The clause inserts a new section in the Immigration Act 2014 to provide a power to impose a charge on employers sponsoring non-European economic area skilled migrants. In addition, it contains provision for regulations to be made regarding the charge. The immigration skills charge will help to address current and projected skills needs in the UK economy and contribute to reducing net migration. The intention behind the charge is to encourage employers to think differently about their recruitment so that, where possible, they recruit and train up resident workers.
I do not disagree with the principle, which is right, but I wish to explore some of the detail.
I represent the University of Sheffield, which is involved in apprenticeship training. As I understand the proposals, the money raised from the charge will go to the Consolidated Fund to assist in addressing the skills gap in the UK. The university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, which has been held up as a model by the Government, is involved in higher apprenticeship training, much of which is undertaken by academics who are recruited through the tier 2 route. It appears nonsensical to make a levy on the University of Sheffield and other universities and educational institutions for recruiting tier 2 workers who are actively involved in filling the skills gap. What does the Minister think about that issue?
Similarly, we have received representations from the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing about the position in the health service where, because of skills shortages, the Government and the NHS are actively recruiting from abroad. Given the financial pressures on the NHS, does it make sense to levy a skills charge on it? Perhaps that is not the Government’s intent and I have misunderstood the provisions of the Bill, in which case I will be grateful if the Minister can clarify the position on both those points.
Perhaps I should underline that employers over time should reduce their demand for migrant labour. We recognise that many employers invest in training, but throughout the economy investment in training has been declining over 20 years and use of tier 2 visas is up by 30% if we compare 2010 with 2014. We want to encourage employers to invest in upskilling our resident work force and reduce reliance on migrant labour. The immigration skills charge will fund training of the resident work force, including apprenticeships.
The hon. Gentleman’s argument is whether in principle there should be some exemptions. That is a question that we have asked the Migration Advisory Committee, which has been asked to advise on the charge’s impact on different employers. The Government will consider the MAC’s advice in due course; we expect to receive its full advice next month. The MAC will make recommendations, including on the scope and level of the charge. We are setting out the principle. We have asked the MAC to consider some of these details, and we will reflect on its recommendations and implementation.