Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:56 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Hope of Craighead Lord Hope of Craighead Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Lords), Chair, High Speed Rail (West Midlands - Crewe) Bill Select Committee (Lords) 1:56 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, the noble Baroness’s word “supply” brings to my mind my brief time in the Army when on National Service in the 1950s. An army marches on its stomach, as everyone knows. That depends on supply and, as every regimental quartermaster would say to the Minister, supply, in turn, depends on two crucial things: information and logistics. Information is about who, what and when—who wants it, what they want and when. Logistics are about how to get it there. These questions are absolutely on-point in the present crisis.

Access to farm labour is my issue, as the supply of seasonal workers from eastern Europe has dried up. I believe there is a place for much more highly organised and urgent government action than we have seen so far, preferably along with the skilled advice of the military. Defra’s Pick For Britain campaign—introduced too late, just over three weeks ago—was a start, but there is no organisation from the centre. It is left to individuals to take up the invitation and get to where they are needed, if they are willing to take up an offer. The initial response was not encouraging and many deregistered themselves when they were given the facts. An individual living in London, for example, was offered a place in Tayside, over 450 miles away. It was in the fruit-growing areas in Tayside in the 1960s that I saw what could be done. Buses toured around Dundee in the early morning, picking up workers, taking them to the farms where they were needed and taking them home in the evenings. That was logistics in action. The Minister might perhaps study and follow that example. It shows that this can be done.