The MP for Boston has said bringing back a demand-led Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme is ‘vital’ for the future of farming across the UK.
Matt Warman was speaking during a debate on Seasonal Migrant Workers on Thursday, which called on the Government to bring forward proposals to allow businesses to continue to access seasonal migrant workers from EU and non-EU countries.
He reiterated that he believed the issue of migrant workers mattered ‘more in my constituency than anywhere else in the UK’.
“Let me emphasise that my constituency has always welcomed seasonal workers—at first from the Midlands, then from Ireland, then from Portugal and then from the expanded EU countries such as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, and beyond,” he said.
“The many shops that might otherwise be empty in my constituency and that call themselves eastern European supermarkets now serve the vibrant new communities that exist because of seasonal work.
“Although that vibrant new economy is a great thing, the social complications of a huge new community have been hugely challenging for many in my constituency.”
He said: “The scheme we are talking about today is needed for both economic and social reasons.
“It is vital we get this right and that we seize the opportunities that it might present. I would like to plant three ideas in the Minister’s enormous mind.
“The Migration Advisory Committee should pay heed to the possibilities of mechanisation, which I believe are genuinely enormous—I would suggest that there is no part of the industry that could not in due course be mechanised. But we need to pay attention to the needs of the industry now.
“That is of course not to say that enormous numbers are always necessary, but the NFU and large major operators such as those in my constituency must have their voices heard.”
He called on the scheme to tie the conditions in which a person lives and the consequent pressures they place on local services and local housing supply, to the supply of seasonal work permits.
“I would argue that a sponsor, either a major operator or a properly regulated gangmaster, should have to indicate the length of time a person will definitely be paid for, regardless of what work they are doing, and they should have to prove that they will be housed appropriately.
“Properly done, this is a real opportunity to tackle some of the modern slavery that taints agricultural work, and on which this Government have already done so much.”
He suggested that, through the sponsors, Government could ‘have a little nudging influence over regional patterns of migration’ by being able to monitor and predict local pressures on public services.