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Free Movement of People

Volume 648: debated on Monday 29 October 2018

After the UK leaves the EU, free movement will end. In a recent report, the Independent Migration Advisory Committee concluded that the economic impacts of EU migration had been “relatively small”, with “limited regional variation”. As we leave the EU, we will create a single global immigration system that works in the interests of the whole United Kingdom.

Ending freedom of movement will have a major impact on the health and social care sector, which employs high numbers of EU nationals, and the tier 2 visa threshold of £30,000 is far more than any social care worker earns. Do the Secretary of State and Minister not recognise that wealth is not the same as worth?

We have been very clear that employers should take all possible steps to reduce their reliance on low-skilled migrant labour. The MAC does have serious concerns, however, about the social care sector and is clear that this sector needs a policy wider than just migration policy to fix its many problems. The MAC report has given us some sound advice, but the Home Office continues to discuss with all sectors, with business leaders and indeed with the devolved Governments so that we can come forward with an immigration policy that works for the whole country.

As someone who has recently been the beneficiary of care and care support, I would refute what the Minister has just said. Scottish Government analysis published in February estimates that real GDP in Scotland will be 4.5% lower by 2040 than it would otherwise have been, as a result of lower migration. Does the Minister agree that this is why immigration powers must be devolved to Scotland, so that Scotland can create a system that is fair and that meets our needs and values?

The Government have been repeatedly clear that immigration policy remains a reserved matter. Four years ago the people of Scotland confirmed in a referendum that they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom and we will deliver an immigration policy for every part of the UK.

There are 115,000 people looking for work in Scotland. Does the Minister think it would be a good idea if the Scottish Government did more to help those people to acquire the skills they need to get into the workplace and build the Scottish economy, rather than just ship in more people from beyond our shores?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his question. It is crucial that we work across the whole of government—through our modern industrial strategy, the Department for Education, local government and the devolved Administrations—to make sure that we provide the opportunities for young people across the whole economy so that they can find work.

I welcome the news that free movement will be replaced with a single control system based on people’s skills, not where they come from. Can my right hon. Friend reassure me that the future system will both facilitate the supply of foreign labour where there is a domestic shortage and complement the Government-wide approach to domestic skills to tackle the shortages where they can be addressed by upskilling UK workers?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Our first priority must be upskilling UK workers and making sure they can move into the vacancies that we know are there. My hon. Friend is always diligent in promoting the interests of businesses in Scotland, which might find it difficult to acquire the labour they need. I will be delighted to work with him in that respect.

The Scottish Government’s analysis shows that the average EU citizen working in Scotland contributes £10,400 per annum to Government revenue and £34,400 per annum to GDP. What plans have the UK Government made to mitigate the adverse economic impact on Scotland as a result of the UK Government’s decision to end free movement?

The hon. and learned Lady will be conscious that an immigration White Paper will be coming forward very soon, but it is crucial that we reflect on the advice given to us by the independent Migration Advisory Committee, which made the point that there were only limited regional variations.

I am very conscious of the much heralded and long awaited White Paper. However— the Minister may not know this—a nationally representative survey conducted by British Future and Hope not Hate shows that nearly two thirds of people in Scotland think the Scottish Government should have the power to decide which visas are issued to people who want to work in Scotland. Will the Minister meet me in advance of the White Paper to discuss how it will address the wishes and needs of the people of Scotland?

I gently remind the hon. and learned Lady that Scotland will be part of a single immigration policy for the whole United Kingdom, however strongly she might argue against that, but I will be delighted to meet her after the White Paper is published, because we do not want the White Paper to be the end of the conversation, and we will still be asking business and industry leaders, representative groups, stakeholders and the devolved Administrations to give us their views.