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I thank the SNP for securing this debate. It is often falsely claimed that we never talk about migration in this country; on the contrary, it seems that many on the Government Benches and their supporters never stop talking about immigration. What separates today’s motion from so much else is its attempt to talk rationally about migration. That alone is a breath of fresh air.
Furthermore, today’s motion sets the discussion in terms of what our needs are, wherever we are located. It sets it in terms of what is needed for our society, our education system, our public services and our economy. That must be the right overall approach, otherwise people would be arguing about what immigration system we want, irrespective of the consequences on our society and on our economy. Only a charlatan or worse would argue that they wanted an immigration policy that disregarded the consequences. On close inspection of today’s motion, I can say that it contains nothing objectionable. However, there is one point of disagreement, to which I will return.
It is clear that this Government have taken a high-handed and dismissive approach to the publication of the Scottish Government’s migration needs in “Migration: Helping Scotland Prosper”. It must be correct that the Home Secretary should engage positively with all elected politicians, although yesterday’s urgent question on charter flight deportations shows that that is still a work in progress. Of course, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster should be a man of his word and keep the promises that he made on devolution, all which is entirely reasonable. This is the main content of today’s motion.
My one caveat in relation to the motion, which does not negate my previous remarks, is that we on the Labour Front Bench do not believe that Scotland is a uniquely special case that would require a tailored migration policy. Skills and labour shortages are a common feature across the country. For example, there are more than 100,000 vacancies in the NHS alone. There are enormous shortages of workers in social care. The country lacks skilled engineers. We have labour shortages in agriculture and skills shortages in science and research and in the academy. The Office for National Statistics reports that, altogether, there were still more than 800,000 vacancies in the job market at the beginning of this year. They are concentrated in healthcare and social work, but there are huge shortages of professional and scientific workers.