Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:02 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport) 2:02 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I start by paying tribute to the staff of supermarkets and small shops who have worked throughout this crisis. They did not expect their jobs to become dangerous. The past eight weeks have highlighted the vulnerability of our reliance on food imports, which form 47% of the food we eat. Twenty-eight per cent of our food comes from the EU, and until now we have been able to rely on that as a steady supply. If the Government fulfil their aim of ending the transition period in October, the UK will be open to greater food insecurity as EU imports will be hit by border checks.

I see in the news today that the Government have at last admitted that there will be border checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Retail Consortium estimates that this will add £100,000 a lorry of additional cost—the last thing Northern Ireland needs as it tries to recover from the pandemic.

Food supplies were already facing disruption because of a likely shortage of pickers—several noble Lords have referred to this. It is another key link in the supply chain because so many EU nationals left after Brexit. That problem is now magnified by the lack of available flights for temporary workers wanting to come here just for the picking season.

Finally, there is the distribution network. Airlines and airports are glad to step in to provide more cargo flights. Haulage companies have faced practical problems operating across countries in lockdown. If the transition period comes to an end, they will face major additional problems due to delays at the border. Ferry companies have been losing money and have asked for financial help. I look forward to hearing from the Minister on that issue in particular.