Immigration Bill returns to Parliament this week
The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination [EU Withdrawal] Bill for the government’s new points-based immigration system will be put to MPs in the House of Commons this week.
The bill first came to the Commons in December 2018 but was unable to pass with former prime minister Theresa May’s minority government in place at the time.
Under the bill, EU rules on freedom of movement will be ended in the UK and the new points-based system will determine who will be eligible to come and work in the country.
Home secretary Priti Patel believes that the system will develop a “high skill” economy in the UK, but its critics are saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about a change in attitude among the public toward workers deemed to be “unskilled”.
Patle said: "This historic piece of legislation gives the UK full control of our immigration system for the first time in decades and the power to determine who comes to this country.
"Our new points-based system is firmer, fairer, and simpler. It will attract the people we need to drive our economy forward and lay the foundation for a high wage, high skill, high productivity economy."
Labour shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds told BBC Radio Four that the plans were neither “fair” nor “in the national interest”, and that migrants working in low income jobs in the critical health and social care sectors were being deemed “unwelcome”.
Thomas-Symonds added: “That isn’t an acceptable way to proceed. We see the clap for carers on a Thursday evening. It is wrong to then say on a Monday that you are unskilled, and that people with those skills are not welcome in this country."
Indeed, an opinion poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants [JCWI] revealed that 54 per cent of respondents favoured less strict immigration control for workers deemed essential throughout the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. These include care staff, food processing staff, delivery drivers and supermarket workers.
However, with prime minister Boris Johnson’s majority of 80 in Parliament, it is likely to pass.
Proposals for the new system so far indicate that more points and therefore a higher chance of entry will go to applicants who can speak English to a certain standard, who have a confirmed job offer from an approved employer, and who are earning a minimum salary of £25,600.
Certain qualifications will also provide extra points, as will being skilled in an occupation where there is a recruitment shortage.
Back in March, the government announced a visa scheme enabling doctors, nurses and other health professionals from abroad to continue to work in the NHS.
Yet, Thomas-Symonds said that Labour was still pushing the government to change direction.
He said: "What the government... seems to be saying is that your salary reflects your contribution to society. If this crisis has shown us one thing, it should show us that that is wrong."
The new laws would come into force after the Brexit transition period lapses on December 31, 2020. The immigration rights of those from Ireland will not be affected.