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Encouraging signs that the Government is thinking again about its decision to scrap the Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Scheme (SAWS) have been welcomed by Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff.

Peter says the scheme is crucial to the survival of the horticultural industry in Worcestershire.

The Home Office has been winding down the scheme, which allowed students from Eastern European countries outside the EU to come to Britain for a short period as agricultural workers. The scheme is now limited to just two EU members – Bulgaria and Romania. The winding down of SAWS has alarmed growers, who say they are dependent on the labour that students from countries like the Ukraine and Russia.

In a Commons debate last week the new Home Office Minister Phil Woolas MP gave a positive response to the concerns raised about the abolition of the scheme. Peter has written to Mr. Woolas to thank him for taking the concerns of his constituents seriously, and urging him to abandon plans to scrap SAWS.

Commenting Peter said:

“Phil Woolas’ response to the debate shows that the Government is at last beginning to understand the serious implications that scrapping SAWS would have. I sincerely hope that these encouraging signs bring swift action.

“It is urgent that we act to restore SAWS– so that we can get back the hard-working students who want to come here for up to six months of very hard work. I have spoken to farmers and growers in my constituency who have had to plough back crops because they simply don’t have the labour to pick them.

“We still need Ukrainians and Russians, as well as Bulgarians and Romanians on these tightly monitored and well organised schemes to ensure that we have the people in place to provide British consumers with the British food that they want to eat, and to keep our growers in business.

“Even in a recession, British workers won’t want these highly seasonal and limited jobs. But agricultural students from other countries will snap them up. Reintroducing a full SAWS is a win-win-win idea – a win for the county’s hard-pressed growers, a win for students from countries whose friendship and support we need and a win for consumers who will get affordable, locally grown produce.”


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