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Government rejects calls for seasonal workers scheme to help Kent farmers

PUBLISHED: 14:44 20 April 2017 | UPDATED: 14:44 20 April 2017

Seasonal workers

Seasonal workers

Archant

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom visited fruit farms in the county at the weekend

Calls for a pilot seasonal workers scheme to help Kent farmers combat a shortage of temporary labour have been rejected by the government.

Environment secretary Andrea Leadsom, who grew up in the county herself, told the House of Commons this morning there was not enough evidence to justify the introduction of such a scheme.

It comes just days after she visited fruit farms in the Kent constituencies of MPs Helen Whately and Helen Grant, where agricultural workers also pressed the minister for greater access to temporary labour.

Mrs Whately, who is chair of the all-party parliamentary group for fruit and vegetable farmers, orchestrated a Westminster Hall debate just before Christmas, where she warned colleagues a shortage of such workers is putting Kent farms at risk of going out of business.

The Faversham and Kent MP asked this morning: “Can [Ms Leadsom] give me an update on the discussions that she has had with the Home Office about introducing the much-needed seasonal agricultural permit scheme?”

The minister said in response: “The government have assessed the need for a pilot seasonal workers scheme, and have decided that the evidence shows that one is not needed.

“As I have said, the migration advisory committee and a consultation with businesses later this year will seek to determine exactly what the need is, and the government are committed to making a huge success of the food and farming sector as we leave the EU.”

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