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Supermarkets: Coronavirus

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 26th March 2020.

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Photo of Royston Smith Royston Smith Conservative, Southampton, Itchen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with supermarket representatives on dedicated shopping times for pensioners during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Royston Smith Royston Smith Conservative, Southampton, Itchen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the decision of supermarkets to offer dedicated shopping times for pensioners during the coivid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

We are working closely across Government, with representatives of the food supply chain and with local authorities and charities to ensure that everyone will have continued access to food.

To help industry respond to this unprecedented demand we have introduced new measures to keep the food supply flowing. We have issued guidance to local authorities to allow extended delivery hours to supermarkets so that shelves can be filled up more quickly, and we have implemented extensions to drivers’ hours. We are also temporarily relaxing certain elements of competition law to ensure retailers are able to collaborate effectively in the national interest, for example by sharing distribution depots and delivery vans.

Supermarkets are recruiting more staff and limiting shopping hours so they have more time to restock. Some supermarkets are also prioritising delivery slots for those that need them most, including the elderly. They are working hard to deliver a crucial service to us all and have also issued a rallying call for everyone to play their part in the national effort to this response by looking out for their friends, family and neighbours. We will continue to work with industry to discuss any additional support government can provide.

The Government is working to ensure that up to 1.5 million people in England identified by the NHS as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract Coronavirus will have access to the food they need. A new Local Support System will make sure those individuals self-isolating at home and who are without a support network of friends and family will receive basic food and essential supplies. The Government is working with a partnership of the food industry, local government, local resilience forums and emergency partners, and voluntary groups, to ensure that essential items can start to be delivered as soon as possible to those who need it.

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