Skip to main content

SNP Debate on A Fair Immigration System: Government Response

Volume 666: debated on Wednesday 16 October 2019

People from all over the world have come to the UK and helped make this nation what it is today, and this Government welcome the contribution migrants make to the UK’s economy, society and culture.

Leaving the EU allows us to introduce a new points-based immigration system and we have commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to conduct a review of the Australian immigration system and other international comparators, as the first step in creating our new fairer immigration system.

The new immigration system will be a single system, where it is people’s skills that matter, not where they come from. For example, our new graduate route will be open to international students who have successfully completed a course of study in any subject at undergraduate level or above at an approved UK higher education provider. It will build on action to help recruit and retain the best and brightest global talent.

But a fair system also means a controlled system. My right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, has confirmed he is not getting into a numbers game in respect of migration, but it is only fair to those who play by the rules and everyone else that those working, living and accessing public services are doing so legally. It is right that the system distinguishes effectively between those with lawful status and those here illegally.

In that respect, we are keen to ensure that the experiences of the Windrush generation are not repeated. One of the key lessons we have learnt is that declaratory systems do not work. The EU settlement scheme means that, in years to come, EU citizens will always have the evidence that they need to continue living in the UK as they do now. Simply to grant all EU citizens a status in law, and not require them to obtain evidence of this, would significantly increase the risk of another Windrush.

The EU settlement scheme, is a fair, simple and straightforward system for EU citizens to secure their immigration status in UK law. The system is working well, and the latest internal figures show we have received two million applications and are processing up to 20,000 a day.

Settled and pre-settled status reflects the residence rights that EU citizens currently have under EU free movement rules. EU citizens resident in the UK for less than five years can get pre-settled status, which protects their current rights to live, work, receive benefits and access services, qualifying for settled status once five years residence is complete.

Fairness also means ensuring we provide protection to those most in need of it. This Government have great respect for human rights and has evidenced this through a long and proud history of supporting refugees and other vulnerable people. Over 75,000 individuals have been granted some form of protection since 2010.

In 2015 we committed to resettle up to 20,000 refugees affected by the conflict in Syria by 2020—and we are well over three-quarters of the way there, resettling over 17,000. We have re-affirmed this commitment to resettlement beyond the current commitments by creating a new consolidated global resettlement scheme, resettling in the region of 5,000 refugees in its first year of operation.

Immigration is a reserved matter and this Government believe it is right that it stays that way, but we do recognise the need for some regional variation, which is why Scotland already benefits from a separate shortage occupation list.

It is also why, earlier this year, we commissioned the MAC to advise on issues concerning potential future salary thresholds.

This Government believe that a controlled immigration system that serves the best interests of the whole of the UK, that rewards hard work and talent, that is based on a person’s skills and what they have to offer rather than where they come from; and that provides protection to the most vulnerable, is a system that constitutes fairness. That is the system this Government are working to deliver.