Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:25 pm on 14th May 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 1:25 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Boycott on her persistent pursuit of this important issue, including obtaining this debate, which she introduced so comprehensively. I declare an interest as president of the Institute for Food, Brain and Behaviour, whose main interest is healthy nutrition.

Currently, farmers rely on 70,000 seasonal workers, mostly from eastern Europe, to pick vegetables and fruit in particular. The Countryside Alliance, which I thank for its excellent briefing, draws attention to farmers’ lack of certainty in both the 2018 White Paper on immigration and the current pilot scheme, which runs out at the end of 2020. Vegetable and fruit farmers say that they cannot meet the demand without these foreign workers. In response to my noble friend’s Oral Question on 30 April, the Minister said that the Government were “mobilising a British workforce”, which they have palpably been unable to do thus far. I have one suggestion, based on the pioneering work of last year’s High Sheriff of Suffolk, George Vestey: have the Government considered using prisoners on day release, or making use of the numbers on probation requiring unpaid work in the community?