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Immigration Bill

Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2019

The Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill will help us deliver the new single, skills-based immigration system we want, one that maximises the benefits of immigration and demonstrates that Scotland and the UK are open for business.

I have heard the Secretary of State’s answer, but what faith can the people of Scotland have in the new immigration Bill or his Government when even after the issue was raised with the Prime Minister, with a promised intervention from the Home Secretary, the Home Secretary’s office told me yesterday that it has lost the file on Denis Omondi, the serving British soldier in 3 Scots whose young daughter has been denied a visa? Will the Scottish Secretary now get personally involved in this travesty?

Last week, the National Farmers Union Scotland told the Bill Committee that free movement works and should continue, that the Government’s seasonal workers pilot was not nearly enough and that post-Brexit immigration proposals do not make sense and are “very obstructive”. Given that the UK-wide system is not working for Scotland’s farmers, will the Secretary of State argue for different immigration rules to apply in Scotland?

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman references the seasonal workers scheme, which my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Kirstene Hair) did so much to champion, but he is very selective in the evidence he cites. The clear view of businesses giving evidence to the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs is that they do not want a separate Scottish immigration system.

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the CBI has said that a UK-wide immigration policy is the correct route, including for businesses in Moray and across Scotland?

My hon. Friend is right: that is the position of the CBI and of business organisations in Scotland, because they want workers to be able to move around the United Kingdom. There is no justification for a separate Scottish immigration system.

In both Scotland and Cornwall, many low-paid but skilled jobs are provided by immigrants to the UK. What assurance can the Secretary of State give that that will continue after Brexit?

In relation to Scotland, the immigration White Paper is a one-year consultation and businesses such as those referenced by my hon. Friend should take part in it and make the very point he has made.

It certainly feels different up here on these Benches today, that’s for sure. What does the Secretary of State have to say to the young people of Scotland—[Interruption.]

Order. There is something wrong with the microphone. It is very unusual. I have never been unable previously to hear the hon. Gentleman, but what I would say is blurt it out with vim, man!

I am, Mr Speaker. What does the Secretary of State have to say to the young people of Scotland who, because of his Tory Brexit, will be denied the rights and opportunities to live, work and love across the continent of Europe?

The hon. Gentleman gives a solid reason why he and his colleagues should support the Prime Minister’s deal, which sets out those very issues. Instead, he would far rather have no deal and set about the chaos and disruption that he believes would further the cause of independence.

I must say that, although my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) no longer sits on the Conservative Benches, she remains my hon. Friend.

Does the Secretary of State agree that the immigration Bill must not include provision for Scotland to join the Schengen area? That would undermine the common travel area and potentially result in a border with England.

There are those in this House who would, of course, like Scotland to have a border with England, but that is not true of this Government, who will never do anything that would bring that about.

Does the Secretary of State for Scotland agree with me that Scotland needs more immigrants and needs more workers? Will he therefore support lifting the ban on asylum seekers working when they come to this country?

Asylum seekers are a clear category and are dealt with under some very specific rules, but I do agree with the hon. Lady’s general proposition. That is why I encourage her and others to engage with the consultation set out in the immigration White Paper.

The immigration Bill and the immigration White Paper go hand in hand. The Bill ends freedom of movement and the White Paper sets out the proposed immigration criteria once free movement ends. But the Secretary of State surely should be championing the pressing demographic and skills needs of Scotland at the Cabinet table. My first job in the shipyards, after graduating, paid £24,000. Many of my colleagues from across the EU and further afield earn similar amounts, and they have brought great expertise to our industry. Indeed, given that the average salary in Scotland is about £23,000 and the average care worker in Scotland is paid £18,000, what is he going to do to ensure that this ridiculous, arbitrary salary cap is consigned to the bin, where it belongs?

The hon. Gentleman makes valid points, and I am sure they will all form part of the one-year consultation that is ongoing. I certainly will be advocating those sorts of points in that consultation.