Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:41 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Quin Baroness Quin Labour 1:41 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, I also pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Boycott, both for this debate and for her campaigning work on food poverty and food insecurity.

I will raise two issues where I think the Government need to rethink their policy. The first is immigration, which has been mentioned. As well as maximising the job opportunities for our own citizens, we need a much more flexible immigration policy, particularly for the agricultural and food industries, where a range of skills is needed, from fruit picking to specialised vets. Our rigid approach ignores many of the real needs of our economy. Indeed, last night on the BBC news we saw the case of a hospital cleaner, currently doing absolutely vital work but facing an unaffordable bill for her visa extension. This is crazy. We need more flexibility and humanity in our immigration policy.

Secondly, we need to rethink our trade policy. We seem to be prioritising trade deals far beyond Europe but, for agriculture and the food industry, EU trade is vital. In the post-Covid world, and to meet environmental goals, we need to trade more, not less, with our nearest neighbours.

We have to get those important EU trade negotiations right for our economy’s sake, and because of the complications for Northern Ireland that we have heard about. The Government seems to have ruled out any alteration to the timetable, whatever the circumstances. I put it to the Minister that we have been plagued by unrealistic declamatory self-imposed deadlines for political reasons rather than economic or common-sense considerations. Can we please, from now on, make decisions based on what is best for our economic recovery, not on political dogma?