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Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN HL2901, tabled on 24 March 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the ability of online suppliers to maintain the delivery of food and other essential products to people self-isolating due to COVID-19.

Answered on

7 April 2020

The Government has well-established ways of working with the food industry during disruption to supply situations. Our retailers already have highly resilient supply chains and they are working around the clock to ensure people have the food and products they need. Industry has adapted quickly to these changes in demands, and we welcome the actions they are taking to support demand for online deliveries, including hiring more staff and prioritising delivery slots for those that need them most.

To help the industry, the Government has already introduced new measures to support online deliveries. We have temporarily relaxed elements of competition law to enable supermarkets to work more closely together to ensure people can access the products they need. Food retailers are now able to share data on their stock levels, cooperate to keep stores open and share staff, distribution depots and delivery vehicles. This is helping keep shops open and staffed and better able to meet high demand. Guidance has been issued to local authorities to show flexibility to allow extended delivery hours to supermarkets to ensure shelves can be replenished more quickly. The Transport Secretary has also announced a temporary and limited relaxation of the drivers’ hours rules so that more goods can be delivered to every store every day.

The Government has begun to deliver food parcels to those identified by the NHS as being extremely clinically vulnerable.

We are working quickly to support people who do not fall into the category of being clinically vulnerable, but still need help getting essential food supplies. We will be launching a communications campaign to signpost vulnerable people to a range of support options. We are working closely with Local Authorities to direct vulnerable people to support available at the local level, as well as working in parallel with supermarkets to prioritise vulnerable individuals. Wherever possible, people should continue to rely on friends, families and wider community support.