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Immigration: Effect on the Economy

Volume 634: debated on Monday 8 January 2018

The Government are clear that carefully controlled migration benefits the economy, our Exchequer and our communities in general.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. The Scottish Government, as well as Scottish National party Members of this place, have been calling for immigration to be devolved. Does my right hon. Friend agree that any separate immigration systems would do nothing except lead to chaos, confusion and extra barriers for those looking to live and work in Scotland as well as in the rest of our United Kingdom?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Immigration is a reserved matter, and applying different rules of immigration to different parts of the UK would complicate the system. He might share my view that if Scotland wants to attract the brightest and the best, as the rest of the country does, it might think twice about raising its own taxes, because that might put people off.

The NHS reports that almost 10,000 European Union doctors, nurses and support staff left the country in the year following the referendum. Is the Home Secretary aware of those levels of staff shortages, and how does she see the situation developing if there are further restrictions on migration for work purposes?

We really value the incredibly important work that EU migrants do in our health service, and there are no plans to restrict the way in which they can come and work here. They make such an important contribution. I am aware that some of them have gone back to work in countries that have had a strong economic recovery, such as Spain. There has also been a higher level of English language test to make sure that all health professionals in our service are able to communicate very clearly and effectively with patients.

What progress has the Secretary of State made in designing a system that allows soft fruit farmers in Angus and, indeed, across the United Kingdom to access seasonal labour from overseas?

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. I know that she is very concerned to make sure that agriculture has the support it needs from overseas workers. The Migration Advisory Committee will be looking at the issue for us, and we expect it to report later in the year.

May I congratulate the Home Secretary on having just made a positive economic case for immigration? However, how does she think that the message given by the immigration cap, Brexit, a hostile approach to immigrants and the general rhetoric of many of her Conservative colleagues help to make that case?

The right hon. Gentleman cannot take the moral high ground on immigration. We wholly recognise the value that immigrants bring when they arrive in the UK, with the brightest and the best working in our hospitals and attending our universities. We are wholly positive about immigrants. We want to do this in a way that controls our borders and delivers on the reductions to which we have committed.

Education is vital for the economy. A constituent of mine, Heather Cattanach, returned to Canada, but Home Office delays in looking at her application left a vacancy in the Moray Primary School where she taught. I have previously raised this issue with Ministers. Will the Home Secretary now look at it urgently so that the case can, I hope, be concluded?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising an issue about which I know he has been particularly concerned. I cannot comment on this individual case, but as soon as we have a new Immigration Minister, I will volunteer him or her to speak to my hon. Friend.

International students make an enormous contribution to our economy—Labour estimates the figure to be £25 billion a year. Will the Secretary of State confirm that the Government now support Labour’s policy of removing international students from the net migration target?

I would like to reassure the hon. Gentleman that we value the contribution that those students make to our economy, cultures and university towns. In the past 10 years there has been a 25% increase in their number, and in recent years there has been a 9% increase in the number of them attending Russell Group universities. Those numbers remain uncapped and we continue to welcome them.

Business, trade unions and universities in Scotland have all asked this Government to look at devolving immigration to Scotland. In a report just before Christmas, the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank said that devolving immigration would assist the Scottish economy. Will the Home Secretary now look seriously at those recommendations and at the request of business, the unions, think-tanks and universities in Scotland to devolve immigration?

The hon. and learned Lady and I have discussed this issue before, privately as well as publicly. She is aware that the Migration Advisory Committee will look at different areas and regional areas in the United Kingdom, so I respectfully suggest that she come back to me to continue the conversation when it reports, but we have no plans to devolve immigration.

I thank the Home Secretary for saying that she will at least look at the issue. Bunessan Primary School on the island of Mull has received only one application for its vacancy for a Gaelic teacher. It came from a fully qualified teacher who was Canadian but had trained in Scotland. Despite her being the only candidate for the job, the Home Office has refused her visa application twice. Does that not show that a one-size-fits-all UK immigration policy is not working for the Scottish economy and not working for rural communities?

I am surprised to hear that there are not more Gaelic speakers in Scotland who might apply for the job, rather than Canadians. Again, I suggest that the hon. and learned Lady come to see the new Immigration Minister at some stage because there may be more to the matter than what she has said in the House. It is difficult to comment on individual cases.

I hope that that Minister will know all about the situation on the island of Mull, preferably on day one.