A fresh drive to encourage the public to help bring in summer fruit harvests fell flat last night after the official website crashed at launch.
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, used the daily Downing Street press conference to announce a new Pick For Britain website, which he said would enable furloughed workers to earn extra money by taking on a second job.
He said: “We believe that those who are furloughed may be getting to the point that they want to lend a hand and play their part. They may be wanting to get out and they may be wanting to supplement their income, with an additional job and I would urge them to visit that website, and to look at the opportunities that are there.”
But as he unveiled a new “Pick for Britain” website to match farms needing seasonal staff with potential UK workers, the site appeared to have crashed.
Mr Eustice told the Downing Street press conference: “Every year large numbers of people come from countries like Romania and Bulgaria to take part in the harvest, harvesting crops like strawberries, salads and vegetables.
“We estimate that probably only about one-third of the people who would normally come are already here. Small numbers may continue to travel.
“But one thing is clear and that is that this year we will need to rely on British workers to lend a hand to help bring that harvest home.”
Announcing the new recruitment website, he said: “We believe those who are furloughed may be getting to the point that they want to lend a hand and play their part.
“They may be wanting to get out and they may be wanting to supplement their income.
"If they do feel that way, I would urge them to use that website and look at the opportunities that are there.”
Mr Eustice made a similar appeal for furloughed workers to help with the harvest several weeks ago, and his latest plea suggests that efforts to recruit British workers to fill the gaps left by labour from abroad have been unsuccessful.
Luke Pollard, the shadow environment secretary, said: "Ministers have known for months that we are short of thousands of agricultural workers and there is a genuine risk that crops will rot in the fields without a new national effort.