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The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. David Blunkett): A review of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers' Scheme (SAWS) was announced on 7 February 2002 in the White Paper on Immigration and Asylum entitled XSecure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain". Officials within the Home Office have since completed a formal consultation in which the views of a wide range of organisations with an interest in the scheme have been sought.
The Government would like to thank all those who responded to this review. The response of those contributing, many of whom were farmers and growers or their representatives, is that the SAWS plays an important role in providing an additional source of seasonal workers. We have listened to the views expressed and concluded that the scheme should be retained and developed where appropriate with the primary purpose of providing farmers and growers access to seasonal labour.
The use of operators in administering the scheme is felt by the industry to be one of the key strengths of the current arrangements. They play a crucial role in recruiting and allocating participants to farms, overseeing their welfare, and monitoring and evaluating the scheme. Operators will therefore continue to be a feature of the revised SAWS. They will be appointed following a tendering exercise and will be in place in preparation for the revised SAWS which will operate from 2004 onwards.
I am aware that many farmers and growers who have an unmet need for seasonal labour are not within the scope of the existing arrangements. Consequently, the period during which the SAWS operates will be extended beyond the current months of May to November to allow participation in the scheme at any time throughout the year so as to meet the demand for
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seasonal workers. Additionally the work that SAWS participants are permitted to undertake will be extended, provided it is agricultural work and seasonal in nature. These changes will be fully implemented from January 2004. However, in recognition of the difficulties farmers and growers who are outside the scope of the current arrangements might experience in recruiting seasonal labour next year, I will bring forward these changes for the 2003 SAWS season. This is provided it is within the capacity of the existing operators to handle the additional work, and the employers wishing to benefit are able to meet the welfare needs of participants, in particular the provision of accommodation.
In response to these changes the Government will increase the already agreed quota for SAWS 2003 from 20,200 to 25,000. Future quota levels will be determined annually on the basis of an appraisal of the scheme's performance and estimates of future demand by key stakeholders, in particular through scheme operators on behalf of the employers they represent. Although the review found no evidence to support an immediate increase in the quota to 50,000 as recommended by a recent Policy Commission report into the future of food and farming, the Government accept that subject to economic growth demand for seasonal workers will rise steadily in the coming years. It will continue to be a requirement of a revised SAWS that participants must be full-time students in their home country as the review indicated students have an incentive to return home at
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the end of their time on the scheme. However, the upper age limit of 25 will be removed altogether to enable mature students to benefit from the scheme and to earn money that they can use to fund their education.
I hope these changes will ensure the scheme can continue to make an important contribution to meeting the seasonal labour needs of the agriculture industry and in doing so provide participants with a valuable experience of working in the UK.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Ruth Kelly): Subject to Parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimate, HM Treasury's DEL will decrease by £3,713,000 from £209,227,000 to £205,514,000 and the administration costs limits will be increased by £1,908,000 from £108,296,000 to £110,204,000. The administration cost limit of £108,296 includes a correction to the figure published in the Main Estimate (£106,508). In order to prevent a negative RFR in the Main Estimate, A in A of £1,788 was switched to CFERs. This switch appeared in part II of the Main Estimate but was not reflected in the notes to the Estimate.
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The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): I am today announcing some changes to the Privy Council Office DEL and Administration Cost Limits for 200203. The Privy Council Office DEL will be increased by £270,000 from £2,798,000 to £3,068,000 and the Administration Costs Limits will be increased by £270,000 from £2,838,000 to £3,108,000. Within the DEL changes there is no impact on capital; the impact on resources is set out in the following table:
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and Excise DEL will be increased by £50,878,000 from £1,107,850,000 to £1,158,728,000 and the administration costs limit will be increased by £61,644,000 from £956,323,000 to £1,017,967,000. Within the DEL change, the impact on resources and capital are as set out in the following table:
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The change in the resource element of the DEL arises from: the take up of end year flexibility entitlement of £21,177,000 on administration costs and £29,588,000 on programme expenditure as set out in the Public Expenditure Outturn White Paper (Cm 5574); a transfer of £67,000 in administration costs from HM Treasury for setting up the Penrose Inquiry team; and a transfer of £46,000 from the Home Office on programme expenditure in respect of Cocaine Market Sizing research.
The total administration costs change is £61,644,000, which includes a switch from non-discretionary programme expenditure to administration costs of £40,400,000. The administration costs increase will primarily provide for additional front-line operational staff and support resources, to tackle fraud in respect of Excise duties (significantly Hydrocarbon Oils).
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Gordon Brown): The Government are today publishing a document containing the estimates of the effects of various illustrative tax changes on tax receipts in 200304 and 200405 (plus 200506 for indirect taxes) and estimates of the costs of the main tax reliefs in 200102. Copies are being placed in the Libraries of both Houses, and are available in the Vote Office.
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