Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:58 pm on 26th June 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 3:58 pm, 26th June 2019

With the leave of the House, I will wind up the debate, as well as having opened it for the Government. We have had an important debate that has highlighted the scale of activity that the borders, immigration and citizenship system undertakes and the challenges it faces. It has been wide-ranging, with Members raising policy issues and individual cases. For every case that Members have rightly raised, there are thousands more people who are satisfied with their experience of the immigration system. I am proud of the hard work and dedication of officials in the Home Office. It is wrong—wholly wrong—to try to characterise those who work for the Home Office, in some instances doing incredibly difficult and stressful jobs, as in any way uncaring or inhumane.

I have listened carefully to Members’ contributions, and I welcome the thoughts and views put forward in today’s debate. I will highlight some of the comments that I thought were particularly insightful and useful.

My hon. Friend Stephen Kerr made an impassioned speech about immigration being a reserved matter, and he and I of course believe that it should stay that way. He made some interesting points about the way we describe skilled and unskilled labour within the immigration system, and as part of the White Paper process and the future system, I think we have to find better ways to articulate that. It is not easy to describe skills only in terms of qualifications or salary levels, and I have certainly been guided by the engagement we have done during the last few months. In particular, those in the social care industry certainly have many skills that perhaps do not fall neatly into the immigration categories. I have spent much time over the last six months listening to the Scottish farmer, the Cumbrian hotelier and the Bristolian tech entrepreneur, and I absolutely recognise that we need to be adaptive. Our economy is changing, and jobs exist today that did not exist five years ago. In the same way, there will be jobs in five years’ time that we have not even dreamed of today.

Stewart Hosie spoke at quite some length and used the word “arbitrary” repeatedly, but it is absolutely not the case that we have an arbitrary system. We work very hard to make sure that the decisions we make are the right ones, and there is indeed a great deal of work still to be done to make sure that we improve.