Government could delay controversial immigration bill because of coronavirus

Home secretary Priti Patel. Photograph; Parliament TV.

Home secretary Priti Patel. Photograph; Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Senior Tory ministers may be plotting to withdraw Priti Patel's controversial immigration bill when parliament reconvenes next week.

The bill, which is still scheduled for a 'virtual' second reading when parliament resumes on April 21, could be scuppered because of the coronavirus.

Ministers have told POLITICO that introducing the contentious bill during the current epidemic was not 'quite right'. This is the government's first attempt at introduce legislation that would stop the freedom of movement and usher in a points-based immigration system that values earnings over some skills.

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Although the government has so far insisted a vote will go ahead, rumours are mounting that that stance might change by the end of the Easter break.

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Under the legislation, many migrants earning below £25,600 may 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.

But this policy approach is already showing signs of cracking under strain after it emerged the government is chaperoning six planeloads of low-skilled Eastern European workers to help British farmers. The first convoy landed at Stansted airport earlier arrived with 180 Romanian pickers on board.

Whitehall had called the new proposals a 'commitment to the British public and take back control of our borders.'

The legislation was planned to come into force January 1st, 2021 and be part of 'multi-year programme of change' led by Home Office.

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