Benefits cheats should be sent to work on farms to cover any shortages in seasonal migrant labour following the abolition of SAWS, says farm minister George Eustice.
Mr Eustice, speaking at the NFU Conference 2014 said we should be focusing on getting unemployed UK workers onto farms instead of foreign labour.
“Having worked in farming myself, I know that some people will say ‘you won’t get them (UK unemployed) to do this work, they don’t want to do it’,” he explained.
“But as a government, we shouldn’t really tolerate that attitude that says, ‘we’re going to pay people to stay on benefits because they don’t want to do certain types of farm work’.
“We need to get across and overcome this attitude where we say, ‘it’s OK to pay people benefits and accept that they are not going to take jobs that are on offer’.”
He added that the government was working on getting more local people to take jobs on farms, which would be “factored in” to the work the DWP was doing on allocating benefits.
He was responding to calls from Ali Capper, a hop and apple farmer from Worcestershire, who called for the reintroduction of a seasonal agriculture workers scheme (SAWS), which was abolished in January.
The migrant labour scheme allowed workers from Bulgaria and Romania to come and work in the UK, especially during busy harvest periods, on short-term contracts up to six months