Review of powers in consequence of EU withdrawal

Part of Finance (No. 3) Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 8th January 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Economy), SNP Deputy Leader 5:45 pm, 8th January 2019

In the interests of time, I will be very brief. I want to make it clear to the House that the SNP intends to push new clause 18 to a vote. I will briefly speak to some of the other new clauses and amendments that we have put forward. A couple of them relate to the expenditure implications of the UK now having to take charge of carbon and greenhouse gas taxes. They are about making sure that the Government are clear with the House about why they are spending this money and about the money they intend to spend before they do so. This is an additional cost that would be associated with the UK leaving the EU, which is a concern of ours. Obviously, we would not have to spend this money if we remained in the EU.

New clause 13 relates to a report on consultations. The Government have not consulted on nearly as many of the measures in this Finance Bill as we would like to see them consult on. Usually, they are produced in draft format, but many of them were not produced in draft format this year. Concerns have been raised by various external agencies about this, and new clause 13 relates to that. I think the Government could do a better job next year; they have done a better job in some previous years. They could pull together the notices in draft form, and we would therefore have better legislation that had been more properly scrutinised by external organisations in advance of being part of the Finance Bill.

Finally, new clause 18 relates to migration levels. The political declaration confirms the intention to end free movement. This is a significant problem, and something the SNP has argued against at every possible opportunity. We do not think we should leave the EU, but if the UK is determined to leave the EU and have an immigration policy of its own creation, it needs one that does not have a £30,000 limit and it needs one that allows people to come to live and work in Scotland. If the UK Government are not willing to do that, they should devolve the powers to Scotland so that we can do that, or Scotland should have the chance to become an independent country again so, again, that we can have a better immigration policy.

The Scottish population is ageing faster than the population in the rest of the UK. In the UK, 15% of the agriculture and food sector is staffed by EU nationals. However, I have spoken to a local company in my area in which over 50% of the staff are EU nationals. In Scotland as a whole, 7% of our citizens are international migrants, and the percentage of people born outside the UK is far higher in Aberdeen.

It is incredibly important for Scotland to have a migration system that works. We have tabled new clause 18 so that we can push the Government on looking at the migration system. We want a migration system that is not about saying, “We’re just going to stop migration”, but one that is evidence-led. It should be done by asking: what will be the impact to the Exchequer of reducing migration, and what will be the impact on public services continuing to run if migration is reduced? The Government have failed to do so.

That is why we are incredibly keen that new clause 18 is accepted by the Government and, more widely, that the Government make changes to migration policy. If they are not willing to concede some of the points we are putting forward about migration, they should at least be honest with people about the cost to the country of reducing migration, and about the fact that those who come to live and work here are net contributors to our economy and that the Exchequer benefits as a result of those people choosing to live and work here. If the Government are planning to change that and to reduce migration, they need to be clear that they will have less money to spend as a result.

In pushing this, we want to make it clear that our position is very different from the Government’s: we would like to protect the right of people who live and work in Scotland to continue to do so.