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Immigration (Scotland)

Volume 522: debated on Monday 24 January 2011

A full impact assessment covering the whole of the UK will be published when we lay new immigration rules in March to implement the changes that will introduce the new limits from April. As the hon. Gentleman knows, immigration is not a devolved matter.

I thank the Minister for his response. In my constituency, there are two universities and a number of successful science and technology companies. I have been presented with cases at my constituency surgery in which promising employees and students have been rejected simply because the immigration limits have been reached. Those people are highly qualified and would be of significant benefit to the Dundee and UK economies. How can we simply turn them away?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the purpose of the limit is to meet the need to control Britain’s immigration system in a way that enables businesses to bring in the skilled workers that they need. I remind him and employers in Scotland that the unemployment rate in Scotland is above the UK average, at 8.4% compared with 7.8% for the UK. We should have regard to the needs of Scottish workers when companies look to recruit.

When one of my great-grandfathers left the Gordon Highlanders as a pipe major, he could not find work in Scotland. Like many Scots, he came south to England. If there are job vacancies in Scotland, should people not be thinking of moving the other way? Is it not a bit strange for the Opposition to be on the one hand bemoaning unemployment levels, and on the other hand campaigning for higher immigration levels?

My hon. Friend makes exactly the right point. It was the previous Prime Minister who made the unfortunate point about British jobs for British workers at a time when British workers were not taking the majority of the jobs available in this country. This Government are determined to balance the economy better in many ways, in particular by ensuring that as many of the available jobs as possible are available to workers in Britain and, indeed, Scotland.

I think that everybody in Scotland is getting tired of the complacent response on these issues. The Minister has managed to unite all businesses, all universities, the health sector and all employers in Scotland in opposition to the immigration cap, because of the damage it will do to the Scottish economy. When will he acknowledge that Scotland’s population issues are entirely different from England’s? Will he accept that one cap does not fit all when it comes to immigration?

There are indeed differences in Scotland, and one is that unemployment in Scotland is higher than in England, and higher than the average for the rest of the UK. I dare say that those who are complaining about this matter do not include workers in Scotland, and do not include the unemployed in Scotland.