Written evidence submitted by Defra (LS0063)


Items that it was agreed further information would be provided



  1. Information on the number of visas issued under the temporary schemes announced in September and October 2021 [Qq176, 188 and 228]. The Committee would look for this to cover the number who applied to be sponsors and were approved or rejected. It also seeks the latest numbers of visas (i) applied for (ii) approved (iii) rejected (iv) where someone has started work on a visa for (a) poultry workers (b) HGV drivers and (c) pork butchers. This would be helpful with particular regard to the Director General’s statement that he expected the additional pork butchers to be here in December [Q176], whereas the Committee had been told previously that this was unlikely  






  1. The latest data on HGV driver tests, including the number of tests that have taken place are expected to take place during the remainder of 2021 and 2022, as well as data on application journey times and other relevant performance metrics [Q186]





A: On time taken to complete HGV tests



B: On ensuring efficiency






  1. Statistics on labour shortages and their impact across all sectors, including smaller retailers [Q201]







  1. The date(s) when Defra asked the Home Office how many applications for pork butcher temporary visas had been submitted to the Home Office [Qq226-229]




6.     Mr Byrne’s questions that were interrupted by the Division Bell [Qq281-282]





Items that arose during the hearing which the Committee seeks further information



7.     An update on access to the Chinese market for UK pork, including a chronology of the Government’s dialogue with the Chinese authorities and the steps it has taken, plus what remains to be resolved and the Government’s expected timetable for a return to pre-covid levels of access to the Chinese pork market [Qq174 and 221]


Update on current situation:






















8.     On the Food Resilience Industry Forum [Q180], I understand this currently meets on a quarterly basis although around November 2020 it was meeting twice weekly (presumably due to the nature of the pandemic at that point). Could Defra provide a list of the Forum’s meeting dates since it was established, and also a list of its current membership.

9.     The number of pigs that Defra expects will be culled during 2021 and 2022 [Q214]











10. Given the risks that the food supply chain currently faces, under what circumstances would Defra foresee using the powers under the Agriculture Act 2020 to intervene (having deemed there to have been a market disruption), and what action(s) could be taken? [Qq214, 216-217]















11. Information about Defra’s discussions with the Home Office on the details, including the complexity, of the pork butcher temporary visa scheme and the skilled worker visa route including details of correspondence as well as meetings (and the dates of these correspondence and meetings) [Q230]





13. On the point about import checks, the Secretary of State and Director General cited a lack of veterinary capacity in the EU (specifically in three EU countries) as the reason why checks on EU POAO imports were deferred on 14 September – hitherto, this hadn’t been mentioned in Government explanations for the rescheduling of the start of import checks and controls from 1 October/1 January as far as I am aware (e.g Defra’s written memorandum to the inquiry, or Lord Frost’s written parliamentary statement of 14 September). Could further explanation be given on this point, including the latest assessment of veterinary capacity in the EU to undertake import checks of POAO destined for GB, and what steps the Government is taking (e.g. to encourage greater veterinary capacity in this area in EU countries). Information on what steps the Government is taking to publicise with EU governments and businesses the current timetable for the introduction of GB POAO import checks would also be welcome. [Qq276 and 279]






14. Reference was made to decision-making based on the data at various points by the Director General (e.g Q180). Could Defra provide details about the data it uses when formulating policy around labour shortages and their impact, including the timeliness of this data.






















[1] World Health Organisation (2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Food safety authorities. [online] Available at:https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-food-safety-authorities [Accessed 02/12/2021].