Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 27th July 2022.

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Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps he has taken to ensure the UK was adequately prepared for the level 4 alert issued for 18 and 19 July 2022 under the Heatwave Plan for England.

Photo of Steve Double Steve Double The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Water companies have a statutory duty to provide a continuous supply of wholesome water. They are legally required to have robust plans in place to maintain the supply of water in a range of hazards, including heatwaves. Water companies use a range of measures to manage higher water demand expected during heatwaves and respond to any disruption. These measures include ensuring their networks are prepared, customer communications to help manage demand, re-routing of water via their networks, and the provision of alternative water supplies, for example via tanker deliveries. In the event of disruptions, water companies also maintain priority access registers, which vulnerable customers can register with for provision of bottled water.

We issued reminders to animal owners that it is their responsibility to have plans in place to ensure their animals' welfare in extreme weather. This included publishing content on protecting companion animals in hot weather, and direct messaging from the Chief Veterinary Officer and the Animal and Plant Health Agency focused on transporting livestock and horses. Comprehensive guidance is available online at on protecting animals in hot weather, including advice on checking on animals more regularly, ensuring all animals have easy access to water on a daily basis, and not transporting animals in temperatures over 30 degrees.

The UK has a highly resilient food supply chain, built on supply from diverse sources including strong domestic production as well as imports through stable trade routes ensuring that any disruption from risks such as adverse weather or disease does not affect the UK's overall security of supply. Defra has well-established ways of working with the industry and across Government to monitor risks that may arise. We continue to keep the extreme weather situation under close review, including through the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group, which Defra and the Devolved Administrations set up to monitor the UK market situation across all key agricultural commodities. We have also increased engagement with the industry to supplement Government analysis with real-time intelligence. This provides the Government with the best possible intelligence on how the sector is performing.

Given the health threat and the impacts observed in summer 2021, additional work has been taken forward by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the Department of Health and Social Care to raise awareness of the health consequences of hot weather and enable professionals, organisations and individuals to plan, mitigate and respond to hot weather episodes effectively. These include:

  • Updating the materials related to hot weather risks on the Heatwave Plan for England collection page. These provide sector specific guidance on actions to take during a heatwave to safeguard patients and service users.
  • Publishing the 2022 Heatwave communications toolkit and social media assets which have been shared with UKHSA regional communications, cross-government partners and local government to support consistent and clear messaging on heat-health.
  • Holding a Heatwave and Summer Preparedness Stakeholder event in April 2022 to around 1000 participants across the health and social care sector and other Government departments to allow them to take early mitigating action.
  • The Extreme Heat National Severe Weather Warning Service (NSWWS) warnings, operated by the Met Office, are intended to warn the public and emergency responders and include the impacts of severe heat outside of the health sector. An Extreme Heat NSWWS will only be issued should a severe or prolonged hot weather episode be forecast.
  • Ensuring all Local Resilience Forums have the guidance, sector specific action sheets and related resources from the Heatwave Plan for England before summer to allow time for incorporation into their wider planning for summer 2022.
  • UKHSA weekly situational awareness meetings with the Met Office feeding into the cross-government Summer Resilience Network, chaired by the Cabinet Office to ensure awareness and a wider system response across the Government.

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