Your overview of political and economic news with a focus on the food and consumer goods industry, featuring the latest guidance on COVID-19 and planning for the end of the transition period with the EU.
EFRA committee report on COVID-19
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has published a report following their review of the government and food industry’s response to COVID-19. The key findings/recommendations include:
- Increased demand - more effort is required by government to provide early public reassurance about food supply and this should be done in the event of further lockdowns or restrictions
- The national voucher scheme for free school meals – this should have been extended to include discounters and convenience stores to ensure universal reach
- Food insecurity – the government should continue to fund FareShare’s efforts to redistribute food from the farmgate to frontline community groups, for £5 million a year. The government should appoint a Minister for Food Security; consult on whether a “right to food” should be given a legislative footing; and amend the Agriculture Bill so that food security assessments should take place yearly, rather than every five years
- Key workers in the food supply chain – there is a need for quicker guidance in future on measures to protect workers, such as on social distancing and the use of personal protective equipment
- Future disruptions – the government should provide reassurances that food supply disruptions have been factored into contingency planning for the end of the transition period.
See LINK for the findings
Back to “normal”
From 1 August, shielding for the clinically extremely vulnerable has been paused. Updated guidance has been issued (see LINK)
However, other planned changes for the re-opening of the economy have been delayed until 15 August at the earliest. These include:
- Casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks
- Wedding receptions of up to 30 people
See LINK for more details
Eat Out to Help Out
The government’s special programme to stimulate demand in foodservice (Eat Out to Help Out) has now started. More than 72,000 venues have registered for the scheme.
See LINK for more details
Government guidance on safe working practice continues to evolve. Under the updated guidance, employers now have more discretion over how employees can work safely – whether by continuing to work from home or attending a COVID Secure workplace.
See LINK for updated guidance
Temporary “local lockdowns” have been extended and are now clearly the government’s preferred tool for managing outbreaks Coronavirus in England.
In the last week, the government has announced that restrictions have been extended to large parts of the North of England including Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire.
Within the listed areas, it will be unlawful to:
- Meet persons from outside one’s household in an indoor space
- Visit another person’s home or garden, even if outside the listed area
- Socialise with persons from outside one’s household in a public venue (e.g.: a café)
See LINK for full details
A major incident has been declared by authorities in Greater Manchester. This will help different agencies to coordinate better and respond as effectively as possible. Manchester City Council have stated that people “should not be alarmed” as it was “standard practice”.
The government has clarified how national and local government will work together to manage coronavirus at a local level in future.
The government is considering options for developing local lockdowns as a response to any future outbreaks of disease, working mainly within the existing statutory framework.
Following face coverings being made mandatory for customers in retail outlets and takeaway businesses on 24 July, the Prime Minister has also announced that from 8 August, there will be a requirement to wear a face covering in other indoor settings such as museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship, with fines for non-compliance (some exemptions are provided and template “exemption cards” have been designed).
This decision continues to be controversial, since it can place staff in conflict with customers and some businesses have indicated that they are unwilling to enforce the new rules. Note that, unlike shoppers, staff are not currently required to wear coverings (note section six of the guidance), although many businesses are encouraging their use.
National food strategy
Part One of the National Food Strategy England, led by Henry Dimbleby, has been published. Most recommendations in Part One are directed towards government, but Part Two is expected to propose measures with more impact on food and drink businesses.
In the report, Mr Dimbleby is supportive of the measures outlined in the government’s new obesity strategy (and these would have been included in his recommendations). It has been reported that he will now commission the Institute for Fiscal Studies to look at how taxes like the sugary levy could be applied to new products and potentially even to whole new categories of nutrients, such as salt and fat.
EU exit – Business engagement hub
A business engagement hub is being set up for the end of the transition period.
The four priorities for the engagement hub include:
- Border checks
- Northern Ireland Protocol
- Engagement across the four nations
- Readiness on future fisheries