54 The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) holds UK Government Departmental responsibility for food as a Critical National Infrastructure sector jointly with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), with Defra being responsible for supply and the FSA responsible for safety. This includes planning for and responding to disruptions to food and drink supply chains, working closely with the food industry.
55 Defra has a long history of working collaboratively with industry and across Government to respond to food supply disruption, as do the Devolved Administrations. Defra and Devolved Administration officials work closely in this area, to ensure an aligned, inter-governmental approach. There are a number of regular engagement forums, including the Food Chain Emergency Liaison Group (FCELG), comprising Trade Associations from across the food supply chain, as well as Defra and DA officials, which provides a conduit between industry and Government to plan for and respond to food supply disruption in any scenario.
56 The Government response to food supply disruption relies on information being provided to Defra and the Devolved Administrations by industry on a voluntary basis during the disruption, to enable them to assess the situation and scale of disruption. Intelligence from industry (for example on the nature of disruptions and their impact) allows Government to develop an overall assessment of the implications "on the ground", which in turn informs the industry response as well as a proportionate and effective cross-Government response.
57 As part of our response to the covid-19 scenario Government has agreed a Data Sharing Protocol with food retailers to regularly gather information on a voluntary basis. The FCELG will also be convened on a more regular basis as a response to Covid-19. The information gathered through these methods will help Government to effectively support an industry-led response to any food supply disruption resulting from covid-19, and inform a cross-Government response.
58 Whilst we anticipate ongoing collaboration on a voluntary basis between Government and industry, it is right and proper for a responsible Government to plan for every scenario. Therefore, we need a power to act if a member(s) of the food industry were to refuse to comply with voluntary requests for information in order to ensure Government has the necessary information to build a clear understanding of the situation, make informed judgements and respond effectively.