Boris Johnson is targeting two of the most contentious issues of the election campaign – health and immigration – on day three of the battle for votes on 12 December.
The prime minister is announcing plans for a new visa to attract doctors and nurses to the NHS – part of the Tories’ proposed Australian-style, points-based immigration system.
But ahead of another full day of campaigning, Mr Johnson will have been relieved that Tory candidate Nick Conrad – who said in 2014 that women should keep their knickers on to avoid rape – stood down late last night after his comments provoked a furious backlash.
Mr Johnson is hoping the points-based immigration system will be a vote winner with traditional Tory supporters – addressing skill shortages facing the NHS at the same time.
Features of the “NHS visa” will include:
- The cost of a visa for health professionals being halved from £928 to £464
- A fast-track process which guarantees a decision for applicants within two weeks
- Preferential treatment, with applicants receiving extra points for coming to work in the NHS
- No cap on the numbers of people entering the UK through the NHS route
Outlining the plan, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “These measures are part of our plan for an Australian-style, points-based immigration system that allows us to control numbers while remaining open to vital professions like nurses.
“That means the best of both worlds – attracting talent from around the world so our NHS continues to provide brilliant service while ensuring that it isn’t put under strain by opening Britain’s borders to the entire world.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “I want the NHS to offer each and every one of us the best care in the world, and so as well as expanding training at home, I want to attract the very best talent in the world to our NHS too.
“From its inception the NHS has recruited globally. This new visa will make it easier for us to hire the finest doctors and nurses from other nations to come and work in the NHS – so that patients can receive the best possible care.”
But Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott hit back, saying: “The Tories are tying themselves in knots over immigration.
“They use dog whistle anti-migrant rhetoric but are forced to accept we need migrant workers for key sectors, not just the NHS, but many more besides.
“This policy is full of holes, with nothing to say about the nurses earning below their income threshold, as well as all the cooks, cleaners, hospital porters and others who are vital to hospitals, and nothing at all about their right to bring family members here.”
Ms Abbott’s shadow cabinet colleague Dawn Butler, who has announced she will stand for deputy leader now Tom Watson is quitting, is unveiling reforms to help women in the workplace.
- Tackling the gender pay gap
- Increasing maternity pay from nine to 12 months
- Giving workers the right to choose their working hours
- A menopause workplace policy
Ms Butler, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary, said: “Next Thursday, it is equal pay day, the day when women effectively stop getting paid for the rest of the year compared to their male counterparts. It’s a disgrace.
“I’m sick of how women are treated at work. Audits aren’t enough, we know there’s a problem that needs fixing. So we will do something about it.
“We’ll also extend the amount of time a new mother can spend with her new born by extending statutory maternity pay to 12 months, so that all mothers can afford to spend those vital early months with their baby.
“Labour will deliver a workplace revolution to bring about a step change in how women are treated at work. We’ll boost pay, increase flexibility, and strengthen protections against harassment and discrimination.
“After years of our concerns being ignored, it’s time for real change.”
Responding for the Tories, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “A vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is a vote to put businesses and jobs at risk.
“Their reckless plans would cripple businesses across the country – leaving hardworking people to pay the price.”
The Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson is visiting Scotland, declaring: “Voters in Scotland who despair with Brexit should vote Liberal Democrat to make it stop.
“Our party is the home of Remain. We are the voice for the millions of people in every corner of the UK who have marched and protested against Brexit in towns and cities across the UK.
“I want Scotland to be part of that growing, mass movement that is determined to keep our place in the European Union.
“This is the Brexit election and we should have a single, clear focus when we cast our votes which is why I would appeal to the millions of people who want to stop Brexit to back the Liberal Democrats.
“The four nations of the United Kingdom are stronger when they work together so we should work together to stop Brexit.
“Together we can put a stop to Brexit and get on with building a brighter future.”
The Brexit Election: For the fastest results service and in-depth analysis watch Sky News live from 9pm on Thursday 12 December, with a KayBurley@Breakfast election special on Friday 13 December
Chief political correspondent @joncraig Boris Johnson is targeting two of the most contentious issues of the election campaign – health and immigration – on day three of the battle for votes on 12 December. The prime minister is announcing plans for a new visa to attract doctors and nurses to the NHS – part of the Tories’ proposed Australian-style, points-based immigration system.