Skip to main content

Farm Workforce

Volume 659: debated on Thursday 9 May 2019

2. What steps he is taking to ensure that farmers have access to the workforce that they need during the harvest. (910776)

DEFRA is working closely with the Home Office on the future immigration framework as part of the longer-term strategy for labour in the food chain. The seasonal workers pilot is now open, and the first workers have arrived on UK farms.

Eddisbury is the home of high-quality dairy farming and produces much of the country’s milk. However, dairy farmers in Cheshire are having huge problems with staff recruitment. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that the £30,000 annual earnings threshold for migrant workers post Brexit will not apply to farm workers?

As I have said, DEFRA is working closely with the Home Office on this issue. The Government are committed to ensuring that a wide range of stakeholders have an opportunity to contribute their views and shape the development of the future immigration policy. That is why the Government have embarked on an extensive programme of targeted engagement with businesses and other stakeholders across the UK.

In evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee, Archie Gibson of Agrico UK said that if Scottish farmers cannot get the seasonal workers they need to replace EU workers no longer able to come here, two fifths of farmers will cease the enterprise that needs that workforce; furthermore, three fifths will have to downsize. We all here, as the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) pointed out, have to make the not unfounded assumption that the same is true for the rest of the UK’s farmers and growers. Therefore, will the Secretary of State make urgent representations to his Cabinet colleagues that our farmers need migrant workers? They need a ready supply—not a short-term pilot, but certainty of policy that will not leave crops rotting in the ground again.

May I correct the hon. Gentleman? He says EU workers will not be able to come here; under whichever scenario we leave the EU, that will not be the case. Those who are already here will be able to stay. During the implementation period, people will be able to live, work and study as now, and there is a registration scheme. In a no-deal scenario, European economic area citizens will be able to live and work here without a visa for three months and then continue to stay by applying for European temporary leave to remain, which gives them 36 additional months.