Feeding the nation: labour constraints Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Are there shortages of labour in the agriculture and horticulture sector?

1.The weight of evidence from a range of agricultural and horticultural businesses indicates that their sectors are facing considerable difficulties in recruiting and retaining labour. We do not share the confidence of the Government that the sector does not have a problem: on the contrary, evidence submitted to this inquiry suggests the current problem is in danger of becoming a crisis if urgent measures are not taken to fill the gaps in labour supply. (Paragraph 11)

2.We are concerned that the industry has such different experiences to those reported by the Government. It is apparent that the statistics used by the Government are unable to provide a proper indication of agriculture’s labour needs. These statistics and their utility for measuring supply of, and demand for, seasonal labour must be reviewed by the end of 2017 to give the sector confidence in the adequacy of the official data on which employment and immigration policies will be based for the period after the UK leaves the EU. (Paragraph 12)

A new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS)?

3.We note the Government’s assertions that a new Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) is unnecessary as long as the UK retains free movement of labour among the European Union. We further note the Home Office’s assertion that a new SAWS could be introduced very quickly—in five or six months—once the need for such a scheme had been identified. It is vital that the labour supply available to the agriculture and horticulture sectors does not suddenly dry up as a result of any uncertainty caused by the new immigration arrangements instituted following the UK’s exit from the EU. We note the promise made to us that this will not happen, and we are confident that our successor Committee will wish to scrutinise this area of Government activity closely throughout the next Parliament. (Paragraph 19)

Long-term solutions

4.Inquiring into the long-term labour needs of the agricultural sector raises many questions on the future shape and working practices of that sector, as well as on many strands of Government activity in the areas of education and rural policy. Our successor Committee will, we are sure, address these issues either through specific inquiries or as part of its wider work throughout the next Parliament. (Paragraph 24)

5.We are pleased to note the Government’s many strands of work in increasing the agricultural labour supply and we are confident that the effects of these will be closely scrutinised in the new Parliament. (Paragraph 25)

25 April 2017