Welcome, everyone. I want our two witnesses to enjoy the session. I do not know whether you have appeared before parliamentarians before, but you are not on trial. You both look innocent as far as I am concerned. It is really just a question of Committee members getting information from your good selves, which will help them when they deliberate the Bill.
We will now hear evidence from Professor Bernard Ryan, of the University of Leicester, and Professor Alan Manning, who chairs the Migration Advisory Committee. I remind all Members that questions should be limited to matters within the scope of the Bill, and that we must stick to the timings in the programme motion that the Committee has agreed—I hope that colleagues have the timings in front of them. They are either half an hour or an hour.
The scope of the Bill is quite narrow. It is not a wide-ranging immigration Bill. It would end free movement of European economic area and Swiss nationals in the United Kingdom, and questions should be focused on the effects of that, rather than on wider immigration matters. I ask that witnesses also try to keep their comments focused on the scope of the Bill. We have until half-past 10 for this witness panel.
Do any members of the Committee wish to declare any relevant interests in connection with the Bill?
In relation to this afternoon’s sitting, I am a founding trustee of Focus on Labour Exploitation, but I cannot be here for that part of the sitting anyway.
Q It is very good of you to make us aware of that. I assume that there are no further interests to declare. Would the panel members please introduced themselves?
Good morning, both of you. Let me start with two questions for Professor Ryan. You said in your written evidence that we need a legislative guarantee for EU citizens’ rights in the event of no deal. Why is that necessaryQ ?
I see the Bill as an historic measure. If you take a long view, it is one of the moments at which the basic categories of immigration law are being redefined. In relation to EU citizens, it is essentially just a framework for switching off the rights that exists, but what about the people who are here already? If it is such a fundamental change, should provision not be made for them? Particularly in a no-deal scenario, which of course we have to look at, there is clearly a question about the people who are here now. If we get a withdrawal agreement, there will be implementing legislation for that, but there is no clear plan to have implementing legislation or equivalent legislation in the absence of an agreement. That would leave the people who are already here exercising rights without legislative protection.
I welcome clause 2. Some of us have been arguing for a long time, particularly since the referendum in 2016, that there is not full provision for Irish citizens in immigration law. There is, in a somewhat obscure manner, recognition of Irish citizens coming from other parts of the common travel area—that, in practice, means coming from the Republic—but, of course, that does not give protection or recognition to the position of Irish citizens who might simply enter the United Kingdom from elsewhere, or indeed who are born in the United Kingdom. That is the gap in legislative terms. Of course, the policy in practice is not to require of Irish citizens leave to enter or remain. That has always been the position, but it has never been clearly expressed in legislation. Clearly, this is the time to do it.
In terms of legislation, Irish citizens are protected only when they enter the United Kingdom from elsewhere in the common travel area; they are not exempt from immigration law when they enter the United Kingdom from the rest of the world. That is the large gap that clause 2 addresses.
I would not want to be specific about what might happen in future. I am conscious that the Bill will potentially define a framework for decades regarding EU citizens. We just have to look at the Windrush story. The way in which Commonwealth citizens of that generation still rely on the Immigration Act 1971 to protect them is not fully understood. Section 34 conferred upon them automatic indefinite leave to remain. That is more than 40 years ago. What was put in place then is still being used. We have to think in that kind of timescale. I do not want to be specific about what might change in the future regarding public policy for EU citizens.
Q Professor Manning, in the White Paper the Government proposed a temporary 12-month work visa to help businesses to transition. What do you think are the possible problems with the proposed route?
The first potential problem is that an employer-driven system can lead to workers being extremely vulnerable. They are here only for short periods and do not really understand the system, and so on. We would need quite extensive regulation to prevent potential abuse of those workers.
Secondly, if you are concerned about the social integration of migrants, it will not help with that. Inevitably, there is no point in people who are here only for a short period investing in building a life here, and links to the wider community.
Thirdly, historically it has been the case that, because it is quite artificial—at the end of 12 months a worker has to leave, perhaps to be replaced by another—it generally sets up some kind of pressure for employers to extend the 12 months. It may start off in that form, but there is a risk of drift into a more permanent migration route.
How do you see the changes to free movement affecting the economy? Do you think they will have a positive or negative impact, or do you have more detailed concernsQ ?
The view in the report that we published in September is that EEA migration has not had very big costs. It has not had very big benefits either. The technical analysis in the White Paper indicated that. There would be impacts here and there. The general point is that after 2004 free movement, more by accident than design, was a system for primarily lower-skilled migration. Most countries have a preference for higher-skilled migrants. The proposals that we made, and that were taken forward in the White Paper, were essentially to alter the balance towards more higher-skilled migrants.
Not to any great extent—we are fairly confident about that. There is some evidence of a small effect but, because of the minimum wage, there has been quite a substantial protection against that at the bottom end of the labour market. It has certainly not had a positive effect on wages—the evidence there is neutral to negative. I would not say that any of that effect has been very big.
Professor Manning, you may have seen the CBI Wales analysis showing that 58% of workers in the manufacturing sector in Wales, over one quarter of whom are EU nationals, earn below the £30,000 threshold. There is real concern about how this would impact on manufacturing, in Wales in particular and across the countryQ . What analysis have you done about the potential adverse impact on the manufacturing sector?
Our proposal was to maintain the existing system of salary thresholds, of which £30,000 is one but not the only one. A lot of commentary omits that important detail. If you take that number, we think that the argument for having migrants is normally that there is a shortage of workers in the domestic labour market to do that job. Our proposal is that you should be able to employ migrants, but you have to be paying above the going rate for wages; you must not be employing migrants to undercut the domestic labour market. The absolute minimum salary threshold that you would consider would be something like the average, which is about 50% of workers. When you say it is 58% of workers, I think it is entirely reasonable to think that there is some upward pressure on wages in the manufacturing sector. I understand that the CBI is not very keen on that, because to the CBI wages are a cost, but to other people it is their income.
Q No one is suggesting that migrants should be exploited or paid less than they deserve, but there is also a concern in Wales that the average salary for the whole of Wales is below £30,000. Let us take the care sector, for example, which relies heavily on those coming to this country to work. If you are enforcing the £30,000 salary threshold, what on earth is the care sector in Wales supposed to do?
Care is a very particular problem, as we singled out in our report. It faces very serious recruitment and retention problems. The root cause of the problem is that it does not pay enough. The root cause of why it does not pay its workers enough is because no one has sorted out the funding situation for social care, even though it has been known for many years that this is not a functional system. We understand that there is a real problem in social care, but it is important to focus on the root cause of the problem, and that will not be solved by immigration.
Q No one would disagree that social care is in need of reform. Assuming that reform does not happen any time soon, I take it from your answer that the £30,000 will have an adverse threshold on the care sector.
We have already fallen into the trap that we fell into on Second Reading, which is to start discussing issues around the Government’s White Paper on immigration. Q Do you think that the Bill and the Government’s White Paper on immigration have set out a coherent position—a position that allows them to work together beautifully?
Because I work in immigration law, I see the Bill and the White Paper as quite separate from one another, and the discussion about future labour migration policy and other aspects of immigration policy as very much apart from the Bill. I see the Bill as providing a system for switching off EU rights and dealing with the particular case of Irish citizens. I see them as very separate from one another.
The Bill does not have any details on exactly what the future system will be. The White Paper talks about a consultation as well, and there is still quite a lot of detail to be filled in. There is still considerable uncertainty about exactly what that future system would be.
Q I wonder whether I can go back to your earlier points about the historic nature of the Bill, Professor Ryan. You commented that citizens of Commonwealth origin still draw their rights from the 1971 Act. Do you think that the Bill adequately defines the rights that those acquiring settled status will have?
It does not, because it does not really attempt to do that. In a sense, that is the gap that I am identifying. In relation to EU rights, the Bill provides for switching off, but it does not provide anything about prior residents or people who are already exercising rights. There is nothing said about that in the Bill. We do not know the exact intentions on how transition arrangements would be operated, for example, under the powers in the Bill. Nothing has been said so far to indicate that the Bill is going to provide protection to anyone who is here already.
Q Do you not find it extraordinary that such a historic measure, which affects so many people in this country, does not have that provision?
Yes, indeed. That is why I started with that observation—to try to ask for the Bill to be seen in those terms. Understandably, because of the politics around leaving the European Union, everyone is concerned with the moment, as it were, but I urge the Government to take a longer view of what the Bill really means and think about other things that could go in the Bill because of the long life that it may have.
Professor Manning, on behalf of the Migration Advisory Committee, in relation to EEA nationals working in this country, you were careful to say just now that the root cause of low wages in the care sector is not immigration, but rather the funding of the system. In relation to other sectors, you seem to be saying that you believe that constraint in the labour market could have a positive effect on wages. Could you just say a little bit more about what you think the channel to that is? Is it excess profits in manufacturing that management will decide to divert to wages? Is it efficiencies that the manufacturing industry has not invested in, and now will? What do you think the channel will be? It is one thing to say that immigration has been neutral to negative—your words—but another to say that constraint in the immigration system affecting the labour market will push up wages. This is not simple supply and demand, is itQ ?
It is not just simple supply and demand, but supply and demand is relevant. It is important not to exaggerate the role that immigration plays in everything that is happening in the labour market as a whole. We have a very tight labour market at the moment, and demand for labour is running ahead of supply in many sectors. There are complaints about shortages and vacancies in a lot of places. Solving that through immigration, it is said, means increasing the supply of labour to bring demand and supply into line, but in our view that will not work because when immigrants come, they increase supply. They earn money, spend money, and add to labour demand more or less in balance. That is why the overall effect is neutral.
We think the way in which you should respond to imbalance in the labour market is through raising wages. Where do those rising wages come from? Partly, employers are put under pressure to use labour more efficiently when labour is scarce, so that is part of the efficiencies that you talked about. There might be some sectors that have been quite profitable in recent years, so there is some scope to squeeze profits, although there are many sectors where margins are tight. If you talk to employers, they would say they really have not got that much choice.
It is also the case that workers will vote with their feet and go to work for employers that they think offer them the best deal. In that process, there are good employers and bad employers. When labour markets are tight, good employers do well and bad employers find it harder. That is a natural process by which we have rising living standards in the economy.
Q I just want to be clear about what you are saying. Obviously, there are second order effects, so there is the simple function of supply and demand, which might put pressure on employers to raise wages, but the second order effects will depend on their business circumstances. For example, take a manufacturing firm in the north of England where they have already heavily invested in machinery and robotics, where the nature of what they do has not been profitable. The car industry has not been massively profitable over the past few years. They will find it quite difficult to put wages up and maintain viability for their business.
There are British employers at the cutting edge of new technology, so it is very hard to find productivity gains. But we also know that productivity in British industry across the piece lags behind our competitors, notably in Germany, quite substantially. Within all sectors there is a huge range of productivity. There are very efficient employers, but a lot of research suggests there is quite a long tail of not-so-productive employers where there are potential productivity gains to be had by moving to current best practice.
Q Has MAC disaggregated that data? Productivity gains and where they could be made affect different regional economies in quite a diverse manner. Areas dominated by manufacturing, where there has been investment, would be different from areas that have many more firms that are less productive. Does MAC have any evidence on the regional impact of the Bill?
In the interim report that we published last spring, we did a broad sectoral analysis in which we looked at trends in productivity. We also did a regional analysis, but we have not done a full mix of regions by industry. I don’t know if you can say a particular industry in a particular region, but I have a particular view on that.
Q Okay. Professor Manning, you are saying that we do not fully understand how the Bill will affect the different locations in our country, even though, economically speaking, we know we have a pretty unequal country. We do not really know, do we?
We did an analysis of how it would impact different regions. For example, when one talks about salary thresholds, we have tables on how this would affect different regions. But you are right to point out that there are very big regional inequalities in the UK that probably have been allowed to fester for too long. One of the reasons, for example, why we do not recommend regional variations in salary thresholds is because we do not want to institutionalise some parts of the country as low wage and other parts as high wage.
Q One final question, if I may. Professor Ryan, you have said to us on several occasions that there is a major gap in this Bill as regards EU nationals who will have settled status. You mentioned a parallel with the Windrush scandal. Is the message we should take from your evidence that unless the Bill is amended, it will open us up to another Windrush?
It is more that Parliament needs to think about future-proofing the immigration arrangements that are put in place, to think about whether this will work over the long term and not leave people out. To take the Windrush parallel, it is the children from those times who, later in life, are having to prove their status. Exactly the same could happen with EU citizens; the children of those citizens may struggle later if things are not designed correctly to establish what is happening now. Whatever arrangements are put in place, that should be part of what is being addressed.
I believe that, somehow, through primary legislation, guarantees need to be put in place for current residents. I recognise that could be done in subsequent legislation—the withdrawal agreement Act would be another opportunity to consider this question—but, of course, if we do not have that legislation because there is no deal, this seems to be the opportunity. I realise that is a difficulty, but perhaps it should be addressed now.
To use your words, that would help us in “future-proofing” the Bill and make it less likely that 40 years down the line, there will be a Windrush scandal in relation to this.Q
Yes. The numbers are massive; we are talking about more than 3 million people who potentially have claims. It is not realistic, in my view, to think that they will all come forward and that everyone who needs to prove later on that they made those claims will be able to do so. It is just too large a cohort.
Professor Manning, could I come back to the issue of thresholds? At the moment, £30,000 is the threshold written in, but I think you suggested that the threshold needs to be less than that in certain areas. We talked about care, but we might also talk about something such as butchery in the food sector. Clearly, there is a shortage of those skills, and this could be a way of addressing it over the short term. Immediately, Q there would be a problem: a £30,000 threshold for something such as butchery would create significant problems in the food sector if you are at an edge.
I am not sure that is quite right. There is a system of salary thresholds, of which £30,000 is one, but there are others. For example, there is a new entrant rate of £20,800; for NHS staff and teachers, the national pay scales are the relevant salary thresholds. To take the two examples you gave, butchery is one of the medium-skill occupations that we recommend should become eligible for non-EU migrants, but it is one of the lower-paid occupations. We do think that the sector needs to offer more. It is not terribly attractive work, particularly when one is talking about the big food-processing plants; I have visited one. That sector is, again, not paying wages that are competitive in the domestic labour market.
I do not think it is unreasonable to expect it to be able to compete for labour in a tight labour market. We want people to have high-quality jobs, which is partly about high wages but also about good terms and conditions. I do not feel that that sector is fully stepping up to the mark at the moment.
Q What my hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen said about Wales could well be said about the Lincolnshire area I am in, where average salaries are not at £30,000. You are setting a bar at a high level compared with what people are already being paid in those areas. I am with you in terms of pushing up wages. I am happy about that, but it needs to be done in a way that allows business continuity. I am trying to understand how that works.
Across the piece, if you take the medium-skilled jobs that would be brought within the non-EU system, we recommend the existing salary thresholds. I keep pushing back a bit when anyone says £30,000, and saying that it is actually wider than the £30,000.
Across the piece, our estimate for April 2017—it will be slightly lower now—was that something like 60% of people in those medium-skilled occupations are currently paid less than £30,000 on a full-time basis. We view that as appropriate because, as I said, we want the salary thresholds to be above the average wage.
We want sizeable amounts. We want to be able to say to employers, “Fine. You need migrants, but you have got to pay above the going rate in order to have access to them.” We think the salary thresholds have to be a little bit above at least the minimum—a bit above the average salaries.
There is a debate. When I say “a bit above”, I accept that there is a contentious issue about how much above. Some people are saying, “The absolute minimum salary threshold you would consider would be the current average,” and yet some people are talking about salary thresholds that are well below average earnings in many of these sectors.
I go back to what I said earlier. When people say, “We have to have migrants,” they only feel as though they have to have migrants because they are not competitive in the domestic labour markets. To work as a care assistant—the main job in social care—does not require formal qualifications.
There are currently quite large numbers of people in the UK who are not in work but who report their last occupation as being in social care. There is a labour supply for social care out there at the moment, but people do not want to work there, because the labour market is quite tight and the terms and conditions are very poor.
We accept that, and we singled it out as a big problem. The issue with financing social care is not just with this Government; it is a long-lasting issue that has not been addressed, and I am not sure it is being particularly addressed at the moment.
There is a risk if you have a carve-out for social care. A good example is Canada, which had a live-in caregiver programme. It was about live-in carers, but it was similar. That programme expanded incredibly rapidly, but as soon as the migrants who had come in under that route had the opportunity to leave the sector, they left the sector because—just as the existing residents found—the terms and conditions were poor and they could get better elsewhere. After 10 years, only something like 10% of workers were still working in care. The Canadian Government shut that programme down last spring, because it did not solve the problem.
Our concern about this is that a carve-out for social care will be a short-term fix. It will stop the real, underlying problems being addressed. It will look successful in the short run, but in the medium to longer run it will not work.
We do not focus so much on numbers. In general terms, it is about being more restrictive on the EU side, but liberalising on the non-EU side. We think that what is more important is not the overall numbers but ensuring that migration is for the benefit of existing residents, which is the criterion that we use in deciding on policy. We think that making migration easier for higher-skilled than for lower-skilled workers would serve that end, but the numbers will depend on how the British economy is doing and lots of other factors. We do not really focus on the numbers so much; it is about making sure that we think each individual migrant who comes in under a work migration scheme is contributing to the UK.
Q You have both said in your evidence that the scope of the Bill does not cover future immigration policy, but do you have a view on how quickly that future immigration policy should follow the Bill?
I was focusing particularly on the question of guarantees for people who are exercising rights already—prior residents, as it were. That is the key detail that is left out. Apart from that, it is understandable that it is a framework and that details will be filled in later, particularly as regards timing.
Q Professor Manning, you talked about the need to regulate against the risk of abuse of a 12-month visa. What safeguards would be needed to prevent that sort of abuse?
One example that you could use is the old seasonal agricultural workers scheme. In its early years, there were issues with some undesirable practices, but in later years the MAC’s view—it was before my time, so I was not involved in that piece of work—was that it was a fairly well run system. What is envisaged in the White Paper is potentially on a much bigger scale, which would mean much more expenditure on enforcement and so on. At the moment we do not really have the infrastructure in place for enforcement; it would have to go along with development of the programme itself.
ProfessorQ Ryan, I think everyone welcomes what clause 2 does to protect the rights of Irish citizens and their leave to enter, but your written evidence and other submissions that we have received seem to suggest that it does not go far enough. What else should the Bill do to protect the position of Irish citizens?
That is correct: I have argued in the written evidence—and I believe they will be saying something similar—that there are some adjustments that one could imagine. As it stands, the Bill does not guarantee equality as regards family migration for Irish citizens. That is thinking especially about Irish citizens who might want to relocate to the United Kingdom: they are not guaranteed to be in the same position as British citizens. That is a provision that could be made—or, one hopes that a commitment could be made that the rules will be framed so that Irish citizens will be treated in the same way as British citizens as regards family migration.
There are questions about the deportation provisions as well. I am not disputing that it should be possible to deport Irish citizens or to exclude them, but we need to recognise that the policy has been to do that only in exceptional circumstances. That is somewhat different to the “conducive to the public good” standard that is usually applied in deportation cases. It is important to get clarity about the intentions going forward as regards use of the deportation power. There is a specific issue about Northern Ireland, because of the Belfast Agreement and the entitlement of people from Northern Ireland to identify as Irish citizens. It is important that that entitlement is not compromised by the possibility of deportation of Irish citizens that is confirmed in the Bill.
I have suggested that it could be done through amendments, but the Government could clarify their intentions in relation to Northern Irish citizens.
Q A couple of times you have referred to the possibility of things happening in the rules—when you were asked about separating out the immigration White Paper from the Bill. Is that not one of the problems we have in this country—that we leave so much to rules? We have had something like 5,000 changes to the immigration rules since 2010, and that gets virtually no attention in this place. Should we be rethinking how we go about setting out people’s rights and obligations in immigration law? Are you happy enough to see these constant changes to the immigration rules?
Immigration policy is complex and it evolves so there has to be a structure that permits that to proceed. Perhaps immigration rules could be drafted differently; I know that work about that is going on. I am certainly not against the idea of having immigration rules, and doing the bulk of immigration policy in that way.
Q Turning to the question about the Government’s settled status scheme for EU nationals, one of my colleagues, Nic Dakin referred to 40 years down the line. The problem would arise sooner, as things stand, because you are talking about a cut-off date of December 2020. It could be June 2021, if there is a deal. The issue then arises that people might miss that deadline. What can be done to avoid that happening—with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people missing out on a status that they have a right to?
Q Yes. Well, there are different deadlines, depending on whether there is a deal or no deal. Regardless of that, within the next couple of years tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people will be passing that deadline.
I question why we even need a deadline for applications under the settlement scheme. There will be advantages to individuals to registering through that scheme, regardless. I do not see why we need a hard line that says, if you do not register by x date, then unless you come within some exception that we formulated, tough luck. I do not see why we need a deadline at all.
Q And the benefit of that would be that in 10 years’ time, if somebody had not realised—for instance, the grandmother about whom we heard earlier; she tries to change house but fails the right to rent check, because she does not have the documentation—she would be able to apply for settled status, whereas as things stand, she would be in limbo.
Children are the key test here. A child who is here now is eligible under the settled status scheme. Other people are taking those decisions for them, or failing to register. Even if they are registered, how do they know that and prove it later on? The opportunity for them to come back and make the application much later is a way of fixing any difficulties that arise. It would solve a lot of problems if there were no hard deadline for the settlement scheme.
Q It would have a similar effect, but probably going slightly further. Just now, obviously, an EU national’s right does not depend on them having a bit of paper or a bit of code—depending on how you do it. They get the rights directly from EU law. Would it be preferable if, in this Bill, we said, “Here are the rights for people who qualify for settled status right now”? They get their rights from the statute and applying to register simply proves they have that right, rather than that they have no rights if they do not have that bit of paper. This, essentially, echoes what happens now for EU citizens: they all have rights whether or not they have a settled status document or anything else.
It would be possible to formulate a guarantee in that way as well. I have been focusing on the people, ensuring that individuals are protected without specifying what protections they get. It clearly would also be possible in a guarantee to consider the core rights that would be obtained by the beneficiaries of any guarantee.
Q Professor Manning, the Government’s White Paper suggests that the proposals, if implemented, could mean that GDP is between 0.4% and 0.9% lower than it would have been otherwise in 2025, which represents a reduction in GDP per capita of between 0.1% and 0.2% in 2025 and a cumulative fiscal cost to the Treasury of between £2 billion and £4 billion over the first five years to 2025. Have you any reason to dispute those Treasury figures?
The numbers that you quote make the point we made in our report that neither the costs nor the benefits have been very large. When you take that £4 billion over five years, quoted on the public finances, that adds up to a bit under 25p per person per week for a really quite substantial reduction in migration.
It is not something I have looked at, to be honest with you. Clearly, their protection requires an agreement between the two sides. It is far more secure with an agreement than without. The European states, the EU27, are now starting to take or announce measures to protect British citizens themselves in the event of no deal. That could be co-ordinated at the European Union level as well. I suppose that if we do end up without the withdrawal agreement, we cannot rule out a special agreement concerning citizens’ rights in the future as well. Even in a no deal situation, there are mechanisms by which British citizens in the rest of the EU could be protected.
The previous Government policy was to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands, but the Home Secretary seems to be saying now that immigration should be at sustainable levels. Professor Ryan, what sort of factors do you think we should take into account to decide what sustainable levels are? Professor Manning, should the Migration Advisory Committee have some sort of role in assisting the Home Office to set what these sustainable levels are?
We make our recommendations based on what we think is in the interests of the resident population. The Migration Advisory Committee has never focused on numerical targets for net migration. We have always been more interested in actual migration policy. We think of the net migration target more as a statement of political intent that might influence policy. It is not, in itself, a policy. We do not see ourselves as making recommendations to meet that particular target. We always make recommendations on what we think is in the interests of the resident population.
Q My question is slightly different though. I was referring to “sustainable levels”. Would you ever express—or wish to express—a view on what that might be in a given year?
I do not think that is a phrase that we would particularly use. I go back to what I said earlier: the right system is one in which you make sure—as best you can—that migrants coming to the UK on work systems are providing benefits to the resident population. The word “sustainable” does not seem to fit into that sentence very easily.
Q I have a number of questions. Professor Manning, thank you for your hard work on the various reports, and indeed your ongoing work on students and on the shortage occupation list. In your report you veered away from sectoral schemes. Would you expand on which sectors of the economy you think might be most impacted by the end of free movement? Why do you suggest that sectoral schemes are perhaps not the solution?
The proposals are mostly going to affect those sectors that have relied heavily on lower-skilled EEA workers: food processing, hospitality, warehousing and transport. It is not care assistants, for example, who account for a lower fraction of EEA migrants than the national average. It is not the NHS, which has a lower fraction of EEA migrants than then national average. There is also agriculture. Our view is that if you have a special scheme for a sector, you are giving that sector privileged access to labour; you are preferring that sector over some other sector. Generally, we think there should be a level playing field of competition, particularly in lower-skilled sectors. It is reasonable to think that people working in hospitality might also work in retail and so on, and those sectors should be competing for workers.
The one exception is that we did recommend a seasonal agricultural scheme, because seasonal agricultural workers are 100% migrant at the moment. No other sector gets close to that. We do not think it is realistic to fulfil seasonal work with a resident settled population. That is the one exception, but generally we do not see a strong argument for giving preference to one sector over another, particularly when that sector may use that privileged access simply to keep terms and conditions worse than they would otherwise have to be in the wider labour market.
Q I am conscious that the Migration Advisory Committee has, over many years, given close thought to the whole issue of migration, particularly when it comes to free movement and the analysis of the impact that has, and will have. What role do you see for the Migration Advisory Committee going forward?
There was a page or two in the White Paper about expanding the role of the Migration Advisory Committee. We particularly welcome two aspects of that. First, we have more independence, in a way, to set our own agenda at times, and not just take commissions from Government. Secondly, a big issue is the availability of data. We strongly feel that at the moment—this is very long standing—there is insufficient evaluation of policy. When a policy is announced there is really not that much follow-through, looking at what exactly the impact of the policy was. Did it actually achieve what it set out to?
Q I have a final question for you, Professor Manning, on shortage occupation lists. We have heard about shortages in the care industry and other parts of the economy. Do you see the SOLs, and potentially regional shortage occupation lists, as one mechanism by which you can resolve those challenges after the end of free movement?
Potentially. At the moment we are doing some work on the shortage occupation lists, although that is within the current system, so it is eligible only to graduate-level occupations. It is really important that it is used in a discerning way. It is not a solution to generalised shortages of labour; it is for targeted solutions to particular bottlenecks in the economy. When a sector reports a shortage, it is always really important to ask why it has a shortage, and why migration is the only solution to the problem. For some of the sectors that we have been talking about, the answer is really due to a failure to offer jobs that are sufficiently attractive in the domestic labour market. In such cases, we are not clear that migration would not actually worsen rather than alleviate the problem.
Q Thank you. Professor Ryan, thank you for your really extensive written evidence, and for the thought that went into it—it is very impressive and helpful. I want to talk to you a bit about the settled status scheme, and whether from a legal perspective you think that the rights of EU citizens would be best enshrined in this Bill or in a specific vehicle, namely the withdrawal Bill, which will encompass all the elements of the withdrawal agreement should we get that agreed by Parliament.
I think I have made the point that, if there is not a deal, there is a difficulty with relying on subsequent legislation that may never come. There may be a case for making provision just for that scenario in this Bill. If there is a withdrawal agreement that is then implemented through legislation, one has to recognise that the settlement scheme is, in many ways, more generous than the withdrawal agreement. It has taken out the requirement for qualifying conditions to be met by EU citizens, and the approach to evidencing residence is pretty open.
The question arises: would the second Bill actually protect everyone who is in the settlement scheme? I would hope that, in the end, anyone who gets recognised through that scheme can rely on those rights, and that, even if they are not covered by the withdrawal agreement, anyone who gets recognised through that scheme, without fraud and misrepresentation, has statutory protection for their position going forward.
There is a separate issue about people who do not apply. I have already said that I do not really understand why we have to have a hard deadline. One could imagine—in either Bill, I suppose—legislation ensuring the right to come back at a later date to apply, for those who are entitled to do so.
Q The settlement scheme is already up and running in public testing mode now. The legislation is in both secondary legislation and immigration rules. I concur with you that it is important to have it in primary legislation. Do you see any legal difficulty with the status quo prevailing, where the scheme is open, and we have it enshrined in secondary legislation, albeit not primary? Does it matter if there is a timing gap?
The settled scheme is up and running. We are awarding EU citizens their status, and we have achieved that by secondary legislation; we laid various statutory instruments that enabled us to open the settlement scheme. Whether as part of the withdrawal Bill or potentially as part of this Bill, do you see any challenge whatsoever with a gap between the end of free movement and the rights of individuals through the settlement scheme being enshrined in primary legislation?
Order. I am afraid that we will never know the answer to that question, because we have come to the end of our allotted time. On behalf of the Committee, I thank both witnesses for their time. Thank you very much indeed, gentlemen.