Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:35 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated 2:35 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, on her very comprehensive overview of the situation in relation to food security and food resilience. However, for me, this debate poses the question: how secure was our food system prior to Covid? There are many challenges and opportunities, and our food system has been impacted by several factors, including Brexit, climate change and, now, Covid, which have changed our landscape, no more so than over the last five years.

However, there are some warning signals for the Minister. I urge him not to close off other European markets—a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Quin. We are dependent on those markets for the fruit and vegetables that are not available in the UK and Ireland in winter because of our temperate climatic conditions. We rely on France, southern Spain and Italy for salad-type vegetables.

The other issue that I want to refer to was raised by the noble Lords, Lord Empey and Lord Purvis—Northern Ireland export/import issues to do with the implementation of the Ireland/Northern Ireland protocol. We in Northern Ireland rely on imports and exports across the Irish Sea, so it is important that there is no border there in terms of Brexit and Covid, as that would present us with difficulties and challenges. Therefore, will the Minister ensure unfettered access for our food suppliers and food supplies? Finally, can the Minister see whether it would be possible to amend the Agriculture Bill, which is currently before us, to ensure that it reflects good standards and good public health standards?