Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:42 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Duncan of Springbank Lord Duncan of Springbank Deputy Chairman of Committees 2:42 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, this is a timely debate and I echo the thanks that noble Lords have expressed to the noble Baroness. I was struck by the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, when he spoke of the berry bus that toured the estates in Scotland. I too was a victim of its pursuit—although in my case it was a berry van—and many was the morning I woke up praying for rain and being disappointed by sunshine.

Picking raspberries is never a pleasure, I am afraid. It is a serious job. Over the last few years, we have relied on the migrant workers who come to do it. Latterly however, even before Brexit reared its head, it was becoming harder and harder to bring people across the water to pick those berries. The principal reason was competition from countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain, which were offering incentives for migrant workers to do exactly the same thing, with not berries but hops, grapes or other market garden products.

We had a challenge and we now have a new challenge, namely the Covid virus. The test we therefore have to meet is how we will harvest into the future. We have a trial run this year because of Covid, but the simple questions remain: who will pick our raspberries in the future and how will we ensure that they are harvested well? It is no longer enough to rely just on hope and wish; we need to pull together a plan. This plan must encourage people to undertake labour in this area and recognise the value that it has to local communities. It will not be an easy plan, because some of these tasks are simply not as pleasant as they might sound to those who occasionally pick a raspberry for a nice spot of lunch. For those who do it all day, it is a seriously challenging endeavour. Will the Minister give serious thought to how we might achieve such a strategic plan to help harvest this area?