Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today secured a commitment from the Prime Minister to take up fishermen’s concerns about access to skilled deckhands with the Home Secretary. Mr Carmichael spoke in Prime Minister’s Questions in support of his constituent, Ronnie Norquoy, who wrote to Boris Johnson this week of his frustration with the government’s refusal to implement the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee on visas for fishing deckhands.
Mr Carmichael has already written to the Home Secretary to ask for a guarantee that deckhands for fishing vessels will be recognised as a “shortage occupation” under future immigration rules, ensuring access to skilled workers for fishing vessels. The Migration Advisory Committee advice would have included fishing vessel deckhands on the “skilled worker” list but the Home Secretary rejected this approach.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:
"The Prime Minister will doubtless remember meeting my constituent Ronnie Norquoy on board his crab boat, the Carvela, when he visited Stromness in Orkney in July. I know that Mr Norquoy told the Prime Minister of the problems caused by the Migration Advisory Committee classing deckhands as “unskilled labour”.
“Since his conversation, which must have landed quite well, because he was allowed back on to dry land safely, the Migration Advisory Committee has changed their advice so that deckhands are now regarded as “skilled labour”, for whom visas can be issued. The Home Secretary, unfortunately, refuses to implement that advice. Will he put the Home Secretary straight on this one please, and get it sorted?"
Responding, the Prime Minister said:
"I am grateful to the Rt Hon Gentleman, it is a subject on which I have a keen interest because I had a wonderful morning on that crab boat, they had fantastic, prodigious quantities of crab - they were selling to China as I recollect – and I will make sure that the Home Secretary is immediately seized of the matter and we take it forward.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“It is always obvious when the Prime Minister has not done his homework ahead of time – which is true most days! Nevertheless I believe I detected a commitment on his part to sort this issue with the Home Office.
“There is no time like the present. The Prime Minister must follow through and ensure that fishermen have access to the crew they need right from the word go on January 1st.”