On Sunday I wrote about the rather short sighted attitude being displayed by Liz Truss MP regarding what she was claiming was a conflict between solar farms and food production. Clearly both types of farming are vital if we are to feed our population and also satisfy the nations need for sustainable electricity. At that time I was concerned that she was overpromising on her comments about the capacity of Government to influence food production. It now appears that the Minister for Rural Affairs was actually speaking entirely in ignorance, or perhaps dishonesty? Liz Truss was a Government Minister from 2012 to 2014 in the Department of Education, despite a lack of any qualifications for that role. At the reshuffle in July she was appointed to the role of Minister of Food and Rural Affairs, and her main qualification for this post seems to be that she is an MP from South Norfolk where there are a number of important food producing farms. Her lack of hands on experience does not excuse the comments which have now been exposed in this article.
According to a number of farmers interviewed by the journalists who have written this piece, food production is part of the balance they strike when they set up the solar panels on their land, and for over 18 months the land set aside for future solar farms has not been premium land that produces the best food. However whilst the same land can be used for solar power and food there are of course limitations. It is not possible to use the land for arable or beef production, but sheep can be raised on the same land as the panels. It is not difficult for Government Ministers to get their facts straight. They don’t need to have a lifetime of experience or even a few years education or a Summers practical involvement in the subject, although either would be preferable to the way that all recent Governments appear to have selected their front bench team which seems to be loosely based on what satisfies the Political Parties and their internal power dynamics. All they have to do is arrange for some experts such as farmers in this case, to meet with them in their cosy Westminster Offices at a time that suits the Minister. If they are feeling very adventurous they could ask their officials to organise a few field (sorry!) visits for them. At the very least they could ask officials to do a paper based piece of research to test out their theories before they make the statements they are determined to speak about. Sadly some of our very well paid Ministers are not inclined to even do that. It seems that many of them prefer to shoot from the hip and then wait for the public reaction, or perhaps they simply don’t care, after all the news will soon be yesterdays chip papers.
We have a General Election in the offing. It would be novel to have the chance to vote for a Party that promises to ensure that all Whitehall Departments will have Ministers that include some MPs who actually understand the brief they have responsibility for, so that their statements and proposals have the ring of coherence and authenticity about them. Sadly none of the current Political Parties will offer such an approach, so we are back to naivety or worse – lies!