Annual report on labour market

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 12:30 pm ar 18 Mehefin 2020.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Attorney General) 12:30, 18 Mehefin 2020

I beg to move, that the clause be read a Second time.

I can be relatively brief, since we covered much of this territory in earlier discussions, but it is a useful opportunity to push the Minister on a few issues. What progress can he report on raising awareness of the new tier-2 procedures in which so many small and medium-sized enterprises will have to participate, and what support is being rolled out for those businesses to help them to navigate the new system? What change has he noticed in the number of applications for tier-2 sponsorship licences, and what work is under way to streamline the system, which we have spoken about at length previously?

I suspect the Minister’s answer to the new clause will be that there is to be an annual MAC report. If so, can we ask that it is laid before Parliament and then have a debate on it? The Home Affairs Committee spoke about an annual debate on migration in a repot two or three years ago in trying to build a consensus on migration. It looked at how other countries developed immigration policy, and one issue that featured heavily in other jurisdictions was, at the very least, an annual debate on immigration policy generally.

We are talking about seismic changes to the way in which many businesses will go about recruiting and accessing the labour market, and the number of industry bodies that have come to me to express concerns is unbelievable—industry bodies I did not even know existed until they got in touch—across food and drink, agriculture, tourism and hospitality, fishing, manufacturing, engineering, logistics, financial services, social care, education, and many more. There is significant apprehension, and it is not because any of these industries want to exploit low wages; it is their realistic assessment that they are struggling already to access the labour they need in the UK at a price they can afford and which keeps them competitive. Now they are going to struggle to access labour from abroad, because of immigration rules.

We have spoken about the salary threshold on a number of occasions, but we have not said much about the skills threshold. It is welcome that it is lower than it was in the original White Paper, but there is no route for those in jobs below regulated qualifications framework level 3. That excludes those in many roles in which we have a high vacancy level, notably heavy goods vehicle drivers and care workers. Sectors such as hospitality, tourism, food and drink and agriculture are particularly concerned about how they will recruit the people they need, and I fear that the Government will come to regret removing the one-year visa in the original White Paper proposals, rather than listening to concerns and improving it.

The concerns expressed by business also arise from an assessment that even if jobs are at the required skill and salary thresholds and businesses can access the labour that they need, there will still be significant costs and red tape. This is all happening when businesses need it least. It will not be an issue for the huge multinationals in London, which are well used to the tier 2 system, but it will be a huge challenge for small and medium-sized enterprises in every single constituency represented in this room.

The Minister says he is confident that everything is in hand, that the shortage occupation list will be more efficient, and that the system will be streamlined, but we need much more detail, and we need action. The Home Office is being reckless in pushing ahead at this time, but let us have a proper report and a debate, so that we can decide what the impact has been, and can assess whether the right decisions have been made and how we go about building immigration policy for the future.