Consequential etc provision

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 26th February 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 3:15 pm, 26th February 2019

My hon. Friend is right to point out that the new clauses relate only to the EEA. Our future immigration system, which will undoubtedly be the subject of much debate, will have to provide the level playing field of which he speaks.

As I have set out, the Government have announced the two-year seasonal workers pilot, which allows non-EU migrants to work on UK farms for six months, specifically in the edible horticultural sector. The pilot will test the effectiveness of our immigration system in helping to alleviate seasonal labour shortages during peak production periods, while maintaining robust immigration controls, safeguarding migrant workers and ensuring that the impact on local communities and public services is minimal. There will be a thorough review before any decisions are taken about long-term arrangements. Piloting and evaluating is the right way to proceed, rather than taking a final decision now.

I advise the Committee that new clause 21, although well intentioned, is not necessary. When we debated amendment 20, I set out some details of the future immigration system, but let me remind the Committee what we will be providing. First, there will be a route for skilled workers, which will be available to nationals of all countries and will require workers to be sponsored by an employer to do a specific job. As now, however, there will be the facility to change jobs and move from one licensed sponsor to another.

In line with the recommendations of the independent Migration Advisory Committee, we are expanding that route to encompass medium-skilled as well as high-skilled workers. We are also abolishing the cap and the resident labour market test for high-skilled workers. Those who come to the UK through the skilled workers route will need to meet an income requirement, and I make no apology for that. That is a continuation of the provision in the current points-based system which, I remind the Committee, was introduced by the last Labour Government.

MAC’s report, which was published in September, said:

“We believe that these salary thresholds are likely to ensure that these migrants raise the level of productivity in the UK, make a clear positive contribution to the public finances and contribute to rising wages.”

I am sure that every member of the Committee shares those objectives. We have set out that we intend to spend the next year engaging with businesses, employers and other stakeholders before determining the level at which salary thresholds should be set.

Let me turn to more temporary and potentially less skilled migration, with which new clause 21 is particularly concerned. The immigration White Paper sets out that as a transitional measure we intend to introduce a temporary work visa, which will allow nationals of low-risk countries to come to the UK for up to a year to work in any job, at any skill level.

Unlike in the new clause proposed by the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton, there will be no requirement to have a prior job offer or to be sponsored by a particular employer, and that is an important safeguard against exploitation. The temporary work route that I have described gives the hon. Gentleman much of what he is looking for with the new clause: a route for low-risk nationals to come to the UK for up to 12 months to work at any skill level and—crucially, given the problems that this might entail—without the need to be tied to a particular employer.

I apologise for having spoken at some length, but these are important issues worthy of serious consideration. I hope that I have reassured hon. Members that the protection of migrant workers is at the forefront of the Government’s thinking.