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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:08 pm on 18th May 2020.

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Photo of Steve Double Steve Double Conservative, St Austell and Newquay 8:08 pm, 18th May 2020

I welcome this Bill, and I am pleased to be able to speak in support of it. The Bill delivers on the commitment we made to the British people when they voted to leave the EU that we would end free movement of people and take back control of our borders. This is something that people voted for: we said we would do it and we are now delivering.

The Government are committed to delivering a new and revamped points-based immigration system that will work in the best interests of our economy and society. The Bill is seeking to establish a framework that will be the basis of our future immigration policy. Sadly, too many speakers today appear to be trying to rerun the whole Brexit debate of four years ago, but it really is time that this House moved on from that. The British people have voted for us to leave the EU—I would argue, far more than once—and the Bill is a major part in delivering on that decision.

It is also important to note that, since the 2016 referendum, the way in which we discuss immigration and the tone with which we do so have changed in this country. It is sad that too often that change is not reflected here. There is nothing racist about wanting democratic control of our own borders, and it is apparent that the Labour party has learned little in the last four years. Many of the British people have moved on and since the referendum there has been a much more constructive debate about the issue. The pros and cons of migration have been better understood, and there is now a broad coalition of people across the country in favour of a more balanced approach to immigration, where our system is not only effective and robust, but fair on individuals and families, and compassionate to those who most need our help.

It is important to note that this Bill does not end immigration—far from it. It is important that we move on from the rhetoric of “anti-immigration”. I am not, and have never been, anti-immigration. All reasonable people recognise that immigration can make a positive contribution to our nation; it has done for many decades. What I am against, as are many others, is the uncontrolled immigration of the EU. What I am in support of is this House and, through us, the British people being able to manage immigration. That is the purpose of the Bill. It re-establishes the democratic control of and accountability for immigration. It lays the groundwork for us to begin harmonising our two-track immigration system into one, such that we no longer favour one group of individuals simply because they are from the EU and discriminate against another because they are from outside the EU. It enables the Government to put in place a points-based system that will allow us to attract the people with the skills and experience we need. To suggest for a moment that the Bill will be the end of our being able to attract the workforce our NHS and other services need is scaremongering of the worst kind. Importantly, the Bill enables us to have a flexible system that can respond to the changing needs of our economy, which is essential. Our immigration policy should not be set in stone; it needs to be able to flex and adapt as the economic and employment environment changes. The Bill enables that to happen.

One aspect of particular interest is our policy on so-called low-skilled workers. The current covid-19 crisis has demonstrated that many of those workers are essential workers for key parts of our economy. I am assured that, as the Home Secretary has stated, we will keep all aspects of our policy under review, and I am sure that we will reflect on the lessons we have learnt through this time. The coronavirus crisis is going to change the shape of our workforce in the coming months, and possibly years, but we trust and believe that we will recover from our current challenges. In the years to come, sectors such as tourism and hospitality, agriculture and food processing and retail are going to need access to labour that our own residents may well not be able to meet in the future. The Bill lays the framework to enable our future immigration policy to respond to our future needs, and I am very happy to support it this evening.