Future Immigration

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:18 pm on 19th December 2018.

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Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for the Home Department 1:18 pm, 19th December 2018

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.