MPs say immigration review should consider devolution of powers

The UK government should set up a review to consider whether nations and regions should get more power over immigration, a committee of MPs has said.

Pete Wishart says nobody wants a return to the dark days. Picture: PA/PA Wire

The Scottish Affairs Committee also called on Theresa May’s government to review the target to reduce migration to the tens of thousands.

MPs on the committee did not back SNP calls for immigration powers to be devolved, opting to recommend a review to get cross-party consensus.

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However, MPs did agree that cutting migration would hit population growth and the economy north of the border, and urged Downing Street to consider how Scotland could get a bigger share of UK immigration.

The report says the commission should review how a cap on skilled worker visas operates to ensure it does not disproportionately benefit the south east of England. It also calls for the UK Government to consider a Scotland-specific post-study work visa scheme.

The current points-based immigration system will need “substantial reform and simplification if it is to be able to provide a suitable basis for replacing freedom of movement”, MPs agreed.

They also urged the creation of a new seasonal agricultural workers scheme amid widespread concern about the impact of Brexit on farming.

“Scotland’s future population growth is entirely dependent on continued inward migration and it appears that Scotland’s needs are not being fully met under the current system,” the committee’s SNP chairman Pete Wishart said. “Nobody wants to see a return to the dark days of population decline and economic stagnation.”

But Conservative MP John Lamont said: “Scotland’s needs must, of course, be taken into account, but I do not believe that a different immigration policy for Scotland, as some political parties have advocated, is the right course of action.”

Meanwhile, the Home Secretary gave the strongest indication yet that he is opposed to the government’s current policy of reducing net migration to below 100,000 per year, refusing to endorse it while giving evidence to MPs.

Appearing before the Home Affairs select Committee, Mr Javid refused to pre-empt the government’s upcoming immigration white paper, saying “we can start talking about what numbers might look like, but not at this point”.

Asked by committee chairwoman Yvette Cooper whether the target was “massive chain around your neck” that he would like to “ditch”, Mr Javid smiled and replied: “Next question”.