The government has pulled its controversial immigration bill, that seeks to introduce a points-based system after Brexit, from House of Commons business.
The bill – which would have formally ceased freedom of movement with Europe after the Brexit transition period – was pulled from the Commons order paper by Jacob Rees-Mogg ahead of a second reading on Tuesday.
It comes as ministers spent the last week mulling over plans to delay the reading because of the outbreak of the coronavirus, and MPs grappled with new technology as the House of Commons moves into a new ‘virtual parliament’.
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Appearing in front of a handful of MPs in the House of Commons, the leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed that the government would not be bringing the Immigration Bill back for debate on the scheduled date.
The Liberal Democrats welcomed the move. Its home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine said: ‘I’m glad the government has listened to Liberal Democrat concerns and decided not to move the immigration bill today. Now Conservative ministers should use this delay to reconsider their destructive plans to end free movement.
‘The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the enormous contributions that workers from all over the world make to our NHS, social care and other essential services. They are protecting us and putting their lives on the line every single day.
‘By ending free movement, the government would make it harder for doctors and nurses to come to work in the NHS and charge them thousands of pounds in fees for the privilege. And it would make it virtually impossible to recruit social care workers from overseas.’
The legislation ushers in a points-based immigration system that has been labelled as prioritising incomes levels over certain skills.
Under the bill, many migrants earning below £25,600 could be barred from living in the UK unless they can prove their occupation is in high demand. Even then, they will need a job offer from an ‘approved’ sponsor.
The legislation was supposed to come into force January 1st, 2021 and was to be part of ‘multi-year programme of change’ led by Home Office.
The Home Office has been contacted for comment.