Agricultural Sector: Labour Supply

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons on 17th June 2021.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on the adequacy of labour supply for the agricultural sector.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

DEFRA is working closely with industry and wider Government to ensure that UK growers get the labour they need. This year, the seasonal workers pilot has been expanded from 10,000 to 30,000 visas. Many workers are among those who now have settled or pre-settled status.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Shadow Minister (Justice)

The Minister will be aware that the Government’s bizarre approach to labour from the EU is causing chaos across all manner of job roles, including in agriculture. Just this week, haulier Martyn Levitt from Stockton told me that there is a huge shortage of drivers as companies can no longer easily hire from the EU, and goods are not being delivered. That needs to be sorted. Today, the National Farmers Union and I would like to know whether the Minister will extend the seasonal workers pilot scheme to ornamentals to ensure that plants and flowers in fields and nurseries get picked and are not left rotting, bringing joy to no one and bankrupting businesses.

Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Secretary of State is working actively on this issue and had a meeting with several representatives of the ornamentals sector only yesterday to discuss it. We are working hard across Government to address these worker shortages. I am working with the Department for Work and Pensions to promote picking and to support the horticultural sector, as well as to recruit more UK workers. Automation will be at least some of the solution to this issue, and we are actively promoting new technologies.