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Young Brits could work on farms, Andrea Leadsom says

Environment Secretary, Andrea Leadsom, has suggested that young British people could take up fruit picking and farm labouring jobs currently done by European Union (EU) migrants.


Speaking at a Conservative party conference fringe event in Birmingham on 2nd October, Leadsom made the comment in response to a call to address the impact immigration curbs would have on the food and farming sector.


Leadsom said she hoped more young people could be encouraged to "engage with countryside matters" and take up jobs and careers in food production.


She said: "There are two sorts of employee who have migrated to this country. One are permanent employees who have come here from the EU or from elsewhere in the world.


"As has been made very clear, it is not Theresa May's intention to deport anyone unless our European colleagues announce their intention to do likewise.


"So, she is absolutely intending that those people who come here and do a great job in our food and farming sector continue to do that.


"The other side of it is the seasonal workers. Of course, before we joined the EU we had a very good programme of seasonal workers' licences and it is not beyond the wit of man to have such a thing in future."


Leadsom was asked whether it was possible for British people to do the food and farming jobs in question instead, and she said, "Of course it is, that is a whole different issue. We could get British people doing those jobs and that tempts me to stray into the whole issue of why wages aren't higher and so on.”


She added, "My absolute hope is that with more apprenticeships, with more young people being encouraged to engage with countryside matters, that actually the concept of a career in food production is going to be much more appealing going forward."


David Camp, chief executive of the Association of Labour Providers, commented, “British people of all ages are currently able and encouraged to take up fruit picking and farm labouring jobs and this will continue.  Labour providers advertise jobs to local communities and welcome applications from all those entitled to work in the UK, which includes British and EU nationals.  Labour providers select on merit and fitness for work regardless of age or nationality in accordance with the requirements of UK discrimination law.


“The ALP welcomes all government support and funding to encourage young workers to pursue careers in agriculture and food production and looks forward to engaging with Defra, the DWP and other industry bodies in developing a programme that attracts young talent to our sectors.”


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