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Leaving the EU: Immigration

Volume 652: debated on Wednesday 16 January 2019

1. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the potential effect on Scotland of UK immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU. (908506)

4. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the potential effect on Scotland of UK immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU. (908509)

7. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the potential effect on Scotland of UK immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU. (908512)

8. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the potential effect on Scotland of UK immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU. (908513)

10. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the potential effect on Scotland of UK immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU. (908515)

12. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the potential effect on Scotland of UK immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU. (908517)

14. What recent discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the potential effect on Scotland of UK immigration policy after the UK leaves the EU. (908519)

This has been a momentous week for Andy Murray, so I am sure you will agree, Mr Speaker, that it is appropriate that at this Scottish questions we acknowledge in this House Andy’s extraordinary contribution to British sport, and his personal resilience and courage, and express our hope that we will once again see Andy Murray on court.

I am in regular contact with the Home Secretary on a range of issues of importance to Scotland, including future immigration policy after the UK leaves the European Union.

Apart from his enormous talent, can I agree with the Secretary of State more widely about Andy Murray? He is the embodiment of guts and character, and the most terrific ambassador for Scotland, for tennis and for sport. His mother Judy must be the proudest mother in the world.

The Tories’ obsession with slashing immigration to the tens of thousands will see Scotland’s working-age population decline by 4.5%—that is 150,000 people—by 2041. Is the Secretary of State happy standing over such a policy that will cause economic harm to our country?

The hon. Gentleman does not correctly characterise the situation. The immigration White Paper that this Government have set out is an undertaking to embark on a year-long engagement process across the whole UK to enable businesses and other stakeholders to shape the final details of a post-Brexit immigration policy and process.

May I concur, Mr Speaker, with your comments and those of the Secretary of State regarding Andy Murray? I would encourage all Members to sign my early-day motion recognising his achievements.

Immigration has been and continues to be good for Scotland. Scottish Government modelling suggests that a Brexit-driven reduction in migration will see real GDP drop by 6.2% by 2040, which has a monetary value of about £6.8 billion and a £2 billion cost to Government revenue. Does the Secretary of State believe that this cost to Scotland is a price worth paying for his Government’s Brexit mess and immigration folly?

I do not want to end up repeating my first answer on seven occasions. I want to make it clear that the immigration White Paper that we have published is a consultation. It is an undertaking of a year-long engagement process across the whole UK, including Scotland. I expect Scottish businesses, Scottish stakeholders and, indeed, the Scottish Government to play an active part in that process.

Scrapping freedom of movement will make recruiting staff for NHS Scotland harder. Despite being paid the real living wage, lab technicians, admin staff and social care workers do not earn anywhere close to £30,000. So what did the Secretary of State do to try to convince the Home Secretary to take into account Scotland’s needs?

I am not going to take any lectures on Scotland’s needs in relation to the NHS from the hon. Lady or the SNP—a party that has put up tax in Scotland such that doctors and nurses in Scotland pay more tax than anywhere else in the UK.

I was interested to hear the Secretary of State’s comments about Scottish businesses. CBI Scotland has said that White Paper proposals “don’t meet Scotland’s needs” and were a “sucker punch”. Is it not the case that this hostile immigration policy proves that the Tory Government are anti-business?

I am really pleased to hear the hon. Lady supporting the CBI, because it could not have been clearer that it does not want a separate Scottish immigration policy. It wants one immigration policy for the whole United Kingdom, and I agree.

I am sorry, but this is absolutely pathetic. We have an ageing population, and we need people to come and look after the folk at Greenfield Park care home in my constituency, for example. The Secretary of State is out of touch. When will he get a grip and understand that Scotland’s immigration needs are entirely different from the London-centric policy pursued by this British Government?

I well understand the issues facing Scotland, and I do not believe that it would be better served by a separate immigration policy. I also do not believe that immigration into Scotland is well served by a Scottish Government who put up tax and have a poor record on infrastructure and housing.

The policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses in Scotland has said:

“The UK Government’s obstinate approach to immigration is a clear threat to… local communities”

making it

“nigh impossible for the vast majority of Scottish firms to”

get the labour and skills

“they need to grow and sustain their operations.”

With what part of that comprehensive statement would the Secretary of State care to disagree?

I set out in my previous answers that the immigration White Paper is a consultation. The FSB and others are contributing to it, and we will listen to them. I am clear that Scotland benefits from a UK-wide immigration policy, but I also believe that there are things that the Scottish Government could do to make Scotland more attractive.

Following the disgraceful Christmas video aimed at EU nationals and then the Government’s catastrophic defeat last night, will the Secretary of State urge his Government to end the hostile approach to our EU friends, neighbours and colleagues, who are vital to the Scottish economy and Scotland’s communities?

I agree that EU nationals have played an enormous part in the Scottish economy and more widely in civic society. I want to give them certainty on their position, which is why I voted for the deal last night.

Is the Secretary of State aware that The Times reported on 10 January that a study conducted by one of Britain’s leading social surveys showed that Scots do not want immigration to be devolved? Does he agree that that is a hammer blow to the Scottish National party’s calls and that the biggest danger to Scotland is the SNP’s drive towards another independence referendum, which puts people off wanting to come to Scotland?

It is certainly clear that the SNP does something to put people off coming to Scotland. I read last night that Boy George was going to be moving to Scotland, but the Scottish First Minister engaged with him this morning, and now we hear that he is not coming.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Home Office and the Government in general have been engaging and will continue to engage with Scottish businesses on the consultation around the immigration Bill?

Yes, we will continue to engage. The White Paper is part of an engagement process. My hon. Friend, who is a great champion of the fishing industry, has already raised issues in relation not just to fishing vessels, but to fish processing.

I welcome this Government’s move to guarantee EU citizens’ rights here in the UK. That is unlike the SNP in 2014, when it threatened EU citizens that 160,000 of them would be stripped of their right to remain in Scotland. No unilateral guarantee was given to EU citizens by the SNP in 2014, but this Government are doing so now. Will my right hon. Friend clarify the direct communications that this Government are having with EU citizens in my constituency and elsewhere in Scotland to ensure that they know that they are a welcome and valued part of our community?

The Government are not just engaging with EU citizens, but setting out how they can proceed in the settled status process.

The borderlands area needs to attract more people to live and work on both sides of the border. Does the Secretary of State agree that the way to do that is through investment, both private and public, and by creating the business environment for that investment, not by increasing taxes and regulation?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. As he knows, this Government fully support the borderlands initiative. It is investing in the improvement of infrastructure and housing that will make the south of Scotland and the north of England more attractive, not putting up taxes.

Tax divergence by the Scottish Government is damaging my Gordon constituency, which is struggling to attract overseas workers to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and the oil and gas industry. Does the Secretary of State agree that this is economic madness and that it makes Scotland unattractive?

As I have said many times in the Chamber, I remain at an absolute loss to understand why the SNP thinks that making Scotland the most highly taxed part of the United Kingdom is an attractive proposition to bring people to Scotland.

May I, as the Member of Parliament for Dunblane, add my admiration for Sir Andy Murray and, indeed, for his mother?

On the White Paper on future immigration, does my right hon. Friend agree that the salary floor of £30,000 makes it difficult for Scotland to retain international graduates when the average graduate salary is £21,000? There has to be the opposite of London weighting, does there not?

My hon. Friend makes a very good point, which I am sure will be taken into account as we move forward with the engagement process on the White Paper.

The Secretary of State’s Government have been responsible for pursuing an agenda in which immigrants are demonised. We saw it over the past year with the hostile environment policy; we saw it over the Christmas break as the Home Secretary declared a national crisis when a handful of refugees made the perilous journey across the channel; and we now see it in black and white in the immigration White Paper. My question is simple: will the Secretary of State apologise for his Government’s demonisation of immigrants and its harmful consequences for the Scottish economy?

Of course I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s characterisation of events. Scotland remains a place where migrants should be welcome, wherever they come from. The White Paper sets out the basis for a consultation on developing a new immigration policy post Brexit, and I encourage everyone to take part in that consultation.