Supermarkets: Coronavirus

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

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Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (North of England) (Northern Powerhouse), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what recent discussions he has had with supermarket retailers on providing delivery services to people without access to online shopping during the covid-19 outbreak.

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

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry during disruption to supply situations. Our retailers already have highly resilient supply chains and they are working around the clock to ensure people have the food and products they need.

To help industry respond to this unprecedented demand we have introduced new measures to keep 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.

We are in close contact with representatives across the food supply chain and civil society to discuss further ways to help with their preparations, in particular to look at supporting those who have to stay at home, including people without access to online shopping. Supermarkets are recruiting more staff and limiting shopping hours so they have more time to restock. They are working hard to deliver a crucial service for 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.

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 groceries. The Government is working with a partnership of the groceries 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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