Annual review of the ending of free movement in the United Kingdom

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at on 5 March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

‘(1) The Secretary of State must conduct an annual review of the impact of the ending of free movement of people in the United Kingdom.

(2) The annual review under subsection (1) must include, but is not limited to, consideration of the impact the ending of free movement has had on—

(a) the UK economy;

(b) the NHS and social care workforce; and

(c) opportunities for British citizens in the European Economic Area.

(3) When carrying out each an annual review under subsection (1) the Secretary of State must consult with UK businesses.

(4) The first annual review carried out under this section must be commenced within 12 months of this Act having received Royal Assent.

(5) Each subsequent annual review carried out under this section must be commenced within 12 months of the previous review.

(6) Each annual review carried out under this section must be laid before both Houses of Parliament within 3 months of it having been commenced.’—

Brought up, and read the First time, and motion made (this day), That the clause be read a Second time.

Photo of Graham Stringer Graham Stringer Labour, Blackley and Broughton 2:00, 5 March 2019

I remind the Committee that with this we are considering:

New clause 43—Future immigration policy—

‘Within 12 months of this Act coming into force, and every 12 months thereafter, the Secretary of State must lay a report before Parliament setting out how any changes made to the Immigration Rules for EEA and Swiss nationals have affected the extent to which UK employers have adequate access to labour.’

This new clause would mean the Secretary of State is accountable to Parliament for drafting Immigration Rule changes that ensure employers have adequate access to labour.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

It is a pleasure to be back under your chairship, Mr Stringer.

To continue the point that I was making, the Bill will have a huge impact on our health service and, specifically, the social care sector—even though, ironically, the social care sector is the prime example of where a labour shortage has failed to increase the wages of the people working in it. That should be a lesson to us all, if we think that we can promise people a pay rise on the back of immigration restrictions.

That said, we have all received a lot of evidence about the impact of the Bill on the health service, and that supports the case for the new clause. The Government have a large degree of control over workforce issues in the national health service and in the social care sector, so it would be right for the Government to feel the need to report to Parliament on the matter.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield Conservative, Lewes

I completely support some of the arguments that the hon. Lady is making. The social care workforce is made up largely of women. Does she think that that is a key reason why the sector is underpaid?

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

The hon. Lady is obviously a top feminist, because she identifies probably the single biggest reason why the care sector is low paid. The work done by women has traditionally, for reasons of structural power, been paid much worse than similar jobs that have traditionally been done by men, and that helps to make my point. If we want to increase the pay of women in the social care sector, a good way to go about it would be to encourage those women to join a trade union, so that they can enforce their rights, bargain for better pay and increase their dignity and their control over their workplace. I argue that a restriction on free movement is, at best, not the most effective way to support those women. None the less, it would be interesting to learn, and the Government ought to take responsibility for finding out.

In support of my new clause, I would like the Government to consider not just the impact on our labour market of the policy of ending freedom of movement, but the huge impact that the policy will have on UK nationals—we barely discuss the restriction of fundamental rights, freedoms and abilities that ending free movement will entail—and on some large and, in many cases, fast-growing sectors in our economy.

In the tourism industry, for example, many British workers spend time working in a different country to develop their skills, perhaps before they run their own tourism business or come back to work in the UK. Many such opportunities could be curtailed, and it would be a dereliction of duty for the Government to ignore the fact that that will be a consequence of the policy.

Arts, culture, film, music and sport are all areas in which the UK has traditionally excelled, and I hope it will do in future. They are multibillion-pound industries, and the impact on them of ending free movement will be huge. If we think about the orchestra in the city region that I represent in Merseyside—or the fine Hallé orchestra in the city of Manchester, which you represent, Mr Stringer—the impact of the ending of free movement on those orchestral musicians will be absolutely profound.

We are offering those industries a future immigration policy that is unclear at this point, and yet their ability to move around and work on the continent of Europe is mission critical to them in their great work of producing fantastic music—the best in the world, some would say, in the case of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. I simply cannot countenance the idea of the Government taking that step without thinking that they ought to report on it.

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons)

What my hon. Friend has said applies equally to dance and theatre.

Photo of Alison McGovern Alison McGovern Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

Of course it does. I use the broad sweeping terms of arts and culture, but each of the composite parts of the British arts and cultural industry will have its own specific problems. It is easy for us to ignore it, but for a theatre producer who is looking to tour with a dance company, the ending of free movement will be highly significant.

That is even before we get to science-based industries. We have all received many representations from science-based industries that spin out of research programmes that are connected not just to EU funding, but to scientists’ ability to work easily across the continent of Europe. The Government say that they wish to support science and technology, because it is the British way to improve our economy by inventing new things—we are, of course, the home of the computer. However, free movement is an integral part of that, and it has offered the science-based industries a great ability to draw staff in from among the best in Europe, wherever they are.

Finally, we ought to consider, and the Government ought to monitor, the policy’s impact on manufacturing. The Government have argued that their policy on Brexit—specifically, ending free movement and coming out of the single market—will somehow support manufacturing. UK citizens who work in manufacturing often want to grow their skills and see, understand and manage manufacturing plants across the continent of Europe. They want to understand how things are done differently elsewhere and bring those skills back to Britain. To ignore the barrier to future manufacturing prosperity that the policy will create is to ignore an important impact of the ending of free movement.

We know far too little about the impact of immigration on our local economies. There is no evidence of a statistically significant relationship between EU immigration and employment rates or wages. We do not have enough evidence about the impact of those things on local economies, despite the political rhetoric. The Government have a duty to do better, and I hope the Minister will support my suggestion.

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control)

I was going to speak to new clause 43, which covers largely the same ground as new clause 13. The latter clause is probably better drafted, and the hon. Lady has given a comprehensive speech in support of it, so I will simply say that I approve of everything she has said.

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration

New clauses 13 and 43 focus on requiring the Government to report on the impacts of ending free movement and our future immigration rules, respectively, on European economic area and Swiss nationals. As I have said, I appreciate that some Committee members do not believe we should end free movement. I pay particular tribute to the hon. Member for Wirral South, who spoke passionately on the matter.

I emphasise again that the Government fully recognise the great contribution that migrant workers make to the UK. We remain committed to ensuring that the future immigration system caters for all sectors, and that it benefits the UK economy and our prosperity. We want the existing workforce to stay and we want to continue to attract other international workers to the UK. That is why the White Paper contains a route for skilled workers —it will, for the first time, encompass medium-skilled workers as well as the highly skilled—and a temporary worker route, which will enable people of all skill levels to come to the UK for up to 12 months. Neither of those routes will be subject to a cap on the number of visas granted.

The Government take seriously the economic impact on the UK economy of the proposals that we set out in the immigration White Paper in December and other measures in the Bill to end free movement. These proposals are designed to benefit the UK and to ensure that it continues to be a competitive place, including for medical research and innovation.

I share the hon. Lady’s concern that policies are properly evaluated and their full impact considered. That is why the immigration White Paper contained a full economic appraisal, running to more than 50 pages. It is a serious piece of work, which I encourage all hon. Members to study carefully. However, although it is considered and well thought-through, that appraisal is, by its nature, predictive. The proof of any immigration policy is its actual effect, which can be established only once the policy is in operation. We need to understand how policies work in practice, how businesses and employers react and how individual prospective migrants behave. We also need to understand the prevailing economic conditions in the UK and the countries from which migrants might come.

The hon. Lady spoke of the quality of the debate in the referendum of 2016. I well remember some comments that were made at that time about the views of experts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I give quite a lot of credence to the views of experts, and accordingly I have a lot of sympathy with the sentiment behind the new clauses. I am pleased to tell the Committee that the Government already have plans in place to ensure there is an annual review of the kind that is envisaged.

Hon. Members will see that there is a section in chapter 3 of the immigration White Paper on the future role of the Migration Advisory Committee. It says that the Government will commission MAC to produce an annual report on key aspects of the UK’s immigration system. That strikes me as a comprehensive offer, and I think it would be best for any annual review to be undertaken by MAC, which has a good reputation for its independence and, of course, its expertise.

Accordingly, given our existing commitment to a proper, thorough and independent review of the operation of the future immigration system, I hope that hon. Members who have tabled these new clauses will see that they are not required and feel able to withdraw them.

Clause, by leave, withdrawn.