- Luke has written to the DEFRA Secretary, George Eustice, in his role as Shadow Environment Secretary
- The letter sets out a constructive approach to secure food supply, cut panic buying and protect workers
- A copy of the letter is set out below
Today Luke set out his plan for protecting the food supply chain and tackling panic buying in a letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
His plan contained a range of measures to support customers and staff, including everyone from emergency service workers to laid off staff at large franchises.
Luke’s full list of suggestions:
- Launch a national public advertising campaign, including across social media, to amplify public health advice, provide clearer guidance on social distancing, tackle misinformation and provide assurances to people about vital issues like food availability. Ministers must not rely on the private sector to distribute these messages, Government must take the lead.
- Arrange for displaced and furloughed drivers and other workers from the catering sector, cafes, restaurants and others to be more easily seconded to supermarkets and distributors to ensure the supply chain is not disrupted and shelves are constantly restocked. The retail sector needs more staff and there would be public support for a national effort here. It is essential to re-establish and maintain full public confidence in the resilience of the food supply chain.
- Be upfront with the public on the role of the armed forces in ensuring food security and at what point they will be called on to help. The British public back our armed forces but their presence on the streets will worry many.
- Issue robust consistent guidance to supermarkets for all elderly, vulnerable customers and key workers to be given priority access hours to shop, and receive priority for online deliveries and click and collect slots. It is clear from our discussions with industry that they do not have access to sufficient information on customers’ circumstances to confidently prioritise supplies. With 400 assaults on shop workers a week before the virus outbreak, I am concerned that shop workers receive additional support and protection urgently including more support from Police and legal protections.
- Additional support for emergency food providers. I would be grateful if you could set out how Government will accelerate DBS checks for the new required food bank and emergency food distribution volunteers. What steps are you taking to mandate food providers to provide an uninterrupted supply of food to food banks so the poorest in our society, who are struggling to feed their families, are not neglected.
- Better communicate how local resilience forums will identify vulnerable people and assist them to provide reassurance and support. This is especially important to those who are not already in contact with local agencies, or who will not be able to engage online or by phone.
- Raise the ceiling for this year’s seasonal agricultural workers to 80,000, the minimum needed in a normal year. The farming and horticulture sectors are flagging an urgent need for workers, especially as the domestic soft fruit season starts in a few weeks. In the context of a global shortage of seasonal workers as travel restrictions bite I want to encourage the government to look at other options which can be deployed rapidly.
- Intervene to protect wages and support share fishers, in light of the collapse of fish prices for export to EU markets. This includes suspending boat mortgage repayments to support small fishers. The Prime Minister’s reassurances of additional fish quota after the end of the Brexit implementation period will not help fishers who have seen the price of their landings fall by 80-90% in recent weeks putting the viability of the sector in severe risk.
His full letter can be seen below: