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Points-based Immigration

Volume 673: debated on Tuesday 10 March 2020

11. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the proposed points-based immigration system on the provision of health and social care. (901427)

23. What assessment he has made of the potential effect of the proposed points-based immigration system on the provision of health and social care. (901440)

The points-based immigration system is designed so that the UK can attract the brightest and best individuals to work here. As the hon. Member no doubt knows, jobs where there is a recognised shortage of supply, such as nurses, are on the shortage occupation list, and people filling those roles will score more than enough points to come to the UK. We are also introducing the NHS visa to make it easier for doctors, nurses and health professionals from all around the world to come to work here.

The sector is understandably worried about what a points-based system will mean for their ability to recruit the workforce they need. Soon I plan to reintroduce my private Member’s Bill, which sought an independent review of the impact of Brexit on the sector, but will also now include an independent evaluation of having such a points-based system. Given the importance of an evidence-based approach to policy making, will the Minister agree to meet me and others to see how we can all work together to ensure that the long-term needs of the health and social care sector are met based on the evidence available?

I thank the hon. Member for his question. I am in contact with stakeholders, as a relatively new Minister in this post, reaching out as much as I can. I am mindful of concerns about vacancy levels but absolutely committed to making sure that, across health and social care, we have the workforce we need.

Not only do this Government treat the Scottish Government with contempt, but they treat their own Scottish Tory colleagues in the same way, as they were reportedly livid about the points-based immigration system introduced. Given the implications for health and social care staffing in Scotland, will the Minister ask Cabinet colleagues to reconsider our proposals for a Scottish visa?

We have the NHS visa, which applies to the whole United Kingdom. The Migration Advisory Committee has been clear that UK immigration policy must benefit the whole UK, and Scotland benefits from its own shortage occupation list, which will continue to exist.

Does my hon. Friend agree that a German-style system of social insurance for adult social care would relieve the burden and reduce the requirement for overseas workers, by allowing a loved one, a neighbour or a friend to provide that care and be properly remunerated for it?

I am well aware that my hon. Friend is very keen on that particular approach. He has hopefully received a letter from the Secretary of State, inviting colleagues to come to talk to us about the proposals and options for fixing our social care crisis, and I hope he will take that up.

Will the Minister consider waiving the NHS surcharge for overseas staff who want to come to work in our NHS?

I am well aware of concerns about the surcharge. Many overseas nurses coming to work in the NHS do not have to pay the surcharge, as it is covered by their employer.

The phrase “brightest and best”, when it appears in immigration talk, is obviously subjective and deliberately vague. What the private sector and local authorities want to know is: under the new Government system, will they be able to get people to come in who want to provide care—people we are desperate for?

For the NHS, we have the NHS visa and a clear route to come to work in the health sector. For social care, there is a job to be done by employers, to make sure that working in social care is an attractive job that is well paid. I also recognise that there is a role for Government and for all of us in Parliament, to come together and support changes to how we fund social care. We need to fix the social care system for the future.