A former gangmaster who worked for farms around Boston has spoken out against claims that local people will not work in the fields.
In a recent BBC interview Boston MP Mark Simmonds said that Eastern European migrants were needed to work in the borough’s fields as Bostonians do not do the work – and had not done it for some time.
But former gangmaster Colin Stones, whose family ran the business for several decades, argued there used to be an army of workers in the area, and there still would be if changes were made to the benefits system, which he said was ‘against workers’.
He told The Standard: “I think it’s about time someone spoke out for the real landworkers of Boston.
“They say we need the foreign nationals to work on the land, but there are people in Boston who were born to do it.
“You left school and went to work on the land.”
Mr Stones said he believed people were discouraged because of the hard nature of the work, arguing the system should be altered so people went into the jobs from school as they had in the past.
Speaking on BBC Inside Out MP Mr Simmonds said: “Local people have not done the work in fields and packhouses for 30 or 40 years.”
He argued that the benefits culture of recent years has made people ‘uninterested’ in jobs such as field work, which can be seen as menial, but Mr Stones said he had a ‘great amount of respect’ for the local people who still do the work after many years in the industry, some of whom he still sees.
He added: “Mark Simmonds should speak to them.”
Mr Simmonds has argued that his comments about landworkers were taken out of context, saying he was ‘saddened’ by the editing of the programme.
He told The Standard: “The point I made was that migrant workers have played a role in agricultural work in Lincolnshire for many years. British workers have, of course, also made a significant contribution. I meet many local residents who have worked hard, for many years, in our agricultural industry and contributed much to the local economy however, future generations and school leavers are not being sold the importance of a potential career in agriculture.”
However, a spokesman for the BBC said the interview represented accurately what had been said during the bulk of the interview.
She added: “Our editorial standards dictate that we always accurately portray our interviewees. We robustly reject any suggestion from MP Mark Simmonds that his words were misrepresented in the edit of the interview. His comments on Inside Out were wholly consistent with what he said in his wider interview with the BBC. Mr Simmonds did not raise his concerns with us after the broadcast and we have now contacted his office about the matter and we will address his concerns once Mr Simmonds responds.”