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House of Commons Hansard
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05 December 2016
Volume 618
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2. If she will make an assessment of the potential merits of applying different immigration rules to Scotland and other constituent parts of the UK. [907615]

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Immigration remains a reserved matter and we will consider the needs of the UK as a whole. Applying different immigration rules to different parts of the United Kingdom will complicate the immigration system, harming its integrity and causing difficulties for employers who need the flexibility to deploy their staff to other parts of the UK.

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I know that the Home Secretary agrees with me when we say that Vote Leave was irresponsibly short of detail during its campaign, but one of the details that it did give us was when the former Justice Secretary promised that Scotland would be responsible for its immigration policy. Is that still the case, or is that planned?

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If the hon. Gentleman had been paying attention to what I just said, he would know that it remains a UK competency. Given that the Scottish people voted in 2014 to maintain Scotland’s position as part of the United Kingdom, may I suggest that he looks at the powers in the Scotland Act 2016 to make Scotland a more attractive place in which people will want to come to live and work?

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Notwithstanding all the attractions of living in Scotland, is not the balance of population movement still to the south?

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We do have a specific Scotland shortage occupation list, which recognises the need to attract certain types of occupation to Scotland and which takes account of Scotland’s needs.

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One group of families that a distinct immigration system for Scotland would help are the “skype” families. There are 15,000 kids across the United Kingdom who are separated from a parent abroad because this Government have the least family-friendly immigration rules in the whole of the developed world. Almost half of Scotland’s people do not earn enough to meet the crazy financial threshold to bring the partner whom they love from abroad to live here. Will the Minister for Immigration allow the Scottish Government to set their own threshold, or how will he explain to those children why they have to live apart from one parent?

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At least the Scottish National party is honest about the fact that it wants to increase immigration, unlike the Labour party, which repeatedly refuses to say that that is its policy.

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I am sure there is no suggestion that anybody would be anything other than honest in this Chamber.

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What is so difficult about some state variations in immigration rules? Many visas tie people to a specific job and employer. We have Tech City visas, which have special rules for certain UK cities, and we do operate a common travel area and an open border with Ireland, which is a completely distinct immigration system. Does the Secretary of State accept that there is no practical reason why we cannot see significantly different rules applying in Scotland for those significantly different needs?

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If the hon. Gentleman were to examine the evidence of the Fresh Talent scheme, which the Scottish Government reviewed in 2008, he would see that only 44% of those applicants remained in Scotland, and more than half of those jobs were not appropriate for the level of education of those who took them.

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Does my hon. Friend agree that there is a good reason why immigration is a reserved power, and that the slippery slope that the Scottish nationalists are trying to take us down would, if taken to its logical conclusion, end up with a border?

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I am always very careful not to get on to slippery slopes, as one ends up at the bottom of the hill in a bad place.

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Well, one can always come to the Chamber to be illuminated by the hon. Gentleman.

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The Minister cannot get away from the fact, though, that different parts of the country have different labour and immigration needs. In the northern isles at present our fishing industry is being crippled because white fish boats in particular cannot get the visas for the crews that they need to go to sea. Will the Minister meet me and representatives of the fishing industry to find a way around that?

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I recognise the problem and have had meetings with a number of right hon. and hon. Members on the issue. I do not recall, however, that during the referendum campaign the fishermen around the coast of our country were campaigning to repatriate powers so that they could attract more Filipinos to work in the industry. I understand the problem and will continue to meet right hon. and hon. Members to see what we can do to help.