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Anne Moffat (East Lothian) (Lab): I regret having to bring in an element of negativity, but I wonder whether my hon. Friend shares my concerns about a situation in my constituency whereby a mushroom farm that has taken on a lot of migrant workers has been deliberately squeezing out the local work force. The migrant workers are working for far lower terms and conditions of employment and for excessive hours, and the indigenous work force, who were in their hundreds, are now down to 20-odd. Surely we must do something to protect our indigenous workers and prevent the racial tensions that mount as a result of this.

Mr. McNulty: I do not know the exact details of that case, but if my hon. Friend wants to share them with me I will certainly look into it. Migration is not about bringing people in to work in substandard conditions, and migrant workers must be afforded the same sort of welfare protection as anybody else. We are rightly taking cognisance of the impact of migration inflows on local labour markets.

Although it is beyond the remit of many aspects of the work of the National Asylum Support Service and other agencies, it is important that the Home Office, with other Government Departments, starts to consider the impact—sudden impact in some cases, it is fair to say—of concentrations of east European workers in certain areas. There was a case up in Crewe where all of a sudden, as a result of the successful work of a local employment agency, some 3,000 Polish workers descended on the area almost overnight. They were taking on perfectly proper jobs, so there was nothing wrong in that sense, but it might have been helpful if the employment agency had told the council that those people were coming.

Seemingly minor changes can have a significant impact on the local infrastructure. In the case of Crewe, 3,000 Polish people turned up in a population of 60,000. Given that the Poles are Catholic, it might be useful if the schools or the local education authority had had some notion that they were coming in case 25 children pop up in the local Catholic school saying, "We'd like to come in, please", as they have a perfect right to do. We need to consider such factors. We are working with the Department of Trade and Industry and others in respect of the exploitation of migrant workers and the impact on labour markets. About a year ago, I was pleased to launch a joint statement with the TUC and the CBI about the benefits of migrant workers, part of which
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dealt with the impact on local labour markets and the rights, benefits and welfare conditions of migrant workers. That is a very important point.

John Bercow: I do not sniff at what the hon. Member for East Lothian (Anne Moffat) said, as I am not familiar with the particular circumstances in her constituency. However, does the Minister agree that it is important conclusively to demolish the "lump of labour" fallacy—the notion that there is a fixed amount of work to be done and that immigrants are taking away the jobs of domestic workers? The truth is that the main demand for migrant labour comes in sectors where there are long-term job vacancies and significant skills shortages that need to be filled. In other words, people are doing jobs that British workers are unable or unwilling to do. That, for the most part, is the reality of the matter.

Mr. McNulty: I fear that the hon. Gentleman, whom I agree with, by the way, will tempt me back into talking about how daft and nasty the last Conservative election manifesto was. However, I shall resist that temptation, because he makes an entirely fair point. Traditionally, economic migration has principally been about the needs of the economy in a whole range of sectors where there is no apparent demand for work, and has not been for some time, from the domestic work force, not least in agriculture, where there is a long history of inward migration. Until Portugal beat England in the European championship, I had not realised that the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in Norfolk is surrounded by significant elements of Portuguese labour who have been there for generations servicing the rural economy. Obviously the people of Norfolk knew that, because they went and smashed up their pubs after Portugal had beaten England.

The hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) makes a good point that illustrates why the points-based system does not include a quota on immigration but responds to the specific needs of specific sectors across the economy. It brings 80-odd routes down into five manageable routes that create clarity for applicants and clarity for the employers and education institutions that require those applicants. Just as importantly, it gives the wider public confidence, which was knocked off-course by the Conservatives during the general election, in an immigration system that works in a controlled and managed way that aids our economy.

Justine Greening : I sympathise with the Minister's story about the Portugal v. England shoot-out. I was similarly disappointed when I heard cheers from a room next to mine, believing that it was full of English people, only to discover that most of the people who worked at the hotel where I was staying were Portuguese. I was therefore disappointed when I learned the result.

I believe that the proposals in the points-based system are for new applicants. Some of my constituents may have had to wait for several years already. If they have skills that would fit a points-based system, can they reapply and how will that fit in with their existing applications for leave to remain?
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Mr. McNulty: Unkind colleagues on the Front Bench suggested that the people cheering next door might have been Scottish, not Portuguese, if goals were scored against England. I am sure that that is not case.

I cannot answer the hon. Lady substantively without knowing the specific constituents' cases to which she refers. Broadly, we should not confuse the new scheme with general settlement. We have clearly said that, in the points-based system, tiers 1 and 2, which essentially cover highly skilled migrants and areas where significant skills shortages have been identified, are settlement routes. Tier 3 is, by definition, temporary. Tier 4 covers students and may lead to a settlement route—there are ways out of that. Tier 5 covers short-term activities, such as youth exchange and cultural exchange. Again, it is temporary. The tiers should not therefore be confused with pending applications for indefinite leave to remain—ILR.

Those with pending applications for ILR on their journey to settlement will simply complete four to five years if they apply in the normal way—if they have no criminal records and so on. If ILR follows extended leave to remain—ELR—or other elements, from asylum to settlement via refugee status, with or without temporary protection, that is outside the points-based system. We are not therefore locking up every single element of the settlement and nationality routes, including the points-based system, together. I am sorry if that is convoluted and does not answer all the hon. Lady's points but I am happy to discuss it further at another time.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I assure the Minister that it was not Scottish people in the hotel on the evening that has been mentioned.

The Minister spoke about all the different immigration schemes working together, which most of us welcome as a sensible step forward. However, where does that leave the Scottish Executive's fresh talent initiative? Will it remain as a stand-alone recruitment scheme? It was the only thing that Scotland had to give us some sort of competitive advantage to attract skilled migrants. Am I right to assume that it will be merged into tier 1A? If not, how does the Minister expect the initiative to stand alone, and to allow Scotland, which has chronic population problems, to compete for the skilled migrants?

Mr. McNulty: That is a fair point. Much of what Scotland has achieved through the fresh talent: working in Scotland scheme and other schemes will eventually be included in the points-based system. However, in doing that, sorting out the specific demographic and other difficulties that Scotland experiences will be borne in mind because we agree with the Scottish Executive. Scotland does not need a stand-alone system outwith the points-based system, but a managed migration, points-based system that deals specifically with Scotland's current difficulties. The document explains that. It provides for regional disparity, concerns and needs. I am not being disparaging or dismissing Scotland's concerns as regional. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Scottish labour market presents specific problems and challenges. That is why we are working closely with the Scottish Executive on the fresh talent: working in Scotland scheme. It is early days; the scheme
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has been running for only about a year. We are actively working with the Scottish Executive to ascertain what Scottish package—if I may use that phrase—emerges to deal with Scotland's needs and work with the grain of the points-based system. The hon. Gentleman makes important points but we are tackling them with the Scottish Executive and we shall make announcements in due course.

It is important that applicants find the process simpler and that employers and education institutions know the most important routes. That is the way forward for the UK in the 21st century. Hon. Members should rest assured that we do not underestimate the challenge of implementing the new system. We are approximately 18 months from full implementation. We need the legislative building bricks in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill and we hope that we can secure that sooner rather than later.

Some significant discussion remains to be held with a host of groups about how they fit in with the strategic framework that the Command Paper clearly sets out. That covers not least working with the Scottish Executive. I believe that the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) made what he calls music in the recent past. Tomorrow, I will have discussions with the arts and cultural sector because there are concerns about the way in which the permit system affects, for example, orchestras that visit the country for tours. At an event on Friday, I was told that the points-system had at least the potential to smash the integrity of international circus tours. I did not mean to do that, so I shall engage with that sector, too. We are beginning to get to the level of talking to each sector about how its needs can be met in the context of the document.

The new system crucially shifts the work permit and visa application to the same domain, and the same process applies to both. That makes sense. There is no danger of our underestimating the IT training, resources and other elements that are required.

The points-based system constitutes a huge and significant step forward towards the Government's aim to achieve greater public confidence in the immigration system, and ensure that the UK and the UK economy secure the migrant workers that we deserve, and that they have the welcome that they deserve in this country and continue to make a substantial contribution to it. I commend the Command Paper to the House.

7.36 pm

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