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Leaving the EU: Recruitment

Volume 657: debated on Monday 1 April 2019

1. What recent steps the Government have taken to ensure the effectiveness of the process for recruiting workers from EU and non-EU countries after the UK leaves the EU. (910125)

The Government published our immigration White Paper on 19 December 2018, which set out our principles of the future immigration system. The future system will ensure that the process for recruiting and sponsoring migrant workers is straightforward for businesses and employers. We are committed to reducing the time that it takes to hire skilled migrants and to processing the vast number of visa applications within two to three weeks.

I thank the Secretary of State for his response. Recruitment from abroad is essential to ensure that we can deliver an effective NHS in Wales and across the UK. Following the scenes of far-right thuggery outside this place last Friday, what steps is the Secretary of State taking to reassure both EU and non-EU workers that the United Kingdom is a safe place to be, where their rights will be protected?

I very much agree with the words of the hon. Lady, and like her, I believe that our country has benefited hugely from immigration over many, many years. We have benefited in so many ways—our economy and our culture—and it is very important that we maintain that welcome. I believe that the new immigration system does that. She also rightly mentioned harassment and intimidation, and there will be no place for that ever in our society.

The national health service depends on nurses of course, and we must welcome the Government’s announcement of the removal of the £30,000 pay cap from nurses. That makes a great deal of sense, but does the Secretary of State also agree that the long-term care industry equally depends, to a very significant degree, on people from the European Union? Will he not consider, equally, removing the cap for long-term care workers?

I hope that my hon. Friend welcomes a change that we have already made to the tier 2 system for non-European economic area workers, when, last year, we exempted nurses and doctors from that cap. As far as the new system is concerned, he is right to raise this issue, and that is why, as we set out in the White Paper, there is a process of engagement over this year to make sure that we are listening, including to the care industry.

York currently carries over 500 vacancies in our NHS and not just for nurses, so will the Home Secretary look at lifting the cap on tier 2 visas for all NHS professional staff?

As I just referred to, we have already made a significant change in this area. We also operate a shortage occupation list, which can benefit both the NHS and other sectors where a shortage is identified. I believe that as we set out the new immigration system and through the process of engagement with the White Paper, we can make sure that we get this right.

You and I are big Arsenal fans, Mr Speaker, and we will be following Arsenal tonight as they thrash Newcastle. We will remember watching a 16-year-old Cesc Fàbregas. Will the Home Secretary ensure that under the rules after we leave the European Union, we can still make sure that we have the youngest talent from Europe playing in our premier league?

I very much agree with my hon. Friend on the issue of talent. The heart of the new immigration system, as we set out in the White Paper, is all about making sure that we are open to talent from across the world in all sectors and all industries and doing our best to make sure that it wants to come to Britain.

An effective system for the UK must mean immigration rules being tailored and differentiated for different parts of the UK. What plans does the Home Secretary have to put in place differentiated rules reflecting the particular needs and circumstances of Northern Ireland?

It is important that like the current system, the new immigration system is simple and straightforward for businesses and others to understand, so I want to avoid unnecessary complexity. The hon. Gentleman is right about making sure that it reflects the needs of different parts of the UK. That is why in the current system, we already have, for example, the shortage occupation list specifically for Scotland. I want to make sure that as we go forward, we keep looking at the needs of all the nations of the United Kingdom.

Despite the doom-mongering from Opposition Members, is my right hon. Friend aware that since the referendum almost three years ago, the number of EU staff working in our NHS has increased by 4,000?

I would add to that—I think there are 5,200 on the latest figures, and I am sure that my hon. Friend would welcome that. What this shows is that the UK continues to attract the talent that we need from across the world, and we want to make sure that that happens with our new immigration system, when it is introduced.