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Tier 2 Visas

Volume 636: debated on Monday 26 February 2018

The cap on tier 2 visas was set in 2011 following advice from the Migration Advisory Committee. It enables the Government to control migration and encourages employers to look first to the domestic workforce before recruiting from overseas. The Government are clear that carefully controlled economic migration benefits the economy, but we remain committed to reducing migration and protecting the jobs of British workers. We keep all immigration routes under review to ensure that the system serves the national interest.

I am grateful to the Minister, but given that the cap has been reached three times in the past three months, what would she say to employers that are desperate for skilled staff, such as Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge? They find those people, but then discover that the Government say that they cannot come here. Is it really Government policy to deny the national health service the skilled people that it needs?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that no medical professionals on the shortage occupation list have been refused a visa. It is important that we keep things under review and ensure that we recruit more doctors and nurses from within the UK, and my right hon. Friend the Health and Social Care Secretary is committed to ensuring that the number of training places for both nurses and doctors increases.

Is the Minister aware of the levels of staff and skills shortages in a series of economic sectors, including the NHS and social care? How does she see the impacts on these sectors if there are further restrictions on migration for such purposes?

Nurses are on the shortage occupation list, meaning that no nurse is turned away. The important thing is that we keep the matter under review and that we understand the situation through our work with the Migration Advisory Committee, which is looking at the pattern of EU work routes in this country, so that we come forward with an immigration policy that reflects the needs of our economy.

Has the Home Office decided whether EU citizens wanting to come to the UK to work in our NHS post Brexit will be subject to the tier 2 visa cap? If no decision has yet been taken, when do Ministers intend to end the uncertainty facing NHS employers?

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. He will have heard me say earlier that we will come forward with an immigration Bill in due course. He will also have heard me undertake to ensure that the House is updated on our EU exit policies in regular time, and that will of course happen.

I start by associating my party with the Home Secretary’s remarks about the tragedy in Leicester. Our thoughts and prayers are very much with the families.

The Minister suggests that the tier 2 cap situation is under review. With respect, that is not good enough. Failed applicants in the past three months may have no option but to apply again in the months ahead, making it ever more competitive for tier 2 certificates of sponsorship, which will make the problem much worse. Surely, if there is some sort of review, or if we have to wait for the Migration Advisory Committee, it makes sense to lift the cap in the meantime.

We are very clear that businesses should look first to employ people from within the UK, and we remain committed to reducing migration to sustainable levels. Interestingly, businesses have told us that our system compares well with our global competitors and that businesses like its speed and certainty.

The system works well for some businesses, but not for all. Breaching the tier 2 cap essentially meant that, to qualify for a certificate of sponsorship in December 2017, a job was required to offer a salary of £55,000 or above. That might be common enough for multinational companies in London, but it is much rarer elsewhere.

Given the Government say that they want a system that works for the whole United Kingdom, will the Minister make available information on the geographic spread of jobs that qualified for certificates of sponsorship over the past three months when the cap was breached?

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that, of course, we keep a separate shortage occupation list for Scotland, if that is what he is referring to, but that broadly reflects the shortage occupations across the whole UK. We look carefully at this issue, as he might expect, but it is important that he reflects on the fact that we are determined to have an immigration system in the UK that works for the whole country.