Immigration Bill returns to Parliament amid accusations of hypocrisy over key workers.
The Immigration Bill is part of a move towards a new points-based immigration system to determine who can come to live and work in the UK. However, the government is under growing pressure to include rules to support coronavirus key workers.
The Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill 2020 was introduced on 5 March 2020 and is a key part of the government’s plan towards creating a points-based immigration system to launch in 2021. While the exact details of the Bill are yet to be released, it passed its second reading in a parliamentary vote on 18 May and will now make its way through the parliamentary process.
Earlier this year, the government shared plans for the new system which would see points awarded for specific factors, such as:
• Speaking English to a particular level
• Receiving a job offer from an approved employer
• Meeting a £25,600 salary threshold
Other points might be awarded for particular qualifications or if there is a shortage of employees in a certain occupation. A visa which allowed doctors, nurses and other health professionals from overseas to work in the NHS was introduced in March.
Full details of the new points-based system are expected to be set out in the immigration rules. These will be used to underpin the future system for anyone moving to the UK after the end of the Brexit transition period during December 2020.
“High skill economy”
As she introduced the Bill in the Commons, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “The current crisis has shone a light on how we value those who provide compassionate care across health and social care.
“It will end free movement and pave the way for a firmer, fairer and simpler system and will attract people we need to drive our country through the recovery stage of coronavirus, laying the foundation of a high wage, high skill productive economy,” she said.
Ms Patel added that the changes in the Bill will also play a crucial role in the UK’s recovery plans for the future.
Critics of the Bill say that the pandemic has changed public attitudes towards workers previously considered unskilled. A YouGov poll commissioned by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) suggests that over half of Britons (54%) would now support relaxing the immigration rules for workers who have been essential during the crisis.
Meanwhile, Labour has accused the government of “rank hypocrisy” towards EU nationals working in the care sector and the NHS who have been widely commended by the government during the crisis. Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has written to Ms Patel urging her to reconsider. Speaking in the Commons, he said that the earnings of crucial frontline workers didn’t reflect the contribution they make to society.
The Bill was originally introduced to the Commons in December 2018 by then prime minister Theresa May. But her minority administration meant that it lacked the numbers required to win key votes. With an 80-seat majority, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has brought it back with the realistic expectation of it getting through.
The plan for the new points-based system will need to be approved separately by parliament. It’s not clear when the formal changes to the current rules will come before MPs.
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