‘No deal should not mean no meal’ MPs claim in debate

07/03/2019 - 10:31
“I want to say clearly to the Government that no deal should not mean no meal,” MP Sharon Hodgson said in a debate on how a no-deal Brexit would affect Public Sector Catering.

The debate discussed concerns that public sector caterers have if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal on 29, with the Soil Association saying that ‘it is very likely that a no deal Brexit would be disastrous for public sector catering.’

The debate focused on three areas: cost and availability; the quality, quantity and safety of the food available, and workforce retention.

Hodgson used examples such as the allowance of universal infant free school meals, which have been frozen since 2014, and that many caterers feel would be inadequate if food prices were to rise post-Brexit.

The worry about lower food standards was also addressed, in addition to food shortages, where the only advice given by the government to public sector caterers was ‘no real guidance, other than to stockpile food’, which may not be possible due to space, or with fresh produce.

“Disruption to food supplies and an increase in food prices would affect every single one of us,” MP Matthew Pennycook said.

“[Hodgson] is right to make it clear that we are talking about 10.5 million people potentially affected – hospital patients, care home residents, prisoners and school pupils.”

The parliamentary under-secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, David Rutley said that ‘high quality and safe food in the public sector is a top priority for departments across Government and for the devolved administrations’.

He went on to reassure the MPs that ‘we have a highly resilient food supply chain in the UK, with access to a range of sources of food that will continue whether we leave the EU with or without a deal’ but couldn’t guarantee that food prices would not rise with ‘mechanisms in place to help those who are most needy if prices were to rise significantly.’ 

In terms of schools, he reiterated recent points about schools being able to substitute similar foods that are available and find suppliers that ‘offer value for money’.

To read the full debate, visit: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2019-03-05/debates/89211D49-5861-4F19-B1FE-6C04990F9E50/No-DealEUExitPublicSectorCatering

To watch the debate, click: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/86264f18-5195-4d91-99bb-27aa3a0faa6d

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