Food Security

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:14 pm on 31st March 2022.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 4:14 pm, 31st March 2022

It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hollobone, and to attend this important debate. There are familiar faces in the Chamber and, as always, it is good to see them. Some important points have been made from across the House. I thank Deidre Brock, as others have, for securing the debate. It is important that the debate is part of a wider, general and national conversation about food and food security—hon. Members know that nothing is more important to me or the Department. If I do not answer every point—it has been a very wide-ranging debate—Members should get in touch with me, or come and chat, at any point. The issues raised today are difficult and significant, and often there are no simple answers.

I know that many of us felt that war in Ukraine was coming, but I do not think many of us were prepared for the actuality or the severity of what is happening on the ground in Ukraine today. The last month has been truly horrific to witness, and we can only say how very sorry we are and how much the Ukrainian people are in our thoughts. The Government have sent £220 million of humanitarian aid, but we should all be aware that getting that aid to the people in those cellars in Mariupol is not automatic; it is very dangerous and difficult. We must continue to work globally with other nations to facilitate that where we can.

I agree with the points that many Members have made about the situation with planting in Ukraine. I was fortunate to meet the Ukrainian ambassador a week ago, and he spoke to me and the Secretary of State about direct interventions to help with the planting season this year, and we are doing our best to facilitate that. As my hon. Friend Neil Parish said, the planting season starts in the next couple of weeks. The Ukrainians are a very brave people and they deserve our support.

It is also right that we lean into the difficulties that the war in Ukraine will cause for the global food supply. In some of the countries that have been mentioned there will be real shortages of food as a result of the war, given those countries’ reliance on imports from Ukraine. That is a significant concern for the Government. I assure Members across the House that we will very much play our part in the global response to those issues.