Tory MP piles pressure on Theresa May over immigration crisis in major Tayside and Fife industry

© Paul ReidKirstene Hair
Kirstene Hair

A Conservative MP is demanding Theresa May fixes an immigration crisis that could leave a £100m-plus industry “withering on the vine”.

Kirstene Hair, who represents Angus, is leading a 40-strong group of MPs to force the Prime Minister to take action over labour shortages at places like fruit farms, a major sector for Tayside and Fife.

The Scottish Conservative warns the industry is at “breaking point” and delays for support over its decreasing migrant workforce are likely to lead to “massive price rises” for customers.

In a direct challenge to the PM, Ms Hair is calling for a seasonal migrants scheme to be re-established, adding it will be too late to wait for a report on the issue by the Migration Advisory Committee.

The Courier reported last week how Angus Growers – a collective of 19 farms mostly in Angus, Perthshire and Fife – missed out on £625,000 last year because of recruitment shortages.

“The industry is already deeply concerned about their ability to keep production at current levels – never mind expanding,” Ms Hair said.

“Constituents across Angus have told me they fear massive price increases based on the decline in people coming to pick and pack fruit.

“This is a vital issue for my constituency of Angus and the whole of the UK.

“Doing nothing could mean the end of a successful British industry.”

Growers say they cannot recruit the EU workers they need, with some reasons for that associated with Brexit.

But their recruitment struggles are compounded by Europe-wide worker shortages and improving economies in Eastern Europe, where much of the labour is sourced from.

Ms Hair says she has the support of more than 40 MPs from different parties for a Commons debate on the issue.

The seasonal agricultural workers scheme was scrapped in 2013, with ministers saying there were enough people unemployed in the UK to plug the gaps.