Priti Patel’s destructive immigration bill will ‘cause chaos and confusion’

Priti Patel in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Priti Patel in the House of Commons. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Priti Patel's immigration bill will be a disaster for already struggling businesses which are already struggling from the coronavirus, campaigners have warned.

In a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons, the home secretary said: 'At a time where an increased number of people across the UK are looking for work, the new points-based system will encourage employers to invest in the domestic UK workforce, rather than simply relying on labour from abroad.

'But we are also making necessary changes, so it is simpler for employers to attract the best and brightest from around the world to come to the UK to complement the skills we already have.

'It will be simpler for businesses to access the talent they need as we have removed the Resident Labour Market Test, lowered the skills and salary threshold, and removed the cap on skilled workers.

'We will be introducing a new-fast track health and care visa. This will make it easier and quicker for talented global health professionals to work in our brilliant NHS and in eligible occupations in the social care sector. The visa fee will be reduced and health professionals applying can expect a decision on whether they can work in the UK within just three weeks, following biometric enrolment. We will exempt frontline workers in the health and social care sector and wider health workers from the requirement to pay the Immigration Health Surcharge.'

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The government is also 'refining' the visa process for students and launching a graduate route next summer, the statement said, adding: 'The student route will be streamlined for sponsoring institutions and applicants, and the graduate route will help retain the brightest and the best students to contribute to the UK post-study.'

But Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine warned: 'These Conservative immigration plans will be a disaster for the small businesses that power the UK economy, just as they are struggling to survive the coronavirus crisis.

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'Key sectors like construction and hospitality, already facing enormous challenges, will face staffing shortages. The existing social care crisis will get even worse as there is so little time to prepare for this new system.

'Given the shortage of time and the mountain of red tape that everyone including the Home Office will face, far from restoring public confidence in the immigration system, this will just cause chaos and confusion.

'Liberal Democrats will oppose Priti Patel's destructive policies and continue our fight for a fair, effective immigration system that works for our economy and treats everyone with dignity and respect.'

Edwin Morgan, Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors, said that guidance must be simple for businesses.

'For employers, the real acid test is how this immigration system works on the ground. The commitment to cutting processing times and providing some continuity from the previous system will be welcomed by businesses. Despite this, smaller firms may still struggle to navigate the inevitable administration involved, particularly as they are fighting fires on multiple fronts. It's crucial government works at pace with business to ensure the system is ready in time, and simple to use.

'Firms will have some outstanding concerns. The costs involved could still prove obstructive in some cases, particularly for small companies. Some sectors and regions may feel that a more bespoke policy would be of benefit, while the route for seasonal agriculture hasn't been confirmed. It's also crucial that the system continues to adapt to the economic circumstances, not least via the Shortage Occupation List.'

Shortly after the announcement it was revealed that the new health and care visa will exclude social care workers.

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