Parliamentary committee releases damning report on farming shortages

Scottish Liberal Democrat agriculture spokesperson Clare McLaren and Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael have responded to today’s report, released by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, on labour shortages in the food and farming sector, calling it a “damning” indictment of Conservative inaction. 

The committee, which is chaired by Conservative MP Neil Parish, outlined a range of serious concerns about the risk that food and farming in the UK could face a permanent contraction as a result of government failures on labour supply and wider support.

The committee report found: “The Government did not acknowledge the sector’s mounting concerns about labour shortages earlier in 2021. The Government should not have been “waiting for the data” before taking any action.”

It also noted that: “We have been struck by the Government’s failure to grasp the labour issues faced by the food and farming sector, and the actual experience of businesses on the ground. There has also been an unwelcome tendency for the Government to blame the sector for not doing more to tackle the problem or fully utilising the immigration system—sometimes on the basis of incorrect information.”

Clare Mclaren said:

"Fruit picking season is about to commence in Scotland and this report just clarifies the labour crisis that fruit and vegetable producers are set to face for yet another season.

"The Conservative government is choosing to ignore the issues that are affecting an already challenged industry."

Alistair Carmichael said:

“This report is utterly damning of the government’s action and inaction on the labour crisis, created by their own policies and exacerbated by the pandemic. Despite flashing warning signs from the industry throughout 2021, ministers acted too little and too late to make even a dent in the disastrous labour shortages businesses now face.

“The isles are not as directly exposed to labour shortages as other parts of the country – though there are exceptions such as in the catching and processing sectors – but risks of wider damage to the food and farming sector will affect us all. A permanent contraction of food production in the UK would be counterproductive both for our economy generally and food security specifically, and could take decades to reverse.

“The report merely reinforces an impression that has already set in, of an ideological government that is totally ignorant of the situation faced by food producers. The Tories have turned their back on farmers and food producers and this sorry situation is the result.”

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