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Labour calls for “flexible” work visa system
Credit: Chris McAndrew / UK Parliament

Labour calls for “flexible” work visa system

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott delivered a speech today on what Labour in government would do about immigration. It doesn’t do to get too excited about these pronouncements, because Labour is not in government, but here is a link to the full text and a few highlights.

Labour wants to abolish a lot of existing policy, including:

  • The minimum income requirement for those trying to bring loved ones from outside the EU to live in the UK
  • The “deport first, appeal later” regime
  • Indefinite immigration detention
  • Yarl’s Wood and Brook House detention centres
  • The Immigration Act 2014 and the hostile environment generally

The heart of the speech today was a “completely reformed work visa policy”, sitting within the existing Points Based System. This would be “flexible”, but open only to “those we need to come here”, which it appears will be decided sector-by-sector:

The new, integrated, streamlined work visa allows us to offer rights of work and residency to a range of professions, workers and those creating employment. It will be available to all those we need to come here, whether it is doctors, or scientists, or care workers, or others… Others, such as scientists and other specialists, can also be included. And employers, that is to say private firms and public sector bodies, will also be allowed to apply for work visas for very specialist skills, to build flexibility into the system.

Anyone offered a job by employers in the approved sectors would be “automatically” entitled to a visa “where it can be shown that those jobs cannot be filled by workers already resident here”. Although this is not spelled out, it appears there would be no quota on these work visas, as under Tier 2 at the moment — the system would be demand-led.

Interestingly, though, the published version of the speech does not include the line “anyone with specified bona fide skills can come here to work” which was obviously in a press release overnight as it appeared in all this morning’s advance press reports. So far as I can tell, Abbott didn’t actually say this in the live delivery either.

Abbott also made some fairly vague noises about wanting more tourist visitors and overseas students, including by “looking at the question of work after study visas”. She took aim at sky-high immigration fees, although committing only that

Charges will be reviewed so that they closer reflect the actual cost.

Meanwhile, the Times (£) reports today that battles in the Cabinet over government immigration policy pit Theresa May and Sajid Javid against ministers with economic portfolios, such as Philip Hammond. The former want a “global migration scheme” in which an overall cap on numbers under Tier 2 of the Points Based System would apply to EU as well as non-EU citizens after Brexit. The latter would prefer some degree of preferential treatment for European workers.


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