Local MP urges Home Office to review new visa salary rule over concerns seafood businesses could move abroad

Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid

DAVID Duguid MP has urged the Home Office to review the impact of its decision to increase the minimum salary for skilled worker visas from £26,200 to £38,700 amid concerns that it could lead to seafood businesses moving abroad.

In the House of Commons, Mr Duguid raised concerns that occupations including fishermen, seafood producers and processors have been removed from the Shortage Occupation List (SOLs) in the Migration Advisory Committee’s (MAC) interim review of a new Immigration Salary List (ISL).

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It comes after the Banff and Buchan MP’s campaigns resulted in seafood-related occupations added to the SOL last year.

And in his recent discussions with the MAC, he reminded them of the importance of such occupations to communities such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh that are highly dependent on those industries.

Mr Duguid, who has been contacted by several businesses, says forcing companies to increase salary levels by more than 40% could force them to move factories abroad.

He said: “The skilled worker route offers the seafood industry access to labour that they are unable to source within the UK which already results in a significantly higher cost than recruiting a UK-based worker.

“The seafood sector is already on a transition with average starting wages increasing, automation and other labour-saving measures being adopted as well as working to attract more people from the local work force.

“There is still a need for some overseas labour as the industry continues that transition which is why the previous additions to the Shortage Occupation Lists were so welcome.

The industry has put a lot of effort into adapting to those changes but a jump in minimum salaries from £26,200 up to £38,700 could force some of my local businesses into moving away from the area to other countries.

“We have seen an increase in catching opportunities and landings in Banff and Buchan since the UK left the Common Fisheries Policy and negotiated quota shares as an independent coastal state.

“It’s important to note that in the catching sector, in particular access to workers from the EU, is minimal.

“I continue to engage with the industry as well as ministers from the Home Office, Defra, Scotland Office and others on the importance of ensuring we don’t harm our domestic food security through unintended consequences.”

In his question to the Legal Migration minister, Tom Pursglove MP, Mr Duguid said: “I welcome the measures taken to reduce abuses of the immigration system, but I also recognise the need to exempt from the new minimum salary, those critical occupations for which we have a specific shortage, for example, health and care workers.

“However, the Migration Advisory Committee’s interim review of the immigration salary list (ILS), several occupations have been removed due to even the discounted salary of around £31,000 being well above the going rate for such occupations.

“Given the vital and growing importance of food security across this country, will the minister commit to a review of those occupations which, although not the highest tech or highest paid jobs in our economy, are nonetheless critical for our food sector and rural and coastal communities?”

Minister Tom Pursglove responded: “There is no stronger advocate to the fishing industry in this house than Mr Duguid and he will appreciate that we have received that return from the Migration Advisory Committee.

“We will now look very carefully at their recommendations, but he knows that we’ve been flexible as a government consistently in responding to the needs of the fishing sector.

“I would argue there’s more we can do around trying to promote domestic employment but let us take this away and consider his representations.”

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