I will not be taking any interventions; I need to make progress.
The hostile environment, from right-to-rent checks to the immigration health surcharge, is built upon the premise that migrants should be discouraged from coming to the UK. Not satisfied with the disaster of the Windrush scandal, this Government seem determined to press ahead with this unjust, discriminatory and poorly designed piece of legislation. The Home Secretary has yet to set out the details of what will come in place of freedom of movement. This Bill does not do that. Instead, it introduces multiple Henry VIII powers, which remove much needed scrutiny from our future immigration system.
I am afraid that the benefits of a points-based immigration system are a myth. Under such a system of employer sponsorship, workers are heavily restricted in their access to public funds, which puts many at risk of destitution. They are also less likely to join their colleagues in employment struggles for better terms and conditions. Migrants have been blamed for low wages, but it is not them who drive down employment standards—it is exploitative bosses who do, and it is this Government who allow them to do that. We have to make it clear that nobody’s rights should be linked to an employer. A person’s worth is not determined by their economic value.
Instead of removing EU citizens’ rights, the Government should have focused on making up the injustices that they have inflicted on the Windrush generation and other migrant communities. The Windrush compensation scheme is clearly not working. Does the Minister have anything to say to these families waiting in limbo?
This punitive, discriminatory piece of legislation is a slap in the face to the carers, cleaners, drivers and shop assistants who have risked their lives on the frontline to keep this country running throughout the pandemic, and who Members here have applauded every week. The scale of the Government’s hypocrisy is breathtaking—clapping for carers one day and downgrading their status in law the next. This Bill would class many vital jobs as low-skilled and prevent people from getting a new work visa or extension. That would include care workers—people like my colleagues who I worked with before becoming an MP and during the pandemic. The work may be low-paid and badly undervalued by those in power, but it is not low-skilled. Will the Minister, for the avoidance of doubt, clarify whether the Home Secretary still considers care workers to be low-skilled?
A recent report, “Detained and Dehumanised”, is based on interviews with people who experienced detention in UK centres. It was done before the pandemic. The report highlights a disturbing level of despair. One person said:
“I saw people cutting themselves, someone who tried to hang himself, someone who died in detention”.
“The most awful thing was an uncertainty: Not knowing whether I will be released and what they’re going to do to me”.
As Mr Davis has said, this is a terrible, inhumane position to be in. Ultimately, nobody should be imprisoned because of where they were born, yet the UK is the only country in Europe that does not have a time limit on how long a person can be held in immigration detention. Twenty-eight days is absolutely the longest time allowed in any other context.
I urge the Government to do the right thing, even at this late hour. They should not block the many sensible amendments and new clauses. Carers, shop assistants and cleaners are risking their lives on the frontline looking after us. The least we can do for them is to use our votes today to look after them.