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Immigration Rules (Constituent Parts of the UK)

Volume 611: debated on Monday 13 June 2016

14. If she will make an assessment of the potential merits of applying different immigration rules to Scotland and other constituent parts of the UK. (905361)

Our immigration system is designed to work for the whole of the United Kingdom. Applying different rules would lead to migrants applying in one part of the UK and then moving to another, as happened—as the Scottish Government’s own research shows—with the “fresh talent” scheme.

That is the scheme that the Government abolished. I thank the Minister, but that was an inadequate answer, quite frankly. I draw his attention to the fact that Australia and Canada have introduced substate immigration rules to ensure that migrants are encouraged to live where they are most needed. Will the Government look seriously at how this can be implemented in the UK, as the Justice Secretary has suggested today in Scotland?

Experience of the “fresh talent” scheme indicated that only 44% of applicants had remained in Scotland at the end of their two years’ leave on the scheme. We asked the Migration Advisory Committee to look at whether differentials would work in terms of the overall salary thresholds, but it advised that that would not be appropriate and, indeed, that it would lead to the setting of higher salary thresholds in Scotland as contrasted with the rest of the UK, therefore not achieving the objective for which I think the hon. Gentleman is trying to argue.

Scotland needs different immigration rules because it faces very different demographic challenges from those in London and the south-east, yet the needs of London and the south-east determine British immigration policy. Why will not the Government exclude Scotland from the net migration target and work with the Scottish Government to pursue policies that are tailored for Scotland’s needs?

I do not agree with the hon. and learned Lady’s analysis. The shortage occupation list recognises the different skills shortages that may need to be addressed in Scotland. Under the Scotland Act 2016, the Scottish Government have new powers to make Scotland a more attractive place to come to, live in and work in, in order to boost the tax take and grow the population. I encourage the Scottish Government to use those powers.

As the Minister very well knows, immigration is still a reserved matter. I am interested to hear that he accepts the principle that different rules can apply to different parts of the UK by highlighting differences in the shortage occupation list. Having accepted that principle, why will he not work with the Scottish Government to pursue other policies that are designed to meet the specific demographic challenges that Scotland faces?

I did not say what the hon. and learned Lady suggested. We always welcome the opportunity to continue discussions with the Scottish Government on these issues, recognising that immigration remains a reserved matter. We will look carefully at the Scottish Affairs Committee’s report and respond to it shortly. We are very clear that there needs to be a policy for immigration across the UK, and that is what this Government will continue to adopt.