, would you advocate a hierarchy in the goals to support decision making, or a balanced approach? I like how you said that, Eryl—that they're interlocking. And does the Bill need to be amended in this respect? I'm sorry, I can't see if anyone's—

Food is everyone's business. It should be interlocking. There isn't a hierarchy of need or hierarchy of focus with this, they should be equal, and each area should have the opportunity to explore all of those elements. 

I just wanted to pick up on one point. I'm not sure if this fits in this section, but we noticed that there was a statement that said that, before making regulations that set or amend a target, Welsh Ministers must be satisfied that the target or amended target can be met. And we read this as implying that only achievable targets can be set and achievable goals, and—

I think that's going to be coming up in the next section, with one of my other colleagues. 

That's fine. Okay. 

But you are right—they're very much aligned. So, I definitely take your point. But, before I end on the food goals, do you think that there's anything that needs to be amended in the Bill to ensure that it doesn't become a hierarchy of goals?

I don't think it's so much amending, but I think we also need to be aware of the pace and we need to bring the population with us. So, actually, there will need to be a balance between those priorities, because if we start to take extreme positions, we will lose the buy-in of the population. So, actually, when we're talking about making the healthy choice the easy choice, it is about that gradual introduction of change. It's not about radically changing our high streets and removing all high fat, salt and sugar food, but it's about starting to gradually—as Angela said, it has taken us 40 years to get here, so we can't bring in things that are too extreme, or we will lose that buy-in from the population. 

I think that the acid test, not necessarily the hierarchy of the goals, but the acid test is the ability of the decisions that are made between those goals in terms of addressing inequalities in the population. So, that would be to me the overarching factor that would be helpful in looking at any proposed changes, any goals, to see what the impact would be in terms of addressing inequalities currently in the population. And I think the involvement of the population in some of that decision making is key. We've talked about collaboration in the Bill, but in line with the well-being of future generations Act, we need to take people along with us, as Ceriann and colleagues have said, so that involvement of the population in maybe setting those targets and those goals would be really helpful as well.

09:55

Thank you, Sarah. I'll bring in Luke Fletcher now to explore this issue of targets a little further.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. Yes, just to touch on the target element here, we have heard some mixed views on the Bill's interaction with existing targets. You have some people saying that they'll cause misalignment and confusion; with others saying that there's an opportunity to consolidate some of those targets and elevate some of them to a statutory status. I'd be really keen to hear some of your views. Should we start with you, Amanda?

The point that we were making, really, was that we can't just set achievable targets—they have to be sufficiently aspirational to meet the need, and the need we've got now, but the need of the future as well. We know that we can't set unachievable goals, but they do have to be aspirational, and that was really the point that we were making there. We feel that the Bill would draw together all the existing targets that are out there through various mechanisms and pull them all into one—that's really one of the main strengths of this Bill; that's where this really works. But we would need them to be sufficiently bold to advance the food agenda.

Does anyone else want to come in on that? No. Everyone content? Okay, we will begin to look now at issues around the Welsh food commission. Sam.

Thank you, Chair. In talking about the food commission, I'd like to know the panel's view on whether there is a need for a food commission, whether the role is something that can be taken up by another body; and if there is a need for a food commission, what that structure would look like. I know it's quite a theme of questions there, but, Ceriann, we'll start with yourself.

I think it's a difficult question, because I think the benefit of the food commission is that it will bring together all of the various partners from across the system, and I think that that's a common theme that we're seeing across all of the discussion at the moment—that I don't think partners are actually in a room together and having these conversations. Even when we're talking about the targets, we know that, sometimes, targets undermine each other and that there should be shared ownership of targets.

Can I just come back on that? Swansea Bay University Health Board suggested an exclusion of the food industry representatives, while Betsi Cadwaladr said that they should be represented. I imagine from your opening comments, then, that you think they should be included in that.

We need partners around the table and we need to be open and having conversations with them. I think there is a discussion to be had in terms of what decision-making powers people have, but the reality is that it's a very different industry to other industries. People need to eat food, so, we need to engage with them, and start to make those gradual changes that we've talked about. So, for me, it is important that all of the partners are around the table. There may be other forums that could be adapted around that. I do recognise that there will be costs associated with the food commission, but also, we recognise that obesity is costing Wales £3 billion a year, so, if it is achieving the outcomes that we're looking for, then I think it will be money well invested.

But there is definitely that balance in terms of looking across the system at the moment and whether there's anything that can be adapted. We know that there's money going into the whole-system approach to healthy weight at the moment. There is an opportunity to build on that and we absolutely, as a health board, are trying to engage with multiple partners, including the food industry around that approach. So, having a national layer that is taking that approach, we feel, would be beneficial.

Yes, we support the formation of a food commission. We feel that it should be all stakeholders at the table. We can't do it otherwise, and what we'll be doing is replicating; if we exclude one sector, we'll be replicating some of the committees that are already in existence.

What we do think is that, at the moment, the functions of that commission are rather broad, so they need to be tailored. We also believe that the food commission should really fully understand the oversight that's already happening across Wales and integrate that, not replicate that. We would want both public and private bodies around the table as part of that, and of course, we would like dieticians to be at the forefront of this, because we integrate with everybody. So, that's my sales pitch. [Laughter.]

10:00

Nice plug at the end as well. [Laughter.] Just building on that theme, Amanda: would you say, then, that this body would have a food commissioner at its head, or a chair and board members, as it were? What would the formation of that look like? Because we've had some evidence from other individuals who've said that this needs a figurehead—as in a food commissioner—to go out and bat for this, but others have said, actually, if we're looking for a breadth of skills and knowledge within the food sector industry from production through to retail, diet, and everything else in between, that it needs to be more holistic than that.

The problem with collaborative working is everybody has different agendas, which can compete, so I feel a figurehead would be the most helpful way, and we also need a very strong voice, a voice that is consistent and representative of everybody. So, I guess if that commissioner chairs the committees, then we have the best of both worlds. But I do feel a figurehead is very important to really be the single, strong voice, yes.

Well, should the Bill be supported and it goes forward, then there probably would need to be an independent voice to pull together a range of other organisations. The breadth of the food Bill covers a whole range of areas currently—for example, the Food Standards Agency, the work of Public Health Wales, the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales's work, Natural Resources Wales, and local authorities, health boards—so there are a range of organisations that have significant stakes in this. So, should a food commission be developed, it would need independence in that element, I would have thought.

So, just noting your opening comments to the Chair around the well-being of future generations Act and the commissioner we've got in that role, given the breadth of what this Bill is looking to deliver, could you morph something from something that exists, or is stand-alone a better way, given the breadth?

I think that, certainly under the well-being of future generations Act, it's sufficiently broad to be able to encompass this, and food as a priority within that, and there are already existing mechanisms, such as well-being assessments, well-being plans, that could be applied across local areas in Wales. I think the issue is the consistency of approach in that and the prioritisation of issues like food, health and well-being, particularly around some of the key challenges, such as overweight and obesity. So, I think it would be possible to do it within the existing framework, but it would need a specific focus and guidance within there to maintain that sort of consistency of approach in application, because it's quite varied in approach at a local level.

Okay. And that scope then within the future generations commissioner would have enough around the procurement, as mentioned in the food Bill as well, not just the public health side of it, but the additional parts that this overarching framework looks to have around food production as well; would there be scope there?

Well, there are seven goals in the well-being of future generations Act, and they include things like prosperity, equality, cultural diversity, health and well-being, so there's a whole range of aspects in terms of the goals—so, globally responsible Wales as well. So, it would all fit in within that because of such a broad remit, but it would need a focus within that to be able to guide local areas to apply it in a consistent and prioritised way.

Okay, that's helpful. Eryl, I can see your hand coming up.

Thank you. So, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board does support the idea of an independent food commission to provide accountability, to scrutinise and to support the implementation of the Bill, although we do consider that the scope of that commission probably needs to be broadened to reflect its potential influence on international and national policies relating to things like trade, the economy and the environment, all of which will impact on the Welsh food system, so that we do understand the Welsh food system as part of a wider system. And the question would be what influence could that food commission have over that much wider food system.

We think that the food commission would need to involve a broad range of stakeholders, and that would include the food industry, trade, food producers, retailers. We also think it would be really important that citizen voice and engagement of citizens in Wales are considered within that food commission.

We do think that the food commission could potentially be strengthened further by a dedicated food commissioner for Wales who could hold responsibility for the development of the Wales national food strategy, ensure that that is really integrated across Welsh Government departmental priorities, and that that strategy is co-produced with partners and citizens, enabling that food democracy and food citizenship element that I mentioned earlier as being really important to the potential success of the delivery of the strategy.

10:05

Thank you, Eryl. Just on that point, then, you'd agree with Betsi Cadwaladr over Swansea Bay University Health Board in terms of the food industry representatives being an integral part of that food commission.

Yes, I think it's important that the food commission includes a wide range of stakeholders, and then there would need to be some detailed work in terms of how the involvement of those stakeholders is appropriately managed.

Thanks, Sam. I'd just like to explore with our witnesses a little more around the issue of local food plans and what you think might be the barriers to developing and reporting on them. Maybe if we start with Angela.

One of the barriers I've mentioned previously is in terms of the ability to control some of the local factors, bearing in mind that food is a global marketplace, so the ability to control what is sold and provided within a particular environment might be limited. I think, also, the ability to control the environment in terms of the planning controls currently that are not within the gift of local authorities, to be able to limit certain types of premises and the proximity of those premises to children, for example, in secondary schools. So, I think there are elements where it would be useful in terms of procurement and standards of food across the public sector, in particular, but there are limitations, as well, to the existing proposals in terms of the ability to control some of those environmental and wider economic factors.

Thank you, and then, from a health board perspective, what's the view from Betsi Cadwaladr, Ceriann?

We obviously recognise that the public sector is really stretched at the moment, so I know that the automatic response will probably be, 'Oh, this is another thing that we need to do.' But, actually, we would really value it. We have already identified locally that access to healthy and affordable food is a priority in terms of our whole-system approach. We anticipate that we will have a plan that will be very similar to the local food plan anyway, but what we feel this legislation will do is really support the system to mature in terms of recognising the roles and responsibilities of wider partners. So, we are definitely experiencing locally in north Wales some challenges with getting wider stakeholders to recognise their role within the food remit. So, by having a local plan, we feel that it would justify us bringing partners together and would make it easier for them to recognise their role within the system.

In terms of, then, monitoring that, as I say, I think there's an opportunity to align some of this to the whole-system approach in 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales', and that, actually, some of the targets and reporting around that should be integrated within that strategy anyway, so that it doesn't become an additional burden.

Thank you. Eryl, what's the view in Aneurin Bevan UHB?

We welcome the inclusion of local food plans within the Food (Wales) Bill. In fact, we're already seeing a network of local food partnerships across Wales, and many of those have associated food plans. In Gwent, for example, all of the local authorities either already have or are working towards establishing food partnerships. In two of those local authority areas, Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent, they have well-established food plans already. The important thing about those local food plans is that they are place based and they involve the public, voluntary sector, community and business sectors. But it's also really important, as has been mentioned earlier, that they align to well-being plans and they're reporting into public services boards. I think we're already seeing this movement towards local food partnerships and the development of local food plans, and what this really needs now is a national framework and some national leadership to really maximise the impact of what has been a bottom-up movement.

10:10

Thank you. So, with that framework, you don't foresee any issues to developing and reporting on those local food plans.

I think, as I said earlier, it would be really important that we get the alignment right and that we do have the appropriate connections with the well-being plans and reporting into PSBs and how we make the links across to things like healthy weight plans. But, I don't foresee any issues with that.

Your question was on the barriers to setting up a local food plan. The main barrier would be if there is a one-size-fits-all approach to local food plans. The local food plans have to be driven from the community itself, with a community voice that recognises their needs and their challenges and their own barriers to healthy eating. So, I would advocate that the people in the locality had the strongest voice when setting up a local food plan.

Thank you. We're going to explore timescales a little more now, so I'll bring Luke Fletcher back in.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Thinking about the actual making, reporting and review process, I'd be interested in the views of the panel in terms of the actual timescales within the Bill for the targets for the national food strategy and local food plans. Do you think they're appropriate? Do you see the potential for any problems with those timelines being the same for both the Welsh Ministers' national food strategy and the public bodies' local food plans? Do you foresee any problems with that as well? I don't know who'd like to come in first. Angela.

Shall I come in? I think they're proposed on a two-year basis, the food plans and the reporting. In order to effect the change and to deliver improvements, that might be quite a short time frame. If you wanted to link it, for example, with the well-being plans and the public services boards that pull together the local organisations, then it might be better to align it with the well-being plans on a five-year basis that can be implemented and monitored in that type of time frame. The two-year time frame is quite a short time frame to be able to enact change and to measure the impact of that. It would likely take longer than that to demonstrate impact.

Yes. We actually suggest that there should be 12-month interim progress reports to maintain momentum and to really see the impact of the interventions on a short-term scale. The other thing we looked at was we wondered what the full operational lifespan was of the strategy. We can see that it suggests five years as the timeline. We wondered if it should align with the 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' strategy, and the operational timescale for that is 10 years, because, as you said, Angela, this is going to take a long time to put into place and to see really meaningful impacts. So, some of these short-term impacts will be great, but the long-term population impacts are going to take time.

I would agree with my colleagues. I think it's short, medium and long-term goals, isn't it, and focusing on some of the quick wins. Actually, we have got an obesity emergency emerging, particularly alongside the cost-of-living crisis, where we know that, potentially, we will start to see obesity levels continuing to rise, but we also know that this is a long-term plan and that, to effect change, we will have to embed significant, long-term strategic change. So, yes, for me, it would be very much getting a balance. 

10:15

Off the back of that, thinking about the consultation process set out in the Bill, I'd be interested in the panel's views around whether the consultation and collaboration requirements for the development of the targets in the national food strategy and local food plans in the Bill, whether or not they're sufficient, and, if not, how should the Bill be amended? Swansea Bay University Health Board suggested there should be a requirement for public bodies to demonstrate how they have consulted with others in the development of their local food plans. I'd be interested just to gauge the panel's views on this. 

What was not clear in the Bill as we read it was how we would engage all of the stakeholders, how we'd bring everyone to the table. And so I think we would need to think more clearly about how we would bring industry, retailers, food producers and manufacturers to the table, and how they sit at the same table as consumers and health colleagues. So, that was the main point that we made there. And we also would want to have further clarification on who's responsible for laying out the final drafts, and who would actually write those final plans. 

Yes, I think that most of the wording in the legislation is around collaboration and consultation, but what was missing for me was the involvement of the population in that process as well. So, I think it was focused very much on agencies, organisations, rather than the involvement of the public in shaping that. I think, in line with the requirement on all public bodies through the well-being of future generations Act, that is fundamental and would need to be applied to any framework as well. 

I would agree with my colleagues, yes. 

Unless there are any further comments, Chair, I'll—.

Thank you very much, Chair. I'm just going to follow up with some questions on resourcing. So, again, quite an open question, but, in your view, are the costs and resource estimates included in the regulatory impact assessment reasonable, particularly for public bodies, in your opinion?

We recognise there are going to be resources required to make this run successfully. There are already some projects out there that are well resourced, but equally there are a number of projects that aren't well resourced. So, we need equity across, and, by implementing the Bill, we're hopeful that there will be more equity across how funds are distributed. 

We also suggest that it would be really good to have an all-Wales template and toolkit for setting up the local food plans, so that, again, it brings that equity to how they're set up. It is going to require investment, but we're already spending billions and billions as a result of obesity and the effects of that, so that money in this will be well spent. 

A follow-up question, then, which is to Eryl and Ceriann. To what extent did the Member in charge of the Bill work with your organisations to understand the resourcing implications of the proposals? Eryl, can I come to you first as we're both on screen together?

Yes, thank you. We haven't had any direct opportunity to feed into the resourcing implications of the Bill. In respect of the resourcing, as colleagues have said, it will be really important and critical to the success of the implementation of the Bill that it is adequately and fairly resourced. There is already investment—£2.5 million of investment from the social justice Minister into the development of local cross-sector food partnerships in Wales, and that investment is largely focused on food insecurity at the moment, but we can see the opportunity for, I suppose, strengthening that investment and broadening it to address the aspects of this food Bill. 

I'm not aware that public health within the health board have input into any resourcing implications. 

10:20

Okay. Thank you very much. Diolch. Thank you, Chair. 

Thanks, Sarah. Some final questions now, then, from Sam Kurtz. 

Thank you very much, Chair. I'd ask the panel whether they've identified any possible unintended consequences from the Bill. We'll start in the same order. Ceriann. 

I think it's difficult to predict. We always know that there are unintended consequences, and it's a key priority of the whole system working, actually, for 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' to try and identify any unintended consequences. I would hope that we would ensure that there is a balance in terms of the priorities. There is potentially a risk that we could focus on certain areas of the food strategy over others. So, I think we would need to ensure that there is a balance across all of those goals and that we prioritise the different areas. But, beyond that, we haven't identified anything we're particularly concerned about. 

I think the unintended consequences would be confusion if we don't get this right. We have already a lot of voices in food in Wales, and we need to be very, very clear with strong chairing and a very strong, clear commissioner with a strong voice to present that one message. 

Yes, I think possibly public engagement with this and support for this, if it's not done properly, with good understanding of behavioural insight of different communities and involvement of different communities. So, if this was felt to be perhaps imposed and had consequences in particular areas that local people didn't like, then you could get campaigns against some of these sorts of changes. 

I would make a similarity, really, with vaccination and offering vaccination, and then you get pockets within populations that are extremely anti-vaccine as well. So, as we introduce this, it's really important to have that involvement and to understand behavioural insights of the population to get maximum gain and traction with any improved changes going ahead. 

I think a potential unintended consequence could be further complexity of the policy arena. We've already talked about the importance of the alignment of this food Bill with things like the well-being of future generations Act and the requirement to develop local well-being plans, and the importance of this Bill aligning with 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales’. So, I think, providing we're able to do the sequencing of that and ensure the alignment is right, we should be able to avoid potential policy confusion and unintended consequences related to that. 

Finally, what would happen if this Bill isn't successful? I know that's quite a 'what if' question. Ceriann. 

I think that the work will continue within the system, but I suppose there is a risk that we continue to work in silos. So, I suppose, if it didn't progress, we would need assurances around how we are going to address that problem of silo working. 

We'll continue to have food poverty in Wales. We'll continue to have a population that cannot meet the targets that we need them to reach for their own health. I think if, at the very least, we had a food commissioner on board with this that took forward already a lot of the silos that are working, some of them successfully—. At the very least we should have that. 

I think there is a legislative framework there already to be able to explore some of these areas, as I mentioned, around the well-being of future generations plan and focus through well-being assessments and well-being plans locally. So, if this food Bill wasn't to go ahead, exploring options to maximise the existing legislation and linking in with the 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales’ strategy, and also with the two-year plans that are already there, to try and use those mechanisms to maximise the gain for health and well-being.

Yes, I agree with the comments that have already been provided by my colleagues. So, there would be a risk that food would be approached in a siloed policy manner, and we would not be able to look at this whole-system approach, addressing the cross-cutting issues of food. I also agree with Angela that, should this Bill not progress, there would be opportunities to look at how the well-being of future generations Act and the development of local well-being plans could be strengthened with respect to food, and the role and the prominence that that has within that local well-being plan.

10:25

Thanks, Sam. Do any Members have any supplementary questions that they wish to ask before we draw the session to a close? No. And do any members of the panel have any burning issues that they haven't been able to address yet that they'd like to raise as a parting shot to us? No. Everyone's content. Well, then, thank you. I'd like to thank all the witnesses for attending today. A transcript of today's meeting will be forwarded when available. And we will now take a short break before the next agenda item.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:26 a 10:47.

The meeting adjourned between 10:26 and 10:47.

10:45
4. Bil Bwyd (Cymru): Sesiwn dystiolaeth 6
4. Food (Wales) Bill: Evidence session 6

Okay. Good morning and welcome back, everyone. This is our sixth evidence session considering the general principles of the Food (Wales) Bill, and in this session we're taking evidence on educational issues. So, I'd like to welcome our witnesses and invite you all to introduce yourselves. So, if we start with Pauline.

I'm Pauline Batty. I work for Monmouthshire County Council and I'm their corporate catering manager, responsible for school meals, meals on wheels and an advisory capacity for any other catering within the authority.

Hello. I'm Elaine Hindal. I'm the chief executive of the British Nutrition Foundation.

Hi. I'm Kelly Small. I'm the head of education planning and resources in Swansea Council, so I'm responsible for the education budget, and the catering service is under that as well.

Welcome to all three of you. And I'd like to begin with a question to ask you how you respond to the view that existing policy and legislation could be used to achieve the food Bill's intentions. So, maybe if we start with Kelly.

Yes. There is other policy already out there with a similar slant; I'm thinking in particular of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 and the Bill coming through, the Social Partnership and Public Procurement (Wales) Bill as well, which will help when we're looking at procurement of food for schools. So, I can see the principle of this Bill and what it's trying to do, pulling things together, but I think there is already other legislation there.

The British Nutrition Foundation really welcomes the Bill and fully supports it, but we do recognise that there needs to be a joined-up approach. So, with areas such as 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' or with the healthy eating standards in schools for Wales, and the standards for nutrition and the requirements in Wales, we think there's an opportunity there for those to be joined up with this Bill.

I agree with my colleagues, but I think there also needs to be a recognition that, from the catering aspect, we are already dealing with a lot of extra legislation at the moment, and new legislation that is causing difficulties, and I think unless it's clear guidance of what we need to be doing, we would struggle with this at this moment in time.

Thank you. And I'll come back to you, Pauline, with my second question, then. So, the Minister for rural affairs has described the Bill as a resource-consuming and bureaucratic Bill that doesn't bring solutions to the aims set out in the explanatory memorandum. What would be your view on that statement?

I think as long as it was introduced in a timely fashion and we were given the opportunity to understand what our responsibilities are to introduce what is required of us, we could meet those needs, but I think it needs to be done in a timely fashion, and not try to be rushed through.

10:50

I would agree. As long as there's a joined-up approach, then I think it could be workable.

Local authorities are already at breaking point, really, with the number of initiatives that are coming through. So, yes, it needs to be brought in in a timely fashion, and something else might have to give to accommodate it.

Okay. So, the social partnership and procurement Bill is progressing through the Senedd, and that puts a statutory duty on public bodies to consider socially responsible public procurement, to set out objectives, and to publish a procurement strategy. So, if we start with Kelly, then, do you see the Bill as complementary to this or adding unnecessary additional responsibility for public bodies?

If you look at it from an education and catering point of view, I think it's going to be additional to what we're already going to have to do through our catering tender process for school meals.

Once again, I absolutely agree. I think, at the moment, our procurement policies are quite lengthy to get through. When we're looking at food procurement, at the moment it's something that we're looking at within the authority, whether we need to be looking to procure differently, and I think that this could add to that burden.

Okay, thank you. And Elaine, does the British Nutrition Foundation take a view on this?

No, we don't, I'm afraid.

That's absolutely fine. So, final question from me, then: to what extent do you expect the new curriculum to promote healthy diets, food skills and education on food-related issues, and is the Bill adding value to achieving these aims? Maybe if we start with Elaine there.

Well, we think that the Bill could add value to the new curriculum by taking food education a little bit further in setting some, we hope, inspirational goals for food education in schools. We do think that there is a welcome focus in the new curriculum on skills that there isn't currently sufficiently, in our view, in the curriculum, and we do think that specific areas of guidance will be needed.

Okay, thank you. I could see you nodding there, Pauline. What's the view from Monmouthshire?

I do think that the Bill would help with the curriculum, and it's something that is needed.

The new areas of learning and experience, the health and well-being goals in the new curriculum, are welcomed, but they are open to interpretation by individual schools. So, I think, yes, something that was a bit stronger. Is it the Bill, or is it something else that needs to guide schools down that road?

Okay, thank you all. I'll bring in Sarah Murphy now, who has a series of questions for you all on food goals.

Thank you very much, Chair. So, my opening question is: the introduced Bill now includes developing food skills to ensure better, healthier diets and well-being. So, are you content with how the education secondary food goal has been amended from the draft Bill?

I'm sorry, I couldn't understand the question.

Would you like to repeat that one more time for us, Sarah, please?

Yes, of course. So, the introduced Bill now includes developing food skills to ensure better, healthier diets and well-being. So, are you content with how the education secondary food goal has been amended from the draft Bill?

Yes, we are. I think we really welcome the focus on developing food skills, but we'd really recommend that there is some definition as to what food skills are, particularly because where food sits in the health and well-being AoLE, it may be taught by non-specialist teachers—by PE teachers, for example. So, actually specifying skills is really important. We have suggested that there could be a number of areas in terms of what we mean by skills: so, for example, the ability to purchase healthy food, reading food labelling and applying knowledge to the purchase, being able to prepare food in terms of food safety and food hygiene, and also being able to prepare meals in essential cooking skills for healthy and sustainable meals. 

I think, yes, I'd agree with that, but also add having some sort of knowledge in there of the impact on climate change as well from the purchasing of food. 

I do agree. I think that it would be a fantastic achievement if they could make the pupils understand where we come from as caterers and why we provide the meals that we do, because the questions that we get from pupils are, 'Why are we having this?', 'Why are we having that?', and I think if it could be a more joined-up approach and we could perhaps work with the pupils, work with the schools, as the catering departments, we might break down those barriers and the pupils could perhaps understand what we were trying to achieve, that it is a nutritionally balanced meal, and that is why the meal is what it is.

10:55

Yes. Thank you very much. My final question then: it's been highlighted that it might not be possible to simultaneously achieve all of the elements of the food goals, and some could be at odds with each other. So, would you advocate a hierarchy in the goals to support decision making, or, as we heard in the previous evidence session, it was called a kind of interlocking way of approaching things? Does the Bill need to be amended in respect of this?

Thank you. Well, we support both of the secondary food goals, but, if we had to put them into a hierarchy, we would perhaps, not surprisingly, focus on developing food skills. We think that one of the issues with the first goal, which is

'Increasing the quality and accessibility of educational provision on food-related issues',

is that 'food-related issues' is not really defined, and our recommendation would be that that focuses on healthy, sustainable diets rather than food-related issues, and we think that's a problem with the first goal.

I agree with Elaine on that one.

I absolutely do.

Wonderful. Thank you very much, then. Thank you very much, Chair.

Diolch, Gadeirydd. If we could look at food targets, we've heard mixed views on the Bill's interaction with some of those existing targets already in place. Some say the Bill could cause some misalignment and confusion, while others say it's an opportunity to consolidate some of those targets and put them on a statutory footing. I'd be interested in your views as a panel. Shall I start with Pauline?

At the moment, with the introduction of the universal free school meals and the added complications that's causing for us, I think it perhaps is not the right time at this moment, or—. We looked at how we’re dealing with that and could we deal with that differently and bring it in line, but, as I said previously, I think if we try to push this and rush this and bring it forward too soon it's going to undo all the good work that we're trying to do at the moment. We have a real problem with a lack of resources at the moment, and I know everybody says they have a lack of resources, but catering has changed so much over the last couple of years—the legislation has changed, the responsibility around the special dietary needs, and I think we need a chance to catch up on all those other agendas before we're able to really tackle another agenda.

I think there's an opportunity to come back on this later on, around timescales, but, Elaine, I can see you nodding there. Is there anything you'd like to add?

Well, we haven't taken a specific view on targets other than to suggest that there is a joined-up approach. So, if there are opportunities to actually consolidate, obviously, that would be, operationally, better for, for example, our colleagues in local authorities.

Nobody wants to do similar targets around different Acts and things, so consolidating things is always good. But, yes, as our colleagues have said here, with the universal free school meal roll-out, it is putting real pressure on our catering services and education services at the moment to deliver that. So, I think it's one thing at a time.

Okay, thanks, Luke, and I'll bring in Sam Kurtz then.

Thank you very much, Chair. I'm looking to discuss the food commission with the panel, and wondering whether the panel sees a need for a food commission and, if so, what the make-up of that commission would look like. We'll start with Pauline.

I'm really thinking about this, and, I'll be honest, if you could just give me a minute.

Obviously, with a commission comes the cost, doesn't it, of having a commissioner and staff there. Sometimes we've found, perhaps, commissions try to find their teeth and it does create a lot more administrative burden on local authorities. There is an overlap, I think, with things like the well-being of future generations Act. Could we not merge those priorities together under that commission, potentially? So, no, I'm not really supportive of having a separate commission, to be honest.

Okay, but, in terms of the role of a commission, putting a commission to a side, whether its role—. Is that desirable?

Having a role somewhere, yes. Yes, I can see that, to make sure that it does actually go through, yes.

We support the proposal for a Welsh food commission, but we did have a question around one of its functions, function (c), which is to keep the public adequately informed and advised in relation to matters that affect their purchasing decisions. We thought that was really unclear and needed further explanation as to exactly how that would be done and how is it done consistently, because our concern is that there is so much information and misinformation about food and nutrition in the public domain, particularly on social media, how do we actually counter some of that and help the public be better informed? We thought the way that function is phrased could be rephrased, perhaps, to make it clearer.

11:00

Okay. Previous panels and evidence have suggested that a food commissioner would be a flag-bearer for this and for what this is looking to be achieving, rather than a commission with a chair and a board. Which would be your preference in that instance?

Well, I think it comes back again to the role, because where you're looking at local food plans and targets, I think there is a role for a commission to actually provide the scrutiny and also to share best practice amongst different parts of the food system. So, I think there is a role for a commission, but I agree with colleagues that it doesn't need to be overly expensive and bureaucratic.

Sorry, I was a little bit—. But yes, I agree with my colleagues. I do think it would be an advantage to have a commission, because I think somebody needs to bring food together. I think it's very disjointed at the moment, how we procure it, the messages that come across, and I think you'd need somebody to actually bring that all together and pull it together and make it look like something that is achievable and that we're all working towards together, looking at our older people and our younger people, rather than chunking them separately. Whether we're feeding them later in their life or at an early age, we need to be feeding them food that is nutritionally good for them, and, at the moment, I think that's getting a bit lost.

Okay. In terms, then, of the potential membership of the commission, are the panel content with what the Bill suggests? Are there any vacancies that should be filled, or those included that should be excluded? Elaine, we'll start with you.

Well, I think it wouldn't surprise you to say we feel very strongly that nutrition has to have a very strong representation, and because the way we approach food and health is very broad, and we're used to translating evidence-based information for a very broad audience, ranging from health professionals to members of the public, we think that nutrition absolutely should be core. We also think that experts in food education have a lot of value to add, of course, and those people who are expert in the communication of science to a general public and translating that evidence into very accessible language that people can understand.

Yes. I'm supportive of that, but, obviously, from my previous comment, make it as lean as possible, as well, as a service. Yes.

I agree with both my colleagues on this. I think that we just need to make sure that it's fit for purpose, and that we understand it, the public understand it—exactly what that aim is for.

Okay, excellent. Thank you very much, panel. Thank you, Chair.

Thanks, Sam. Kelly and Pauline, you've already touched on the pressures facing our local authorities, and I note that the explanatory memorandum to the Bill says that public bodies currently place food policy behind other responsibilities due to pressure and lack of resource. Is that something, Kelly, that you would agree with, and do you think the Bill would correct that?

I suppose my concern is the way local government is funded. We have one budget, one settlement for the council, and within that is education, and within that is our school catering service, so it's a balancing act, isn't it? If the result from the Bill becoming an Act means that it's going to be more costly for us to procure our food, where is that money going to come from? I would hate it to be that we've got fantastic food provision in our schools but we can't afford teachers, for example. The balance has got to be right, hasn't it? We're already struggling, as we mentioned, with the universal free school meal roll-out. There's not enough money coming in for that already, so we're having to divert our education funds into providing those meals. So, that's my concern; it's accommodating it all within a limited budget.

You've actually mirrored exactly what I would have said. That is exactly our view as well.

And, Elaine, would the British Nutrition Foundation have a view on this?

I defer to my colleagues on the panel on this one.

Okay, thank you very much. I'll bring in Luke Fletcher again now.

Diolch, Cadeirydd. Coming back to the timescales element, we've identified free school meals as being one of the pressures on timing. If we think about including—. Well, actually, if we think about the making and the reporting and review process, do you think that the timescales in the Bill for the targets, the national food strategy and local food plans are appropriate? Shall we start with Elaine?

11:05

Well, we haven't really taken a view on this and, again, I would defer to my colleagues on the panel, because some of the issues locally have to be considered in terms of implementation. 

As an authority, we have introduced universal free school meals to all our infants and are rolling out to the juniors, but the cost—I don't mean the financial cost; the cost to us as a service—of that and the time it is taking—. It has brought forward a lot more problems around special dietary needs that we didn't experience before, so we're having to call in expertise from other areas—nutritionists that we've never had to rely on before, and the dieticians in the hospital. So, our resources are very short at the moment, and it would be very difficult to now introduce something else if it was going to stop that roll-out—or not stop the roll-out, but put further pressure on our time. 

Yes, similarly, we're having to accommodate the roll-out to try to roll out as quickly as we can because we haven't rolled out to our infants yet; we've only rolled out to reception. So, we're looking at changing our menu and providing a less labour-intensive menu. We struggle to get additional staff in our area, so it is a real issue for us at the moment and it's taking up a heck of a lot of time on top of the day job. So, as you said, I don't think we can cope with anything else in the next couple of years while that's going on. 

So, I think it's fair to say, then, that you both feel that there will be problems in terms of the fact that the timelines set for Ministers to produce their national food strategy and then for the public bodies to produce the local food plans are going to be quite difficult to meet, essentially. 

It's come at a time when we're dealing with a lot of changes within catering. As I said, the catering industry has changed so much with all the different legislation, all the guidelines, and we're now having to have those conversations with bodies that we've never spoken to before, like the dieticians in the hospital. We're having to do all the allergens, we're having to identify all of that, and, as a department, that's not something that we ever had to consider before. So, the amount of work that we have to go through now to produce the menu—and sometimes 14 different menus to back the original menu up because of the dietary needs and all of those other—. We have to consider things like feeding for dysphasia, peg feeding, and none of that was ever in the caterers' role before. So, I think caterers are struggling to deal with all that extra responsibility and, whilst I don't think the Bill in principle isn't right, I just think it's the timing. 

Brilliant. Unless there are any additional comments, Chair, I'll hand back to you.

Thank you. Obviously, resource is a key issue, and I can see your answers have already started to touch on that, but I'll bring in Sarah Murphy now, who has a discrete question on resourcing. 

Yes, thank you very much, Chair, and, as you said, this has been touched on already. So, especially for the local authorities, but all feel free to come in, are the cost and resource estimates in the regulatory impact assessment reasonable, especially for the public bodies under the Bill?

I would say probably not, because I would think they're probably underestimated. I think experience from Scotland has proven that as well, hasn't it? Whatever cost we put in, it usually ends up going higher than that. So, no, I would say not. We've got other issues coming our way, as I'm sure colleagues will confirm, with the war in Ukraine and the accessibility of produce already. We're already going to struggle with costs, and it's bound to have an impact elsewhere. 

I actually pulled off a note that was sent from our supplier this morning, talking about failing crops all over Europe and the fact that they're not going to be able to deliver a lot of our staple goods. In Monmouthshire, we scratch-cook all our food, we make everything from scratch, we don't rely on any packets or jars. So, we use all fresh vegetables. Basically, he sent me a letter this morning saying, 'My vegetables aren't going to be available'. So, we are going to have to source them from somebody else, and it is going to cost us a lot more. We are struggling with costs.

We've taken a view from the food education point of view, where we increasingly hear that the cost of ingredients is a real barrier to parents being able to afford to provide the ingredients for practical lessons, and more and more schools are providing ingredients. With the increasing cost, our concern is that can't continue forever. We would love, of course, Ministers to consider making the cost of ingredients a key part of schools' budgets. And also, when we're looking at the facilities to cook, most schools, if not all in primary schools in Wales, will not have suitable cooking facilities in order to engage children in practical lessons. And we hear from teachers in Wales—one who actually said, 'My facilities are state-of-the-art 1977'—so, we have real sympathy for the position that teachers find themselves in, and it's really important that changes to the curriculum that arise from this Bill are supported with resources, facilities and training, and, of course, that all has an impact on resources.

11:10

Thank you very much. And my final question: to what extent did the Member in charge work with your organisations to understand the resourcing implications of the proposals that you just presented us with?

As far as I'm aware, we didn't have any consultation with education specifically, which is what this group is about, or our catering service or schools.

Okay, thank you. And is that the same for all of the panel?

Thank you very much, Chair. Has the panel identified any potential unintended consequences should the Bill be introduced? Kelly.

Well, yes, as I mentioned earlier, it depends on how this is going to be funded, but if there is any additional funding, it could impact on the education of learners, so that's going to be something quite major. Something I mentioned to colleagues earlier in Swansea is that all the meat we provide, for example, is currently halal, so I don't know if that would have an impact through the Bill. 

Well, we just looked at that first food goal around the quality of the educational provision, and our concern is that unless that's defined, and what is meant by 'quality', then we could find a very variable and patchwork provision across Wales.

I'd agree with my colleagues.

Sorry, I did make a note as well about if there'd be an impact on the cost of secondary school meals, because, of course, there's a roll-out of universal primary free school meals, but secondary parents still pay. So, obviously, if costs do increase from local provision, which is obviously more expensive or we'd be using it anyway, then that cost would be passed on to the paying parent for secondary meals.

Okay, that's helpful. So, if the Bill isn't successful, what will happen and what would you like to happen in lieu of the outlines of the Bill? Elaine.

I think if the Bill didn't happen, we've obviously got the new curriculum in Wales, which is already driving a focus on healthy eating, sustainability and well-being, so that's welcome. But I think what would be missing if the Bill didn't happen was that extra ambition, I think, to really deliver accessible, inclusive food education that is potentially a model for the rest of the UK.

Yes, from an education perspective, it is through the curriculum, isn't it, that you could drive that change through and make it clearer what exactly you want there? Obviously, there are other ways of communicating with us: guidance notes; like I said, the well-being of future generations commissioner could give us some other targets through there. There are already the procurement rules that are changing as well, which means that we will already be required to provide local food as well.

If the Bill wasn't approved, if we could incorporate parts of it with some of the structures through some of the Bills that we've got at the moment—if they could be joined on, if bits of it could be used—the real beneficial bits teased out of it and perhaps put into a different department and used with what we've already got. 

Okay, thank you very much. Thank you, panel. Thank you, Chair.

Okay, I'll just check if any Members have any follow-up questions that they wish to ask at this stage. No. And do any members of our panel feel that there's anything else we should be aware of before we conclude the session—if there's anything that you wanted to let us know that maybe you haven't had the opportunity to share with us already?

May I just say that, from our point of view, food skills and nutrition are such an essential life skill? And because you rightly look through the lens of the well-being of future generations, then food education, we feel, is absolutely essential to their health and well-being, because we’re building skills for life, and, through children, we’re also helping to change food in the home and educate parents, in a way, about food and nutrition, which we would really welcome through this Bill.

11:15

And for myself, from a catering background, I think there’s a real gap in the training that's available for specialist meals and provision. I’ve been trying to find training for our cooks to go for things like dysphagia training, and there are no courses available anywhere within this area. I have explored it with my role for meals on wheels, and it’s something we’re really struggling with, and I think, if we could be introducing something, it would be education on how to prepare food properly. We can do a catering course, but to get those skills to have somebody within a residential home or in school that can prepare those meals safely is very, very difficult, and we cannot find the training courses. So, if we could be looking at anything, it would be something around that.

Yes. I totally support the education side of things and, obviously, the aims of the Bill itself, about the local economy and climate change impacts et cetera—totally support those—but my main issue is the affordability of what we’re looking at.

Okay. Well, I’d like to thank all our witnesses for attending this morning. A transcript of today’s meeting will be forwarded to you all when available. So, that’s the end of that session. Thank you very much.

5. Bil Troseddau Economaidd a Thryloywder Corfforaethol - Memorandwm Cydsyniad Deddfwriaethol Atodol
5. Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill - Supplementary Legislative Consent Memorandum

The next item on our agenda is the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill supplementary legislative consent memorandum. This relates to a Bill introduced to the UK Parliament on 22 September of last year. The LCM for this Bill was laid on 29 November following amendments to the Bill. The supplementary LCM was laid on 3 January. If I could just invite Members to consider the SLCM, and if there are any comments for the public record on this before we go into private session to discuss a response to the memorandum. No, all Members content. 

Penodi Cadeirydd dros dro
Appointment of temporary Chair

In that case, then, as discussed, we will proceed now to a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting. But, just prior to that, as discussed at the beginning of the meeting, Paul has started a period of medical leave. He won’t be able to chair the committee for the duration of this leave, so I call for nominations for a temporary Chair until Paul returns from his leave of absence. Sam.