LABOUR has called on the Government to launch an urgent investigation into the recent local outbreaks of coronavirus at meat processing plants.

Hundreds of workers have been reported to have tested positive at processing and packing plants, with one outbreak at Kober Ltd in Cleckheaton prompting fears of a local lockdown in Kirklees and Bradford.

Across the UK, Ireland has had 16 clusters linked to meat factories while there's been two clusters reported at meat factories in Wales just this month.

Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin was among the first to call for an inquiry in Parliament.

She raised the need for an investigation with the prime minister last month following the outbreak at a factory in Cleckheaton in her constituency.

Ms Brabin paid tribute to the work of Kirklees Council and raised concerns about budget cuts to the Health and Safety Executive and the financial impact of covid-19 and localised outbreaks on local government and businesses.

Tracy Brabin said: “With the Health and Safety Executive having its budget cut by 50% since 2010, the Government must ensure that Kirklees and other councils have the money they need to keep our communities safe.

“Kirklees Council is being brilliant. It is testing workforces and closing operations, but there is a cost to that, which is not only to the council but also the businesses and the workers put on statutory sick pay.”

Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, Luke Pollard, has since written to Environment Secretary George Eustice with four questions.

He asks if the Government will "follow the lead of the Welsh Government and order a rapid review and risk assessment of food businesses that may be vulnerable to Covid-19"; Arrange an urgent review of the guidance and protocols both at the production line and on breaks; Call on the Food Standards Agency and Health and Safety Executive to urgently inspect working conditions in all food businesses operating within a chilled environment and what assessment they have made of the adequacy of statutory sick pay to enable food company key workers to afford to self isolate if they have symptoms, or if they are informed by NHS Track and Trace that they have been in contact with someone who does.

Following up, he also wants to know if the Department for Work and Pensions has been given the above assessment.

Luke Pollard said: "The large number of Covid-19 outbreaks should have prompted a stronger response from the Government to understand why these plants are most affected and what can be done to slow the spread of the virus in food factories.

“As attention turns to preventing a second peak, we need Ministers to learn lessons and share those openly and transparently with the public so future outbreaks can be prevented."

Naz Shah, Labour MP for Bradford West said more efforts to protect workers in these factories was needed.

The MP explained: "Labour is right to ask the government to review procedures in meatpacking factories in West and South Yorkshire that have seen an increase in Covid-19.

"There must be review processes in place to ensure workers that are keeping the economy going are kept safe with the best guidance and support possible."

"Often these workers are low-paid doing their utmost to support their families and this nation. The government should ensure that proper statutory sick-pay is available for workers who need to self-isolate, so their economic situation does not force them to continue to work and possibly spread the virus."