My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, on securing this debate and on her excellent introduction. I also congratulate my noble friend the Minister and his department on the rapid and unprecedented support for food retailers around the country, particularly in our most isolated communities. It is vital that our domestic food production capacity is supported over the long term to boost self-sufficiency.
Will my noble friend consider increased protection for food producers against oligopolistic or monopolistic practices, given recent evidence, for example, of possible profiteering by dominant suppliers during this crisis, suddenly altering terms of business or forcing farmers to accept prices below production costs? Will he consider security of food supplies for isolated, housebound elderly people who have sometimes struggled during the pandemic to obtain sufficient food, despite heroic efforts by volunteers, charities and neighbourhood groups who will not always know where the vulnerable people are? Therefore, will the Government consider encouraging, for example, the reintroduction of local meals-on-wheels services, which councils have withdrawn in recent years? Not only could this mean local authorities would readily know where the most vulnerable elderly people live in future pandemics, but delivery of meals would prevent some older people’s health deteriorating, which could reduce the numbers needing NHS services or being forced to move into a care home.
Finally, I echo the words of other noble Lords that the Government should exempt agricultural workers from post-Brexit immigration restrictions, permitting short-term agricultural workers to enter the country freely in order to bolster our food self-sufficiency and help control rising food costs.