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Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 4:41 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 4:41 pm, 11th February 2020

My right hon. Friend is exactly right.

To make my penultimate point, in the documents, there are a number of references, as I have said, to Canada and Australia. Canada and Australia both allow free movement around their countries. The point is made in the Scottish Government’s own document that there are significant problems in retaining staff who have come in on the regional visas in the areas where they were supposed to stay, largely driven by the more attractive economic offers in other parts of the country. That is a real challenge, given that the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East accepted that the present system is that there are more attractive economic opportunities for migrants in other parts of the United Kingdom than in Scotland—that was his own argument—and I do not see anything in the document that suggests that the Scottish Government would be able to retain those migrants in Scotland.

Finally, to turn to the motion, I think that the hon. Gentleman and the SNP have got it the wrong way round. They have published a document and called on the Home Secretary to engage with them with their proposals. Given that the Government have not yet set out their proposals in detail and they have not been agreed by the Cabinet, a more sensible approach, now that we have left the European Union—that battle is over for now; given the SNP’s position on Brexit, it was challenging for it to accept that it was happening— would be for the SNP to engage with the Government. I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary, who opened the debate and who I am pleased to see in his place, made it clear that his door was open. The SNP should engage with both the Home Office and the Scotland Office to look at how the measures that will be set out in our points-based system—I have set out one or two of them—could best engage with Scotland’s needs.

We are keen that we have an immigration system that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, to make every part of our country more dynamic, and to increase pay and opportunities for people across the United Kingdom. That is the best way of proceeding, so I suggest that the House, when the time comes later today, reject the motion. I urge the SNP to engage seriously with the Government. If it does so, it will find a listening ear and a willingness to engage on that basis, which is the best way for us all to move forward.