Legal Migration

Home Department – in the House of Commons at on 26 February 2024.

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Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Conservative, Banff and Buchan

What steps he is taking to reduce levels of legal migration.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines Conservative, Derbyshire Dales

What steps he is taking to reduce levels of legal migration.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery)

On 4 December, the Government announced a package of new measures to further reduce net migration, including but not limited to stopping overseas care workers bringing family dependants, increasing the salary threshold for skilled worker visas to £38,700 and raising the minimum income requirement for family visas in stages to £38,700. The changes are being introduced gradually from early 2024 and are not retrospective.

Photo of David Duguid David Duguid Conservative, Banff and Buchan

I welcome the measures taken to reduce abuses of the immigration system, but I also recognise the need to exempt critical occupations where we have a specific shortage from the new minimum salary, for example health and care workers. However, in the Migration Advisory Committee’s interim review of the immigration salary list, published on Friday, several occupations have been removed because a discounted salary of around £31,000 is well above the going rate for such occupations. Given the vital and growing importance of food security across the country, will my hon. Friend commit to a review of those occupations which, although not the highest tech or highest paid jobs in our economy, are none the less critical for our food sector and our rural and coastal communities?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery)

There is no stronger advocate for the fishing industry in this House than my hon. Friend. He will appreciate that we have received that return from the MAC. We will look very carefully at its recommendations, but my hon. Friend knows that as a Government we have been consistently flexible in responding to the needs of the fishing sector. I would argue that there is more we can do to promote domestic employment, but let me take this matter away and consider his representations.

Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines Conservative, Derbyshire Dales

A key issue often raised by my constituents is the desire to see a dramatic reduction in legal migration. Bearing in mind that the Opposition appear to have no plan in that regard, can my hon. Friend reassure me that he will look at new ways to stop this migration, that he will make sure that everybody has the right to work in this country and that we will not decrease wages by bringing in cheap labour from abroad?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery)

My hon. Friend is very supportive of the holistic approach that the Government are taking on this issue. The measures that we have announced and are taking forward will reduce the inflows by 300,000. It is important to consider this against the back to work plan that the Department for Work and Pensions is delivering to encourage more people to take on these roles domestically. She should be absolutely certain that we as a Government will deliver on these measures and will continue to keep them under review to see whether we can go further. That stands in stark contrast to those on the Opposition Front Bench, who have no plan at all.

Photo of Zarah Sultana Zarah Sultana Labour, Coventry South

To cut a long story short, a constituent’s skilled work visa application was mistakenly withdrawn by the Home Office. The error has resulted in him no longer having the right to work in the UK, forcing him and his wife to leave their jobs. His wife is five months pregnant and, although they pay their NHS surcharge, the Home Office error means that they are again getting healthcare bills. The situation is increasingly desperate, so I ask the Minister to meet me to look into this case and ensure that this Home Office error does not do any more harm than it already has for this young couple.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery)

The hon. Lady will appreciate that I do not have the specifics of the case to hand, but if she kindly shares them with me, I will look into the case as a matter of urgency.

Photo of Patrick Grady Patrick Grady Scottish National Party, Glasgow North

I hope the Minister will take this opportunity to recognise that the right to claim asylum is allowed under international law and that, therefore, there is no such thing as an illegal asylum seeker. On that basis, perhaps he can tell us whether he or any Minister has met people with lived experience of the system and whether he will meet the people at the Maryhill Integration Network in Glasgow North to discuss these issues.

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery)

The hon. Member will recognise that, in an answer to one of his hon. Friends, I said that I would be willing to meet him and his Glasgow colleagues to discuss some of the challenges. I have made an undertaking to him that that meeting will happen, and I will make sure that it happens at the earliest possible opportunity. I am keen to understand what the challenges are and to make sure that the support that we are providing to help facilitate move-ons, for example, is meeting the needs that exist.

Photo of Stephen Kinnock Stephen Kinnock Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Immigration)

Since our last Home Office questions, the list of Government failures on immigration has continued to grow relentlessly: 30,000 asylum seekers stuck in limbo, unable to be processed due to the Prime Minister’s legislative fiasco; 250 visas awarded to a care home that does not actually exist; net migration trebled; and criminals free to fly into our country undetected on private jets. Having just sacked the independent inspector of borders and immigration, is the Home Secretary sitting on 15 different reports by the inspector because he is checking for typos, or is it because he is utterly terrified of what those reports will tell us about this Government’s shambolic and failing immigration system?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery)

Let me answer that point very directly: having given proper consideration to those reports, we will be responding to them. As I said in the House last week, we will do so very soon. The shadow Minister mentioned the Government trying to dodge scrutiny. When it comes to the general aviation report, for example, it was our officials who asked the inspector to take it forward. Far from dodging scrutiny, we have invited it in that area. We will respond properly and thoroughly to that report in exactly the way that I undertook to do last week.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

People who come here to work, study and live make a significant impact on Scotland’s economy and society, so reducing their number is entirely self-defeating. Reunite Families UK has highlighted the disproportionate impact that Tory changes to visa income thresholds will have on women. I have asked the Minister this before, and I have yet to have an answer: when will he publish the full equality impact assessment on this damaging policy?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery)

We will publish the equality impact assessment associated with the policy in due course. The hon. Lady will appreciate that the Government’s position is clear that the current levels of net migration are not sustainable. We need to take forward a set of policy measures that deal with that and that promote domestic employment wherever possible. There is a strong moral case for the approach that we are taking. None of the measures being applied is retrospective, but we are convinced that this is the right thing to do. The British people think that action is needed, and action is what they are getting.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I spent a lot of time this weekend with members of the Glasgow branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, which put on a major demonstration and a service in Glasgow cathedral at the weekend to mark two years since the escalation of Russian aggression in Ukraine. The Government’s changes to the Ukraine scheme came with very little notice and caused a great deal of uncertainty and distress in that community. Will the Minister tell me whether, for example, a wife whose husband has been injured fighting on the frontline against Putin’s war machine will be able to sponsor her husband to come here under these restricted rules?

Photo of Tom Pursglove Tom Pursglove Minister of State (Minister for Legal Migration and Delivery)

As we said when we debated this issue in the House last week, the Government are very proud of the amazing response from people across this country who have opened their homes to Ukrainian refugees. There will continue to be an out-of-country route through the Homes for Ukraine scheme to facilitate people being able to come here from Ukraine. Ukrainian refugees here in the UK will be able to extend their visas. We gave that certainty way ahead of the curve, when compared with our international partners. Ukrainian nationals who would have qualified under the Ukraine family scheme will still be able to apply under Homes for Ukraine.