A House of Lords Committee reports that there is no reason why the European Union is better placed to organise food distribution to poor people than Member States, and that this activity should rest with national governments.
The Lords EU Sub-Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment has considered a European Commission proposal to amend the current EU-wide scheme and concluded that it does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity (that legislation should be made at the lowest appropriate level).
Under new powers granted to national parliaments by the Lisbon Treaty, the Committee recommends that the House of Lords should submit a reasoned opinion to the European institutions setting out why it regards the proposal as inconsistent with the principle of subsidiarity.
The Committee believes that Member States are capable of acting individually to address the issues of hunger, deprivation, poverty and social exclusion which are offered by the European Commission as justification for the EU-wide scheme. The Committee sees a risk of confusion in parallel operation in a Member State of a national system and an EU-wide scheme.
The Committee has noted that, when the scheme was introduced in 1987, excess stocks of food purchased into public stores under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) were made available to the most deprived persons in the Union. Member State participation in the scheme has been voluntary, and the UK has not participated in it since the mid-1990s. Following reform of the CAP over the past two decades, excess stocks have been reduced and the scheme has relied increasingly on market purchases for the provision of this food. The Commission’s proposal would reinforce the market-purchase element of the scheme and extend the range of products that could be distributed.
Lord Carter of Coles, Chairman of the Sub-Committee, said:
“This particular scheme was a consequence of a flawed common agricultural policy, which led to the food mountains of former years. As such excess stocks have been reduced through successive reforms of the CAP, so the desirability of this programme has dwindled. National governments are best-placed to organise food distribution to poor people.”
The report was debated in the House of Lords on Wednesday 3 November at approximately 3.30pm.