Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:54 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 1:54 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for the chance to have this debate. In my view, the Government have done exceptionally well in this crisis. We have not suffered any major outage in food supply; there were a few wobbles to begin with, naturally, but we are in a pretty good place now. We have learned a lot about resilience over the past year, with all the planning that went into no deal, the actuality now of dealing with Covid and, possibly, further planning ahead to deal with the chance of no deal this December. We must preserve this expertise; the Civil Service naturally disperses it as the people who have developed all the learning, the archives and the understanding get moved on to other jobs.

That must not happen this time. There will be another crisis like this: a wheat disease that proves difficult to resist or some much more lethal infection, meaning that travel and indeed trade between countries gets closed down to preserve populations. We need not only to rehearse the possibility of these crises regularly and keep our systems intact, but to adopt policies that make us more resilient over time. As the noble Lord, Lord Cameron, said, the idea of “government by local” is really important, ensuring consistent demand for small-scale producers. We must embrace the science on GM crops so that we can broaden our supply without having greater impact on the countryside. We must work when we are building power stations to use all that spare heat to grow vegetables, because that increases our resilience.

There are many things that the Government can do over time. I very much hope that my noble friend the Minister will set us on the road at the end of this debate.