Former MI5 director general tells NFU lecture that domestic production is integral to national security 

Home-grown food production is integral to national security, according to former director general of MI5 Baroness Manningham-Buller.

Speaking at the NFU’s 2022 Henry Plumb Memorial Lecture on Monday (28 November), she said the government needs to be consistent in planning for food supply in the current time of international crisis – with conflicts such as the war in Ukraine putting pressure on energy security and global food supply – as it is a part of the UK’s national infrastructure.

Manningham-Buller told the audience: “I believe that food is part of our critical national security, including the essential workers that grow it and harvest it, the farmers that produce our crops, meat, vegetables, fruit and even wine.

“British farmers are under immense pressure. The doubling of fertiliser prices, soaring energy costs, shortages of seasonal workers and apprehension about trade deals are all impacting the farmers that produce our food and we urgently need policy to address this.

“Unless we pay serious and thorough attention to our food security, we risk being increasingly subject to global shocks. We need to acknowledge that we should produce as much of our own food as possible and to be able to export what we can, both for growth in the UK economy and to help feed the world.”

NFU President Minette Batters said: “It was an honour to have the Baroness Manningham-Buller speak at the NFU’s Henry Plumb Memorial Lecture. Lord Plumb was a remarkable man, and it was fitting to have such a prominent speaker give a lecture in his name.

“I was pleased to hear The Baroness say what the NFU has been highlighting for a number of years; that we must take British food security more seriously, particularly in a time when global volatility is threatening the stability of the world’s food production, food security and energy security.

“As British farmers we produce both climate-friendly food and renewable energy and we want to deliver more. For this to happen, we need our government to honour the commitments made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to set a target for our nation’s food security, with a statutory duty to report on domestic food levels.”

Monday’s event was the fifth Henry Plumb Lecture and was called the Henry Plumb Memorial Lecture this year following the death of Lord Plumb in April 2022. Lord Henry Plumb was NFU President from 1970 to 1978.

Baroness Manningham-Buller was appointed director general of MI5 in October 2002. She retired from MI5 in 2007.