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Fears living wage could risk 'food security' says MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey

MP Gordon Henderson says the introduction of the so-called living wage could put the country’s “food security” at risk.

Next April, the national minimum wage will go up to £7.20 for workers aged over 25.

But in a House of Commons debate last Wednesday, the Tory made a speech stating although he supports the principle of the wage hike, he thinks it could have a devastating impact on farmers in Sittingbourne and Sheppey.

Farmers may be impacted by new wage increase.
Farmers may be impacted by new wage increase.

He said: “Because of a number of challenges unique to their industry, they will be forced out of business, not by the national living wage directly, but because they will be unable to compete with cheap imports from countries where farmers will not have to pay their workers as much as their British counterparts.

“Unless the government step in and help farmers, we are likely to see the loss of British-grown produce and an increase in imported food, which would have serious long-term consequences for not only the British economy, but our country’s food security.”

One of the ways he said the impact could be lessened would be by extending the under-25s living wage exemption to seasonal foreign workers.

Gordon Henderson
Gordon Henderson

He also called on the government to arrange meetings between farming representatives and supermarket retailers to put together a long-term plan for the industry, and to look at aligning the starting points for income
tax with national insurance.

He said farmers would not be helped by government plans to offset the effects by changes to corporation tax rates because the majority of producers are sole traders or partnerships, for which corporation tax is not payable to begin with.

Mr Henderson’s views were supported by Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately, but campaigners say the government-imposed wage rise does not go far enough.

The Living Wage Foundation group has announced its voluntary living scheme was introducing a new rate rise of 40p to £8.25 per hour.

More than 2,000 businesses are signed-up to the scheme.

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