Tier 5 Religious Worker Visas — [Mike Gapes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:09 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Ged Killen Ged Killen Labour/Co-operative, Rutherglen and Hamilton West 3:09 pm, 4th July 2019

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Gapes. I thank David Linden for securing the debate and the Backbench Business Committee for granting time for it. The issue is of great concern to parishes in my constituency, as it is in others, not least because many Catholic parishes rely on tier 5 religious worker visas to bring priests to the UK on supply placements, which allows cover for illness, retreats, outings and, of course, much needed holidays. The hon. Gentleman has covered many of the salient points and concerns in his remarks, so I intend to be brief.

I am disappointed not to see the Minister for Immigration, Caroline Nokes, here, but I am sure that the Minister who is here will convey to her our concerns. I simply ask the Minister this: where is the evidence that the changes were necessary? Where is the evidence that large numbers of people were coming to the UK on tier 5 religious worker visas for another purpose? Where is the evidence that ministers of religion are coming in large numbers to the UK to preach, despite not having the English language skills necessary to do so? Is it not a matter for the parish to determine whether a priest or a minister has the appropriate level of English to preach to their congregation? The alternative in many cases is that services will simply not go ahead at all, and we all know the impact that can have when people, many of them elderly or at risk of social isolation and loneliness, lose out on the opportunity to come together as a community to worship, to support one another, and to seek spiritual and practical help.