Skip to main content

Immigration System

Volume 661: debated on Monday 10 June 2019

In December 2018 the Government set out their proposals for a future immigration system in a White Paper, “The UK’s future skills-based immigration system”. The new system will be focused on those with the skills that the country needs, who will bring the most benefit to the United Kingdom.

My constituency needs migrant workers to support local industry—particularly, but not exclusively, in the health, hospitality, fishing and farming sectors. Will my right hon. Friend reassure my constituents that there will be sufficient flexibility in any post-Brexit immigration system to allow those sectors to flourish?

I am happy to give my hon. Friend that reassurance. We recognise that the future system must work for the valuable industries that make this nation great. We are working with many businesses and employers, including some in the sectors that my hon. Friend has listed, to ensure there is proper engagement which will achieve precisely what he has described.

On Thursday night, a 17-year-old schoolboy visiting Canterbury from Germany was violently attacked in our city centre. He is now fighting for his life. I thank the Home Secretary for intervening personally to enable the boy’s family to travel to be at his bedside, and I am extremely grateful for his—and his team’s—rapid response, kindness and hard work over the weekend. In the light of this awful incident, will he please reassure me that he is listening carefully to the grave concerns that are being expressed about the dwindling number of police on our streets?

I was very concerned to hear about that case when the hon. Lady contacted me, and I am pleased that the young man’s parents are now at his bedside. I can give her the assurance for which she has asked. We have a big police funding settlement this year, which is leading to the biggest increase in police numbers since 2010.

I thank the Home Secretary for the support that he has expressed for the amendment drafted by our hon. Friend the Member for Orpington (Joseph Johnson), which has the support of many colleagues on both sides of the House, and which seeks to ease post-study work restrictions on overseas students. Does my right hon. Friend agree that not only is this an economically sensible and useful thing to do, but it will enhance UK soft power as we build global Britain?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. As he will know, we have already announced steps in that direction in the White Paper, because we want to make it easier for those who come from abroad to study in our universities to stay and continue to lead their lives in the UK. I do believe that we can go further, both for our own economic benefit—indeed, I think, for our cultural benefit—and, certainly, for the benefit of our soft power.

International students are vital not just for our exports, but for university funding and regional economies. Britain is lagging behind our main competitors in attracting the brightest and the best. What plans has the Home Secretary to add countries such as India to the list of states with fast-track access to tier 4 study permits to help to address that issue?

I very much agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of international students, including their importance as an export for our economy. He will be pleased to learn that there is no cap on the number of international students who can come to the UK, and that the number who came last year reached a record high. As for fast-track access for certain countries, we constantly keep that under review.

My constituent Ken Macharia is under threat of removal back to Kenya, where he will not be able to live openly as a gay man. In the month of Pride, it cannot be right for us to deny him the right to be who he is. More importantly, however, does the Home Secretary agree that Ken’s sexuality should not be the issue? He came here to qualify as a mechanical engineer, and he therefore has skills that we urgently need for our economy. Should we not be letting him stay for that reason, irrespective of his sexuality?

I understand why my hon. Friend has raised this case, and I can assure him that the Home Office is taking it very seriously. He will, perhaps, appreciate that I cannot comment on an individual case, especially if it involves an application for a judicial review, but I can reassure him that in cases of this type, at the heart of decision making is the welfare of the individual concerned.

As has already been pointed out, the Home Secretary has pledged that if he becomes Prime Minister he will reintroduce the post-study work visa. The university sector in Scotland, business, and my colleagues in the Scottish Government have been calling for its reintroduction for some years. The right hon. Gentleman is already Home Secretary, and he has the power to reintroduce it with full effect for Scotland today if he wants to, so will he make a commitment to do so?

I am disappointed that the Home Secretary does not feel able to make that commitment, but I hope he will maybe follow through on it if he becomes Prime Minister.

May I ask the Home Secretary about something else that is very important to Members in all parts of this House? A recent freedom of information request from one of my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament revealed that 19 children and six pregnant women have been held at the privately run Dungavel detention centre since 2016, and this is despite the Government committing to end the detention of children at Dungavel. Can the Secretary of State explain how this has been allowed to happen and will he commit to ending indefinite detention as part of his future plans for the UK’s immigration system?

On the hon. and learned Lady’s first question, it sounds as though she has not read the White Paper yet because it talks about increasing post-study work permits. On the question about detention, we have a comprehensive and detailed policy on adults at risk; we constantly keep it under review, and when there are specific cases we will look at them very carefully.