Cafes, restaurants and other tourism businesses are struggling to open fully due to a staffing crisis, a debate in Parliament heard.
Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale led a debate in Parliament on Wednesday 9 November, on the staffing crisis in the Lake District's hospitality and tourism industry.
During his speech, Mr Farron cited a recent survey from Cumbria Tourism which found that 73% of businesses say recruitment is a problem, with more than half citing it as a significant problem.
A lack of applicants for advertised positions is an issue for 78% of Lake District employers.
The Kendal-based MP asked for the Government to extend the Youth Mobility Scheme visa to Europe, to make it easier for young people from neighbouring countries to help fill the workforce gaps.
Speaking in Westminster Hall, Mr Farron said: "Sadly, it is likely that anyone who has visited the Lake District on holiday, particularly in the last couple of years, saw reduced opening hours and capacity in cafés, hotels, restaurants and other visitor attractions, simply because they do not have sufficient staff.
"Those businesses came through the challenges of Covid despite the odds, adapting to the drop in visitor numbers, but they have since been hit by massive problems with recruitment.
"We need a visa like the Youth Mobility Scheme, which is flexible across sectors. Of course, that scheme already exists for places such as Australia and New Zealand, whose populations are fairly small-places that, to misquote "Father Ted", are small and far away.
“How about also developing youth mobility visa agreements with countries whose populations are large and much closer geographically?
“The youth mobility visa would provide greater work protections than sector-based schemes, so that workers are not tied to a specific employer.
“The Government could easily impose restrictions on workers' rights to access benefits, to bring in dependants, or to remain in the UK long term."
The new Minister for Immigration, Robert Jenrick offered to meet Mr Farron and local tourism industry leaders.
Responding, Mr Jenrick said: "The honourable member for Westmorland and Lonsdale represents one of the most beautiful parts of the country and one of my favourite destinations.
“Any help we can give him to ensure that his hospitality and tourism sector continues to thrive is a priority for me.
"I fully support Youth Mobility Visas and would like to see more of them. Most recently, we have progressed that idea through the Australia and New Zealand free trade agreements, while negotiations are ongoing with other countries. We are open to more agreements, which clearly must be reciprocal. With respect to European countries, we are open to that debate.
"The EU is currently seeking an agreement across the whole European Union, rather than on a state-by-state basis; although that does not preclude us from entering into it, it clearly means a longer and more complex negotiation than if we were able to negotiate with individual states."
Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...