Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:01 pm on 28th January 2019.

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Photo of Jess Phillips Jess Phillips Labour, Birmingham, Yardley 8:01 pm, 28th January 2019

Absolutely. It is the best thing about this place and our democracy. We should be really, really proud of it. It is genuinely responsive. Migrant communities who live in my constituency sometimes come out door knocking with me. They cannot believe that I am walking around the streets knocking on people’s doors. They are like, “Gosh, in my home country, you’d be driving past in an SUV with blacked-out windows.” It is one of the best things and that is why this place should have to scrutinise every fundamental change that happens to our immigration system.

I want to make a point that has been well made in the debate. The idea of a £30,000 limit providing a sense of what skill base there is is absolutely flabbergasting. The only job I have ever had that paid me more than £30,000 is the one I am doing right now. That is not unusual for people who live where I live. It is not unusual for people in Birmingham Hall Green, Birmingham Yardley or Birmingham anywhere. I was considered to be skilled and to be high management in the jobs that I did, and I did not earn that much money. It has been pointed out that there needs to be a massive equality impact assessment of how the £30,000 rule is meted out, because obviously men earn more than women and we need to know whether it will have a discriminatory effect on women workers. What about part-time workers? Will the £30,000 be pro rata? If somebody was only earning £5,000 but were only working one day a week, would that count as £30,000? How exactly will that work and how will it be fair to women? The idea that ordinary people are not skilled—we have to be careful with this language—and the idea that my constituents are not skilled because they do not earn over £30,000 is frankly insulting. It is insulting on every level to our care workers, our nurses, our teachers—there are so many people who do not earn over £30,000. I really think that that needs to be revisited.

Perversely, since I was elected I have met many people who earn way more than £30,000 and have literally no discernible skills, not even one. I met none before—I thought I had met posh people before I came here, but I had actually just met people who eat olives. I had no idea of how posh a person could be. Waitrose is apparently not the marker for being really, really posh. There is a lovely Waitrose in Birmingham Hall Green; it is the one I like to frequent. I have not necessarily met such people in this place, although there is a smattering. I would not let some of those very rich people who earn huge amounts of money hold my pint if I had to go and vote while in the bar, because they would almost certainly do it wrong.

I want to speak up for the ordinary people of Birmingham Hall Green and Birmingham Yardley, who are incredibly proud of the migration to their country, and are proud that people want to come here. Those people are skilled, and we should care much more about them than I think sometimes we do.