Food and Farming: Employment Opportunities — [Mr Charles Walker in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 25th April 2017.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 2:30 pm, 25th April 2017

I completely agree that there will be opportunities to invest in, grow and encourage food production and farming. I also recognise that population growth here and around the world means more mouths to feed. The UK has an opportunity to rise to that challenge and ensure that people, wherever they live, have the food that they need to survive. We have an opportunity and a moral responsibility to invest in and empower the food and farming sector to meet our growing needs.

So far, I have concentrated on agriculture, which is natural, but it is important not to forget the economic and social contributions made by the fishing industry. In 2015, fishing contributed £604 million to the UKs’ gross domestic product, employing just over 12,000 fishermen—meaning people with fishing expertise—half of whom were based in England. One need only visit Newlyn in my constituency, which the Minister knows well, and see the small open boats, beam trawlers, longliners, and crabbers in its 40 acres of harbour to realise how essential fishing is to the region.

It is fair to say that fishing and farming, like other parts of the food chain, face numerous challenges in attracting the right number and quality of new entrants. Some of those challenges relate to the perception of such jobs as low-skilled, low-paid, lacking in career progression opportunities and involving hard physical labour in all weathers. When I was at school, I was frowned on for choosing a vocational career in the construction sector rather than going to university, but times have changed and we must recognise that a job in the countryside is a worthwhile career choice that has many benefits not offered by other careers.