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Immigration System

Volume 650: debated on Monday 3 December 2018

The Government are considering a range of options for a future immigration system. Any decisions taken in respect of our future system will be based on evidence and extensive engagement. We will publish a White Paper on the future border and immigration system soon.

As my right hon. Friend will know, the science and research community thrives on international collaboration, which brings great benefits to the UK and helps us to maintain our position as a science superpower. However, technicians, scientists and researchers are not always the most highly paid individuals who visit the UK. Will he therefore confirm that any future immigration system will recognise the skills that an individual brings, not just their level of pay?

Britain is at its best when we are open to talent from across the world. I can confirm to my hon. Friend that we will take into account what he has said. I agree that mobility is vital for research and innovation in particular, and I want Britain to remain at the forefront of these vital industries.

The Home Secretary told the Home Affairs Committee that the immigration White Paper would be published certainly in December. He will know that there is obviously concern about the delays to the White Paper. Will he tell us now whether it will still be published in December and, if so, why it will be published after the meaningful vote?

All I can say at this point is that the White Paper will be published soon—I wish that I could say more than that. It is worth keeping in mind that this is the biggest change in our immigration system in four decades. It is important that we take the time and that we get it right.

As well as control, fairness as a principle and treating people equally regardless of where they come from in the world was right at the heart of why so many people voted to leave. What consideration is being given to that principle of fairness as we design a new immigration system?

One of the lessons from the Brexit vote was that people wanted to see control of our immigration system—one that is designed in Britain for our national interest, and that is certainly what we will be setting out. We want a system that is based on an individual’s skills and on what they have to contribute, not on their nationality.

Question 13 in the name of the hon. Member for Lanark and Hamilton East (Angela Crawley) is certainly germane to the question with which we are dealing and therefore—it is not obligatory—if she wishes to rise to her feet now and give the House the benefit of her thoughts we will be happy to hear them.

13. The UK detains more migrants than the majority of European countries and is alone in detaining indefinitely without a time limit. Does the Minister accept the findings of the Shaw review that detention is harmful to mental health and will he end indefinite detention? (907963)

I recently made a statement to this House where I accepted much of what was in the Shaw review, including alternatives to detention, particularly detention of women. We are looking at piloting different approaches. We are in discussions at the moment, but we will be setting out more shortly to the House.

Is it not time that the Home Secretary showed some leadership and that he joined the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government in his endeavours—the two Ministers working together to show the innovation, skills and creativity that immigrants bring to this country? Would not the Mayflower’s 400th anniversary celebration in 2020 be a wonderful hook to hang that on—celebrating what immigrants bring to this country?

I very much agree with hon. Gentleman’s sentiments about the importance of immigration. We are a much stronger country because of immigration and immigrants have contributed to every part of British life—not just our economy, but our families and communities. We should always be looking for opportunities to celebrate just that.

The Prime Minister is selling her Brexit deal by telling the country that it ends free movement of labour. Does the Home Secretary realise that it is completely unacceptable to have the meaningful vote without the White Paper having been published?

The right hon. Gentleman will know that, deal or no deal, there will be an end to free movement of labour.

At last Tuesday’s Select Committee on Home Affairs, the Home Secretary said that it was correct for colleagues from Northern Ireland to highlight particular regional concerns about immigration, and stated:

“It is still possible to design a system that takes into account some regional difference.”

Does he agree that the same is true for Scotland?

I am a little surprised by that question, on the basis that under the current immigration system, regional difference regarding Scotland is recognised, with the shortage occupation list, for example. I agree with the premise of the hon. and learned Lady’s question—that, although the immigration system will be a national one, we should look at any regional requirements.

I am delighted to hear that the Home Secretary accepts that the need for regional variation in Northern Ireland is mirrored by a similar need in Scotland, although I would underline that Scotland is a nation, not a region. If he is prepared to accept that, will he give me an undertaking that when the White Paper comes out, he will consult with all stakeholders in Scotland—including the Scottish Government and Scottish employers—and be open to the need for regional variation in Scotland, such as reintroducing the post-study work visa?

The commitment that I am very happy to make to the hon. and learned Lady is that we will consult extensively when the White Paper is published, and that of course includes with our friends in Scotland.

In a week’s time, MPs will be asked to make a decision in potentially the most important vote on our country’s future. Are we to do so without any idea of what our post-Brexit immigration system will be?

The hon. Gentleman said “without any idea”. We have already set out the principles of what a post-Brexit immigration system will look like; for example, there will be no freedom of movement and it will be a skills-based system. As I made clear in response to an earlier question, whether there is a deal or no deal, there will be a new immigration system.