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Agriculture: Foreign Workers

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received on the availability of sheep shearers from non-EU countries in summer 2009; and if he will make a statement. (266385)

DEFRA has received a limited number of inquiries regarding the availability of sheep shearers from non-EU countries for summer 2009.

I am aware that the visa requirements for bringing in sheep shearers from outside the EU have changed following the introduction of tier 2 of the points based system for economic migrants in 2008. As a result of the introduction of tier 2, sheep shearers who are not visa nationals now have to apply for entry clearance prior to travel, even where they are coming to the UK for less than six months. The industry has made representations concerning compliance with these requirements, but we are not aware that the new entry requirements are so far causing any problems in terms of a lack of shearers leading to animal health and welfare issues. However, we will continue to monitor the situation.

Immigration requirements do recognise the current need to employ workers for this purpose from overseas and to expedite procedures for their admission. On the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee, sheep shearers have been added to the UK Border Agency's list of occupations of which there is a shortage and, as a result, sponsors of such workers from overseas are not required to demonstrate that they have sought to fill such vacancies with a resident worker.