Agriculture: Seasonal Workers

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Lord Patten Lord Patten Conservative

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the assistance that seasonal farm workers from the Ukraine could provide in meeting the UK’s agricultural requirements; and what barriers, if any, there are to their entry.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The Government has introduced a new immigration pilot scheme for 2019 and 2020 enabling up to 2,500 non-European Economic Area migrant workers, including seasonal workers from Ukraine, to come to the UK to undertake seasonal employment in the edible horticultural sector.

This pilot will test the effectiveness of our immigration system at alleviating seasonal labour shortages during peak production periods, whilst reducing immigration to sustainable levels and continuing to welcome those who make an invaluable contribution.

This pilot is not designed to meet the full labour needs of the horticultural sector. Rather we are seeking to evaluate the immigration pilot’s ability to assist in alleviating labour shortages during peak production periods.

Defra and the Home Office will work closely to monitor the pilot, and review its performance against the stated objectives. This pilot will help inform our understanding of how such immigration routes perform in a modern global context, and support the design of our new immigration system laid out in the recent White Paper. Defra is working to improve the official evidence based on temporary worker supply and demand, through a new quarterly survey of growers, the results of which we will consider carefully. We are also working closely with industry to understand trends in labour demand and supply.

Immigration issues are reserved and remain the policy responsibility of the Home Office. After we leave the EU, we must ensure that we have an immigration system that works in the best interest of the whole of the UK.

Defra is working closely with the Home Office to ensure that there is a long term strategy for agricultural labour as part of the future immigration strategy. The Home Office has launched a 12-month engagement programme with sectors across the UK to enable businesses and other stakeholders to shape the development of the future skills based immigration system.

As such, there are no plans to expand this pilot at this time. We wish to fully assess this pilot and the results will help to inform the design of the new immigration system from January 2021.

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