Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:47 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Holmes of Richmond Lord Holmes of Richmond Conservative 1:47 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I will touch on the people involved in food supply, on the technology associated with it and, briefly, on the super- markets’ protected delivery list

First, I thank all those involved in food supply in this country, not least those on the front line in our supermarkets. They deserve our enduring gratitude. I take my hat off to Marks & Spencer, which has offered 15% bonuses to its staff in those situations. Is the Minister assured that the Government are doing everything they can to ensure the safety and protection of all our workers in these situations? Have the workers had access to testing, as promised? How many working in our food supply chains have taken up the option to be tested?

Turning to technology, Covid has clearly demonstrated that our supply chains have failed the challenge. Does the Minister agree that we need much more resilience in our supply chains and that that can be provided through new technologies, not least distributed ledger technologies, the internet of things and other elements of the fourth industrial revolution? Is he aware of the proof of concept project by Chainvine, which clearly demonstrates this and which HMRC, other parts of our government and the Australian Government have been involved in? Having such technologies in our supply chains would also help to prevent massive levels of fraud occurring in our food supplies. Is he aware of the recent study carried out by Queen’s University Belfast, showing that over 42% of the fraud found in the beef supply was counterfeit? Distributed ledger technology would eradicate such problems. Does he agree that the Government need to push distributed ledger technology further to enable supply chains to give us the resilience that we need but which we clearly do not have at this time?

Finally, will my noble friend consider extending the protected list of those who can gain supermarket online delivery slots to blind people, who are currently particularly vulnerable, not least in their inability easily to police social distancing? That would make a real difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people right now.