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Leaving the EU: Public Services

Volume 657: debated on Wednesday 27 March 2019

2. What discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on the potential effect on public services in Scotland of the UK leaving the EU. (909973)

I have regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The best way to ensure that public services in Scotland and across the rest of the UK are protected is to ensure that we leave the EU with a deal.

May I share with the Secretary of State an email from one of my constituents, Ian? He says:

“As a doctor, I have already seen the adverse impact of Brexit on the NHS. Staff shortages are already hurting us…We cannot have Brexit and give the NHS resources it so badly needs. I know which people in our local community would prefer.”

Which does the Secretary of State think the people of Scotland would prefer: a decently funded NHS or Brexit?

I think everybody in Scotland wants to see a decently funded and supported NHS. I disagree with the hon. Lady on Brexit—her position is well known. If we want to encourage doctors like Ian to come to Scotland, what we should not be doing is taxing them £1,900 more than they would pay in the rest of the UK.

Is it not the case that what we have just heard is a complete scare story? The Government are making millions more extra available for the health service and all EU nationals who are currently here are welcome to stay. Surely, in the future, we will be able to have an immigration system that treats people equally regardless of where they come from in the world?

I agree with the points my hon. Friend makes. In the future, we have to make Scotland an attractive place to come to. If we want doctors and senior health service professionals to come to Scotland, we should not be taxing them significantly more than they would be paying in other parts of the UK.

The number of EU nurses applying to work in the UK has fallen by 87%, and more than 7,000 nurses and midwives from the European economic area have left the UK since the EU referendum. Can the Secretary of State say, with any honesty, that his Government’s pursuit of Brexit, and their hostile immigration policy, has not seriously harmed the NHS?

I could absolutely say that, because the Government are committed, as they have demonstrated across the UK for which they are responsible, to the additional funding of the NHS. We have set out an immigration White Paper, a route for engagement, to ensure that going forward we have EU and other citizens in our country to support the NHS and other services.

It is nice to get a chance to actually shadow the Secretary of State, instead of myriad other Departments that turn up from week to week, particularly as his own Government analysis shows that their plan for Brexit will result in a 4% drop in gross domestic product. If his party’s track record tells us anything, it will choose to impose austerity and poverty pay on public services and workers to make up for that decline. One of the worst consequences of austerity is rising food insecurity, resulting in food bank use rising faster in Scotland than across the rest of the UK. Given the pressure that the failed austerity agenda is putting on our public services, will the Secretary of State say how many food banks are currently operational in Scotland and does he predict that the number will go up or down under the current policies of this Government?

I thought the hon. Gentleman might have begun with an apology for his shameful remarks, when he said that people who did not agree with him in the Labour party leaving was “necessary cleansing”. I do not know if Labour Members are aware of those comments, but I believe that they are truly shameful. Of course, in relation to food banks, everybody regrets the need that people have in emergency situations to use food banks, but we are clear that the support that we are providing to people as we leave the EU will be sufficient to meet their needs.