MP hits back at local grower

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SOUTH Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes has re-stated his support for local agriculture and horticulture following criticism that he failed to support two meetings important to the industry.

The MP was one of a number unable to attend a meeting arranged in the House of Commons to discuss a document promoting South Lincolnshire’s horticulture, forcing it to be cancelled.

Specialist lettuce producer David Piccaver, of Gedney Drove End, who is involved in drawing up the document, said 16 MPs had been invited to attend to discuss various aspects of the report.

He said: “We sought their support to pursue the key findings, such as sea defences, education, logistics and the infrastructure of the region, the importance of the agricultural and horticultural industries and the prepared food sector to the local economy and, just as importantly, to the nation’s food supply and security.

“We had to cancel the meeting as only one MP said he would come – these MPs were all based in the East Midlands region, and Lincolnshire in particular.”

David is also director of Concordia, a registered charity appointed by the Home Office to manage the supply of seasonal employees from Eastern Europe to UK farms.

A separate event had been set up in the House of Commons and David explained: “This was to lobby MPs on the future of this scheme as this government and the last have been reviewing these arrangements.

“It was noted that we had a very good attendance, but alas our local MPs did not come to discuss or be briefed about the future and the critical need for these arrangements to continue to maintain and enhance the region’s business activities.

“You can draw your own conclusions, but I find it very sad that our MPs show such a lack of interest in the future of our industry and the region, and, just as importantly, in the nation’s food supply. It is DEFRA’s key policy and we have a lot to do.”

However, Mr Hayes says although he was unable to attend that meeting, he took up the issues raised by writing to the Home Secretary about seasonal agricultural workers, keeping Concordia informed of his actions.

His office had been unable to trace an invitation for the first event, and Mr Hayes had received no direct invitation, but he added that he met farmers and growers regularly to discuss local issues.