Jack Brereton contributions to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19


Tue 12th February 2019 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (First sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons
13 interactions (412 words)
Tue 12th February 2019 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Second sitting) (Public Bill Committees)
Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons
12 interactions (854 words)
Mon 28th January 2019 Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Commons Chamber)
2nd reading: House of Commons
Money resolution: House of Commons
Programme motion: House of Commons
Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons
19 interactions (1,081 words)

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (First sitting)

(Committee Debate: 1st sitting: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Tuesday 12th February 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Home Office
Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 9:37 a.m.

Q Professor Manning, in the White Paper the Government proposed a temporary 12-month work visa to help businesses to transition. What do you think are the possible problems with the proposed route?

Professor Manning: The first potential problem is that an employer-driven system can lead to workers being extremely vulnerable. They are here only for short periods and do not really understand the system, and so on. We would need quite extensive regulation to prevent potential abuse of those workers.

Secondly, if you are concerned about the social integration of migrants, it will not help with that. Inevitably, there is no point in people who are here only for a short period investing in building a life here, and links to the wider community.

Thirdly, historically it has been the case that, because it is quite artificial—at the end of 12 months a worker has to leave, perhaps to be replaced by another—it generally sets up some kind of pressure for employers to extend the 12 months. It may start off in that form, but there is a risk of drift into a more permanent migration route.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 9:38 a.m.

Q How do you see the changes to free movement affecting the economy? Do you think they will have a positive or negative impact, or do you have more detailed concerns?

Professor Manning: The view in the report that we published in September is that EEA migration has not had very big costs. It has not had very big benefits either. The technical analysis in the White Paper indicated that. There would be impacts here and there. The general point is that after 2004 free movement, more by accident than design, was a system for primarily lower-skilled migration. Most countries have a preference for higher-skilled migrants. The proposals that we made, and that were taken forward in the White Paper, were essentially to alter the balance towards more higher-skilled migrants.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 9:40 a.m.

Q Do you think that lower-skilled labour has had any impact on wage levels?

Professor Manning: Not to any great extent—we are fairly confident about that. There is some evidence of a small effect but, because of the minimum wage, there has been quite a substantial protection against that at the bottom end of the labour market. It has certainly not had a positive effect on wages—the evidence there is neutral to negative. I would not say that any of that effect has been very big.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds (Torfaen) (Lab) - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 9:40 a.m.

Q Professor Manning, you may have seen the CBI Wales analysis showing that 58% of workers in the manufacturing sector in Wales, over one quarter of whom are EU nationals, earn below the £30,000 threshold. There is real concern about how this would impact on manufacturing, in Wales in particular and across the country. What analysis have you done about the potential adverse impact on the manufacturing sector?

Professor Manning: Our proposal was to maintain the existing system of salary thresholds, of which £30,000 is one but not the only one. A lot of commentary omits that important detail. If you take that number, we think that the argument for having migrants is normally that there is a shortage of workers in the domestic labour market to do that job. Our proposal is that you should be able to employ migrants, but you have to be paying above the going rate for wages; you must not be employing migrants to undercut the domestic labour market. The absolute minimum salary threshold that you would consider would be something like the average, which is about 50% of workers. When you say it is 58% of workers, I think it is entirely reasonable to think that there is some upward pressure on wages in the manufacturing sector. I understand that the CBI is not very keen on that, because to the CBI wages are a cost, but to other people it is their income.

Break in Debate

Lord Green, the Clerk has taken careful note of your remarks about the balance of witnesses. I did not have any hand in it, and we will reflect on the issue.

Lord Green: It is not a criticism. This is life—we are the only body in the UK that makes these points.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 10:39 a.m.

Q Would you agree that delivering on free movement and on the control of free movement, which the Bill would achieve, would be a key part of delivering on the 2016 referendum result?

Lord Green: Yes, I certainly would, and I think the public would certainly take the same view. As we have mentioned before, the Bill is only a framework. I think the Scottish National party and the Lords have pointed out that it has enormous secondary powers, which I am sure you will consider. In effect, it opens the door to whatever the Government might later decide. Reading the White Paper, I think we will all be in difficulty.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 10:39 a.m.

Q What do you think would be the consequences of not delivering on the control of free movement?

Lord Green: That is a political question and your Members will know better than I do, but I think they will be serious.

Nick Thomas-Symonds Portrait Nick Thomas-Symonds - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 10:40 a.m.

Q I think you have been very firm in your views on levels of migration being too high. What is the right level of migration?

Lord Green: Until 1998, the level of net migration had never been more than 50,000 a year, and on some occasions it had been negative. Times were different, but we did not really need large-scale migration until then. You probably remember—you may have been an MP at the time—that when the Labour Government eased the immigration system, the numbers trebled in a couple of years. You will also remember that when the points-based system was introduced in 2008, we found very soon that we had something like 40,000 bogus students arriving in one year, mainly from the Indian subcontinent. We also found that 1,000 bogus colleges had to be closed. I am not trying to criticise the Labour party in this matter. My point is more general: the pressures on our immigration system worldwide are very strong indeed. We have seen it twice and there is every risk that we are going to see it again.

Break in Debate

Very brief questions and brief answers.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard

Q Following Brexit, do you think that there should be a preferential system for all EU citizens?

Chai Patel: I do not have any opinion on that, I am afraid. That is beyond our remit as a charity concerned with the human rights of immigrants going through the system.

Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan - Hansard

Q You said the Bill is premature. Can you quickly give us your major concerns about the Bill?

Chai Patel: The Bill is premature because there is no plan for what follows. Our primary concern is the Henry VIII powers given to the Home Secretary to remove people’s rights, without the new system having been clearly set out. I know that there is the White Paper, but I also know that it is contested in Cabinet, and is still subject to intense debate.

The White Paper itself raises concerns about, for example, the one-year visas, which would cause exploitation and problems with integration. It also misses the opportunity to fix many of the problems that we saw with Windrush. There is nothing to address Home Office capacity, with so many new people coming through the system, or the problems with the hostile environment, which remain. We know that it causes discrimination, and we have not seen anything from the Government to roll back those provisions, or to thoroughly review them.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill (Second sitting)

(Committee Debate: 2nd sitting: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Tuesday 12th February 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Home Office
Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 2:20 p.m.

Q The NHS and universities were both part of the pilot for EU settled status. What feedback have you had from your members on issues with that system so far?

Vivienne Stern: My concern right now is the low level of take-up of that scheme. I think the last I heard was that the Department for Education estimated that something like 20% of the staff who should have gone through that process had done that, so for us right now, there is a communication effort to make sure that staff are aware of the scheme and how to apply. There were some early glitches. There was a bit of frustration about the app in the very early days, but I think those problems were pretty swiftly resolved, and I am not aware of any significant concerns about the operation of the scheme.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 2:22 p.m.

Q I have a few questions, which I want to put first to the TUC representative. You talked about having a system that would allow EU citizens similar access to the UK as they enjoy now. How do you think that that would square with the referendum result in 2016, and the clear indication that people wanted to end freedom of movement?

Rosa Crawford: I think you can take many things from the referendum result in 2016. What is clear is that we need working people to not suffer as a result of that referendum result. As I have outlined, the provisions of the Bill make it easier for bad employers to use one group of workers to undercut other groups of workers, at the cost of everybody’s rights. We want a Brexit deal that ultimately delivers ongoing protections for UK workers at EU levels of rights, as well as tariff-free, barrier-free trade, and that ensures that there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. For us, probably the best way to achieve that at this stage would be ongoing membership of the single market and a customs union.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 2:21 p.m.

Q So your view is that free movement should continue.

Rosa Crawford: We want the provisions in place to make sure that we get that kind of Brexit deal. To have the deal that we think would be the best for working people, we would need to follow the rules of the single market, which needs rules that are very close to, if not approximating to, free movement.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 2:22 p.m.

Q My second question is to the professor. We heard evidence this morning that there is on average a lower proportion of EU workers in the NHS and the care sector than in other sectors, so do you think that ending free movement would have such a significant effect on the NHS and the care sector?

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: We have a large proportion of EU workers; 10% to 11% of nursing workers are from the EU currently, and with a backdrop of 42,000 vacancies in nursing, losing any nurse is a problem, so this does have unintended consequences, but what is more, we would be quite concerned about some of the powers that the Bill gives to Ministers. What we want is somebody scrutinising the unintended consequences of the Bill.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 2:23 p.m.

Q The key point that I was trying to understand was: would changing the ability of new nurses to come here from the EU have an impact on the NHS? I was not talking about the ones who are already here.

Professor Dame Donna Kinnair: It has an impact, because actually that has been one of our policy planks, hasn’t it? Instead of growing our own domestic supply, we have relied on international recruitment, so whether we are talking about people from the EU or outside the EU, anything that inhibits that will impact on our ability to deliver care to the people of this country. It has been a major plank of policy that instead of growing our domestic supply, there has been reliance on that by successive Governments, so of course there will be unintended consequences for the care we are able to deliver to meet the needs of our population.

Kate Green Portrait Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab) - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 2:29 p.m.

Q I have two or three questions, probably mainly for the TUC. Again, they are about the £30,000 threshold. In Greater Manchester, for which I am an MP, the average salary is quite a bit below £30,000, and that will be true in a number of other parts of the country, too. We also know that younger workers and women are likely to be on lower salaries. Does the TUC have a view on whether there should be different thresholds for different industry sectors, different workers or different geographies? Perhaps Vivienne and Donna would also like to reply.

Rosa Crawford: It is important to highlight the vulnerable groups that would be particularly negatively affected by the £30,000 threshold. Of course, women and other groups that are already marginalised are likely to become more marginalised by that threshold, and caught in it.

Regarding your question about the specific thresholds that we would want to set, as I hope my earlier question suggested, the TUC is calling for a future immigration policy that sits with an overall Brexit deal that delivers for working people. For us, that would mean a policy that does not introduce additional restrictions, but rather promotes the rights of all workers. It would have stronger domestic enforcement and stronger regulation of the labour market, which is an important point to highlight, because undercutting is taking place right now. We are well aware of that, and we feel it fuelled some of the insecurities that were taken advantage of during the Brexit referendum. However, it is about domestic labour market reforms and enforcing additional rights, rather than a differentiated migration regime.

We want to address the problems with the current regime, such as the thresholds that are limiting recruitment from outside the EU, and where there are insecurities or certain visas for non-EU workers, such as overseas domestic workers. We would not want anything that narrows down EU citizens’ ability to come into the country, because of what that would mean for overall rights and our overall prospects for a Brexit deal.

Vivienne Stern: There is an argument for differentiating by occupation and by geography, but the problem is that if we introduce a system that is so nuanced, it becomes difficult to explain to people and operationalise. We are really quite concerned about the bureaucracy that will be associated with moving from a system in which, frankly, we do not have to worry about these individuals from a compliance point of view, and they do not have to worry too much about the requirements of applying for a visa, to one in which we have to explain to EU nationals what this all means and help them through the process, just as we do for non-EU nationals.

There is an argument for simplicity, which is why we decided that our position would be to suggest a lower threshold overall. However, the point you make about the potential for this system to be unintentionally discriminatory by gender is an important one. I imagine that we will come on to talk about the impact that this will have on students. One of the arguments we have made in relation to those students who want to stay and work in the UK on the tier 2 regime is that if you are in the north of England and you happen to be a woman, you quite often do not meet the minimum required salary threshold. It is not a policy that is intended to be discriminatory by gender, and you can say that it is not the Government’s fault that there continues to be a gender pay gap—it is a wider issue—but none the less, if this policy does not address that issue, that is its effect.

Break in Debate

Afzal Khan Portrait Afzal Khan - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 3:47 p.m.

Q Do you have concerns about the settled status system and the requirement on employers to check the immigration status of their employees if the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal?

Matthew Fell: I think I am right in saying, but I am happy to take a little more detail on this, that the Government have confirmed that even in the event of a no-deal scenario there would be no, or no significant, changes to the administrative burdens on employers before the proposed new immigration system came into play. Clearly, if that situation changed, the administrative burden would be a bigger headache for business.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 3:48 p.m.

Q I recognise the views you have expressed about having a cap of about £30,000, but do you recognise the impact that immigration potentially has had on suppressing wage levels in certain sectors and certain parts of the country?

Matthew Fell: The Migration Advisory Committee looked at that heavily in terms of any potential impact on the rest of the economy, society and so on. I think the conclusion it drew was that there was no major evidence of an impact on either jobs availability or wages. I think it highlighted some impacts on public services, and a bit on house prices and so on in certain areas, but I do not think it identified any real evidence of that.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 3:49 p.m.

Q Conversely, would having a reduction of free movement see wage levels rise, or changes in the availability of lower-paid work?

Matthew Fell: This is not primarily an issue that we are looking at as an impact on wage levels; it is purely about skills availability. The issue for many sectors of the economy and for many parts of the country that are currently looking at a situation of at or close to full employment, even in parts of the country, is primarily about the availability of the skills and the talent that they need to fulfil orders and so on. It is not in any way, shape or form about wage levels or undercutting wages; it is about having the people to do a job.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 3:50 p.m.

Q In terms of productivity, do you think that immigration has any bearing on the levels of productivity in this country?

Matthew Fell: In the UK, there are quite clearly issues around needing to raise productivity. I do not think there is any evidence—I think the Migration Advisory Committee confirmed this too—that that is explained in any way by current approaches to immigration and levels of immigration in the country.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab) Hansard
12 Feb 2019, 3:52 p.m.

Q We heard the argument this morning from the Migration Advisory Committee, which was supported to some extent by Migration Watch UK, that the threshold approach would encourage employers to push up wages and that would solve the problem. What is your response to that argument, which was consistently played back to us this morning?

Matthew Fell: I am not sure I agree with that. I will paint you a picture of the current situation in a number of sectors. If you take the construction industry, with two thirds of migrant workers, the median salary is currently under £30,000. If you look at the logistics sector, with about 10% or 20% of HGV drivers, or at the warehousing sector, with about a quarter of all fork-lift truck drivers, the wages for EU workers are quite significantly lower than that. I do not think that just changing a threshold level as a way of driving up wages is a helpful thing to happen in the economy.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

(2nd reading: House of Commons)
(Money resolution: House of Commons)
(Programme motion: House of Commons)
(Ways and Means resolution: House of Commons)
Jack Brereton Excerpts
Monday 28th January 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
Read Full debate Bill Main Page
Home Office
Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:40 p.m.

I am aware of the time limit, so I am afraid I will not give way.

This immigration system’s design should have learned and inwardly digested the lessons from the Windrush system. It should have involved the nation—leavers and remainers, those concerned about immigration and those concerned that it treats neither long-term legal migrants nor newly arrived people fleeing persecution well—in discussing what a new immigration policy should be and how it should operate. I want that system, and this is not that.

There is a real risk that we are putting people who have legally made their lives here through an undignified, barely tested process of applying for the right to remain here—people who have contributed to their communities, raised children, worked hard, paid taxes and helped their neighbours. This is in the wake of an immigration scandal in which other people who had legally made their lives here, contributed to their communities, raised children, worked hard, paid taxes and helped their neighbours were made to feel unwelcome and told to go home. Some lost their jobs or homes and suffered great hardship. Forms were lost, time and money were lost, and hearts that felt British were truly broken.

A constituent of mine whose life has been here for decades but was born in another EU country said to me at the time of Windrush, “We, the EU 3 million, are going to be the next Windrush generation.” There is no sign in this Bill or the White Paper that the lessons of that scandal have been learned and that my constituent can be reassured. The Home Office, which my staff and I deal with daily on behalf of constituents, has many compassionate staff, but it is already struggling. It is buckling under the strain, and we propose to add 3 million more people to the system.

The Home Secretary says that this is the start of a national conversation about our immigration system. The start should have been years ago. As the result of the EU referendum has so many times been identified as closely tied with concerns about immigration, surely this conversation should have started in 2016. If not then, why not in 2017 or perhaps 2018? We should have talked about this in more depth than simply trotting out platitudes about valuing people who have made their home here, when so much pain has been caused to so many who have made their homes here.

There should have been honesty about the mutual benefits of reciprocal movement of people who live, work and study across the EU—I declare an interest: one of those is my husband. There should be honesty, not lies, which is what we were fed during the referendum campaign. We should discuss how we want to welcome people, who we want to welcome and why, and we should do that in a way that is informed by our country’s history, our way of life and our knowledge that those two things have always been intertwined with migration. We should talk about the consequences of migration policy for jobs and for our care homes, universities, creative industries, aerospace sector and tech, digital and IT companies. We should have been discussing this as a country. This Bill should have been introduced in the concluding stages, not the starting stages, of a national debate.

When people’s worries about immigration—whatever their motivations—are not dealt with, there are serious consequences. People who think that there should be more controls grow resentful if they feel their concerns are ignored, and they feel alienated from a political system that they rightly think should serve them. They may feel that they are labelled as racists, which they may also feel is unfair, and that does not help their feeling of alienation. This is a context in which the far right benefits. It is not a context in which good immigration policy is created.

My constituents in Bristol West often write to me about migration. They never tell me to help refugees or Windrush victims or EU citizens less. They tell me to fight harder, and I always will, but they also do not feel that the system is working. They campaign to stop indefinite detention of migrants. They campaign to keep all EU citizens not just here, but here and welcomed. They are losing trust in our system. Nobody is satisfied except the far right, who see opportunity in the frustrations of those who feel that the system is not working for them.

Reasonable people, including the Immigration Minister and the Home Secretary, would agree that if we were fleeing war or persecution in this country, we would expect a safe welcome in another. We would probably go to the nearest country, but we would understand that it might need to run a programme of resettlement to a third country if numbers were large. We would hope not to be put in such dire circumstances that we felt forced to leave the first safe country, as so many people do from countries around the Mediterranean to flee to us, a country that people see as a sanctuary—something we should be proud of.

If that country could not or would not help us or left us unable to live, work or provide for our families—the circumstances that so many people in Libya and other countries find themselves in—we might also be so tempted. We would not expect to be put in substandard, unsafe accommodation paid for by the taxpayer or be prevented from getting a job. We would expect to contribute. We would not feel it was right that we were kept on a subsistence allowance, yet left with the blame for a system that is rooking the taxpayers as well as not serving us.

Our asylum system is flawed. In a report published in 2017, the all-party parliamentary group on refugees, which I chair, put forward many recommendations that I beseech the Home Secretary and Immigration Minister to look at again. We should end indefinite detention, and I am glad to hear vocal cross-party support for ending it, which I hope the Government will take heed of.

This Bill could have dealt with all these issues, but it barely touches the surface. The Bill fails. It fails to provide a route for planning a fair, efficient, good-value, humane and caring system that those who voted leave and those who voted remain can believe in. It could have provided the framework for an immigration system that we could all put our trust in, but it does not. Instead, it creates huge powers but provides no clarity. The White Paper could have given that clarity, but it does not. It misses by a mile the vision and values that our country’s immigration system should have been built on—British values of tolerance, openness and fair-mindedness.

This Bill could have been the nourishing meal that gave us what we needed to get through the economic woes of Brexit, which I still hope we will not have to suffer. Nobody will be satisfied. Everybody will cry for more. I would despair, but I want to keep hope that the Home Secretary and the Immigration Minister will reflect on what has been said around the House today and seek to amend the Bill themselves. Leave voters deserve better, remain voters deserve better, and our country deserves better.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:39 p.m.

As I have said on more than one occasion, we have already had a people’s vote and the people voted to leave the EU. My constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South were particularly clear when they voted by 70% to leave. One of the key reasons for doing so was a desire to take back control of our own borders.

Last year, Parliament passed the European Union (Withdrawal) Act, under which the same rules and laws apply on the day after we leave the EU. That currently includes the EU’s rules on free movement, and Parliament must legislate to bring free movement to an end. Without this Bill, the EU’s free movement rules would continue to have effect after we leave. Were that to happen, it would be completely unacceptable and we would have failed to address our constituents’ legitimate concerns about EU immigration. We need to pass this Bill to deliver the firm but fair and efficient system that my constituents want, regaining control of our own borders.

Anna Soubry Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:40 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:41 p.m.

No. I have to make some progress.

I know from the many conversations I have had with my constituents on the doorstep that a significant number voted to leave primarily to take back control of our borders and to secure the chance to reform our immigration system. People in regional towns and cities felt that Brussels was far too remote and technocratic to realise the practical local consequences of continent-wide free movement, especially the impact of increased pressures on local services, school places and housing. That was squared against a feeling that the EU had delivered very few beneficial improvements in local residents’ quality of life, particularly outside the M25.

There has been a feeling that my constituents were not allowed to talk about their genuine concerns about the impacts of immigration and that, if they did talk about it, they would be ignored, pilloried or shunned. They certainly do not feel there is anything wrong in believing, given our unique history with Ireland, that Irish citizens should enjoy more rights here than, say, citizens from south-east Europe. People voted to end free movement for EU citizens outside the common travel area because it did not work for them and they wanted to regain control.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab) - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:41 p.m.

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:42 p.m.

No. I want to make some progress.

Freedom of movement did not result in tangible improvements to my constituents’ own quality of life and future prospects, even as it improved the quality of life and future prospects of those who found themselves entitled to move freely here. Free movement in practice worked instead as a mop for clearing up the EU’s chronic unemployment problem, suppressing wages here in exactly the kind of communities that I and other hon. Members were elected to represent.

Sir John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes - Hansard

The chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee has made exactly that point—

Break in Debate

Sir John Hayes Portrait Sir John Hayes - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:42 p.m.

Will the hon. Gentleman listen? The chairman made exactly that point. He said that the policy of free movement tends to perpetuate a low-skill, low-wage economy. That is precisely what we have ended up with, with a consequent displacement of investment in skills, in automation, in technology and in recruitment.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:42 p.m.

I totally agree with my right hon. Friend.

Certainly, Stoke-on-Trent South has some of the lowest average wage levels in the country, and we need to continue to build on the work we have been doing in government to ensure people take home more.

Anna Soubry Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:43 p.m.

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:43 p.m.

No, I am making some progress.

My constituents want London-based policy makers to focus on doing what it takes, across every nation and region of the United Kingdom, to prioritise the employment and lifelong employability of the British people. Of course, where there are clear and urgent shortages of British candidates, such as in our NHS, rightly migrant workers can add skills to our economy and make a significant contribution. It is positive to see the caps for non-EU migrants coming to work in the NHS lifted. The Home Office has always been clear that the future immigration system will be based on engagement and evidence, and that by putting the skills and talents of migrant workers at the heart of the future system, the UK can continue to attract the brightest and the best from across the world when it is necessary for us so to do.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:44 p.m.

The hon. Gentleman talks about skills, but in fact, with salary thresholds, we are talking not about skills but about salaries, and the two things do not connect, particularly where wages are far lower—outside the south-east. A skilled or university-qualified person in Scotland can easily earn under £30,000, which is the threshold that has been set.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Parliament Live - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:44 p.m.

I thank the hon. Lady for that point. Although I do not totally agree with what she has said, some parts of the country, including my own—

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:44 p.m.

It’s a fact.

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:45 p.m.

Will the hon. Lady let me finish my response? Some parts of the country, and certainly my own, do see differential wage levels, and having lower skills certainly does have an impact on that.

We need to ensure that there is more of a commitment in the longer term that any such shortages will be addressed by properly equipping the British people for such roles, particularly in traditional, proud manufacturing employment. This is exactly what our industrial strategy is designed to address, and we need the right immigration and social security co-ordination to work alongside it. Delivering on that rebalancing of our economy will be hugely important in ensuring that traditional working-class communities, as in Stoke-on-Trent and across the country, are no longer ignored.

Anna Soubry Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:45 p.m.

Could my hon. Friend tell us what percentage of people in Stoke are migrant workers and, when free movement from the European Union ends, which countries people will come from to replace those EU workers? Will they come from Bangladesh, and is that what his constituents voted for?

Jack Brereton Portrait Jack Brereton - Hansard

I think what we in this House are saying is that we want to regain control and ensure that we have a fair system, whereby anybody coming to this country is in the same system and is judged on merit, not on which country they come from. At the moment, the current system is not a fair one. It prioritises some European countries within the EU, and places such as the Commonwealth, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and America are not receiving the same priority.

If we do not deliver immigration reforms as we take back control through Brexit, there is a real danger that some people will, in exasperation, turn to those who have demonstrably exploited their grievances before. It is concerning that we see a rise of extremist views, stirred by populists on both the far left and the far right. As I have stressed in the House previously, it was not easy to see off the British National party in Stoke-on-Trent, as we have had to do, and I will not be cavalier in assuming that the threat has gone away. We must ensure that our democracy remains relevant and responsive to all our communities if we are to see off future extremist threats.

Ending free movement is a major change in our immigration law. It is a change that people voted for and we must deliver it, just as we must deliver Brexit itself. Inevitably, given the scale of the task enabled by this Bill, much of the delivery will take the form of consequential amendments to be made by secondary legislation. It is work that must be done. The Bill contains the necessary powers to get the process under way, and I will very happily support it tonight.

Angus Brendan MacNeil Portrait Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP) - Hansard
28 Jan 2019, 7:47 p.m.

I was only going to make a couple of points, but as I have listened to the debate, the number of points has grown. I shall kick off by correcting, or perhaps taking on—I do this on migration quite a lot—the hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mrs Badenoch). I was very disappointed by the remarks of the hon. Lady, who is not in her place, and the sort of reverse dog whistle when she looked at the SNP Benches. She should be aware that the first ethnic minority Member of the Scottish Parliament was Bashir Ahmad of the SNP, that the first Government Minister in the devolved Scottish Government was Humza Yousaf of the SNP, and that the first Muslim woman from Scotland to be an MP was Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh of the SNP. I merely put that on record so that people such as the hon. Member for Saffron Walden do not repeat that sort of nonsense again.

This immigration debate is an interesting one. It is not a debate about what we want or what we could do; it is a debate about what we can stop, what we can control and what we can limit, and that is very disappointing. There is actually something really akin to the Soviet central planning of the 1920s onwards: we have Soviet tractor statistics. That is really the sort of theology that is driving this current Home Office—centralised planning and red tape, with Government at the heart of people’s lives and building bureaucracy where there is no bureaucracy at the moment. All the time, what the Government will do is increase the work in MPs’ offices up and down the country as a result of the nonsense we are going to have.