MPs vote in favour of Bill to end 'low-skilled' immigration
18 May 2020, 21:30 | Updated: 18 May 2020, 23:58
MPs have voted in favour of the second reading of a new Bill which would end "low-skilled" immigration altogether, moving the UK closer to a points-based immigration system.
Members of the Commons voted 351 to 252 at the second reading of the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, which removes freedoms of movement between the UK and EU once the Brexit transitionary period comes to an end.
It is important to note this evening's vote does not make the Bill law, and only means it moves onto the Committee stage where amendments and clauses will be debated.
Under the new Bill it will become effectively impossible for anyone paid under £20,000 to get a UK work visa, however, there will be an exemption for those wishing to work in the NHS.
It has faced strong opposition from the Labour party, who say it is a "threat" to the health service and care sector.
The legislation is part of the move towards the Government's new points-based immigration system, to be introduced from 2021, although it does not set out the details on this.
These will be fleshed out in the immigration rules, which will explain the future system for EU and non-EU nationals who move to the UK after the Brexit transition period ends on December 2020.
Opening the second reading debate, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Bill will create a "firmer, fairer and simpler system" that will "play a vital role" in the country's recovery from coronavirus.
NHS staff, she said, were the "very best of Britain", adding: "That is why we are introducing a new fast-track NHS visa to prioritise the qualified staff needed to provide high quality and compassionate professional care.
"During these exceptional times, it is right that policies which affect our NHS workers are kept under review including the immigration health surcharge and that's why I recently announced a free automatic one-year visa extension for those with six months or (less) left to stay on their visas."