With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the United Kingdom’s new points-based immigration system.
Last week, I announced our plans for a radical new approach that works in the interests of the British people. It will be a fair, firm and fundamentally different system in the control of the British Government that prioritises those who come to our country based on the skills they have to offer, not on the country they come from, and it will enable the UK to become a magnet for the brightest and the best, with special immigration routes for those who will make the biggest contribution. We will create new arrangements for new migrants who will fill shortages in our NHS, build the companies and innovations of the future and benefit the UK for years to come.
As this Government restore our status as an independent sovereign nation, we will set our own immigration standards and controls as an open, democratic and free country. The Government have listened to the clear message from the British public and are delivering what the people asked for in the 2016 referendum and the December 2019 general election. That includes ending free movement through the introduction of a single global immigration system that prioritises the skills that people have to offer, not where they come from, and restoring public trust in our immigration system with a system that truly works for this country. That is what people voted for, and we are a Government who will deliver on the people’s priorities.
We are ending free movement: that automatic right for EU citizens to enter and reside in the UK, which does not apply to people from other countries. Now that we have left the EU, this ambitious Government of action are ending the discrimination between EU and non-EU citizens so that we can attract the brightest and best from around the world. Our country and our people will prosper through one system and an approach that is in the control of the British Government—one that will also deliver an overall reduction in low-skilled immigration, as the public asked for.
Many of the values that define our great country originated in the huge benefits immigration has brought to our nation throughout its history. People from every corner of the globe have made an enormous contribution to the fabric of our society, which is why at the heart of this new single global immigration system will be a focus on attracting talented people from around the world and on the contribution they and their families will make, irrespective of their country of origin.
Last Wednesday, I published a policy statement setting out the new UK points-based immigration system, which will start operating from 1 January 2021 and will work in the interests of the whole United Kingdom. This will be a single, comprehensive, UK-wide system for workers and students from around the world. Our points-based system will provide a simple, effective and flexible arrangement to give top priority to the skilled workers we need to boost our economy and support our brilliant public services. All applicants will need to demonstrate that they will have a job offer from an approved sponsor. The job must be at an appropriate skill level and the applicant must be able to speak English and meet tougher criminality standards and checks.
We have acted on the advice of the Migration Advisory Committee to make the skilled workers route more flexible, as businesses asked for, and we have reduced the required skill level to the equivalent of A-level qualifications and cut the general salary threshold to £25,600.
The threshold for many NHS workers and teachers will be set in line with published pay scales to ensure that our public services do not suffer and we attract the talent that we need. Experienced workers who earn less than the general threshold, but not less than £20,480, may still be able to apply tradable points to reward vital skills and to bring us the talent that our economy needs. For example, a PhD in a relevant subject will earn extra points, with double the number of points for specialists in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Additional points will be awarded for occupations that struggle to fill vacancies, and I am asking the Migration Advisory Committee to keep its list under regular review to ensure that it reflects the needs of the labour market.
The Government will ensure that talented employees from overseas on whom our great NHS relies can come here to work and provide high-quality, compassionate care. That means that we will prioritise qualified staff who seek to move to the UK to work in our NHS, as well as retaining our own national commitment—through the investments made by this Government—to invest in and train more brilliant nurses, doctors and public health professionals in our own country. The new NHS visa system will provide a work visa with a fast-track decision, a larger dedicated advice service for applicants, and reduced fees.
Like many other Members, I represent a partly rural constituency. Our commitment to British agriculture is clear. In addition to the reforms that I have outlined, I am quadrupling the size of the pilot scheme for seasonal workers in the horticulture sector to ensure that our farms and our horticultural sector continue to thrive. That is happening immediately.
We will continue to welcome international students who want to study in our world- class universities across the United Kingdom, and there will be no cap on their numbers. Those who apply will be accepted provided that they are sponsored by an approved educational institution, have the necessary academic qualifications and English language aptitude, and are able to support themselves financially once they are in the United Kingdom. When they have finished their studies, our new graduate route will allow them to stay in the UK and work at any skill level for up to a further two years. Let me also take this opportunity to reassure the House that the immigration arrangements for members of the armed forces, musicians and other performers are completely unchanged, and those routes will operate as they do now.
In line with the ending of free movement, there will be no immigration route for lower-skilled workers. No longer will employers be able to rely on cut-price EU workers. Instead, we are calling on them to invest in British people—as well as investing in technology and skills—to improve productivity, and to join the UK Government’s mission to level up our skills and economic growth across our country. Those changes are vital if we are to deliver a high-skill, high-wage and highly productive economy, and because we have provided certainty in respect of the new immigration system, the economy and businesses have had time to adjust.
The proposals set out in our policy statement are just the start of our phased approach to delivering a new immigration system. We will continue to refine our immigration system, and will build in flexibility where it is needed. Over time, more attributes for which points can be earned—such as previous experience and additional qualifications—may be added, which will allow us to respond effectively to the needs of the labour market and the economy. However, to be effective the system must be simple, so there will not be endless exemptions for low-paid, lower-skilled workers. We will not end free movement only to recreate it in all but name through other routes.
The world’s top talent will continue to be welcome in our country. From January we will expand our existing global talent route to EU citizens, giving all the world’s brightest and best the same streamlined access across the UK. Reforms that I introduced last week will allow us to attract even more brilliant scientists, mathematicians and researchers through that route to keep this country at the cutting edge of life-changing innovation and technology, and the points-based system will provide even more flexibility to attract the finest international minds with the most to offer. Alongside the employer-led system, we will create a points-based unsponsored route to allow a limited number of the world’s most highly skilled people to come here without a job offer as part of the phased approach, if they can secure enough points.
Our new fair and firm immigration system will send a message to the whole world that Britain is open for business as we continue to attract the brightest and best from around the world, but with a system that the British Government have control over. Our blueprint for taking back control will transform the way in which people come to our country to work, study, visit or even join their family. Our new independence will strengthen border security, allowing us to reject insecure identity documents from newly arriving migrants. We will be able to do more to keep out criminals who seek to do harm to our people, communities and country.
Finally, I am pleased to say that when it comes to EU citizens already in the UK, the EU settlement scheme—the biggest scheme of its kind ever in British history—has already received 3.2 million applications resulting in 2.8 million grants of status. Through this system, we will finally develop a true meritocracy where anyone with the skills who wants to come here will have the ability to do so. This is just the start of a phased approach to delivering a new system. I will shortly be bringing forward an immigration Bill and radically overhauling and simplifying the complex immigration rules that have really dominated the system over a number of decades. For the first time in decades, the UK will have control over who comes here and how our immigration system works. I commend this statement to the House.
I would like to thank the Home Secretary for giving me early sight of this statement. She and the Government call this a points-based immigration system, but Professor Alan Manning, the departing chair of the Migration Advisory Committee, has derided this and called it a “soundbite”—that is, meaningless phraseology. The truth is that the Government are introducing a set of restrictions on migration for work including the damaging salary threshold, but that is not the sole restriction. Workers earning below the salary threshold are not low skilled at all. There is no such thing as low-skilled work: just low-paid work. All work is skilled when it is done well. In fact, outside London and the south-east, they are the majority of workers. Again, they are underpaid, not low skilled. In trying to exclude their overseas recruitment, Ministers run the risk of doing even greater damage to our public services than they have done already.
Ministers must surely be aware that a key problem for the NHS is, as its leaders tell us, that the exit door is closed. Patients who are well enough to be discharged from hospitals are not being discharged, because they lack access to social care packages. Blocking the overseas recruitment of social care workers who are generally paid well below the threshold will cause major problems with social care. It is already in crisis and this will exacerbate the exiting problems in the NHS, yet Ministers seem unconcerned. I must mention the need for the new NHS-specific visa. Surely the obvious thing would have been to create points for NHS jobs in the new system, but then I suppose the Government would have to admit that the salary threshold was simply not feasible and that the system just would not work. This is certainly not a singular global immigration system, and it has already been proved that a number of exemptions will be needed to make it work.
Social care and the NHS are not the only areas that will be hit. The Government tell us that the unemployment rate is currently close to its lowest, but that completely contradicts Ministers’ suggestions that immigration causes unemployment or creates slack conditions in the labour market, leading to low pay. The Home Secretary seems to believe that the gaps can be filled by the economically inactive, but I strongly doubt that the Government intend to get carers, the elderly and students into work by raising their wages. It is more likely that they will cut benefits once again. Many employers report that they will struggle to fill vacancies or even to close the gap caused by the departing EU workers, who will now lose their rights under the system.
The requirement to speak English is a complete red herring. This is dog-whistle politics. Most people who come here to work—the Government’s system will demand that they have a specific job offer—come here with some English language skills and learn more as they go along. It is difficult to function in the labour market without any English at all, which is why they already speak English when they come here. Do the Government intend to split up families where the spouse or child has less-than-perfect English? This would be cruel and inhumane. Do the Government also intend to block the recruitment of scientists, mathematicians and IT specialists, for example, if they have less-than-perfect English? If so, that will completely undermine Ministers’ boasts about global Britain recruiting the brightest and best. In fact, the policy will tend towards recruiting only the most desperate if their spouse would be blocked from coming, because others may find employment in a country in which their spouse can reside.
What of the right to a family life in general? Will the new work visas allow that right? If not, which scientist or person with a PhD would not choose a country that allows the right to a family life? There is also no justification for denying access to public funds for years. If someone is working here, they are paying taxes, and they and their family should have access to the benefits paid for by those taxes, including working tax credits and access to the NHS. Have Ministers considered the public health implications of restricting access to the NHS in that way, even if they are unable to consider the human costs? What about spouses who become victims of domestic abuse being denied access to refuges? That is shameful.
Finally, I want to address a grave concern shared by many Opposition Members regarding workers and citizens’ rights. We cannot accept that work visas are tied to specific employers and want reassurances that that will not be the case. Otherwise, the Government will be creating conditions of bonded employment, where the threat of dismissal implies the threat of deportation. That would be disastrous for migrant workers and their families and detrimental to the interests of the entire workforce.
Order. I am expecting to run this statement until around five o’clock.
I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position and wish her every success in the role. However, I am a little disappointed, because it sounds like she has not actually read the policy statement, and she has used her remarks to conflate—[Interruption.] If the Leader of the Opposition will allow me to continue, instead of being rude and interrupting, I will come on to address the specific points. He should have the courtesy and the patience to listen. I appreciate that he is in a hurry—
Don’t put her down.
I was not putting her down at all. If the right hon. Gentleman will listen, the hon. Lady was obviously conflating several issues with a new immigration system that, as I have clearly outlined, is a phased approach that focuses on skills, not on aspects of family reunion, benefits, welfare, or access to public funds—
The hon. Lady may shake her head in disagreement, but the policy is fundamentally set alongside the fact that we have left the EU. This is about an immigration policy in the control of a British Government, not subject to EU laws, EU policies and EU alignment. That is a fundamental shift and a fundamental change. This system is about taking back control, as the British Government have said, of our borders and ensuring that we can get the brightest and best through a tiered, points-based approach, as outlined in the policy statement.
The system will end the reliance on low-skilled workers and, importantly, the hon. Lady should join the Government in welcoming our collective mission to ensure that people are paid higher wages. We want a high-skilled economy, not a low-pay economy. As for social care, social care is not at all about low-skilled work. People working in social care should be paid properly, and it is right that businesses and employers invest in skills to provide the necessary compassionate care.
It strikes me that the Labour party seems to have closed its ears to the remarks of the British public in the general election and the 2016 referendum and is basically still the party that is advocating open borders and for a free-for-all on immigration.
I am enormously pleased that my right hon. Friend is here in this job. She is doing brilliantly, and all of us here believe that for certain. On the migration policy that she has announced over the past week, will she confirm that the reality is that many of our constituents are concerned about the scale of migration? They are not anti-migrant. With net migration at over 1 million over three years and now responsible for about 80% of all population growth, the scale is unprecedented. Given all that and the costs and benefits, will she now confirm that the purpose of the policy is ultimately to bring the scale of that migration down to manageable levels?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government have been very clear and have listened to the messages from the 2016 referendum and the general election. Of course, this is about ensuring that the brightest and the best come here.
Through a points-based system, the British Government will have control over immigration and numbers. We will reduce numbers, in due course, for the long term, but we will also bring in new checks and measures, which is what the British public have been calling for. They want to know the Government are in control of a system that brings in tighter checks and tighter regulations. Yes, the system should not be closed for business—it should be open for business—and it should bring in the brightest and the best. The system should deal with some of the issues in getting numbers down, but it should also address the other routes in terms of EU migrants and the criminality checks that desperately need to be brought in.
Despite lots of competition, this pretend points-based system surely amounts to one of the most damaging, unimaginative and unpopular policy announcements made by a Home Secretary in recent years. Do not get me wrong: it will be fine for the big multinational companies in the City with their armies of immigration lawyers, but it will be a disaster for everybody else.
Surely the Home Secretary regrets that her paper insults half the population by characterising their hard work as “cheap” unskilled labour and, indeed, by insinuating that their work could just as easily be done by the long-term sick or by robots. Why have employers been given just a few months to prepare for these massive changes when the Home Office took three and a half years just to dream them up? Will she listen to the swathes of industry leaders telling her it will be impossible to fill vacancies because of the salary thresholds? Will she listen to the employers who are worried about being mired in the red tape and expense of sponsorship and visa processes?
Why has the Home Secretary removed even the half-baked temporary worker scheme that was meant to operate as a transitional measure? Why is there no provision for self-employed workers? What has happened to the remote areas pilot scheme promised by her predecessor and to the heavily trailed extra points that were to be on offer for working outside London? And why has she said nothing about the tens of thousands of extra families that will be destroyed if she extends the UK’s barbaric family migration rules to their relationships? Is that her plan?
This will be disastrous across all manner of key sectors in Scotland, from agriculture to hospitality, from fishing to manufacturing and from construction to social care. Free movement was the one part of the migration system that actually worked for Scotland. Does the Home Secretary even understand the basic point that reducing migration is a disastrous policy goal for Scotland? Has she read the Scottish Government’s paper on a Scottish visa, and will she finally commit to engaging on those proposals in good faith?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. First of all, it is important to recognise that the new points-based system will work in the interests of the whole United Kingdom, which does include Scotland. Independent experts, including the Migration Advisory Committee, have recommended that a single, less restrictive system is absolutely right and is essential to attract the brightest and the best. Of course, we are already working with stakeholders across the country on how the system will work and how it will support all communities. I have already touched on various sectors, including seasonal agricultural workers.
The hon. Gentleman specifically asked about businesses. We are introducing greater flexibility for businesses, and those businesses that have engaged with the Home Office —[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) may shake his head in disagreement, but the business community specifically asked for a number of factors, including: abolishing the resident labour market test; removing the cap on the number of skilled workers; and reducing the salary threshold, as it has been.
We have reformed the exceptional talent route, and we are working on a simpler, streamlined sponsorship process, both of which businesses asked for. We also aim to reduce the time taken to process visas. Skilled workers will also be able to switch easily between employers through a sponsor licence, which is effectively what businesses have asked for. We have delivered on that through this system.
It is fair to say that businesses have not only been engaged. The chief executive of Hays, the recruitment giant, recently said:
“To build a world-class economy, our businesses need access to world-class talent and not just originating from…the EU.”
I have a final point to make to the Scottish nationalists. I appreciate that we have been engaging and we have had dialogue with them, but it is important right now that the Migration Advisory Committee—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) just stops chuntering and lets me make this point—[Interruption.]
Order. We do not conduct debates while sitting.
I can see the clock. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for pointing out the clock—thank you very much indeed.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The MAC has stated that we should have a single UK immigration policy, one based on one system that will benefit every single part of the United Kingdom.
Well done to the Home Secretary on taking back control of our borders and ending low-pay migration. Will she confirm that 10 months is more than enough time for talented officials in the Home Office to implement this excellent scheme, as she, the public and the Government want?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right; the talented teams who have been working on this policy area have absolutely helped us to deliver this in our first 100 days as a new Government. We promised that we would deliver the people’s priorities, and that is exactly what we are doing.
The Home Secretary has said that she wants the new visa scheme to be in place from January 2021. The policy document also says that the deadline for the EU settlement scheme for EU citizens already living here is June 2021, and that until then employers will only be expected to and allowed to check whether someone has an EU passport. Will she therefore confirm that the Home Office does not intend to enforce the new scheme through or with employers for the first six months? If it does intend to enforce it, what is she expecting employers to check?
The right hon. Lady is right about the deadlines and the timeframe for the EU settlement scheme, and also in saying that by January 2021 we will have established the outline—the first phase—of the points-based system. We are in the process of working with employers. Going back to the comment made just now by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), we are engaging with employers on the system, the sponsorship route and the way in which employers in the UK work with those who will be coming over from the EU next year so that they have that period to confirm their status and carry on working. We are engaging with employers, and that is my answer.
Our excellent Home Secretary had two fundamental questions to answer today: was she going to reflect the democratic will of 70% to 80% of the British public, not to do away with immigration, but to control and manage it properly, and was she going to do it in a way that worked in the national interest, for all of us and all the immigrants who come here to work and give our country the skills that they carry? Is she as surprised as me that the primary thrust of both Opposition spokesmen seems to be to allow British profit-making companies to maximise their access to cheap labour?
In short, I am not surprised by the position that the Opposition have taken, and it shows once again the contempt they have been showing to the British public.
The Home Secretary has said that additional points will be awarded for occupations that struggle to fill vacancies. In the tech sector, jobs are often lower paid at the start and ill-defined—they do not actually have a job title. So how will she ensure that the MAC recognises those emerging jobs and can act in real time?
The hon. Lady is right; our economy and labour market are changing, thanks to technology and emerging skills that may not even be reflected in the discussion and debate that we are having today. That is why we will be looking to bring in, from next year, a tradeable points system, which recognises not only talent and skills, but the role the MAC has to play in assessing the labour market. This is fundamentally changing the way in which we look at the labour market and emerging sectors, whether in new technology or other sectors, where we know we will need to surge people and their skills. Obviously, that work will take place with the MAC.
The hon. Member for Cardiff West (Kevin Brennan) was right to point out that the clock is ticking. It is not going any faster than it normally does, but this statement is going rather slower, because questions have been rather long. When a question is long, the Minister has to give a long answer in order to answer the whole question. Therefore, let us all try to have shorter questions, so that the Minister can give shorter answers. In that way, everyone will get in. Otherwise, most people are not going to have a chance to say anything.
I heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend on bringing forward this policy, which she and I first discussed when I visited fruit farmers in her constituency when she was a thrusting young Back Bencher. Will she confirm that the great advantage of her scheme is that it gives flexibility and that we can now adapt our needs to supply and demand and the development of new labour-saving technologies?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. I recall our great visit to Tiptree and the fruit farms there. He is absolutely right to speak about how we can invest in not only people but technology. That is the ambition of this Government as a whole. We will take new approaches and make sure not only that we have the brightest and the best but are a place of great innovation.
I have been approached by someone who has been a carer since 1996. She has specialised in dementia and end-of-life palliative care, and she has comforted people who have lost their loved ones over the course of her 25-year career. She is on a register and can be struck off, just like a doctor, but her pay defines her, by the Home Secretary’s own criteria, as low-skilled. The carer in question is my mother and I am deeply proud of the work she has done over those 25 years. The reality is that the Home Secretary is pinning carers as low-skilled because she will not tackle the issue of low pay in the care sector. She should do the right thing and resolve the pay and conditions of those working in the care sector throughout the country.
On the contrary, I define care as a good quality and it is—
Low-skilled. You said it.
No, it is not low-skilled.
You said it.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
Caring is not a low-skilled occupation and it is wrong for anybody in this House to say that it is. Carers provide essential and compassionate care to people—our loved ones—across our country and society. There is an important message for employers in the care sector: they should increase their pay to reflect the quality of care that is given. That is absolutely the right thing to do.
I am really pleased that my right hon. Friend has grasped the thorny element of the agricultural sector; there are 20,000 seasonal agricultural workers in my constituency alone, so I am hoping that her pilot scheme will grow. Will she make sure that the nimbleness and speed with which the appeals are dealt with is top of her priority list, so that when big companies want highly skilled workers, they can get them, even if they appear to be doing a low-skilled job?
That is absolutely right. We have quadrupled the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, which is vital. The flexibility in the system is crucial in respect of the way we turn around the applications. That is in effect what businesses asked for and that is what we are going to deliver.
The Secretary of State said in her statement that there will be
“no immigration route for lower-skilled workers.”
Even if one puts aside the patronising aspect of that statement, who does the Secretary of State think will build our homes, serve in our hotels and restaurants and care for our elderly? Does she accept that although she might see the statement as delivering
“a high-skill, high-wage and highly productive economy”,
what the rest of us hear is low caring?
If the hon. Lady has read the policy statement, she will have seen that when it comes to needs in our labour market and our economy, the points-based system will not only involve a scoring system, but with the Migration Advisory Committee we will look at the labour market as a whole across key sectors.
I am sorry that the hon. Lady continues to shake her head, but that is absolutely the right route forward. It is vital that businesses invest in people domestically, skill them up and pay them well and create the right kind of career paths for them so that their skills can be recognised.
As a scientist, I welcome the Government’s intention to make it easier to attract leading scientists, engineers and mathematicians to come and work in the UK. Will my right hon. Friend confirm whether she has plans to cap the number of people who can qualify for tier 1 exceptional-talent visa status?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right when it comes to exceptional talent. In fact, last week I announced a new approach to the exceptional-talent route, with mathematicians and scientists. I have been clear that we intend to grow that to make sure that our country, economy and labour market benefit from that, along with some of our great institutions—our universities and academic institutions. Of course, we want to continue to make sure that they flourish and grow.
The Secretary of State is part of a Government who rightly want to expand housing supply. The construction sector is characterised by many self-employed contractors, yet the Government are not introducing a dedicated self-employment route. What reassurance can the Secretary of State give the sector that the skills shortages we already face—for joiners, electricians, bricklayers and plumbers, for example—will not fall off a cliff at the end of 2020?
The hon. Lady is right about self-employment. We are already discussing specifically with the construction sector, because of the way it contracts individuals through the self-employment route, how we will ensure that the skills that are needed in the labour market are absolutely catered for. Of course, with the points-based system we are looking at posts and positions that meet the RQF3 threshold—that is the route of qualification—and those discussions are already underway.
Order. We have to go a lot faster.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary on bringing forward this points-based immigration system—another Conservative manifesto policy being delivered. As an NHS doctor, I have worked with many talented colleagues from around the world. Can she confirm that the new NHS visa will enable doctors from around the world to come and work in the NHS quickly and easily?
I absolutely can. It is a fast-track NHS visa, so the applications will be processed within two to three weeks, provided that they are sponsored directly by parts of the NHS system. That will apply to doctors, nurses and allied healthcare professionals.
Albert Einstein famously spoke very little English. The Secretary of State speaks about attracting the brightest and the best, but how much damage is she willing to inflict on our research sector and how many Einsteins is she happy to lose in pursuit of her immigration targets?
The hon. Lady has failed to recognise that the points-based system is absolutely designed to attract the brightest and the best, and if she had heard my comments she would know that those who might not meet the threshold will be able to come because they have the skills that our academic institutions need, and that is the right way forward.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Bill Wiggin), I represent a large rural constituency that employs many thousands of seasonal migrants. In welcoming the quadrupling of the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, may I ask my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary to keep a beady eye on the scheme, and to keep the door open to possible further increases, should that become necessary in future?
My hon. Friend is right about the SAW scheme, but he will also recognise that a dedicated occupation shortage list already exists specifically for Scotland, and of course that will continue.
Does the Home Secretary recognise that by equating skills and salary, she is saying to the lab technician driving innovation in Newcastle University and to the care worker helping my constituents in Elswick that they are unskilled and talentless? Will she not bring forward a fair system that reflects our economic and social needs, rather than scapegoating immigrants who make such a contribution to our society?
The hon. Lady will recognise from the policy statement, which I am sure she has read, that points can be applied to the skills that are required across sectors. That would apply for lab technicians—I discussed that last week at Imperial College London—and equally for the social care system. Specifically on the social care system—it is right that people raise this issue —the Department of Health and Social Care, working with the care sector, is not only looking at what the points-based system will mean, but investing in the sector to train people so that they can continue to deliver great social care.
I very much welcome the introduction of a skilled points-based immigration system, which is commonplace in many developed economies around the world. Will my right hon. Friend increase resources for tackling illegal immigration?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Illegal migration is a significant issue facing our country and many others, and this Government have a very strong and clear strategy for tackling it.
I was confused by what the Home Secretary said about musicians and performers, because it certainly did not fit with what is being reported in the music press this week—in NME, for example—about a savings requirements on performers coming in. Our music industry thrives on people being able to perform and tour, as the Musicians’ Union has argued, and to come here and collaborate. I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Let me clarify that there will be no changes to the existing routes.
I warmly welcome what my right hon. Friend is doing. Is it not the case that countries that have points-based systems have much stronger output and productivity per worker? Is it also not the case that all we are doing is saying that we should take control of our immigration policy and decide who comes here?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The pledge that we made to the British public is that the British Government will be in control of our new immigration system. He is also absolutely right that our aspiration is for a high-wage, high-skill and highly productive economy, and that is what we are working to deliver.
The Secretary of State has made great play of quadrupling the seasonal agricultural pilot scheme from 2,500 to 10,000 people. At a push, that would just about—maybe—fill the shortfall in Scotland, but it comes nowhere close to the 100,000 seasonal workers required across the UK. Let me ask her this: how many thousands of tonnes of food and vegetables need to rot in the fields before she is dragged back here to apologise for this dog-whistle nonsense and to rip it up?
I fundamentally disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s tone and the point that he has made. We have been very clear about this: we are growing the pilots. The pilot was established 12 months ago—let us say 12 months ago—and we have now announced that we are quadrupling the seasonal agricultural workers’ pilot. [Interruption.] Yes, to 10,000. That is quadrupling the scheme. At the same time, he will have heard that we are calling on business, and on all sectors, to invest in technology to increase wages and to increase productivity. That is something that we, as a nation, need to do collectively across all sectors.
I appreciate that the Home Secretary is providing full answers to very serious questions, but the House will have to forgive her if she gives quicker answers, and not criticise her for not providing full explanations; otherwise, everyone will not get a chance to speak—they will probably not get a chance to speak anyway.
I welcome the move that is being promoted today. As an ethnic minority immigrant who came here to work in the national health service, that is to be expected. After I arrived here, the system changed. There are now opportunities for all Commonwealth English-speaking—well, sort of English-speaking—people from the top universities in the old Commonwealth. Should we not be campaigning to bring them here especially for our national health service?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There are two points to make here. We continue to train people domestically for our NHS, but the world is changing. We have friends and partners in the Commonwealth, and it is right that we apply the system equally rather than discriminating in favour of EU nationals. We need to apply a system that is fair across all nations in the world.
Will the Secretary of State apologise for the anger and hurt that her comments have caused to care workers? Will she tell us what discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about the huge increase in funding that would be necessary to end low pay in the sector, while also tackling the recruitment crisis that is leaving 1.5 million people without the support that they need?
Let me reassure the hon. Lady that I have been working across all Government Departments on the delivery of this policy statement on the points-based system, and that I have covered all the issues, many of which have been raised by Members this afternoon.
Is the Home Secretary as surprised as I am that those on the Opposition Benches support a scheme that discriminates against citizens outside the EU, and do not support a scheme that is fair to everyone?
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. We are ending discrimination, obviously. We are open for business and we are open to all countries and to all nationalities when it comes to immigration through the points-based system.
Will these rules undo the injustice of the tier 5 rules that are currently stopping supply priests from Africa getting short-term visas in the summer months, thereby denying Christian and other communities the opportunity for worship in the summer?
As has been outlined, it is pretty clear that the points-based system is open and firm, but fair. Importantly, it ends discrimination that has existed for too long in our immigration system.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that we have already protected the rights of EU citizens who are in the UK, many of whom live in Kensington? Already, 3 million people have applied for settled status.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the EU settlement scheme. She will have heard me say that so far 2.8 million people have been granted settled status, and there have been over 3 million applications.
My constituent Naseer Afridi is one of many highly skilled migrants who have been put into debt and bankrupted as a result of this Government’s attitude to migrants in paragraph 322(5) of the immigration rules. Does the Home Secretary not realise how insulting it is when she says that she will bring in highly skilled migrants, given that these highly skilled people have been treated so badly by her Government?
I would say the complete opposite. The system that we will bring in will end discrimination and show that we are being firm and fair. Everybody who has the right level of skill can come to the United Kingdom, and they will be treated equally and fairly.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on at last getting a grip on uncontrolled immigration to this country. Does she agree that flexibility is the key? I am sure that she can give the House an assurance that she will keep an eye on all sectors to make sure that flexibility is retained in the system.
It is important to restate for the benefit of the House the Government’s focus and emphasis on the labour market and its needs. The system is flexible so that assessment can be made of any strains, and so that we can surge employment in certain key sectors.
The Secretary of State said in her statement:
“We will continue to refine our immigration system, and will build in flexibility where it is needed.”
Does she recognise that denying migrant workers the right to a family life—the right to bring their family—is inflexible, and a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998?
I hope the hon. Lady will recognise that the points-based system—she will have heard me say this in my statement, too—is welcoming those with the right skills and attributes, and that applies equally to their families.
Last week my office met representatives of the Russell Group, who were very clear that they welcome the new immigration system, because it allows them to recruit from every corner of the world. I moved to America because my husband was offered a job there. I applied for a spousal visa. If I got it, we would move; if I did not, we would not. This system will allow us to recruit people and pay them a decent wage. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition do not like it because the British people do like it?
My hon. Friend makes the very valid point that obviously we are on the side of the British public when it comes to delivering the people’s priorities. Last week I too met people from the Russell Group and other universities who are supportive of the routes that we are providing for the brightest and the best, and of our ensuring that we get the global talent that our academic institutions need.
When I was a care worker, some of the highest skilled people I know taught me how to work miracles in 15-minute calls. This Government view people who help others who are sick, elderly or disabled as low skilled because they are low paid, and deny them the special status being offered to billionaires and footballers. For the record, will the Secretary of State explain which aspects of care work she considers low skilled?
The hon. Lady will know—I have already said this, but I will restate it—that I am working with the Department of Health and Social Care and its Secretary of State specifically on the routes into and support needed in the care sector.
The hon. Lady shakes her head, but importantly we are also looking at investment. The Government are investing in social care in a record way. That will make a difference to wages, training and investment in social care workers across the UK.
Order. I am sorry; I know that more people wanted to speak—[Interruption.] There is no point in the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil) making gestures at me. Members will be aware that we have a lot of business tonight. I promise you that if I let this statement go on, you would not thank me at half-past 11 this evening, when you would still be here to vote. Mr Speaker and I hope that people will realise that a statement should be followed by questions, not speeches. We really must make these things work much faster in future. Let us see if we can do the next statement rather faster.