I regularly speak to Cabinet colleagues about the current state of the labour market in the food and drink sector. Working across Government, we have extended the seasonal workers pilot this year to 30,000 visas and introduced additional temporary visa routes for poultry workers, pig butchers and heavy goods vehicle drivers in the food sector.
Delays and shortages, whether of lorry drivers or butchers, are causing huge concern and anxiety to business owners and consumers alike. Dayle Evans, a landlord and business owner in my constituency, was unable to reopen his pub’s kitchen for eight weeks due to difficulties sourcing produce. As we approach the Christmas season, which is the busiest for hospitality, and given the issues of last Christmas, what further action can the Government take to ensure that the shortages are resolved before that busy period is upon us?
My Department has regular dialogue with all the supermarkets and the major food manufacturers. They had some anxiety around their ability to deliver for Christmas about a month ago. That is why we acted expeditiously to introduce those temporary visa schemes. I can say that confidence in the industry is now higher, and it is gearing its logistics chains to make sure that we have food on the shelves. It is an improving situation.