Speech to Wokingham Lunch Club on Friday

It was a pleasure to talk to almost 100 guests at the latest Lunch Club event organised by Wokingham Conservatives .

I set out a view of the opportunities available to the new government formed under Mr Johnson’s leadership recently. I looked forward to an early  budget to increase spending on public service priorities and to reduce taxes to give the economy a welcome boost. I talked about the way we can increase UK domestic food production to cut down food miles and reduce the import bill, and how we could start to rebuild our fishing  industry.

There were numerous questions about what might happen in the next few weeks in the run up to our promised exit on 31 October which I tried to answer.

I am particularly keen to see more police in the Wokingham and West Berkshire area from the government pledge to add 20,000 officers nationwide. I also welcome the proposal to increase school money where schools are well below the national average, as most schools in our area are. I am glad the government  has found more cash for the NHS as we need more money to cater for the demands of a growing population in our locality. I have advised the Councils that there may well be more money for congestion busting local roads projects which they should be ready to bid for.


  1. James Bertram
    August 20, 2019

    ‘I talked about the way we can increase UK domestic food production to cut down food miles and reduce the import bill’.

    It would be nice to think that you picked up on some of my ideas recently posted: on supporting small farms that work with natural processes; and in stopping subsidies for industrial farming which damage the environment, soils, animal welfare and human health. {Note: George Henderson 1944 on pre-wartime farming (traditional mixed-farming system): ‘If all of Britain was farmed this way, our country would be able to feed a population of a hundred million people. All we’d have to import are bananas.’]

    I’ve just been reading Grass-fed Nation by Graham Harvey which, if you have time, I think you will enjoy. (It seriously challenges government thinking on farm policy and its obsession with technology in Chapter 5.). The book is by a farming journalist, so reads easily. Good luck.

  2. James Bertram
    August 21, 2019

    Also, if you have not done so, it might be a good idea to have a word with Bill Wiggin MP who heads up the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association. His is just the kind of farm, and farming practice, that we should re-direct our subsidies to.
    In the US the move away from inustrialised ‘feedlot’ beef to the natural system of grass-fed farming is rapidly growing. [For beef alone, the retail value of grass-fed has gone up from $5 million in 1998 to $400 million in 2013]. Most of this high-quality meat is sold direct by farmers to customers, (no supermarkets involved).
    The UK has been particularly slow to catch on to these profitable markets – and a lot of this is to do with the CAP, and the failure of politicians to tackle agribusiness and food manufacturer interests; with the propping up an industrial food system by subsidies, one that turns farmers into commodity slaves rather than producing real healthy food.

  3. James Bertram
    August 21, 2019

    I have all my best ideas when out walking.
    Here’s how I would kill two birds, even a whole flock, with one stone:

    1) Stop all farm subsidies (phase out over 3 years – it takes 2 years to convert to organic).

    2) Instead, use these monies to subsidise School and Hospital food; and make sure that the food supplied is highly nutritious (and, having read Grass-fed Nation you’ll see that that food can only come from non-industrial farming). [The Councils can arrange this with farms through their current supply companies, probably. Farm inspections would be needed, and some food testing for nutrient content of supplies – if it is industrially farmed, such food will never meet the nutrition standards so cheats easily will be found out.] So the children / patients get free/affordable highly nutritious diet.

    3) Stipulate what food is to be supplied (grown by natural processes – pasture-fed animals, genuinely free-range, organic, low-input, traditional mixed-farming) and contract farms to supply it. Farmers will have certainty of market, and no sales/marketing costs – so they can supply cheaply. Make sure that priority is given to small farms that produce many diverse products throughout the seasons (thus creating more certainty in supply through flexibility of supply; discouraging monocultures and encouraging biodiversity; increasing rural employment, which has a knock-on effect on community cohesion, rural businesses and their local economy; enforcing much higher welfare of farm animals, and dramatic improvement of wildlife habitat; radically improves the environment, water and soil quality; makes the population and workforce healthier; radically slashes the cost of the NHS (perhaps by half); allows us to easily meet our carbon emission targets). [Note: Winter will probably rely much more on imports – these will need to be of the same nutritional standards – nutritional standards that can only be produced by non-industrial farming systems.]

    Why vote for the Green’Lib/Lab Parties if the Tories can produce policies like the one I’ve outlined above?
    Good luck.

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