With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the UK’s future border and immigration system after we leave the EU.
We all heard the public’s concerns about immigration in the run-up to the EU referendum. These were concerns held by many voters on both sides of the debate. The result of that referendum was clear: the UK will be leaving the European Union on the
This is an historic moment, but let us be clear. The United Kingdom has a proud history of being an open and welcoming nation, and this will not change. As the son of immigrant parents, I know full well the contribution they, like many other migrants, made to the community I grew up in. We recognise and value the contribution of immigration and the contribution it has made to our society, our culture, our economy and our communities, and this cannot be over-stressed. For example, there is how it has helped to deliver vital public services. It has brought new perspectives, expertise and knowledge, stimulating growth and making us all the more the tolerant, outward-looking nation that we are today.
Britain is going to stay open for business. We will continue to welcome talented migrants from every corner of the globe. We have been clear in saying to the 3 million EU nationals already here, “We value hugely the contribution that you have made to this country. Deal or no deal, we want you to stay, and we will protect your rights.” The future system is about making sure immigration works in the best interests of the UK. We are absolutely not closing our doors. We are simply making sure that we have control over who comes through them, ensuring, as we committed to do in our manifesto, that we are able to bring annual net migration down to more sustainable levels.
Today, we have published a White Paper setting out the Government’s proposals for doing this through a single, skills-based immigration system that will seize the unique opportunities enabled by the end of free movement. Copies are available for right hon. and hon. Members in the Vote Office. I would like to highlight to the House the key proposals and principles in it.
First, free movement will come to an end. Tomorrow, we will introduce the immigration and social security co-ordination (EU withdrawal) Bill to implement this. It will make European economic area and Swiss nationals and their family members subject to UK immigration control, and it will protect the status of Irish nationals. This means that in the future everyone other than British and Irish citizens will need to get UK permission before they can come here.
Secondly, there will be a single immigration system for all nationalities. The existing automatic preference for EU citizens will end. This approach will give everyone the same chance, regardless of where they are from—levelling the playing field to welcome the most talented workers from anywhere in the world.
Thirdly, this will be a skills-based system, giving priority to those with the skills we need. We are taking this approach to ensure that we can attract the brightest and the best people to the UK—those who will help our economy flourish. This follows advice that has been commissioned by the Government from the independent Migration Advisory Committee on the impact of European migration on the UK economy and society. We believe this is fair, and it will help drive up wages and productivity across our economy.
Following these three principles, we are acting to make the future immigration system work for those coming to our country, for businesses, for our public services and for the UK as a whole. Our approach will maintain protections for British workers while cutting bureaucracy. Fundamental to this will be a new route for skilled workers to ensure that employers can access the talent that they need to compete on the world stage. There will be no cap on numbers and no requirement for the highest skilled workers to undertake a resident labour market test, and there will be a minimum salary threshold.
We are also creating a time-limited short-term workers route to ensure businesses have the staff that they need to fill jobs, as they adapt to a new immigration system. We will ask the MAC to keep this scheme under review, so that it ensures a smooth transition. This route will be open to seasonal and low-skilled workers, along with high-skilled workers who need to come to the UK for longer than the current business visitor visa rules allow. Those who arrive under this scheme will have no rights to access public funds, to settle or to bring in dependants. The White Paper sets out our initial proposals to allow these short-term workers to come to the UK for 12 months at a time, followed by a year-long cooling-off period to prevent long-term working. We will be engaging extensively with businesses and with stakeholders on the length of the stay and the cooling-off period to make sure that we get this right.
These proposals will give protection to British workers, but we have recognised that immigration alone cannot be the solution, so we will continue as a Government, working in partnership with business, to invest in and to improve the productivity and skills of the UK workforce.
Our world-class universities will also benefit from the proposed new system. There will be no limits on the number of international students who will come here, and we continue to encourage them to come and study here. We will make it easier for graduates to stay and to work. This will widen the talent pool for businesses and boost economic growth.
Our plans are about opening Britain up for business, rather than creating new red tape. The future immigration system will be quick and easy to use. We will introduce a streamlined application process for those who are visiting, coming to work or coming to study, and this will use the very latest technology. This will improve the experience visitors and travellers have when they are crossing the border. We will also make it possible for more people to use e-gates. At the same time, we will improve security at the border by introducing an electronic travel authorisation scheme and phasing out the use of insecure national identity cards.
We are proposing a single, skills-based immigration system that will be fit for the future—one that is flexible to accommodate the trade deals that we agree with the EU and with other countries. It will operate from 2021, and it will be phased in to give individuals, businesses and the Government the time needed to adapt. This means that individuals do not need to make immediate changes and that businesses do not need to rush through plans based on guesswork about the future system.
The immigration White Paper outlines the proposals for the biggest change to our immigration system in a generation. However, it is important to note that it is not the final word; rather, it is the starting point of a national conversation on a future immigration system. I am pleased to announce that the Government will be launching a year-long programme of engagement across the UK to ensure that a wide range of views are heard.
I am confident all the measures that have been outlined today will ensure that the UK continues to flourish outside the EU; that the future immigration system is geared towards controlling who can come here and for what purpose, reducing net migration, while ensuring the brightest and the best can work and study here; and that it will boost our economy and benefit the British people. We are building a fair and sustainable immigration system that answers the concerns people have rightly had about free movement—an immigration system that is designed in Britain, made in Britain and serves our national interest. I commend this statement to the House.
I thank the Home Secretary for early sight of the statement.
As the whole House knows, since the 2016 referendum politics has been convulsed by the debate about Brexit, and we have seen ever more heightened convulsions in recent days. At the heart of the debate, as far as many of our constituents are concerned, have been migration issues. That is why it is a disgrace that it has taken the Government so long to produce this long-promised White Paper. It is almost a year late, and this is entirely because of internal disputes in the Cabinet.
The whole House knows that when we leave the single market, freedom of movement falls. The Labour party set that out in our manifesto, and it remains our position. Then there will be an urgent need to fashion a new and, we hope, fairer immigration system, but the important thing is that, going forward, we do not base the new immigration system on some of the myths of the past. The whole House heard the Prime Minister say that the Government were still committed to reducing migration to tens of thousands—a target that has never been met, will never be met, and is a pretext for anti-immigrant measures—but many Members will have heard the Home Secretary on the radio today, repeatedly refusing to commit himself to the tens of thousands target. So which is it? Where do the Government stand? Will they continue with a bogus and unachievable target, or will they genuinely try to shape an immigration system that meets the needs of the society?
If the Home Secretary is allowed to abandon the commitment to a formal target in the tens of thousands, that would be welcome. That target was a purely political device, designed to stress the Government’s intent to crack down on immigration when the Conservatives felt under pressure from UKIP, but the House will wait to see what his attitude to targets means in practice. The danger is that he will abandon formal adherence to targets in principle, but that the Home Office—particularly hearing, as it will have heard, what the Prime Minister has to say—will continue to function in the same way, with all the distortions, all the unfairness and all the inefficiencies that arbitrary targets lead to.
I support a single immigration system for all nationalities. To my certain knowledge, nothing drove pro-leave sentiment among voters of Commonwealth origin more than the sense that they were disadvantaged in relation to immigration compared with EU nationals. So, if Brexit produces nothing else, it ought to produce a system that moves away from that unfairness. We should be a country that treats the doctor from Poland in the same way as a doctor from Pakistan.
Is the Home Secretary aware of the concern that the uncertainty about the Government’s intentions and the delays in producing a White Paper have produced among EU citizens, their friends, their families and their employers? Is he able to tell us when we will know what the minimum salary threshold will be? There is much concern that the minimum salary threshold will be at £30,000, which would actually rule out healthcare workers, social care workers and technicians, and be very damaging to both the private and public sector. When will we know what that threshold will be?
As for the arrangement that the Home Secretary set out in the statement about time-limited temporary short-term workers who have no rights to access public funds, settle or bring dependants—they would come for 12 months at a time, followed by a year-long cooling-off period—that might suit some sectors, notably agriculture, but it is a very alarming prospect for most employers because it will not allow them to establish the continuity of employment that is vital for delivering their services, whether in the private or the public sector.
Does the Home Secretary really think that the Home Office has the capacity to change its established ways of working and its unofficial targets, which it was clearly working towards and helped contribute to the Windrush scandal? Does he accept that on immigration, he cannot have it both ways? He cannot talk about an outward-looking, global Britain and meeting the needs of society and employers, while being part of a Government with a rhetoric of cracking down on migration—a rhetoric that, I might add, implicitly denigrates the parents of many of us in this House. He cannot be part of a Government with photocalls at airports to stress how they are cracking down on migrants. He cannot have it both ways. If he wishes to speak for a Government who are genuinely outward-looking, genuinely global in their outlook, he needs to move away definitively from that anti-migrant rhetoric and he needs to take steps to dismantle the hostile environment, much of which was implemented under this Government.
Conservative Members may say that the Labour party in government sometimes brought forward immigration legislation that was unfair and unsustainable. I should know—I voted against all of it. So please do not come to the Dispatch Box and make that point. Many of us who sit on the Front Bench voted against those items of legislation again and again. The question for this Government is not what previous Governments did, but what they are going to do. On immigration, rhetoric about global Britain is not enough; they need to dismantle the hostile environment, and they need to create a system that is at the same time fair to migrants, fair to employers and fair to the society.
The Windrush scandal upset society as a whole and Members on both sides of the House, but it was not an aberration; it was a consequence of a way to look at migrants that was essentially negative, which was reflected, sadly, in legislation passed under more than one Government. The system that the Home Secretary has set out in his statement will not meet the needs of migrants for certainty. It will not meet the needs of employers for a stable, skilled workforce. Above all, this statement, although it may read well to people who want to see migration cracked down on, does not meet the need of the hour. Brexit offers, if it offers nothing else, the chance to put in place an efficient—no one that deals with the Home Office nowadays can say that it is universally efficient—fair and non-discriminatory immigration system that meets the needs of the society. We should seize that opportunity. I believe that this White Paper statement falls far short of that.
First, I thank the right hon. Lady for her comments and for the conversation that we had earlier in the day. We might not always agree on issues, including the approach to immigration that is set out in the White Paper, but she has always approached these issues and debate with courtesy and respect. That is great to see and, sadly, not an attitude shown by every member of the Opposition Front-Bench team, as we have seen a moment ago, but certainly she has always shown that. I may not see her again across the Dispatch Box before the end of the year, so I wish her and her team a happy Christmas.
The right hon. Lady asks a number of important questions. First, she rightly emphasises that we should make it clear that, whatever happens when it comes to immigration, it is fair to say that all parties are united in trying in their way to make sure that we remain an open and welcoming country to migrants from across the world who come to the UK to work, to study or to visit, and it is great to have a Parliament that almost universally accepts that. She, like me, is the child of first-generation migrants. Her parents, like mine and countless others, have made a huge contribution to this country and making it what it is, and we should all celebrate that and try to demonstrate that more as the kind of thing that we want to see in our country. I hope that, as the right hon. Lady and her colleagues have time to digest what is in the White Paper—I appreciate that it has just been published—they have the time to look at it in a way that convinces them that it demonstrates that openness.
The right hon. Lady raised a number of other issues. She used a phrase about slaying the myths of the past. One important aspect of the White Paper is that we have listened to the evidence. There is still more listening to do, which is why I said at the end of my statement that there is work to be done over the coming year to ensure that we engage with other political parties, devolved authorities, businesses and others. The starting point for that evidence was the work done by the Migration Advisory Committee, which is completely independent of Government. The MAC undertook a detailed report. It went to every part of the UK to listen and listen hard. It presented its evidence and we published that in full in September. Much of that—not exclusively—is reflected in the White Paper.
The right hon. Lady asked specifically about targets. We are committed to the Conservative party manifesto for this Parliament, but let me be clear: this is about the future immigration system. It is about emphasising control, but bringing net migration down to more sustainable levels. There are no targets in the White Paper.
I very much welcome the right hon. Lady’s support for the principle at the heart of the new system, which is that it is about an individual’s skills and what they have to contribute, not their nationality. There will be no preference to any particular nationality. To take her example, if a doctor or an engineer is coming to the UK it should not matter to us if that doctor or engineer is from India or France. What matters is what they have to contribute. That is at the heart of the proposals and she is right to highlight that principle.
The right hon. Lady asked me about salary thresholds. This is for the high-skilled worker route. The independent Migration Advisory Committee, based on its evidence, suggests a salary threshold of £30,000. What we have said is that we have listened, but that we need to do more work and have more extensive engagement before we come to a final figure. It will not be set in stone at £30,000 at this point. We will have to have more engagement to ensure that we get it right and come up with a threshold that we believe works for all parts of the UK.
The right hon. Lady asked me about the short-term workers route. One reason we included that in the White Paper is a recognition that, as we move away from freedom of movement, which I think all colleagues see as a very easy system to use with hardly any paperwork or bureaucracy involved, to a new system where everyone requires permission, it is right that we have a transition. The short-term workers scheme is a part of that transition, having a more balanced approach and recognising the needs of businesses across the country.
Lastly, the right hon. Lady talked about being open and welcoming, and about the Home Office learning lessons and changing its approach where appropriate. She will know that earlier this year we made changes to the tier 2 system, under the current immigration system, to remove doctors and nurses from the cap. She also rightly raised the Windrush crisis. All year, there has been a process to learn lessons from what went wrong. She is right to highlight that the Windrush problems began under a previous Government and continued under this Government. They should not have happened under any Government. It is right that we learn the lessons. Wendy Williams is working on an independent report. It will be a thorough independent report and she will go wherever she needs to to get to the evidence. That will be an important moment for us to all learn lessons.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Obviously, I have not had a chance to read the White Paper, but much of what he said today is moving in the right direction. I hope he agrees with me that one of the problems with discussing migration over the past two decades has been that any time it is mentioned, people immediately accuse those who ask about reducing it of being racist. We have to bring an end to that level of debate, which has led to much of the frustration to which Ms Abbott referred earlier, about the way the debate has been conducted. As one of those who voted leave, it was clear to me throughout that people did not want an end to migration; what they wanted was controlled migration. That is what I hope my right hon. Friend delivers today.
As far as I can see, the core bit that has caused the greatest problem has been the immediate access to social security benefits for people coming from the European Union. That has caused a big problem. Many businesses have, I am afraid, abused the process, getting them to come in and live in often quite squalid conditions, driving wages down for those who have much higher costs. Is my right hon. Friend prepared to deal with that issue to make sure that that is not a way of bringing in cheap labour? When he gets lectured by businesses and by others who say the health service cannot cope, will he remind them that for the past two decades—[Interruption.] This is a very important point.
The right hon. Gentleman’s point may be important, but it does need to be framed in the form of a question—briefly.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that businesses have failed to invest in training and skilling the domestic population, with the result that only 15% of those who start life at entry level work will ever move beyond entry level work?
I thank my right hon. Friend for the points he raises. First, he is absolutely right to emphasise the need for control. That was clearly one of the messages of the referendum result. It is about control. Like any other major developed economy, there is no reason why Britain should not have control while also being fair in its approach to immigration. On access to benefits, the White Paper sets out—I appreciate he has not had the opportunity to look at it in any detail yet—that on the short-term workers route, for example, there will be no right to public benefits and no dependants’ rights. This is a system that many other countries have followed. It is a fair approach both to people who come to our country to work and to the domestic population.
The proposals will make us all poorer economically, socially and in terms of opportunity. They signify not a “global Britain”, but an inward-looking Government and a Prime Minister still obsessed with net migration targets. When the Government talk about taking back control of our borders, what they mean is ripping up mutual rights to live, study, work and enjoy family life across Europe, depriving future generations of the amazing opportunities that our generations have enjoyed. Free movement has been brilliant for our people, and brilliant for Scotland and the UK, too.
When the Government talk about a skills-based system, they mean nothing of the sort. It is, to all intents and purposes, a salary-based system. We are talking about the carers, key NHS workers, lab technicians, researchers, bricklayers, and many other essential workers that this country needs. So why are the Government intent on slashing the family, social security and settlement rights of workers coming here under that income threshold? The proposals are degrading for workers, bad for employers and bad for community cohesion.
Why is the Home Secretary intent on forcing businesses to endure the expense, red tape and dubious reliability of a Home Office immigration system, when free movement has worked perfectly well? This is the opposite of cutting bureaucracy. Will the Home Secretary confirm the revenue that this will cost the Treasury? Will he confirm what the analysis shows about lost growth to the economy?
Finally, these announcements will be utterly disastrous for Scotland—socially and economically. Has the Home Office modelled the effect they will have on Scotland’s population, economy and public finances? Does the Home Secretary seriously think that reducing EU migration to Scotland, possibly by over 80%, is a good thing? If this is the best the Government can do, there is no better illustration of why we need decisions on immigration to be in Scotland’s hands.
First, the hon. Gentleman claims that having one’s own immigration system and ending freedom of movement will make the country poorer. He should perhaps focus his attention on the number of other large developed countries—Australia, Canada, United States—that have their own independent immigration system. They are not poorer because of that. I do not think his logic follows at all.
The hon. Gentleman argues for continuing freedom of movement. He should cast his mind back to just over two years ago when the people of the United Kingdom voted to end it. Scottish citizens are members of the United Kingdom. They voted to end it. Lastly, he raises the issue of the salary threshold. When determining skill levels, it is perfectly reasonable that one of the factors to be taken into account is salary. It should not be based exclusively on that. If he cares to read the Migration Advisory Committee’s report from September, it will provide him with a lot more evidence for why this is a perfectly reasonable approach.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. He has addressed the central conundrum of immigration policy, which is how to ensure the necessary controls on the numbers while also attracting not just our fair share, but—preferably—more than our fair share of the brightest and the best from around the world to help our economy and our communities. One issue, however, which I hope he will address, is that some of the brightest and the best are not necessarily in high-paid professions. How will his new system deal with that? I am thinking in particular of sectors such as social care. We want the best and brightest people from around the world, but many in those sectors will probably not be earning over the salary threshold. How will we continue to attract those people?
I thank my right hon. Friend, who speaks from experience as a former Immigration Minister. He asks a perfectly good question about how we can continue to attract the best and the brightest, especially if we are focused too rigidly on salary. One way we intend to do that in the new system is by taking a recommendation from the Migration Advisory Committee on shortage occupation lists. We will take that further, make it more dynamic and responsive, and review it more regularly. That will allow us, as it does in the current non-EEA immigration system, but much more effectively, to set lower salary thresholds for shortage occupations.
I will look very closely at what the Home Secretary has set out in the Immigration White Paper. We have heard many different stories about what it will include, but I am not sure we can entirely believe all of them, given the disputes we have seen between him and the Prime Minister.
I want to ask the Home Secretary a very specific question about immigration enforcement at our border in relation to no-deal planning. The permanent secretary of his Department told us on the Home Affairs Committee just a few weeks ago:
“It is not part of our contingency planning to deploy the armed forces.”
I pressed him on this, and he said again:
“It is not part of our no-deal planning that we would deploy the armed forces, for example, at the border.”
Was the permanent secretary misleading the Committee, or was it a surprise to the Department this morning when it was told that the Army could be deployed at the border for immigration enforcement and other purposes?
Of course, there is no-deal planning going on in the Home Office, as there is in every other Department. We do not expect it, but we need to plan for all contingencies. We are hiring more Border Force officers, and there will also be a taskforce, which is already being set up, and some of the new funding for those Border Force officers has already been announced. As for the use of soldiers, whether reservists or regulars, there is a broader plan—it is not part of the Home Office’s plan—to have up to 3,500 soldiers available for civil work as and when they are needed.
In my judgment, there is a great deal to welcome in the Home Secretary’s statement, but will he bear in mind that it is completely inappropriate to pinch doctors and medical staff from developing countries? It is a form of reverse aid and it is quite wrong. When it does happen, will he discuss with the International Development Secretary using part of the development budget to replace such staff on a two for one basis, and should we not grow the doctors and medical staff we need in Britain in Britain? In that context, should we not welcome the increase in the last year in the number of doctors trained from 6,000 to 7,500?
My right hon. Friend, who speaks from experience, raises a very important point. Of course, we cannot control who makes an application to come to the UK, or who sponsors them, but still he raises a very important point about other ways of helping or reducing concern in this area. One way is certainly through our international aid budget. He raises a second issue about doing everything we can to train more doctors and nurses here in the UK.
Will the Home Secretary accept that the Home Office and Border Force already struggle to cope and that over the next three years they will have to deal with 3 million extra cases of EU citizens? How does he expect them to cope with this new temporary worker visa scheme, which will involve tens of thousands of employers, many of them contacting the Home Office for the first time, with a 12-month churn of staff? Far from bringing back control, will this not bring chaos?
I will give three answers to the right hon. Gentleman. First, the settlement scheme for the 3 million-plus EU citizens, which he mentions, is being separately staffed—more staff will be hired as the scheme properly rolls out—and much of the extra funding has already been allocated. Secondly, we will make the best use of technology—for example, we are expanding e-gate usage to eight other nations, which will help a lot. Lastly, the new system does not actually come into place until 2021, which gives us more than enough time to prepare.
I seek clarification on three points. First, the Home Secretary talked about this coming in from 2021. When exactly does he mean? Does he mean January? Secondly, can he confirm to employers in my constituency that in the meantime there will be no change to the existing processes, systems and forms they have to use for non-UK workers, whether under the EU or the non-EU worker schemes? Finally, if he is to have a year-long public consultation, that will take us into 2019, and then obviously the Government will want time to look at the results in 2020. Can he assure me that businesses in my community will not suddenly be given a cut-off point on the salary just months before a new system is introduced in 2021?
First, the plan is to introduce the new system from January 2021—so from the end of the implementation period. Of course, if that period is extended—this assumes a deal scenario—it could be later. My right hon. Friend asked for an assurance that there will not be any change to employer checks between now and when the system comes in. The changes here will only come in from 2021, so there will be no changes to employer checks, including for EU citizens. She also asked for an assurance that the salary threshold will not be set suddenly. We will make sure in our work that it is not a sudden change and that businesses have time to prepare.
The Home Secretary was right to pay tribute to his parents. His father, a bus driver, and my mother, who worked at Camden Town tube station, belong to a generation that took so little and gave so much. They were like today’s careworkers, security guards and fruit pickers. He knows that they did not earn anything like £30,000 in the prices of the ’70s and ’80s. How will he look his children in the eyes and say he slammed behind him the door of opportunity that enabled him and me to sit in our seats today?
The door was closed on my parents and people from those Commonwealth countries in 1968 by a Commonwealth citizenship Act brought in by a Labour Government—so it was a Labour Government who closed that door. [Interruption.] This is important. It is important that the right hon. Gentleman has all the facts in front of him. Going forward, it is important that we continue to provide opportunities for people with multi-skill levels to come and help in the UK, to settle and to study, which is why we have presented a system here that is focused on high-skilled workers but which, as he will have heard me say earlier, also includes a short-term workers scheme, and there will be other routes as well.
I understand my right hon. Friend’s emphasis on attracting high-skilled workers, but is it not true that in recent years the British economy has been thirsty for new labour at all skills levels and that we want that to continue? This is particularly true for those parts of the UK where the local population is getting older and where freedom of movement has been a really good and important thing. Will he please make an effort to take evidence from all parts of the UK so as to understand how the local skills and labour markets operate and to strike the right balance with our new policy?
My right hon. Friend has emphasised the importance of listening to those in all parts of the United Kingdom and ensuring that the new system works for them all. In that regard, there is a commitment in the White Paper to consider, for example, extending the shortage occupation list to Wales. Scotland already has one, but Wales does not. That is just one demonstration of how we can ensure that the system works for every part of the UK.
The Home Secretary mentioned a streamlined application process for visitors. Can he confirm that the millions of visitors who come to this country from the EU every year will in future have to apply for, and receive, a visa or a visa waiver? If so, how much will it cost them?
Under the new system, all people entering the United Kingdom will require a form of visa or visa waiver. That will probably not start in 2021, because it will take longer to develop the system fully and introduce it. However, the electronic travel authorisation scheme, which I also mentioned in my statement, will apply to all visitors. The right hon. Gentleman asked about cost; we have not yet determined what the cost of the ETA scheme would be.
As a first-generation immigrant, I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement. I feel that the White Paper represents a move from the 20th century to a much better future immigration system. I especially thank the Home Secretary for removing the annual limits on work visas and on international students: I lobbied for both on behalf of the Wellcome Sanger Institute and Anglia Ruskin university, which serve my constituency. Will he elaborate on how removing the work visa cap in particular will give businesses certainty?
As my hon. Friend will know, under the current non-EEA system there is a cap of 20,700 a year, with some exemptions. The work of the Migration Advisory Committee has shown that such a cap is not in our economic interests, and that it is far better to control numbers in other ways that are more reflective of economic needs. I think that removing the cap will lead to an economic boost, while also making it easier for students who have studied at our great universities to stay on if they can find a job at the right level. I think that that is very welcome too.
The Home Secretary says that he will protect the rights of EU citizens who are currently here. Does that include the continued right to work even after they have left the country for a period before returning? The Home Secretary also says that he is against increased red tape. Will he therefore publish, as part of the consultation, a full impact assessment of the cost to the public purse and to businesses of whatever processes he sets up to implement the short-term visas?
Under the EU settlement scheme, there will be a requirement for plenty of time—two years—to be provided for individuals to register, however long they have been here. Even if they have been here for only a day, their rights will be guaranteed. My understanding is that once they have registered they will lose their rights if they leave for more than five years, but within that period there is no change.
This White Paper has been even more delayed than a Southern railway train, but at least it has arrived. I welcome many of the Home Secretary’s comments, but can he explain why, in view of the move to a skills-based system and shortage occupation measures, we still need a net migration target below 100,000 or any other figure, given that nothing can be done about one side of the equation in any case? Can he also confirm that he would prefer to remove students from that net migration figure altogether, given his welcome comments about students coming to this country to invent, innovate and employ?
My hon. Friend asked me very recently whether we would publish the White Paper before the meaningful vote, and we have. I think I told him that we would try our best.
My hon. Friend asked about targets. There are no targets in the White Paper; the system is designed to help to bring down net migration overall, but it sets no targets. As for the question of students, we continue to look at it, and I have asked the Migration Advisory Committee to do some more work.
We are committed to the 1951 convention, and I think that that commitment is shared across the House. As for the specific issue of work, it is one that we have been considering.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is taking the lead on that, but as it is a completely non-legally binding agreement, there are no direct implications for the UK.
Immigration has benefited the UK, and the people who have come here, whether from Europe or from the rest of the world, have overwhelmingly come to work hard and make a positive contribution to this country. On the question of numbers, what is the Home Secretary’s estimate of the effect on immigration from the rest of the world of restricting immigration from the rest of Europe?
I wholeheartedly agree with the right hon. Gentleman’s point about the benefits of immigration for the UK, and I hope he agrees that my statement made that clear, but when we talk about benefits it is important for us to take a more holistic look at the impact on the UK and at what is in our national interest. In some cases, low-wage labour from abroad cannot become a substitute for investment in the upskilling of domestic labour or for improvements in domestic productivity.
The Home Secretary will know that there is a dissonance between what liberal political establishments want and what the people want: that was made clear by the result of the referendum and the rise of right-wing populist parties in Europe. Can he convince the people that the subtle change of language from “tens of thousands” to “more sustainable levels” does not mean that he is no longer absolutely committed to controlling immigration? After all, many people wonder why, when he has been in charge of immigration from outside the EU, we have so palpably failed to control it. Does he realise that he must convince people that we have a strong immigration policy, because otherwise we will once again see the rise of a right-wing populist party in this country?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the issue of the importance of control. One of the clear messages from the EU referendum was that people wanted to see control of our borders, and the new system will provide just that. Under this system, everyone who enters the UK will need permission, and that will give us a level of control that we have not had for four decades.
I welcome the announcement of the electronic travel authorisation scheme, because it was suggested by the Labour Front Bench of which I was part in 2011. How much does the Home Secretary believe the development costs of the scheme will be, and will he monitor people who are leaving as well as those who are entering?
First, the scheme will give us information about people entering and leaving. As for the costs, we have only just made a decision internally to proceed with the scheme. There will be further information as it becomes available.
As a director—or a member—of the board of a university, I realise how much researchers from around the world contribute, but their salaries are often relatively low. Will the Home Secretary consider not introducing a salary cap but concentrating on skills, given that skills and salaries do not often equate?
My hon. Friend makes an important point; my right hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration was at the Francis Crick Institute this morning, and one of the things she was rightly hearing about was just this issue. In fact the Migration Advisory Committee has identified this issue as well; it has talked also about lab technicians, many of them working in our universities, and many of whom do not earn as much as £30,000. We are taking this point into account.
I find it terribly depressing that the Prime Minister is still sticking with this language of “tens of thousands”. It is completely undeliverable in relation to outside the EU let alone within the EU. In particular I am conscious that the Rhondda would never have been built if it had not been for miners coming from Ireland; we would never have had frothy coffee and ice cream if it had not been for the Italians who came to work in the mines; we would not have doctors keeping us healthy if it had not been for the Indian subcontinent; and today we would not have enough careworkers if it were not for people coming from Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Spain. So I hope the Home Secretary will manage to change the whole rhetoric and tone behind the Government’s approach to this, and can he also just tell us where exactly we have got to on tier 1 investor visas, which the Government announced they were going to suspend two weeks ago and then announced they were suspending the suspension six days later?
First, I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman did not mention in his list pakoras and samosas from India and Pakistan; I would have thought that would have been at the top of his list.
Well, I am. [Interruption.] And so are those on the Labour Front Bench. The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, however, and I hope that as he has the time to look at the White Paper on the new immigration system he will see that it is still a demonstration of how this country is open to talent from across the world but with more control than we have had before, and of how we can do that in a way that brings net migration down to a more sustainable level, which is good for all our communities. It is important to have public confidence in the level of immigration. The hon. Gentleman also asked about tier 1 visas. They are still available as we speak, but we have set out a number of reforms that we need to put in place to make them more effective.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement today as a sensible approach with a single system based on people’s skills. However, does he agree that post-Brexit we will need to attract the brightest and best from across the world to help meet the needs of our country and economy while also always being mindful of the pressures on our public services caused by population numbers?
My right hon. Friend makes an important point: clearly, the higher the population of a country and the more it rises, the more pressure there is on public services. Some communities have seen a very rapid change in population, sometimes to do with high levels of migration to that community. We must keep that in mind; it was one of the reasons why so many people voted to have control of our immigration system, and we must balance that against the economic needs we have to meet through migration.
I am heartbroken. This immigration Bill could have been an opportunity to show the world what an outward-looking nation we really are, and the proud tradition that we have of challenging racism in all its forms. Instead, it seems to be taking a very unhappy and unfortunate turn, with language such as “cooling-off” periods for people who come here to work. There is a global forced migration crisis, so why, on top of all the other things hon. Friends have mentioned, has the Home Secretary failed even to consider that this might have been an opportunity to reform the way this country responds to refugees?
It is absolutely right that the people of this country want to see a firm but fair immigration position, so what will my right hon. Friend do to ensure that the rules are operated fairly not only for people coming from the EU, but, more importantly, for our Commonwealth partners, in particular from the Indian subcontinent?
My hon. Friend raises the important issue of fairness based on what someone has to contribute, rather than their nationality. During the referendum campaign many British citizens were concerned that family and friends in the Indian subcontinent and other parts of the British Commonwealth might not be getting the same treatment or access that others were getting because of the preference that existed through the freedom of movement system. That is changing under this new system, and, when all is taken into account, this system is much fairer in its approach by focusing on skills rather than nationality.
The UK fashion and textile industry contributes £32 billion to the economy but it thrives on a global pool of talent. As chair of the all-party group on textile and fashion I have heard concerns from the industry about the impact of any new measures on freedom of movement. I am sure the Home Secretary would suit Katharine Hamnett’s new t-shirt stating “Fashion Hates Brexit”, but what will he do to reassure this valuable industry that it will remain accessible and open to international talent?
First, the hon. Lady is right to raise the importance of the fashion and textile industry and more generally our creative industries, where the UK is a powerhouse, and one of the things we need to do to keep it that way is make sure it can attract top talent from across the world. There is much in this White Paper that will help to achieve that, and it is also an area where in some cases in the past we have looked at having special visas for entry, including for exhibitions and visitors, and we will continue to look at such things.
The short-term workers route mentioned in the statement will not address the issue that I and Members across the House have raised about access for non-EEA labour on inshore vessels. I have a constituent, Mr Scott in Lossiemouth, who fears he will have to sell his boat and his business unless the Government address this urgently. What can the Home Secretary do to address this issue for Mr Scott and others in Moray, Scotland and across the UK?
My hon. Friend has perhaps raised two points: one is the future immigration system, where I think—I am happy to speak to him in detail about this afterwards—the short-term route can help address the issue he raises. I also detect a more immediate issue, however, that is not just for post-2021 and later, but is more immediate, because he mentioned non-EEA and I am also happy to discuss that with him, too.
The Home Secretary talks about fairness, but in reality the Home Office displays a combination of hostility and inefficiency. Families are split up because visas have been agreed but not issued, and in my local case a Liverpool doctor who has worked in this country for many years after being trained here is having to go back to her country of origin because of a failure in the Home Office. I am still seeking a meeting with Home Office Ministers on that case. Will the year-long conversation that the Home Secretary spoke about include discussing changing the attitude of the Home Office so people are treated fairly and within the rules?
I am pleased that the hon. Lady has raised this important issue of fairness. The Home Office makes millions of immigration decisions, whether on visas or otherwise, each year and we cannot pretend that every single decision is going to be right. Earlier, Ms Abbott raised the issue of Windrush, which was a problem under successive Governments, and we need to learn the lessons from that, and Dame Louise Ellman raised a live case from her constituency and the Minister for Immigration will be happy to meet her to discuss it.
I welcome the proposal set out by the Home Secretary to have an immigration system that gets the best talent from around the world for our economy and public services. Will he also undertake to cover in this legislation the loophole of descendants from the British Indian Ocean Territory, whose rights have been abused for the best part of half a century?
I know that my hon. Friend is passionate about this issue. He has championed it for a while and we have discussed it. It is not specifically addressed in the White Paper in terms of a future immigration system, but he is right to continue to raise the matter, and we are right to continue to work with him and to look at it.
I welcome the assurance that those who are already living in the UK will have their rights protected. It is a great pity that the EU was prepared to use those people as a negotiating ploy in the negotiations. Given the cap of £30,000 suggested in the White Paper, what assurances can the Secretary of State give me that areas such as Northern Ireland will have access to labour from outside the United Kingdom if it is required, owing to skills shortages, to keep production going?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for welcoming the scheme for the 3 million-plus EU citizens living here, whether in Northern Ireland or anywhere else in the UK. They are welcome to stay and indeed we need them to stay. I said earlier, and I say again that, whether we have a deal or no deal, that scheme and their rights will be protected. On the specific issue of Northern Ireland and regional shortages, we have in the White Paper committed for the first time to a separate shortage occupation list for Northern Ireland, which I think will make a big difference.
I, too, visited the Crick Institute this morning and I am sure that it will welcome the White Paper, as I do. I particularly welcome the consultation on the minimum salary requirements because, as my right hon. Friend will know, scientists, researchers and particularly technicians, who contribute hugely to our economy, are not always rewarded in the most profitable way. Salary is not a proxy for skills. I know that my right hon. Friend gets that point, but we cannot say it too often.
My hon. Friend has emphasised an important point. The logic of having a salary threshold is strong, but it is also right that we look at cases where that will not quite work. He has given the example of lab technicians, whose salaries can be around £21,000. There are a variety of ways of trying to deal with that in the White Paper and I hope that he will welcome them.
I am one of those who has valued free movement, but I welcome what the Home Secretary said today about overseas students. Is he in a position yet to offer any relief to those students—who he knows about—who had their visas cancelled after being accused, often wrongly, by an American firm of having cheated in their English language tests?
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. As he has pointed out, the White Paper makes it even easier for students, once they have completed their studies, to stay, to continue to contribute to the UK and to settle in the UK. On the specific issue, which I have discussed with him and other colleagues, we are still looking at this but we are taking it very seriously.
I very much welcome the Secretary of State coming to give us this announcement today. I also welcome the fact that international students will still be allowed to come here to study, but there is no dedicated route for unskilled labour or for those earning below £30,000. How will the Department support employers in Taunton Deane—particularly in agriculture, tourism and the care industry—to get the labour that they need under the new system?
There are a couple of things that I can tell my hon. Friend. First, we want to try to get more international students to choose the UK and there are measures in the White Paper to do that. I know that the Department for Education takes this very seriously as well. Secondly, on the need for workers with different skills, especially those who might not be classed as high skills in the White Paper, I believe that the short-term workers route will make a big difference.
At a quick glance, I can find only two paragraphs, in chapter 6 of the White Paper, on self-employment. The Home Secretary will know how important that is, particularly in the construction sector, for filling gaps involving vital roles such as bricklayers, electricians and carpenters. Will it be possible for the industry or industry bodies to have some sort of umbrella sponsorship scheme to ensure that we can continue to recruit workers to those roles in order to meet the Government’s own growth and house building expansion plans?
The hon. Lady has rightly raised this issue because she knows that many of the construction workers who are currently working on house building come under the freedom of movement rules and, once that changes, we will have to find a way to allow such workers still to come in to meet the needs of the economy. She asked specifically about umbrella sponsorship schemes and that is in the White Paper.
I welcome the statement from the Home Secretary. I also welcome this opportunity to set our own immigration policy for the first time in a generation and to ensure that it is fair, compassionate and meets the needs of our economy. However, the needs of our economy will change over time, and from region to region, so will he assure the House that flexibility will be built into our new immigration policy to enable it to respond to the needs of the economy across the whole of the UK, that it will not just be focused on the south-east and that it will meet the needs of places such as Cornwall?
I am happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance. He rightly says that our needs will change over time and this is an immigration system that will be built for the future. It will have those flexibilities to meet the needs of our economy and our society. I give him one example. When we looked at the short-term workers scheme, we looked at the many needs of the economy, including, in Cornwall, the needs of the hospitality industry and the seasonal nature of much of that demand. So I can happily give him that assurance.
I have the highest immigration caseload in Scotland, and what I see from the Home Office is cruelty, time and time again. Families are being separated, and the relatives of people who have lost babies are not being allowed to come to visit them. A man is working two jobs, as a mortgage adviser and a shelf stacker in Asda, just to meet the minimum income threshold so that his family can come to see him. I have also seen cruelty towards people who are qualified to work in the care industry but not allowed to work by the Home Office and by this Government. Is it not the case that under this policy EU nationals will be treated just as despicably and cruelly as non-EU nationals are at the moment?
I welcome the statement. Will the Secretary of State explain how his electronic travel authorisation scheme will work in the common travel area, especially where a visitor arrives in Dublin and travels on to the UK from there? Would that visitor need to get authorisation in that situation?
This will not apply to Irish citizens and British citizens moving within the common travel area. My hon. Friend will know that the EU is planning to introduce a similar scheme; I think it is called ETIAS—the European travel information and authorisation system. As we develop this, we are looking at ways of working together.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that a chapter is closing during which millions of Britons have been able to live freely across Europe and to work, start businesses and begin relationships there, in the same way that European citizens have been able to do in this country? I speak as someone whose constituency has one of the highest proportions of EU citizens. The British Government will want to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with Europe, which is our largest and closest trading partner, so does he agree that there will need to be further concessions on migration, or is the White Paper establishing a set of red lines that will also determine our trade policy?
In the White Paper, we have set out flexibility for the UK in terms of mobility to strike trade deals around the world. With many countries, including the EU, there is often a need to look at mobility arrangements, especially for the service industries, and what we have set out here is perfectly compatible with the future political framework document that has been set out by the Government. Also, as we look to do trade deals with other countries further afield, this document will provide the flexibility that we need.
Largely unskilled agricultural migration has seen Boston’s population change by about a third in the past 10 years, but we have been unable to attract the doctors and professionals we need to cope with increased demand, and the consequences for community cohesion have been genuinely tragic. It led directly to the highest vote to leave the European Union in the referendum. When we get immigration policy wrong, it is a disaster for communities and individuals, so this new policy is long overdue. I ask the Home Secretary to take the year that he has built in to ensure that we get it right, because that is the only way we will undo some of the damage that has been done by the policies of previous Government, of all colours.
My hon. Friend makes a very important point, highlighting that when we make immigration policy we must consider not just economic need, but the pace and volume of immigration. He gives an excellent example of a community that has seen dramatic change in a short period, and of the impact on local infrastructure and public services. It is very important to get the balance right.
Many Black Country foundries, which are crucial to the supply chains for civil aviation and the motor industry, are sustained by EU recruits, because they have an ageing workforce and cannot recruit locally. What conversations has the Home Secretary had with the industry on the impact of the short-term visa requirements on the future availability of EU migrants and the potential impact on businesses?
I will make two points in answer to that. First, all the EU citizens who are already here, whether they work in those foundries or elsewhere, will be able to stay—and we want them to stay—so there should be no change in the current EU workforce. Secondly, with regard to the high-skilled workers scheme and the short-term workers scheme set out in the White Paper, we have already engaged with business groups, but I have set out today that there will be much more such engagement, with business in every region across the country, before the schemes are finalised, especially in relation to thresholds and cooling-off periods.
I welcome the Government’s commitment to giving priority to those workers who have the skills we need. I also welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement today of a year-long programme of engagement across the UK. May I therefore extend an invitation to him, and indeed to my right hon. Friend the Immigration Minister, to visit Banff and Buchan, an area of very low unemployment, to talk to businesses to see for themselves the specific skills that are much needed in the fisheries sector, both for catching offshore and for processing onshore, and that can be sourced not just from the EU, of course, but from across the world, including Africa and east Asia?
I am sure that the Immigration Minister and I would both like to visit, although not necessarily at the same time, so we are happy to receive that invitation. My hon. Friend makes an important point that relates to many parts of the UK, but particularly to Scotland—many other colleagues from Scotland have raised it—and it is important to look at that. I think that the system we have set out today will have the flexibility to meet those needs, but I am happy to discuss those with him further.
Immigration, whether from Europe or from right around the world, has made an enormously positive difference to my community and to our country, making us rich in every way imaginable. However, given that the Prime Minister and the Cabinet are evident proof that being highly paid and highly skilled are not the same thing, why do the Government persist with this nonsense of a £30,000 cap to define what constitutes highly skilled? Plenty of people in this country are paid far less than the Home Secretary, and far less than £30,000, and it would be an absolute tragedy to pull up the drawbridge for them, not just denying them opportunity, but denying our country the skills and prosperity we need.
The hon. Gentleman is clearly lobbying for a pay rise for all members of the Cabinet—I will leave that to him, but it is not something the Cabinet is asking for. It is important that the threshold for the highly skilled visa route set out in the White Paper is based on evidence and works for each part of the country. The MAC has suggested—I emphasise that this is based on its own independent research—that the threshold should be £30,000, but further work and extensive engagement with businesses, devolved authorities, Members of Parliament and others is required to determine what that should actually be.
I think that my hon. Friend Wes Streeting actually wanted a pay cut for members of the Cabinet. I had thought that the Home Secretary was a free marketeer, but what he has given us today is a bureaucrats charter to increase paperwork and red tape around business. The White Paper states, on page 47:
“The MAC has recommended lowering the skills threshold for the new skilled workers…while maintaining the minimum salary threshold of £30,000.”
This is clearly not a skills-based immigration policy, but a money-based immigration policy. Will he therefore explain how on earth he thinks our country plans to deal with its demographic challenge?
I am afraid that I do not agree with the hon. Lady’s assertions. She suggests that somehow this will lead to more bureaucracy and red tape, but having no cap and no resident labour market test for high-skilled workers and more use of e-gates are all examples of where there will be less bureaucracy and less red tape.
This is just a Faragist blueprint for drawbridge Britain, a grotesque plan simply to keep people out of this country. Will the Secretary of State take this opportunity to be absolutely straight with the British people that their freedom of movement will come to an end? What we do to the EU, it will do to us, and all the unrestricted rights that we have had, to live, work and love across a community of 27 nations, will be lost to our young people forever. Is that not an absolute tragedy and shame?
The Home Secretary rightly said in his statement that the UK has a proud history of being an open and welcoming country, so it must sadden him, as it saddens me, that that reputation is being consigned to history by his Government. This White Paper is one further policy that will damage that reputation. He also said that this policy will boost our economy, but that seems deeply implausible, given that EU migrants made a net contribution to this country, and a total contribution of almost £5 billion last year. If it is true, he must have worked it out, so can he tell us by exactly how much he think this will boost our economy?
I do not accept that analysis. What the White Paper does is ensure that we will remain an open and welcoming country to talent and people, for whatever reason they choose to come to the UK, from around the world. The proof of that is that we are, for example, removing caps, making is easier for students to stay and work in the UK, and making it easier for people from around the world to visit the UK. That is an example of an open and welcoming country.
More than 20% of my constituents are EU27 citizens and more than 40% were born outside the UK. I value their contribution to the economic, social and cultural life of Hammersmith, of London and of the UK. I would like to hear the Secretary of State join me in saying that, because the hostile environment fostered by his Government and by the coalition Government has created alienation, fear and distrust for very many migrants.
I am very happy to join the hon. Gentleman in welcoming and commending all the EU citizens in his constituency, in my constituency and throughout the United Kingdom. I have said a number of times, and it is self-evident, that they have made a huge contribution to the success of our country not just economically, but in our society and our communities. In many cases they are members of our family. That is why I would like them all to stay.
The proposed salary threshold is £30,000. Average annual pay in Wales is £27,000, compared with £37,000 in London. Wales will be left with a skills crisis that is impossible to remedy unaided. Can the Home Secretary assure Welsh businesses and communities by confirming now that Wales deserves a specific shortage occupation list and by saying when it will come into effect?
The hon. Lady is right to raise the issue of regional differences. The system will take account of that in various ways. One example specific to Wales is a commitment in the White Paper to look at a shortage occupation list for Wales.
The Home Secretary owes my hon. Friend Thangam Debbonaire an apology for the way in which he brushed aside her question. He made no reference to refugees in his statement. I have now had an opportunity to scan the relevant section of the White Paper, and it is peppered with words such as “maintain,” “continue” and “no change.” If my hon. Friend is wrong, will the Home Secretary spell out exactly how this White Paper proposes to improve the way we receive and treat refugees?
If the hon. Gentleman gives me a chance, I will answer his question. The vote to leave means that we will have a new immigration system. The Government commissioned work from the Migration Advisory Committee to consider what the system should look like, by removing freedom of movement, and how we will get the skills we need. It is very focused on skills; it is not focused on the issue of refugees and any changes. Nor do we have to wait for any changes that may or may not be made in terms of refugees. For example, there have been a number of changes in recent months and years on unaccompanied children and other cases, such as the Syrian White Helmets. Such decisions do not have to wait for a new immigration system. We are perfectly capable of making those decisions now under the current system.
I thank the Home Secretary for listening to the representations that I have made on behalf of my party as its home affairs spokesperson, and that my party’s leader and parliamentary leader have made, in respect of the income threshold. Just as average pay in Wales is £27,000, in Northern Ireland it is £24,500. The MAC report is wrong to suggest that there should be a one-size-fits-all income threshold. In going to consultation, it sounds as if the Home Secretary agrees with it, but will he give serious consideration, during the consultation and following the outcome of the process, to regional variations that reflect our regional differences?
As the hon. Gentleman highlights, it is important that we look at regional differences. One way of trying to accommodate such differences is through a shortage occupation list, and we have committed here today that Northern Ireland will have its own shortage occupation list. As we have referenced in the White Paper, I am also conscious that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that has a land border with the EU, which causes other issues that also need to be looked at. We will certainly take that into account, too.
Page 8 of the White Paper retains the notion that there should be targets in our immigration system, including an objective number of people who can come, rather than recognising the need to look at skills. I encourage the Home Secretary to resist continuing this pointless exercise in targets and, instead, to look at issues in our public services and our NHS.
We have a nursing shortage of 100,000, and the nursing starting salary is £23.000. Since the Government cancelled the nursing bursary, the number of people training to be nurses in this country has dropped by 13%. When he looks at immigration and at salary levels, will he look at them in the round of our economy and our public services, and not take lessons from Conservative Members and the cutting of our international aid agencies? Will he instead recognise that a country that is spending £1.4 billion on agency fees for nurses within the NHS really needs to rethink how it treats the people who treat us best?
I always listen carefully to what hon. Members, businesses, hospitals and others have to say. The hon. Lady mentions nurses, and an example in relation to nurses—and doctors, for that matter—is the change we made earlier this year to the current tier 2 scheme to take doctors and nurses out of the cap altogether. That decision was welcomed by the sector. She may also know that nurses are currently on the shortage occupation list, which shows just how seriously the Government take this issue.
My hon. Friend Chris Elmore asked the Prime Minister directly at Prime Minister’s questions if she still stands behind the ludicrous policy of cutting net migration to the tens of thousands. If the White Paper—admittedly it is a White Paper—is fully implemented in legislation, what conclusions has the Home Office come to on the resulting level of net migration?
Average earnings in Wales are, in fact, less than £26,500 a year, so does the Home Secretary recognise the damage that his policy will do to the Welsh economy? I ask him please not to tell me about a shortage occupation list, because that list will extend from one end of this Chamber to the other.
I believe the system will work for all parts of the UK. I do not recognise the point that it will do damage to the Welsh economy, which would be the wrong conclusion to draw from the system. I had a discussion this morning with the First Minister of Wales in which we went through the White Paper in a bit more detail. Obviously the First Minister needs to look at it more carefully, and I am happy to sit down with him and with hon. Members who represent Wales to discuss it further.
Will the Home Secretary confirm that, in preparing this White Paper, careful cognisance was given to the needs of every part of the United Kingdom? That being so, can he explain exactly what part the rural west of Scotland—a fragile, low-wage economy in an area that desperately needs more people—played in shaping his thinking?
The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about making sure the White Paper works for all parts of the UK, which is why in preparing it my right hon. Friend the Immigration Minister held roundtables with business, for example, and had other forms of engagement in every part of the UK, including Scotland. I have had extensive engagement with Scottish Conservative Members, who have taken a deep interest in this. [Interruption.] I am happy to listen to the hon. Gentleman and others, and together we can make sure that, as we finalise them, the plans set out in the White Paper work for all parts of the UK.
I am sure the Home Secretary is fully aware of the recruitment crisis and the huge number of shortages in many of our schools. I am sure he is also fully aware that the starting salary for teachers is only £23,000, so will he look at lowering the £30,000 threshold to ensure that our children have the expert teachers they desperately need?
The White Paper makes it clear that we have committed to ensuring that, when it is set, the threshold is right for the needs of all parts of the country, whether it is our schools or otherwise. It is also important we make sure we have an immigration system that also incentivises domestic employers to invest in the skills of local people. Immigration should never be thought of as a substitute for investment in local people.
The Home Secretary’s boss, the Prime Minister, talks proudly of ending free movement once and for all, in complete denial of the fact that free movement has been one of the biggest sources of opportunity for UK citizens in the past quarter of a century. Let us be in no doubt: this White Paper is not being taken forward in Scotland’s name. This statement highlights exactly why we have asked, time and again, for immigration powers to be devolved. Will the Government have a rethink and devolve immigration powers to the Scottish Parliament? We voted to remain, and we want no piece of this whatsoever.
The majority of my constituency casework is about immigration. People are experiencing so many different levels and different types of delays, and I am not convinced that through this White Paper we will be able to deal with the level of bureaucracy involved in managing the resulting immigration. I am also very concerned about the one-year visas, as well as about the five-year visas, because they will affect the workforce who are here and will affect people’s livelihoods in terms of their security and investing in the UK.
On bureaucracy and red tape, we have tried to develop an immigration system that takes advantage of the latest technology—it is much more digital. We have taken a much closer look at how other countries that have long had a completely independent immigration have done that. We have also made a commitment to reduce the overall net burden on all businesses, taken together. By having this approach, we will end up reducing red tape, not increasing it.
As for many Members of this House, the majority of my casework is taken up with immigration matters. I was alarmed that the Secretary of State did not mention anything about the appalling practice of indefinite immigration detention in his statement. That practice is a shameful stain on our country’s reputation; the UK is the only country in Europe that does it without limit. It is appalling and it should be ended immediately, without any sort of reservation. We need to stop it. My constituent Duc Nguyen was detained, despite being a trafficking victim, and was moved arbitrarily around the UK to avoid his obtaining proper legal representation and legal aid. It is not right. It is shameful. It is an affront to every sense of justice and mercy in this country. Will the Home Secretary commit to ending the arbitrary, indefinite immigration detention system in this country immediately?
We should always be looking to make sure we are doing everything we can to improve how we approach detention in this country. We do not have a policy of indefinite detention; no one can be detained unless there is a reasonable prospect of a removal in a reasonable time. Some 90% of people who are detained are released or removed within four months. One reason we have now commissioned two independent reports on the detention system is to look at ways in which we can make improvements. For example, one of the recent things I have started is a pilot scheme to look at alternatives to detention for people who otherwise would have been kept at Yarl’s Wood.
I think we all know that the £30,000 salary cap fudge is just a political cop-out. The message from the science and research sector around Cambridge could not be clearer: please do not use salary levels as a proxy for skills. The University of Cambridge has warned that extending the non-EEA system would significantly harm the UK’s competitiveness. I realise that the Home Secretary is constrained by the intransigence in the Downing Street bunker, but could he at least, as Home Secretary, recognise just how important this issue is to the science and research sector?
One reason why Britain is outstanding at science and research is that we welcome talent from across the world, and that will not change with the new immigration system. When it comes to talent employed in our universities—I used the example of lab technicians earlier, because it was one that the MAC used in its report—it is important to recognise that salary does not always determine skill level, and that will be taken into account in the new system. Many students who come to study at our great universities study sciences, engineering and other subjects, where we have a shortage in this country, and we should be making it easier for them to stay and work in the UK if that is what they choose to do. This White Paper does just that.
First, I wish to say that immigration has been fabulous for Scotland. The Home Secretary has said repeatedly that this White Paper is skills-based. Could he therefore give us a definition of what “high-skilled, “medium-skilled” and “low-skilled” occupations are, possibly with an example to illustrate each?
In looking at skills we have been led by the evidence and an objective analysis, and the MAC has set that out. Skill levels have been defined, having looked at the regulated qualifications framework levels of skill, which are well defined already. The MAC has also suggested, rightly, that we take other factors into account, and we have had discussion in the House today about salary thresholds and how we will look at that issue further. There is also a multi-skilled route, so it is not linked to any qualification or salary, and that is the short-term workers scheme.
People from non-EU countries and their families, including many of my constituents, have borne the brunt of the Home Office’s hostile environment, so they were very receptive to the targeted message to them from the leave campaign in the referendum saying that if we left the EU, the UK would free up non-EU immigration. Naturally, many local people bought that message. So was there any truth in that message? Or will there be just as many unreasonable refusals for EU citizens in the future as there have been up to now for non-EU citizens?
First, may I gently remind the hon. Lady that the term “hostile environment” in the Home Office was coined by Labour Ministers. It was a Labour Government policy, to the extent that it was ever a policy. I would be interested to see what she had to say about the policy at that time. She has asked me specifically about non-EU migration. What this White Paper does with the new system is achieve a much fairer view of that and a much better balance, levelling the playing field by looking at people’s skills and what they have to offer this country, rather than at their nationality.
I hope this point of order relates directly to the statement from the Home Secretary. Otherwise, it should come after the statement on Yemen.
Order. I will take those points of order afterwards. The course of action being taken has been made clear, so I ask the hon. Lady to make her point of order after the next statement.