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Immigration: Skilled Workers

Volume 645: debated on Monday 16 July 2018

5. What steps he is taking to ensure that the immigration system facilitates the hiring of sufficient skilled migrant workers for the UK’s needs. (906454)

11. What steps he is taking to ensure that the immigration system facilitates the hiring of sufficient skilled migrant workers for the UK’s needs. (906460)

13. What steps he is taking to ensure that the immigration system facilitates the hiring of sufficient skilled migrant workers for the UK’s needs. (906462)

The Government are committed to an immigration system that operates in the national interest and ensures that businesses can attract the talented migrants that they need. From 6 July, we removed all doctors’ and nurses’ posts from the yearly cap of 20,700 places, ensuring that the NHS is able to recruit the clinical staff that it needs.

The hot weather means that apples and pears may be ready to harvest early this year, as was the case last year when growers in my constituency struggled to harvest their crops. Will my right hon. Friend update me on the prospects for a seasonal agricultural workers scheme to ensure that farmers have the workforce that they need to harvest British fruit and vegetables?

I am very sympathetic to the issue that my hon. Friend has raised. As we design our future immigration system, I want to ensure that it takes into account the seasonal demand for labour not only in agriculture, but also perhaps in hospitality. That is why we have asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to look at this issue. We will see what we can do when the committee reports back.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to support a better controlled and fairer migration policy. I wonder whether he can tell me when the long-delayed White Paper on the subject will be published, so that the public know that we are taking it seriously.

I know that my hon. Friend will agree that it is fantastic that we will now have an opportunity—for the first time in decades—to design our own immigration system. We should take that seriously, as we are. It will be led by the White Paper, which will come out soon after the summer recess, and an immigration Bill that will make all the changes that are recommended and debated in Parliament.

I am glad that doctors and nurses have been excluded from the cap on skilled workers, which will free up many additional places for other highly-skilled occupations. Will my right hon. Friend give an assessment of how these regulations have worked since they have come into force?

I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming the changes and for his support. It is a bit too early to give an assessment, since the changes only came into play on 6 July. Like my hon. Friend, I am confident that they will not only help to provide some of the high skills that our economy needs, but will actually go on to create jobs.

Ministry of Justice figures show that half of immigration cases that go to appeal in England and Wales are overturned. Does the Secretary of State agree that the situation needs urgent attention and that those flaws need to be addressed before the European citizens who are in the UK have to apply for settled status?

The hon. Gentleman will know that we get tens of thousands of applications each year. Unfortunately, in many cases not all the information that is asked for is provided in the first instance. Officials will chase that up, and they will do so in a way that is as helpful as possible. If people want their application to be looked at in a timely manner, it is always helpful if all information is provided up front.

We have had numerous debates and countless questions on this issue. Is it not about time that the Home Office got together with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and sorted this problem out? It is estimated that last year we ploughed back into the ground about 10% of our fruit and vegetables: what is it going to be this year?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Home Office works very closely with DEFRA, as with other Departments, on issues affecting migration. With regard to making sure that we have the talent and skills we need for our agricultural sector, working with DEFRA is exactly what we are doing.

Scotland needs more than those termed “skilled” under the immigration rules. The continued availability of workers from other EU countries is vital to employers across the Scottish economy. Is not the comprehensive economic and trade agreement-style mobility framework suggested in last week’s White Paper a recipe for disaster for employers other than London-based multinationals?

Maintaining and increasing Scotland’s working-age population is vital for Scotland’s continued economic prosperity. Last week’s White Paper says that the UK Government will design a mobility framework that works for all parts of the United Kingdom. When is the Home Secretary going to meet his Scottish Government counterparts and engage in how the future immigration policy will impact on Scotland?

I am sure that the hon. and learned Lady agrees that we want an immigration system that serves the national interest—that brings immigration down to sustainable levels but also gives the skills that we need for the entire UK, of course including Scotland. My right hon. Friend the Immigration Minister is planning to visit Scotland this summer to meet Ministers.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend is working on a new UK-based migration policy to hit the Government’s targets. Does he accept that we might need this as early as 30 March next year if we leave without an agreement?

As always, my right hon. Friend makes a very important point. While we are working on the basis that we will not need it as early as 30 March, he is absolutely right to point out that we should be prepared for all eventualities, and that is exactly what we are doing.