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Seasonal Agricultural Workers' Scheme

Volume 468: debated on Thursday 29 November 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what effect she expects the doctrine of Community preference to have on the countries from which workers come under the seasonal agricultural workers scheme; whether she has had discussions with her Polish, Belgian and Cypriot counterparts on their decisions to allow seasonal agricultural workers from non-EU countries to continue to work; and if she will make a statement. (165643)

[holding answer 19 November 2007]: The accession treaty for Bulgaria and Romania requires the UK to give preference to accession state workers over non-EU workers. Accordingly, non EU nationals cannot be treated more favourably.

While transitional restrictions continue to be in place on Romanian and Bulgarian nationals' access to the UK labour market, we will not be providing for migration from nationals outside the EU on specific low-skilled schemes. Therefore in 2008, applications to the seasonal agricultural workers scheme will only be accepted from Romania and Bulgaria.

This was confirmed in my written ministerial statement issued on 30 October 2007 regarding the application of SAWS from 2008:

"From 2008 applications to the existing ‘Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme’ will be accepted only from Romania and Bulgaria—meaning a potential increase from 6,500 A2 migrant workers through this scheme this year to 16,250 next year. The overall number of migrants coming to the UK through SAWS is unchanged.”

No new statement is planned regarding SAWS.

The Government have ongoing discussions with European counterparts on a range of issues including accession. It is for each EU member state to determine the application of the community preference principle to their labour market.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment she has made of the likely effect of the proposals in the Communication from the European Commission on circular migration and mobility partnerships between the European Union and third countries on the Government's review of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme. (165645)

[holding answer 19 November 2007]: While the Government recognise many of the principles underpinning the European Commission’s communication, for example close co-operation and dialogue between countries, they do not believe that the UK can benefit from encouraging low skilled migration from outside the European Union. There is sufficient labour within the enlarged EU to fill all low skilled vacancies including the Seasonal Agricultural Worker scheme.

The SAWS quota for 2008 will be 16,250, and applications will only be accepted from Romania and Bulgaria.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether she had discussions at EU level on the UK’s decision to restrict 40 per cent. of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme to Bulgarian and Romanian nationals; and if she will make a statement; (166607)

(2) whether she has held discussions at EU level on the principle of community preference in respect of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker scheme.

[holding answer 20 November 2007]: The Home Office has not had discussions with EU partners on either of these points.