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Migration Advisory Committee

Volume 485: debated on Monday 15 December 2008

7. What assessment she has made of the recent work of the Migration Advisory Committee on shortage occupation lists. (242971)

We are grateful for the work of the Migration Advisory Committee. The committee provides expert independent advice on where the country needs economic migration and where it does not. The Government have decided to implement the committee’s recommendations in full, and in addition to retain social workers on the UK shortage list while the MAC considers evidence of relevance to their inclusion.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. How does the work of the committee assist British businesses and workers, including in Scotland?

The idea, of course, is that, through the committee’s expert advice, we can identify where there are skill shortages in order to place those shortages on the migration list under the points-based system, but also, crucially, to provide for training and skilling for British workers—for my hon. Friend’s constituents—to get jobs. As part of that approach, we also have specific measures for Scotland to identify those sectors of the economy where there are particular short-term problems.

The Minister will appreciate that Scotland has different population and immigration requirements from the rest of the UK, yet the MAC list has as additional groups only care home nurses and fish filleters. In his assessment, what difference will that make to Scottish population problems? Do we not need significantly more help than that?

The hon. Gentleman is being slightly unfair, as he has missed out quality controllers in the fish processing industry, which in Scotland is extremely important. As I said, the UK list covers Scotland so that within those sectors that apply to Scotland and to the rest of the UK we can provide for training and skilling in skill shortage areas, for the benefit of his constituents. It is a fair and tough policy, but flexible for local economic needs.

Given that more than 70,000 skilled workers have come into the country in the past three years under the skilled workers scheme and that the Home Office does not know where any one of them has found a job or whether they have found skilled jobs, and given that unemployment is now rising, what steps are the Government taking to control the scheme?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that question. It is precisely because of the concerns that have been raised that we have introduced the points-based system and the criteria that we can apply to skills within the different tiers of the system. As a result of that system, we can provide reassurance to our constituents that their concerns are being put foremost and we can match the skills shortages with the skills training programmes for British workers while applying the criteria of the tiers within the points-based system to control migration.

What further thought has the hon. Gentleman given to the proposals put to him by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Field) and me arising from the balanced migration campaign and the need to break the link between people’s coming here to work and their apparently now automatic right to settle?

I am grateful to be in the middle of a pincer movement, which is a very effective one, if I may say so. The hon. Gentleman is right. It is important to break the link between people’s coming here to work for a specific purpose under the skills shortage scheme or the high skills scheme, or under other smaller schemes, and their automatic right to settlement. It is very important that we break that link and that is what we are doing.