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Immigration Rules

Volume 620: debated on Monday 23 January 2017

1. If she will make an assessment of the potential merits of applying different immigration rules to Scotland and other constituent parts of the UK. (908278)

10. If she will make an assessment of the potential merits of applying different immigration rules to Scotland and other constituent parts of the UK. (908287)

11. If she will make an assessment of the potential merits of applying different immigration rules to Scotland and other constituent parts of the UK. (908288)

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 UK would complicate the immigration system, harming its integrity, and cause difficulties for employers who need the flexibility to deploy their staff across the UK.

That is a very disappointing response, infused with arrogance and complacency. Many large countries, such as Canada and Australia, have regional variations in their immigration and visa policies in order to take account of diverse and complicated local economic circumstances. Is it not foolhardy for the Government at this very early stage to rule out the prospect of doing that in the regions and nations of the United Kingdom?

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman shares my view that any policy changes should be informed by the facts and by assessments, which is why we consulted the Migration Advisory Committee to look at regional issues, and it was unequivocal in its conclusions. I urge him to look at its report.

Does the Secretary of State not understand that Scotland needs more immigrants? Given that, why does she not give us the power to choose our own targets, for our own needs, for our own country?

The hon. Gentleman must surely share my view that Scotland has sufficient powers; it has its own powers to do many things—perhaps to improve its education system and its health system. Immigrants will come to a place where they see an improving education system and an improving health system. Perhaps the Scottish National party should spend a little more time applying itself to those important issues, rather than constitutional ones.

During the EU referendum campaign, we were told that Scotland should have control over immigration. We have already been told that leaving the EU is meant to be clear in what it means, so why is it that the Home Secretary can keep commitments that will cost us jobs but not one that might create some jobs?

I am afraid I do not share the hon. Gentleman’s views about the outcome of the referendum. The fact is we have an immigration policy that works for the whole of the United Kingdom, and that is the one we will continue to support. As I said to the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson), I urge the SNP to apply itself to making Scotland an attractive place for immigrants to go to.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while it is right that we seek to take account of different labour market concerns and demographic pressures in all parts of the United Kingdom, any separate immigration regime for Scotland —or Wales, for that matter—would undermine the coherence of the United Kingdom and risk creating softer, alternative entry points for the rest of the UK?

Of course my right hon. Friend puts it so well. Any immigration policy will take into account needs driven by industry and by our skills, but it will not be regionally based, because the fact is that people like to be able to move around, and it is right that they should be able to do so.

During the Commonwealth games in Glasgow in 2014, steps were taken at the border to ensure that Commonwealth citizens visiting the UK could easily transit our borders. Will the Home Secretary look at such measures for all borders in the UK, especially as we look to the Commonwealth as a new, strong trading partner?

I share my hon. Friend’s view about how important the Commonwealth is to the UK, and I will certainly keep his suggestion under consideration.

May I urge the Home Secretary to make sure there is consistency of border security and immigration policies across the United Kingdom? In that connection, will she tell the House what conversations have been had with Eurostar and Border Force to put an end to the Lille loophole, which seems to have been going on for six years? Does she agree that we cannot have a situation where profits are put before protection?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that serious matter. We are taking forward actions immediately, this week, to ensure these things do not happen. We will be having conversations with Eurostar and Border Force to ensure certainty going forward.

May I remind the Home Secretary that it was the right hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove) who said during the EU referendum campaign that migration should be devolved to Scotland? A starting point might be to allow EU nationals residing in Scotland to stay. Last week, the Select Committee on Exiting the European Union heard evidence from witnesses representing EU nationals living in the UK and witnesses representing British citizens living elsewhere in the European Union. Every single one of them said that it is their desire for the British Government to make a unilateral declaration of the continued rights of EU citizens in the UK. Will the Home Secretary now persuade the Prime Minister to do that?

I remind the hon. and learned Lady that nothing has changed: we are still in the European Union, and those citizens still have the same rights. In terms of their ongoing rights, the Prime Minister was very clear last week when she made her speech: she said it was going to be an early priority to give them the security they seek. I would urge all colleagues here to reassure their constituents that that is our intention, and we need to make sure that it is reciprocal for UK citizens as well.

Across Scotland, in common with other Europhile parts of the UK, there has been a huge upsurge in applications for indefinite right to remain from people such as Mrs Fabiola Power, who is Spanish by birth, but who got married and has been resident in Acton for decades. These people are dismayed that they have been rejected because they cannot prove that they have five years’ continuous service with the same employer or that they have paid into private health insurance. Will the Home Secretary revisit these rigid requirements, which penalise EU nationals such as Mrs Power, who have been homemakers, students, on short-term contracts or self-employed, and end this bureaucratic nightmare?

There is no penalising of people such as the lady the hon. Lady referred to. We continue to value the important contribution that EU nationals make to this country, and I urge the hon. Lady to follow the advice I previously set out, which is to reassure constituents such as the one she referred to that, in fact, we are doing our best to ensure that their future will be secure, and the Prime Minister says it will be an early priority to do so.