Catering and Retail Services in the House of Commons - Administration Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by Caroline Lucas MP

I am writing with a short submission to ask your committee to consider two proposals to help reduce the carbon footprint of catering department.

MEAT FREE MONDAY

The first proposal is to ask you to consider the attached correspondence that I have had with Sue Harrison, the Director of Catering and Retail Services for the Commons. As you will note, along with colleagues from other parties, I wrote to ask if Ms Harrison and her counterpart in the House of Lords would consider introducing "Meat Free Monday" (MFM) to the catering outlets in Parliament.

You may already be aware of this campaign, the central message of which is what a difference one meat free day can make to the environment.

Livestock farming is now recognised as a significant contributor to today's greatest environmental problems. According to the United Nations, it is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector combined.

Parliament could send a powerful message and set a great example by designating one day a week as Meat-Free.

As you will note, I made the above points in my letter to Ms Harrison. However, as you will imagine, I was disappointed in Ms Harrison's negative response, based on her fear that MFM would be "deeply divisive and disruptive". I would like to try and address her concern in this submission as I feel this is a misconception and that we could move forward on this issue.

I would like to clarify that the MFM idea is that it wouldn't be possible to buy meat in Parliament on that day, not that anyone would be told not to eat it. The aim of making one day meat free is not to "enforce an eating regime"—rather it is instead very much about encouraging people to take a day a week "off" eating meat to help save the planet. If someone wanted to eat a ham sandwich on the Parliamentary Estate on a Monday of course they could!

There is cross party consensus that climate change is the biggest issue facing human-kind. I would suggest that if properly explained a MFM in Parliament might create a minority of vocal detractors but in reality I believe it would command widespread support and would not be divisive.

The Committee will no doubt have noticed publication today of WWF's bi-annual Living Planet report.[1] The key finding of which is that humanity's demands exceed our planet's capacity to sustain us. MFM could be part of Parliament's response to this and show us to be taking a lead on climate change and the crucial issue of reducing our carbon footprint.

I do urge the Committee to give active consideration to the MFM proposal. Given the extremely high standard of vegetarian cooking by Parliament's catering services, this would in my view be easily achievable whilst operating a MFM policy.

RE -USABLE TAKEAWAY CUPS

Finally, I would also ask the Committee to consider recommending the introduction of a financial disincentive to using take-away paper cups and plastic lids whilst at the same time making available re-usable travel/thermos mugs for takeaway hot drinks.

Sue Harrison Director of Catering & Retail Services (Commons)

Tim Lamming Head of Catering and Retail Services (Lords)

By email

Dear Sue and Tim,

Meat Free Monday

We are writing to ask if you would consider introducing Meat Free Monday to the catering outlets in Parliament. You may already be aware of this campaign, the central message of which is what a difference one meat free day can make.

Farming and slaughtering animals is now recognised as a significant contributor to today's greatest environmental problems. According to the United Nations, animal farming is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the entire transport sector combined. As well as saving carbon, reducing the amount of meat in our diets will also help improve health.

Parliament could send a powerful message and set a great example by designating one day a week as Meat-Free and we very much hope that you will be supportive of this initiative.

We look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

CAROLINE LUCAS MP

JOHN LEECH MP

Caroline Lucas MP

John Leech MP

Kerry McCarty MP

By email

9 September 2010

Dear Ms Lucas, Mr Leech and Ms McCarthy

Thank you for your email asking me to consider introducing Meat Free Monday into the catering outlets in the House of Commons. I have, indeed, already heard of this campaign and am aware of the issues it is highlighting.

As you can imagine, we receive many similar requests to support campaigns for one thing or another. A few, such as Fairtrade Fortnight, we regularly support. However, in considering a request, I must balance the interests of Members, or others, making the application against the interests of our customers. The cafeterias and restaurants in the House of Commons are primarily provided as a place for Members and staff to take a meal break away from their work or to offer hospitality, and it is the responsibility of my Department to provide food that is not only nutritious and appetising, but also food that they want to eat.

Much as some Members and staff would undoubtedly share your support for the campaign, I fear that it would be deeply divisive and disruptive to enforce an eating regime—even for one day—that denied our customers the opportunity to eat meat if they so choose. On that basis, regret that I am unable to support your proposition.

Yours sincerely

Sue Harrison

Director of Catering and Retail Services

October 2010



 
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