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Food Security

Volume 699: debated on Thursday 22 July 2021

The UK has a resilient food supply chain built on strong domestic production, open markets and an advanced logistics and retail sector. The impacts of the pandemic and labour shortages mean that it has been tested. We have been working with colleagues across Government to ensure that our food supply chain has the support that it needs. The Agriculture Act 2020 requires regular assessments of food security and the first of these will take place later this year.

Department for Work and Pensions data has revealed the shocking fact that, pre-covid, 42% of households on universal credit were food insecure. With the planned removal of the £20 uplift to universal credit, what impact assessment has the Secretary of State’s Department completed on the impact of removing the uplift regarding the food security of the 6 million people on universal credit?

We regularly monitor household spending on food. It is important to note that last year household spending on food among the poorest 20% of households was the lowest on record, at about 14%. That said, we absolutely recognise that there are individual households that struggle to afford food. That is why the Government have brought forward a number of initiatives over the past 12 months to support them through groups such as FareShare, as well as the holiday activities and food scheme.

There are crops rotting in the fields due to a shortage of people to pick them, there is a self-inflicted shortage of HGV drivers due to the Government’s poor Brexit deal, and there are now empty shelves across Britain because thousands of retail workers are doing the right thing and self-isolating. Why has the Secretary of State for food not got a grip on the lack of food security in the country, and where is the plan?

When it comes to labour, the hon. Gentleman will know that we have introduced the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which has been crucial this year in providing farms with the seasonal labour that they need, and we have allowed 30,000 seasonal workers to come in under that scheme. We are also continuing to work with businesses on the issue of staff having to isolate. The Government will shortly be saying more about their approach on this to ensure that key critical infrastructure can continue.