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Migration and Scotland

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:54 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Simon Hoare Simon Hoare Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 5:54 pm, 11th February 2020

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. It is not just the regional and county variations, but the spending power of that salary. A salary of £20,000 earned in North Dorset is going to get someone far more than they would get if they were living in north Westminster or north Harrow—[Interruption.] Or Chelmsford, says my hon. Friend Vicky Ford. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to make that point. I think my figures are correct, but the average annual take-home salary is now £24,500. In North Dorset, it is £18,500. There are huge variations and it is just 122 miles from this place to the edge of my constituency.

I would understand the motivation behind this motion if it looked as if the Government were going to be moving to some sort of draconian Trumpian suite of immigration policies. I would suggest from all that I hear and listen to that nothing could be further from the truth. I am convinced that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has the most liberal of instincts and global of outlooks when it comes to immigration. One need only look to the time when he was Mayor of London to see a practical example of that, rather that its being a merely theoretical proposition.

I do not see the need or desirability for, and I am unconvinced by the deliverable workability of, this separate approach to immigration. I accept that the motion advocates an add-on rather than an instead-of—I get that, I understand that—but given that all the noises coming from Downing Street, both No. 10 and No. 11, are that we want to have a suite of immigration policies that is rapidly responsive to economic needs, whether that is in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England or North Dorset, I would suggest to SNP Members that at this stage in the proceedings there is nothing to worry about. There are concerns, of course. We will want to make sure that those policies are delivered on, but I do not think we need to worry about them just yet.

With the indulgence of SNP Members, whose motion this is, may I make a general point? In 2015, when many of us came into the House at the same time, I spoke on Second Reading of the Scotland Bill from almost this position on this Bench. The circumstances were similar. The SNP had done fantastically well in that general election and Members had a spring in their step. Those of us who are Unionists need to reflect on those results and calibrate a persuasive narrative to underpin, revitalise and reaffirm the benefits we see in the maintenance of the United Kingdom. To be a Unionist is not to be anti-Scottish. To be anti-separatist is not to have a grudge against the Scottish people. It is not to try to slam all of the doors to Scottish aspiration merely because we think that separation is wrong.

I am very pleased, and honoured in fact, to call very many Members on those Benches my friends. When I talk to constituents in North Dorset, they often ask what it is like with the SNP—