Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:55 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour 2:55 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, for raising this debate and for her wise words at the beginning.

Covid-19 has brought into stark relief a number of things that we had taken for granted. One of them is food supply. It is extraordinary that our nation should need reminding about the strategic significance of food supply: in two world wars we fought long and hard to ensure that we had enough food in this country because we could not produce enough. Luckily, our merchant marine and the Navy managed to keep us supplied. In the First World War, part of the reason for the German collapse was that we stopped them getting food supplies and their nation collapsed.

There is a very real need for us to be self-sufficient in food in this country. A number of measures are needed to ensure that we achieve that. Noble Peers have addressed a number of those issues and they are very important. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, raised the issue of fish. I agree with him but, my goodness, if we are to protect our waters for fish—noble Lords will not be surprised to hear me say this—we actually need more ships. That is the only way that we will be able to achieve it.

I know that the Minister feels strongly about this and he has been very helpful in the House on a number of these issues, but we need to focus on self-sufficiency in food. What are all the measures we can take to ensure that we achieve that? We also need resilience in the supply chain, which is not as strong as some people think. I am reminded of the ice storm in Montreal in the late 1990s, when power cuts stopped cash machines and so on being used. There were then riots because people could not get to food. Food is an absolute necessity for our people; we must get it right.