Review of effects on measures in Act of certain changes in migration levels

Finance Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:45 pm on 18th June 2020.

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“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effects on the provisions of this Act of migration in each of the scenarios in subsection (2) and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within one month of the passing of this Act.

(2) Those scenarios are that—

(a) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period without a negotiated future trade agreement,

(b) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period following a negotiated future trade agreement, and remains in the single market and customs union, and

(c) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period following a negotiated trade agreement, and does not remain in the single market and customs union.

(3) In respect of each of those scenarios the review must consider separately the effects of—

(a) migration by EU nationals, and

(b) migration by non-EU nationals.

(4) In respect of each of those scenarios the review must consider separately the effects on the measures in each part of the United Kingdom and each region of England.

(5) In this section—

‘parts of the United Kingdom’ means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

and ‘regions of England’ has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”—

This new clause would require a Government review of the effects on measures in the Bill of certain changes in migration levels.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Conservative, Romford

With this it will be convenient to discuss

New clause 15—Review of effects on migration of measures in Act—

“(1) The Chancellor of the Exchequer must review the effects on migration of the provisions of this Act in each of the scenarios in subsection (2) and lay a report of that review before the House of Commons within one month of the passing of this Act.

(2) Those scenarios are that—

(a) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period without a negotiated future trade agreement

(b) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period following a negotiated future trade agreement, and remains in the single market and customs union, and

(c) the UK leaves the EU withdrawal transition period following a negotiated trade agreement, and does not remain in the single market and customs union.

(3) In respect of each of those scenarios the review must consider separately the effects on—

(a) migration by EU nationals, and

(b) migration by non-EU nationals.

(4) In respect of each of those scenarios the review must consider separately the effects in each part of the United Kingdom and each region of England.

(5) In this section—

‘parts of the United Kingdom’ means—

(a) England,

(b) Scotland,

(c) Wales, and

(d) Northern Ireland;

and ‘regions of England’ has the same meaning as that used by the Office for National Statistics.”

This new clause would require a Government review of the effects of the measures in the Bill on migration levels.

Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn Shadow SNP Deputy Spokesperson (Treasury - Financial Secretary)

New clauses 14 and 15 together provide for a review of the effects of measures in the Bill on migration. Has there ever been a more apt time to assess the impact of the Finance Bill on migration, as the UK steams ahead with dragging Scotland out of the European Union against its will and, in doing so, removes the ability for us to move freely across the continent of Europe and for Europeans to move freely into Scotland to take on the jobs that we so desperately need them to take, as well as providing the cultural and economic support that our society needs and deserves?

The debate about migration has been had on many occasions in the Chamber and in many Committees in Parliament, but it is particularly important in relation to the Finance Bill, given the fact that migration is unequivocally a positive thing for our economy, in particular in Scotland. I will reflect briefly on an example from my constituency. A company called John Ross Jr makes smoked salmon so good—the kilns are good—that even the Queen enjoys it. It is a world-renowned company. When the company had sight of the UK Government’s plans for immigration, it wrote to me describing as “catastrophic” the impact of removing free movement of people into Scotland.

That company’s labour force has been heavily dominated by people from fellow European nations. They have driven that organisation forward, which is a positive thing that we should welcome and encourage. It is good for Scottish business, it is good for the Scottish economy and therefore it is good for the wider UK economy.

However, for some reason, the UK Government seem intent on dragging Scotland away from that situation, which is deeply disappointing, because Scotland faces a wider demographic challenge—a demographic time bomb, so to speak. Our working-age population continues to decrease and migration is one of the easiest solutions to that problem.

The Scottish Government have sought to be pragmatic in that regard. They came forward to the UK Government in good faith, with proposals for a Scottish visa that would not be different from what is being put in place by the UK Government, but with an additional element that which would allow us to attract the workforce that we need. It would perhaps replicate what is in place in Canada and Australia, but it was rejected out of hand— in fact, I think that it was rejected out of hand within 20 minutes—despite the fact that it is in Scotland’s best interests.

Earlier, we heard—I think it was from the Minister—how the UK Government do not have control over all aspects of life in Scotland. However, where they do have control on immigration, they are doing severe damage, which will not be forgotten by Scottish business nor by the Scottish people, and when the time comes for us to make our own decisions once again and we go to that vote on whether Scotland should be an independent nation, it is the likes of the UK Government’s immigration policies that will weigh heavily on the minds of Scottish voters.

I will just conclude, because I am conscious of time, given the desire for everyone to be able to get home, by saying that the reality—the big question, as I have said before—is: why not? Why would someone not support this proposal? Why would they not want to know what the impact of the Bill will be, because ultimately we will have a situation where UK tax policies fail to boost immigration and falling immigration hits the Treasury. This proposal is a sensible one, which would hopefully protect the interests of Scotland.

Photo of Wes Streeting Wes Streeting Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury)

Based on how the pattern of voting is going this afternoon, we can guess how the discussion of this proposal will turn out, unless the Government Members have a Damascene conversion and decide to swing behind it.

I am conscious of the clock, but we have had plenty of opportunity recently to debate Government immigration policy; I think the Opposition’s views are very well known. The economic debate about immigration is an important one, and it is important to remind people not just in the House but across the country that it remains a positively good thing for this country that the UK remains a destination to attract talent from around the world to come and work and study on these shores. That is a national strength. Of course, it is also important that we have immigration rules that are widely understood and fairly applied, and enforced where necessary.

Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury

I will keep my remarks brief, in keeping with the spirit of Opposition Members’ comments. These clauses would require the Chancellor to review the effect of measures in the Finance Bill relating to changes in migration under several different EU exit scenarios.

I must emphasise that those scenarios are entirely hypothetical; that in itself is a highly questionable aspect of these new clauses. However, in any case, these new clauses are not necessary. I agree entirely with the hon. Member for Ilford North that immigration policy should be fair and seen to be fair. It is absolutely right that the Government have committed to ending free movement by January 2021; that will not change. The Immigration Bill delivers on that commitment but, in the spirit that the hon. Gentleman identified, it also lays the foundations for a firmer and fairer immigration system that welcomes people—the best and the brightest, to use the phrase in vogue—wherever they come from, and that is a good thing.

The Government commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to advise on the role of the future immigration system and the appropriate salary thresholds for the policy, and the Migration Advisory Committee recommended against regional variation across the UK. As I have said, and given that recommendation, it would be disproportionately burdensome to create additional reporting requirements focused specifically on the migration impacts of policies in the Bill.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time.

Division number 12 Finance Bill — Review of effects on measures in Act of certain changes in migration levels

Aye: 2 MPs

No: 9 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Nos: A-Z by last name

The Committee divided: Ayes 2, Noes 9.

Question accordingly negatived.