Lords debate Committee's objection to proposal on EU food programme

25 November 2011

On Monday 28 November the House of Lords will debate the Lords European Union Committee’s objection to a European Commission proposal that amends a scheme which distributes food to deprived people in Europe. 

The Committee has reported critically on the proposal on two occasions; once on the proposal which the European Commission made last year, and now on a recently revised version, published after a judgment earlier this year by the European Court of Justice.

The Committee believes that its criticism of the 2010 version of the proposal, that the purchase of food from the market and its distribution to deprived people should be decided on by Member States rather than at the EU level, still stands. The Committee says that the proposed scheme does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity, which means that legislation should be made at the lowest appropriate level - in this case, by and in each country. 

Lord Carter of Coles, Chair of the Lords Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment EU Sub-Committee, which criticised the proposal, said:

“I very much welcome this opportunity to discuss our report with the whole House. Twice now, the Committee has concluded that the EU is no better placed to organise food distribution than Member States themselves. While the programme may have been a good way to dispose of excess food stocks in the past resulting from the Common Agricultural Policy, it is simply wrong that the EU should be spending money to buy food from the market to keep the programme going now. 

“The proposal fails to respect the subsidiarity principle. Responsibility for this kind of activity should rest with national, regional or local governments, who are perfectly capable of addressing their own countries’ issues of hunger and deprivation. We also see a risk that this scheme could make it more bureaucratic and confusing to provide food aid to our society’s most vulnerable people.”

The debate is scheduled to start at about 7.30pm. If the House agrees with the recommendation of the report, it will send a “reasoned opinion” to the European Commission and other EU institutions, to signal its concern.

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