Hywel Williams contributions to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2019-21

Mon 18th May 2020 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
3 interactions (535 words)

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)
Hywel Williams Excerpts
Monday 18th May 2020

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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David Johnston Portrait David Johnston (Wantage) (Con) [V] - Hansard
18 May 2020, 12:08 a.m.

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. During the election campaign, I was on a street stall in Wantage when a woman from Zambia came up to me wanting to talk about Brexit. Wantage and Didcot was 54% remain, so this conversation could have gone either way, but she was in favour of Brexit. She told me that she had been working in the NHS for nine years, but that she could not get settled status, yet if she had come from Europe and been here for five years she would have been able to do so.

It is right that we have a settled status scheme for those in the EU. The fact that 3.5 million people have already applied for it suggests that it is working very well. That lady’s question to me was, “What about the Commonwealth countries? What about Britain’s relationship with those?” I agree with her and think it is right that we now have an immigration system based on what we need rather than on whether someone is from Europe.

There has been quite a bit of discussion about the NHS and social care this afternoon, which is completely understandable. I welcome the Government’s commitment to a fast-track visa for doctors and nurses, and their extension of the health worker visa by a year if it is to expire before 1 October. I also think it is absolutely clear to all of us now, if it were not so before, what a vital role those from other countries have been playing in our social care system. We knew that for decades, but it has been highlighted in recent months. Where I part company from some Opposition speakers is in their thinking that because of that, we should continue to import our care workers from overseas.  The answer to social care is in a cross-party solution wherein we properly fund and structure it and it is seen as a well-regarded profession; it is not to keep on doing what we have done for decades, because if we do, we will only put off into the future the solution that is really needed. It is worth saying that those from the EU who are currently working in our care system have probably already applied for settled status and are certainly entitled to do so.

I wish to make a similar but different point about higher education. I welcome our being a magnet for global talent. It is right that we continue to attract international students and that we have committed to a two-year work visa so that they can find work after they graduate, but I have watched with increasing despair as certain universities have chased a higher and higher proportion of international students, whom they can charge higher fees for low contact time, while those universities often neglect to widen access to their institution to young people who are under-represented in this country. Why are they so reliant on the international fee income and the international market? That is the fundamental question and it cannot be solved by changing the Bill.

I support the Government having lowered the income threshold from £30,000 to £25,600, and it is right that it is lower still for those occupations where we have a shortage of people. It is of great value that we are going to have a seasonal worker visa, which will be particularly important for a constituency like Wantage and Didcot, which has a lot of farming. It is completely correct that the House should continue to debate whether the income thresholds and occupation lists are right and whether we get the point system right, but the most important thing about the legislation is that these things will now be within our control. We will be able to adjust those income thresholds, occupation lists and points.

If one talks to the vast majority of British people, one will hear that they support immigration—they welcome it and can see the contribution that it has made to every aspect of our life—but they expect that the people they democratically elect should be able to control the flow and to increase or decrease it. Importantly, they expect that those people they elect will properly plan the infrastructure that needs to accompany immigration—that we will have the school places, GP appointments and houses we need. That is why they have supported the ending of freedom of movement and the move to the new system that we are going to have, and that is why I, too, fully support this change.

Hywel Williams Portrait Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC) [V] - Hansard
18 May 2020, 12:04 a.m.

It is now nearly four years since the EU referendum, and in those four years so much has changed. I will not go through all the Government’s gymnastics on this issue—I do not have all night and, of course, neither have you, Mr Deputy Speaker—but it is enough to say that where they are now is pretty far from those sunny, blustery days of promising the easiest deal in the world, that EU countries would come crawling to us with their prosecco and BMWs, and that they need us more than we need them.

So much now is so different. But of course some things never change, and one of them is the Conservatives’ obsession with immigration. Despite their failure to meet their own targets; despite the public revulsion at the little vans driving around telling good citizens to go home, the nasty posters and the shameless vote chasing; and despite being way adrift of public opinion—despite all that—they are still obsessed with immigration.

In the past few months, so much more has changed again. No one imagined that leaving the EU would be pushed almost out of sight by the worst pandemic in living memory. Our attention has been nailed on the value of all our communities. All of us—or nearly all of us—now appreciate the bonds that support us; appreciate the people who sustain us, care for us and risk their lives daily for us; and appreciate that we need them more than they need us.

This crisis would persuade any sensible Government to think again, but are this Government sensible to public opinion when a new Ipsos MORI study shows that since last summer most people are saying that they want to see more doctors and nurses coming to the UK from the EU—more, not fewer? And it is not just health workers that matter so much—it is care workers, so shamelessly branded as low-skilled. The Government could use this opportunity to ensure that the new immigration system is fairer and more humane, not just for EU citizens but for people from all around the world. But instead of taking a step back—instead of thinking again—the Government are rushing to bring EU citizens under the same hostile environment as imposed on others. They should take this chance to build a new immigration system that is fairer and more humane, not just for EU citizens but for people from all around the world.

That is why later Plaid Cymru will be calling for a report on a new immigration system. This must include looking again at recourse to public funds, unfair NHS charges for migrants, the huge application fees and, crucially for us, the devolution of immigration policy to Senedd Cymru, the Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly so that our needs steer our policy. It should also look again at giving key workers who have put their lives on the line during this crisis the chance of free, automatic British citizenship.

Now, more than ever, we have seen the value brought to communities all over the UK by people who choose to make their home here. This Bill now looks like something from the dim and distant past. It simply cannot be passed as it is.

Mr Richard Holden Portrait Mr Richard Holden (North West Durham) (Con) - Hansard
18 May 2020, 8:02 p.m.

I welcome this Bill as a sensible, measured approach that delivers on our manifesto commitments to the British people to take back control of our borders and deliver a fair immigration system that means that those who want to come to the UK are judged not by their country of origin or by the colour of their skin but by the contribution that they can make to our country. It is undoubtedly true that many immigrants have made a huge and positive impact on our communities, so I am glad that over 1.3 million European citizens in the United Kingdom have achieved settled status already, including many in my constituency, and that reciprocal arrangements have been agreed for British citizens settled in the EU.

I would like to address two fundamental issues. I agree with the Migration Advisory Committee. Many of my constituents work in the health and social care sectors, as do members of my own family, Mr Speaker, in your constituency. Immigration is not the solution to our care crisis; a cross-party consensus is, as is upskilling, training and, crucially, valuing our carers.

The fact that Labour Members still do not recognise that shows that they are unwilling to listen to and learn the lessons of the last general election. This is about the only thing that unites them at the moment. They are united against the views of communities such as mine that they took for granted for so long. They remain an uneasy coalition of citizens of nowhere and right-on Citizen Smiths: two sides of the same coin. All sides of the Labour party remain committed to open borders. While the Opposition stick to this, it will be clear to the citizens of my constituency, from Consett to Crook and from Willington to Wearhead, that they have no interest in the concerns of my community.