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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:15 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 3:15 pm, 4th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gapes. It was also a pleasure to hear David Linden introduce the debate. I wish to discuss some points that this debate generates.

The hon. Gentleman set out the background issues very clearly. As he pointed out and as the letter from the Catholic Church clearly points out, the debate is held in the context of the supply of priests, particularly in the summer, and allowing the laity to continue to attend mass. So there are two issues at stake: the laity attending mass and the priests being allowed a holiday. I am all for priests being allowed a holiday, just as I am all for MPs being allowed a holiday. As an aside, when I first came into this House, a very senior Member said to me, “The person you should acquaint yourself with to get the right sort of status is the suffragan bishop.” Members can interpret that as they wish. Whether the popularity of MPs and suffragan bishops has taken the same turn is something I will leave for others to decide.

We have heard about a change whereby visiting priests are required to apply under tier 2 rather than under tier 5, and that is producing problems, as Ged Killen illustrated, as well as costs for various communities. There are also English language burdens they have to suffer and a little more red tape than under the current scheme. However, I do not think the problem is widely shared among all religious communities. Valerie Vaz nods. I will illustrate how it is not the case in some communities.

I accept that it is a case for the Catholic Church and for many others, but we live in a world where it is very difficult for anyone to recruit priests. Although this is perhaps the subject of an additional debate on another occasion, I point out that Anglicans are in a much better position because they have admitted women as priests. They therefore have an enormous supply of priests who are available and ministering. Whether the Catholic Church wants to take up my suggestion is a matter for it to decide and I will not interfere.