§ Mr. Ian Bruce
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the future of the strategic food stockpile.
§ Mr. Gummer
Since world war II, the Government have maintained a strategic food stockpile to help feed the civil population during a period of recovery should there be a major military attack. In July 1991 I announced a phased reduction over five years to achieve a smaller, more flexible stockpile consisting principally of ready-to-eat foods rather than raw commodities. This orderly run-down is now well under way as is the disposal of remaining emergency feeding equipment announced at the same time.
Latest assessments of food supplies suggest that there are more than sufficient stocks to meet expected needs in the aftermath of any conceivable attack on the United Kingdom. In the light of recently developed systems for locating on farm, and wholesale and retail stocks I have concluded that a strategic food stockpile is no longer justified. I am therefore putting in hand the necessary arrangements to secure liquidation of the stockpile by March 1996.
We shall continue to maintain plans for the recovery of the food and agriculture industries in the aftermath of war and to plan for the distribution of available foodstuffs in times of crisis. Future plans will be reassessed in the light of evolving civil defence planning assumptions.