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Border Target Operating Model: Food Prices

Volume 737: debated on Thursday 7 September 2023

14. What assessment he has made with Cabinet colleagues of the potential impact of the border target operating model on the price of (a) meat, (b) fresh produce and (c) other foodstuffs. (906258)

In April, the Government published a draft British border target operating model and on 29 August we published our final border target operating model, confirming its introduction on 31 January next year. It outlines our new controls regime, using better technology and co-ordination to reduce friction and costs, and will provide a simpler, yet secure, experience for traders moving goods across the border.

Small businesses up and down the country have spent countless hours and millions of pounds preparing for these changes, only to find that the Government are delaying implementation for the fifth time. How does the Minister expect businesses to have any confidence in making long-term investment and supply chain decisions when this Government have such a long list of U-turns and policy blunders?

The hon. Lady is right that we have pushed the date back several times, first because of covid, secondly because of Ukraine and thirdly to ease the pressure of the cost of living crisis. We are now working in line with business readiness, having had regular engagement with people across the sector. We have now set out, as she will have seen from the statement I made to this House in writing on 4 September and the written document published on 29 August, that we have a final time schedule.

The Office for National Statistics has found that more than 50% of people are paying more for their food shop. What is the Government’s plan to bring down inflation quickly to ensure that people can feed their families?

I was trying to glimpse the British border target operating model within that question. The Government have taken a range of measures in order to help bring down the cost of living for people, notably the very considerable help we have given people with the cost of fuel.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; it is great to see you in the Chair so early in the day. Members will be aware that the Government attempted to sneak out in the summer that announcement about the utter chaos they have created over the border target operating model. I say to the Minister that inflation is of central relevance to this matter, because the cat is out of the bag. The Government’s own document concedes that these measures, when introduced, will have an impact on inflation and will make the cost of food even higher. Can the Minister set out what assessment has been made of the wasted money and the cost to taxpayers and businesses as a result of the Government’s chaos on this issue?

I welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his spot and I look forward to debating with him on this and other issues. I do not quite accept his categorisation of us as sneaking out a document by publishing it and sharing it widely on social media. As I explained to the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney), we have delayed implementation in response to the challenges the country has faced. We are now ready to move forward with a brand-new border target operating model, which has the support of businesses, of vets and of those dealing with sanitary and phytosanitary checks. It will be a very good thing for the country and will help us to secure our borders in new ways.

Well, that was announced when the House was not sitting, and to describe something that the Government concede will increase prices as a “good thing” is quite extraordinary and shows how out of touch they are.

Let me turn to another area of the Government’s incompetence. The January 2024 deadline for the rules-of-origin provisions is now rapidly approaching. Unless this matter is dealt with, it will devastate our car industry. It should have been anticipated by the Government. Can the Minister tell us when an agreement for an extension to that deadline can be secured, and what contingency plans are in place if the Government fail to do that?

On the right hon. Gentleman’s first point, the document was published when it was ready; it was not hastily snuck out during recess. On his point about readiness for the trade window in the car industry, that matter is being taken seriously by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business and Trade, who I am sure will be ready to say something shortly.