Neil Parish, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has written to Home Office Minister Kevin Foster seeking clarification on his claims that only one of the major four pork processors holds the necessary licence to bring in foreign butchers.
After Mr Foster, the Immigration Minister, gave evidence to the committee on Tuesday, EFRA chair Neil Parish said the Home Office was not doing enough to solve a shortage of pork butchers in the UK by supplying enough visas for foreign workers in a timely, efficient manner.
During a heated hearing, Mr Parish told the Minister the Home Office’s refusal to acted on advice from its Migration Advisory Committee to add butchers to the shortage occupation list (SOL) had contributed to the slaughter of pigs and poultry on farms and the potential destruction of these industries.
But Mr Foster told the Committee that only one of the UK’s major four pork processors held the necessary license to allow them to sponsor visa applicants under the skilled worker route.
“Butchers qualify for the skilled worker visa, based on the MAC advice last year. They can be recruited under the skilled worker visa today. You have to be a sponsor, regardless of whether the vacancy is on the shortage occupation list or not, to recruit via the shortage occupation list or the skilled worker visa,” he said.
He told the Committee that: ‘Of the four big pork processors, only one currently has a skilled worker sponsor
licence. One of the others let theirs expire in September last year, and we are waiting to see if the other two will actually make an application.”
However Subsequently, leading voices in the industry wrote to the Committee challenging the Minister’s evidence and stating that all four were indeed sponsors.
Mr Parish’s letter to Mr Foster states: “The latest Home Office’s Register of Worker and Temporary Worker licensed sponsors lists all four organisations as being registered as sponsors for “Worker (Type A)” under the Skilled Worker Route.
“Given this information, I would be grateful if you could clarify your statement that only one of the four big pork processors has a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence.
“During the evidence session, your point that only one major pork processor had a Skilled Worker Sponsor Licence was a key part of your argument that the pressures on the sector are not as serious as had been described and that the sector was not doing enough to access the support available through the immigration system.
“If it turns out your argument is not supported by the latest information, I’d be grateful if you could revise your remarks and commit to reviewing the support that the Home Office is providing to the sector.”
Mr Parish also calls for the Minister to clarify his assertion about a G-grade GCSE equivalent level of English language was the fundamental required for workers recruited under the scheme. Repeated several times, this formed the basis for an exchange of views on whether the level of English proficiency required was appropriate for butchers and others in the sector that are eligible to apply for a Skilled Worker visa.
You can view Mr Parish’s letter to the Minister HERE