I am pleased to speak on the Bill, not least because immigration is a topic that can invoke the strongest of emotions, yet it is imperative that we have an immigration system that works for us as a free and independent sovereign nation.
Immigration policy is not just a buzzword for me, nor is it an excuse to play identity politics; it is the reason I am here. I am the son of a man who came to this country from halfway across the world. He came here for a better life for his family. Indeed, to my father, having anything but a system over which we have control is, frankly, odd, and that is the reason many from south Asian communities voted to leave the European Union back in 2016.
My father’s desire to be in this country was nothing short of a desire to pursue what I often term the great British dream. I know at first hand that it is a love like no other, the love held for this country by the hopeful migrant who arrives here in pursuit of opportunities and freedom—the patriotism of the one who singles out this country as the place they want to call home; the one who comes to this country and chooses to be British.
The result in the European Union referendum in 2016 was a vote for control—for control over our laws, control over our spending and control over our borders. This was not about pulling up the drawbridge, as it is so often described by those who want to belittle the referendum result; it was a cry for a greater stake in the way our communities and our country move forward. It was a vote for migration, albeit migration on our terms: looking out to the world beyond our immediate neighbours and forging relationships with new countries and old friends. The Bill captures the true essence of that desire for an immigration system that works for us—an immigration system that allows us to be agile, and one that allows us to adapt to the economic needs of our country.
It is important to point out that the Bill enshrines the will of the British people—a will that has been expressed on a number of occasions over the past four years. Clearly, I am firmly of the view that immigration has been a success for this great nation, and the Bill acknowledges and celebrates that success by working to make sure that the system is even stronger.
We must have a system that works for Britain so that we can ensure that the best opportunities are available to everyone in this country. It is only with a thriving economy and a strong society that Britain will continue to be such a nation and such an appealing destination for those around the world who want to come here and start a new life.
Britain was built on generations of immigrants, from the post-war migrants who came here to help us rebuild after the devastation of war to the seasonal workers who come to the UK every year to contribute to our agricultural sector and support British farmers. What we can learn from this is that immigration is not a static concept; it is a dynamic one, and it must adapt to suit our domestic and economic needs. Just as other countries adopt systems that best support their needs, the UK can be no different.
The Bill paves the way for a new system that prioritises the most talented and highly skilled. Crucially, control over our own system will allow for an unwavering commitment to protect those who come into our country from the evil prey of traffickers and unethical working practices as we move away from cheap labour and unchecked movement. I know that the Bill does not provide for the details of our new points-based immigration system, but, given my background in business, I know that, to operate to its full potential, our new system will require a continuous dialogue between Government and industry. I ask the Minister to ensure that we have a reactive approach, with the needs of the national health service, business, academia, hospitality and many other sectors being listened to. Particularly in the case of business, the channels of communication must remain open, because it is only by listening to the business community that we will avoid a time lag between what business needs and what Government implement.
Contrary to the naysayers, I believe that our country is progressive and forward thinking. We need an immigration system that matches that—one that allows us to advance in research and development and further our technological innovation as we compete on the global stage, and one that emboldens us to lead the world in medicine, technology, film making, science and sport. Simply put, we must have an immigration system that attracts the best and brightest from across the world. As we venture into the world as a free, independent nation, we have to model ourselves on what we believe we can achieve.
While we are repealing freedom of movement, it is vital that we have the EU settlement scheme, to protect the rights and legal status of EU citizens who have made Britain their home. The contributions of EU migrants are extensive and undeniable, whether that is imported cuisines from the continent or the groundbreaking research we see in our universities. I welcome this legislation because I am excited by what lies ahead for our great nation. With greater control over migration, we will continue to attract the brightest and best while remaining a tolerant and welcoming society.