Seasonal Agricultural Workers Pilot Scheme

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 20th June 2019.

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Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Labour, Clwyd South

If he will hold discussions with the Home Secretary on increasing the limit on workers in the seasonal agricultural workers pilot scheme.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government have introduced a new immigration pilot scheme for 2019 and 2020 to enable up to 2,500 non-European economic area migrant workers to come to the UK to undertake seasonal employment in the edible horticultural sector. DEFRA and the Home Office will evaluate the outcome before taking any decisions on future arrangements.

Photo of Susan Elan Jones Susan Elan Jones Labour, Clwyd South

Government Members seem to be obsessed with 31 October. That is a pity, because harvest is coming rather sooner, and I wish they would show a similar interest in that. The NFU has made it absolutely clear that we need a permanent, fully functioning system and that at least 10,000 new workers are required in this area. Why will the Government not act, and why will the Home Office not take proper action?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

It is important that we evaluate the pilot before moving further. From my point of view, we are meeting the requirements. We had 700 workers here already by the end of May and we expect to reach the peak in the middle of the summer picking season, although the Home Office might look at how many of those workers go back to the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Moldova at the end. We will need to evaluate that after the pilot before going further.

Photo of Colin Clark Colin Clark Conservative, Gordon

Abattoirs and food processors in my Gordon constituency are worried about not only seasonal labour but permanent labour and are deeply concerned by the approach taken by Migration Advisory Committee. Is my right hon. Friend working closely with the Home Office to preserve the food sector’s labour access?

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Absolutely. We understand how big an issue this is. Some 28% of those working in food and drink manufacturing, including fish processing, are from the European Union. That is 106,000 people. It is important that they understand that, whichever way we leave the European Union, including no deal, they will still be able to come here to work and participate in these important industries.