Harriett Baldwin welcomes the announcement of an extra 10,000 seasonal agricultural workers and asks the Secretary of State why he did not accept the request from farmers to go as high as 90,000 visas?
I warmly welcome the spotlight that the strategy shines on the wonderful food produced in West Worcestershire and across the whole United Kingdom. I also welcome the fact that unemployment in this country is at an historic low. In welcoming the extra 10,000 seasonal agricultural workers that have been announced today, will the Secretary of State elaborate on the advice that he received that meant that this year, with our strong labour market, he did not accept the request from farmers to go as high as 90,000 visas?
My hon. Friend does indeed represent an important part of our country for horticulture—in fact, I spent a summer working on an apple orchard at Bransford in her constituency. On her question about the evidence that we have, we work closely with the operators running the seasonal agricultural workers scheme. As I said, we are approaching 28,000 visas issued or people already here. The judgment is that for the top fruit season, which is predominantly what they will be recruiting for later this year, a further 10,000 will be sufficient. The truth is that the total number of people who do seasonal agricultural work in the UK is estimated to be between 60,000 and 70,000. We think it is still the case that close to half of that number are coming as settled EU citizens or are people who are here, with the other half being carried by the scheme. That will change over the years, but for the current year, we think that 40,000 is sufficient.