Consequential etc provision

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 3:30 pm, 26th February 2019

My hon. Friend is right to point out that we do not want to miss out on expertise. We want to continue to attract the very brightest and the best to the UK, to work not only in medical research, but across the economy and all sectors of academia. We heard evidence from Universities UK, which often comes to talk to me about the importance of being able to attract not only researchers from the EEA, but students and academic staff. As I am sometimes inclined to point out, they cannot open their doors if they do not have people available to clean the lavatories. I am conscious that there is a wide breadth of individuals, skills and talents that we will need to continue to attract to the UK post Brexit.

We are in absolutely no doubt about the continuing need in the UK for those working to tackle terrible diseases, such as cancer. We want the existing EU workforce to stay, and we want to continue to attract other international workers in the field. We recognise that the research, as the hon. Member for Scunthorpe pointed out, goes way beyond fiscal benefit. It is about the contribution to the health of the UK population and to the world, because research in this country does not stop at our own shores.

Even under the existing immigration system, special provisions apply for those coming to work in the UK as doctors, nurses and researchers, including in important scientific and medical fields. The provisions include, but are not limited to, being outside the scope of the annual cap that applies to the main skilled work route under tier 2 and not being subject to the resident labour market test. There is also provision for special salary exemptions from the minimum £30,000 threshold for experienced workers. I assure the Committee that the Government take seriously the impact on the UK economy of the proposals we have set out in the immigration White Paper. Together, the proposals are and will be designed to benefit the UK and ensure that we continue to be a competitive place, including for medical research and innovation.

As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, the Bill is designed to provide for the arrangements by which free movement will end for EEA nationals, delivering the commitment that the Government made. It is not designed to set out precisely how the future immigration system will apply, and the power in clause 4 is to make consequential changes as a result of the end of free movement. It is not the place where we will set out the details of the future system.

As stated in the impact assessment published alongside the Bill, the details of the future immigration arrangements that apply to EEA nationals and their family members from 2021 will be set out in immigration rules. It is not yet possible to set out the quantitative and wider benefits of that future system, but the White Paper proposals published in December were supported by a full and detailed economic appraisal, which was published in an analytical note in annex B of the White Paper.

As the Committee will know, the Government intend that the proposal in the White Paper will provide the basis for a national conversation with a wide spectrum of business organisations and sectors. As I have said several times today, over the next 12 months we will listen carefully to various sectors and their concerns before taking final decisions. As the hon. Member for Scunthorpe will appreciate, it is right that the Government assess the full costs and benefits of ending free movement once the future policies have been finalised.

I therefore suggest that the regulations, which are primarily intended to cover the transition from free movement to the future system, are not the right place to set out a detailed impact assessment of the end of free movement on individual sectors. I can reassure the Committee that it is our intention that the immigration rules for the future system will be accompanied by relevant impact assessments, once the arrangements have been finalised.

Accordingly, I believe that the amendment is not appropriate at this time, because it is attached to the wrong provision, but I accept and welcome the spirit of what the hon. Member for Scunthorpe seeks to achieve. I assure him that appropriate impact assessments will be provided.