Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:35 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Patel Lord Patel Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Lords), Chair, Science and Technology Committee (Lords) 1:35 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I will concentrate my brief comments on the long-term impacts of the pandemic on UK food security. Harper Adams University and POST, the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, of which I am a member, have produced well-researched papers on the subject.

If the UK food system is to be resilient and sustainable, it needs that planning now. In times of uncertainty, data, analysis and expertise become important in decision-making. Now is the time to start collecting data related to factors affecting food supply disruption, costs and changing consumer choices, et cetera. Who in the Government is doing this now? It is also time for researchers, agribusiness and farmers to work together to understand better how food supply chains can be made shorter, more resilient and sustainable. How are the Government helping to do this?

There are many other areas where attention is needed, such as the technologies needed to produce food; identifying foods that could be produced closer to home, and products where holding big inventories makes sense; and areas where the diversification of the supply chain is beneficial. The pandemic has disrupted the UK food supply system. It has also created an opportunity to build a more resilient and sustainable system, through better policymaking and regulations which promote co-ordinated action. In this context, does the Minister think that an independent body for food, rather like the Committee on Climate Change, to help drive the Government’s policy on sustainable food could be a way forward? If he does not, can he tell the House how else the Government intend to do this?