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Inshore Fishing Boats: Non-EEA Workers

Volume 661: debated on Monday 10 June 2019

15. What recent progress he has made in enabling the fishing industry to employ non-EEA workers on inshore fishing boats. (911225)

As part of the future borders and immigration system, we have launched a year-long engagement programme to seek the views of stakeholders, including the fishing industry, and I am listening very carefully to what they have to say. I have met representatives of the industry on several occasions, as has my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and we are reflecting on the views expressed.

The Minister has previously said that:

“there was no case for schemes for particular sectors in the immigration system, other than agriculture, which has some unique characteristics.”—[Official Report, 8 April 2019; Vol. 658, c. 153.]

I am sure the Minister and everyone accepts that the fishing industry has unique characteristics as well. Although we want local labour to do these jobs in future, they are not ready and able to do them now. Will she look again at this with an open mind, because our fishermen are crying out for a solution?

I reassure my hon. Friend that I was quoting the Migration Advisory Committee when I said that agriculture is a unique sector with characteristics that justify the sectoral scheme, and the Government have certainly listened to that advice. He will know that we are undertaking a year of engagement as part of the proposals set out in the immigration White Paper, and no final decision will be taken on the future system until that is complete.

In calling the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil), I am calling no less a figure than the Chair of the International Trade Committee.

That is much appreciated, Mr Speaker. This cuts across the Department for International Trade, of course, and I have a constituency interest.

The Minister talks about a year-long engagement. She told me the very same last May. She said that the Home Office would reflect and ask industry for its views. We hear the same rhetoric today. It is quite simple: she should go to her boss, the Home Secretary—a man who needs to show leadership at the moment—and ask him to lift his pen and get fishing boats working on the west coast of Scotland. It will happen that easily. Get it shifted, make it happen, and make it happen this year. We do not want another year-long engagement.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. I do not think I have quite recovered from him appearing in my office asking me to write visas on the back of an envelope for those whom he deemed to be appropriate. It is important that the Home Secretary and I listen to all sectors, take the time to reflect on the advice received from the Migration Advisory Committee and the proposals set out in the White Paper, and make sure that we make the right decision, not simply the decision that the hon. Gentleman is demanding.