The Home Office works closely, at ministerial and official levels, with interested Departments on all significant changes to migration policy. The reforms we have announced have been collectively agreed. May I too welcome the hon. Gentleman to his place?
May I thank all colleagues who sent me messages during my involuntary absence? I’m back.
Will the Minister explain how it is that his Department is proposing a £35,000 salary threshold, which will have a detrimental impact in many areas where we have shortage occupations? Can he explain why the initial priority list of jobs did not include NHS nurses? I was treated by nurses from all over the world, including some from European Union countries, and I know that in London there will be a major recruitment problem. Already, we cannot provide enough nurses for our NHS and, if we take away recruitment opportunities from NHS trusts in London and elsewhere, we will have major shortages.
It is great to see the hon. Gentleman back in his place, and clearly fighting fit.
In essence, the £35,000 threshold applies to gaining settlement, allowing people to extend their time in the UK. We took considered advice from the Migration Advisory Committee at the time it was set, back in 2011, and employers have had five years to prepare for the change. Occupations on the shortage occupation list, including nursing and other shortage skills, are excluded from the requirement. We have carefully considered the independent advice from the MAC on that important matter.
Has the Home Office assessed the impact of the changes on the Scottish economy? Is it not the case that the new arbitrary target, combined with the abolition of the post-study work visa, prevents Scotland from attracting and retaining the brightest and best the world has to offer? Why have this Government prioritised narrow political interests over measures to grow our economy?
I am afraid that the hon. Lady has got it completely wrong. The Government have made it clear that the UK remains open for business. I would gently say to her that we take advice from the expert Migration Advisory Committee, which has advised against different salary thresholds in UK countries and regions. Our thresholds are based on UK-wide data, and salaries in Scotland are slightly higher than the UK average. Advancing the point that she makes might lead to higher salary thresholds in Scotland.