Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:33 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom Lord Arbuthnot of Edrom Conservative 2:33 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register, in particular as a director of Gusbourne Estate and as chairman of Electricity Resilience. My remarks will be devoted to panic buying. People have come in for a lot of stick for it, but panic buying is the perfectly natural consequence of two things: the just-in-time supply system combined with our refusal to contemplate the fact that bad things happen. That refusal is itself the natural result of decades of security, prosperity and, I am afraid, complacency and short-sightedness.

Just-in-time supply was introduced by Toyota to improve efficiency, and it has done so across the world—but at the cost of resilience. We need to strike a better balance between efficiency and resilience and to stop living on the edge of things going wrong. I do hope that the coronavirus has taught us that lesson.

Second, we must contemplate and discuss bad things happening. Here we can learn a lesson from Sweden. A Swedish brochure, If Crisis or War Comes, sent to all five million households in Sweden advises citizens to store staples such as potatoes, eggs, pasta and canned beans. If we did that, there would be no panic buying and no need for it. I am delighted that our Government in the UK is now talking to its citizens about the risks they face, and I look forward to seeing more of it.