Points-based Immigration System: Labour Shortages

Home Department – in the House of Commons on 20th June 2022.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

Our immigration system works in the interests of our whole United Kingdom by covering a broad range of occupations across many sectors for firms looking to attract the talent that they need, while ensuring that the domestic labour market is supported—yet recruitment issues are not unique to the UK, and immigration must not be seen as an alternative to improved pay, conditions and training for key workers.

Photo of Wendy Chamberlain Wendy Chamberlain Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Wales), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Work and Pensions)

There is a severe shortage of care workers around the UK. In St Andrews in my constituency, a social care business had to shut down recently because of staffing issues. My inbox is increasingly full of messages from people who are waiting for care-at-home packages. One way of helping would be to allow asylum seekers to work while their claims are being processed: it would allow them to support themselves and would mitigate the worst of the shortages. Will the Secretary of State and the Minister consider that?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

That is an interesting one. Those whose asylum claim has been outstanding for more than a year can take jobs on the shortage occupations list, which has included care workers since February. One of the slight issues, of course, is that until very recently, 31 out of the 32 local authority areas in Scotland, including the hon. Lady’s, refused to be part of the dispersal accommodation system. Now that we have made the change to full dispersal, some of those people will actually be living in those areas.

Photo of Julian Lewis Julian Lewis Chair, Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament

If I give the Minister the details, will he kindly take a personal interest in the unusual plight of two young Russian charity volunteers who are now stranded in my constituency through no fault of their own? They are not supporters of President Putin. They have the opportunity to work as care workers, but in their present plight they cannot do so. They cannot be the only people caught up in such a situation. I would be very grateful if the Government looked sympathetically on their plight.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

My right hon. Friend will appreciate that I cannot give comments and pledges from the Dispatch Box, but I am very happy to meet him, and he highlights a valid point. Russia is not Putin. Putin likes to say that he embodies everything Russian, but he does not. There are plenty of Russians who have suffered under his regime and are vehemently opposed to his illegal and disgraceful actions in Ukraine.

Photo of Dan Carden Dan Carden Labour, Liverpool, Walton

The reality out in the country is that we have labour shortages across multiple sectors, 1.3 million job vacancies, the most persistent post-pandemic drop in employment in the G7, operations not being carried out in our hospitals, restaurants and the hospitality industry being unable to recruit staff, and a shortage of drivers to drive produce around the country. Why will the Minister not act pragmatically and immediately, introduce more work visas where are there shortages, lift the ban on asylum seekers working and have an independent review of the impact of ending freedom of movement?

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department

The hon. Member might benefit from taking some time to look at the labour markets across most of the developed world, including the European Union. He will see that shortages in many areas, such as hospitality, are not unique to the United Kingdom. I find interesting his calls for the resurrection of free movement, given what we understand his party’s emerging policy to be.