Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:37 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Empey Lord Empey UUP 1:37 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, on her tour de force in introducing this debate. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Purvis of Tweed, on his forensic analysis of the situation that will exist between Northern Ireland and Great Britain following the transition period.

In a recent Parliamentary Answer to me, the Government said that they had no plans to introduce any import substitution units to secure our businesses in the post-EU position. Can the Minister say why they will not do that? Given the lessons that we are learning from Covid-19, surely the supply of goods—food in particular—has been shown to have significant vulnerabilities. I hope that he and the Government will not rely simply on hiding behind the forthcoming report from Henry Dimbleby on the national food strategy. It is perfectly clear that these matters relating to the environment of food security require a national response across Whitehall, not focused on one single department.

Will the Minister address why the Government will not consider introducing an import substitution unit so that we can guarantee food security in the future and have wider benefits for business generally? We have heard from noble Lords about horticulture and related businesses. Why can we not do better? We have to have greater ambition, and surely we must learn the lessons of the current crisis not only to secure the food supply but to deal with the health and environmental issues that arise.