Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:18 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Naseby Lord Naseby Conservative 1:18 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I will focus on horticulture, a vital part of our country’s food production. I am in Sandy, Bedfordshire: the heart of horticulture. Our horticultural show is 150 years old.

Two aspects arise from Covid-19, on top of Brexit. The first challenge is that the workforce is seasonal, with 70,000, or thereabouts, needed every year. Thankfully, the Government have produced a short-term scheme for 2020, but this industry needs a long-term scheme and to know that these workers—who are absolutely vital to the success of horticulture—will be able to come through our immigration scheme. The immigration policy has to reflect this. I thank the Government for the temporary situation, but the industry needs some future help and to know what is happening.

The second issue is that horticulture needs energy to heat glass-houses. Some 30 years ago, we lost out when the Dutch found cheap oil and gas from the North Sea. Energy costs are therefore a key element. We will never revive the glass-house industry as long as it has to pay the current market prices. As I look around Bedfordshire, I see that its glass-houses that once prospered are in disrepair.

Those are the two issues. To ensure our food production, we need 70,000-plus seasonal workers, and a highly competitive energy supply for the glass-house industry to succeed.