MPs to debate controversial £35k migrant pay threshold for first time

Petitions committee confirms MPs will debate the policy, branded ‘destructive and discriminatory’ by Labour, after a petition passes 100,000. It was forced through without a Commons vote, and has never faced proper scrutiny

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MPs are set to debate Theresa May’s “ill-considered, destructive and discriminatory” plans to deport skilled migrant workers if they fail to earn more than £35,000.

Campaigners have been fighting the controversial change, which could see tens of thousands of teachers, tech entrepreneurs, charity workers and NHS staff deported from the UK when it comes into effect in April.

A petition urging the Home Office to reconsider the threshold has now received more than 100,000 signatures, and on Wednesday the parliamentary petitions committee confirmed a debate has now been scheduled for 7 March.

Diane Abbott, the shadow International Development Secretary, said she “will, along with my Labour colleagues, do all we can to challenge” the change to the rules.

In a letter to an east London constituent seen by The Independent, she said: “This proposal is ill-considered, destructive and discriminatory. It will rip the heart from communities like Hackney and cripple vital services, impacting countless health, charity, education and police workers.

“At a time when we should be investing in growing and diversifying our economy, this policy instead creates another barrier for those striving to contribute, and wastes invaluable talent and potential.”

Under the new rules, skilled non-EU migrants who have lived in the UK for five years will have to prove they get paid the new minimum threshold in order to stay in the country.

The debate next month will be the first time the proposal has been properly scrutinised in Parliament – the salary requirement was pushed through as part of a raft of Immigration Rules changes in April 2012 without a Commons vote.

According to the Home Office’s own impact assessment at the time, the change will cost the Treasury up to £575 million in reduced economic output over 10 years – while only making a “modest” contribution towards lowering net migration.

At the time the petition was started, shadow immigration minister Keir Starmer said there were “real concerns” over how key industries would be affected.

And the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Alistair Carmichael, said the policy represented “discrimination based on income” which threatened to harm Britain’s place “at the forefront of the global economy”.

A spokeswoman for Stop35k, the campaign group behind the petition, told The Independent: "The #stopk35k campaign welcomes this debate, it will be an opportunity to present the case for those tax-paying, integrated members of their communities who are threatened with expulsion. 

"We need this debate to reach beyond the usual dog-whistle of immigration," she said. "Please contact your MP and ask them to participate and set the record straight on the hard-working, tax-paying and committed individuals who moved their entire lives to Britain to add to the cultural fabric of this great country."