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

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:22 pm on 18th May 2020.

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Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North 8:22 pm, 18th May 2020

We are not in the business of limiting the potential of our country, which is exactly what our former immigration system did. As we solidify our departure from the European Union, I welcome the success of widespread participation in the Government’s EU settlement scheme. By protecting the rights of EU citizens in this country, we once again demonstrate that we are not leaving Europe, but rather the European Union. As many others and I have said, we wish to move forward and continue a close relationship with our European friends. We are levelling the playing field and creating an immigration system that does not discriminate on the basis of nationality, and instead rests on the foundation of skill and capability.

The Bill will enact the overwhelming will of the people of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke in 2016 and, again, in December last year. The public want a more measured approach to immigration, and today we aim to deliver that. I would like to note, too, that immigrants contribute massively to our economy, as well as to our social and cultural fabric. The Bill in no way denigrates that but, rather, opens our country to the best and the brightest across the world.

We have been provided with an opportunity to rectify the disparity in access between nations, and make Britain truly global, by opening to people from nations who might previously have been overlooked or subject to greater bureaucracy merely on the basis of nationality. I reiterate the point that we want the best and the brightest, from wherever they may hail. I am proud to be part of a Parliament adapting to the times and altering legislation based on need. Covid-19 has presented us with an almost unimaginable reality, and I was pleased with the allowance of visa extensions announced in March for those seeking employment in our national health service. This will enable us to continue recruiting the very best from around the world, as we did in Stoke-on-Trent 18 years ago with Dr Chandra Kanneganti.

I further welcome the launch of the NHS visa. Applicants will see a large reduction in visa fees and will be fast-tracked, gaining a significant increase in points by offering to work for our NHS. I call on the Government to ensure that NHS recruitment remains protected and, wherever possible, to encourage and streamline those wishing to work in social care especially. With regard to those working or wishing to work in the social care sector, I stress that there must be as few limitations and restrictions as possible, including those pertaining to wages. As we have seen during this pandemic, social care workers are key workers and we must support them in every way we can. The Bill will allow the Government to identify understaffed sectors and make it simpler, easier and cheaper for workers in those sectors to start a life in the UK, which is a sensible balance and a mutually beneficial approach to workforce shortages.

This is an enormous change to the way in which our country works, and I completely appreciate the apprehension and uncertainty that some might feel. However, this is an excellent opportunity to broaden our horizons and make Britain a hub of innovation and development. I am confident that this system will attract the brightest minds, which is of special significance and importance to my constituency of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke. By implementing a fast-track visa route for elite researchers and specialists in science, technology, engineering and maths, we are sending a clear message that this country is open to, and ready for, invention and scientific advancement. I have been a vocal advocate for silicon Stoke, and my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Jo Gideon) and for Stoke-on-Trent South (Jack Brereton) and I have been busy liaising with universities, businesses, private investors, the council, tech start-ups and the local enterprise partnership to push forward tech advancements such as 5G provision and advanced ceramics. An influx of highly educated STEM specialists will propel the country and my constituency into the digital age and level up this country, as we as a party promised to do in December and as I promised to do when I entered this Chamber. I have full confidence in my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and with the will of the people behind us, I shall proudly vote for the Bill this evening.