PRITI Patel has insisted the UK Government’s Immigration Bill delivers on the promise of the 2016 referendum to “take back control of our borders” but Labour insisted it sent a message to thousands of EU health and care workers, that they were no longer welcome in post-Brexit Britain.

The Home Secretary, leading the Second Reading of the legislation, told MPs it would play a “vital role in our recovery plans for the future; it will end free movement and pave the way for our new points-based immigration system”.

She declared: "A firmer, fairer and simpler system that will attract the people we need to drive our country forward through the recovery stage of coronavirus laying the foundation for a high wage, high skill, productive economy."

But Nick Thomas-Symonds, her Labour shadow, said that while the bill was essentially unchanged from months ago the circumstances in the country had altered dramatically.

He pointed out how the Government plans for a new immigration system contained a salary threshold of £25,600, which sent a signal to anyone earning less than that, that they were “unskilled and unwelcome in our country”.

The Torfaen MP said: “Those who clapped on Thursday are only too happy to vote through a bill today that will send a powerful message to those same people that they are not considered by this Government to be skilled workers. Are our shop workers unskilled? Our refuse collectors? Our local government workers? Our NHS staff? Our care workers? Of course, they are not.

“Government ministers, who were out clapping for the 180,000 EU nationals in the NHS and the care sector on Thursday night are sending a message tonight that they are no longer welcome. That is not fair and it is not in the national interest,” added Mr Thomas-Symonds.

On Brexit, Ms Patel said: "It is almost four years since the British people voted for independence from the EU and this Government has already delivered that sovereignty and we have been clear that there will be no extension to the transition period with the EU.

"We promised the British people we would end free movement, take back control of our borders and restore trust in the immigration system. This Bill delivers on that."

The Secretary of State added: "From day one, despite scaremongering from those in the opposite party, we have been clear that EU citizens in the UK, to all of them we want you to stay and our successful EU settlement scheme has now seen over 3.5 million applications with over 1.3 that have been concluded."

From January 1 2021 all EU and non EU citizens will be treated equally, she insisted, adding: "The one thing that has remained stable when it comes to ending free movement is the refusal of the Labour Party to support the end of free movement.

"The leader may have changed but the dogged determination to deny the will of the people has not."

Stuart C McDonald for the SNP was also deeply critical of the legislation, saying: "I'm afraid to say this is a dreadful bill, one which will destroy opportunities for future generations and will split even more families apart.

"It's a bill that will result in many thousands of EU nationals losing their rights in this country overnight and which will extend the reach of the hostile environment still further."

Conservative backbencher Alberto Costa called for a review of citizenship policy in the UK while making clear his support for the legislation.

The MP for South Leicestershire said: "In supporting this Bill today, I make a very modest request of the Government to conduct a review of citizenship policy to assess the current policies and processes from the perspective of the value of integration and shared identity that can be gained by encouraging the uptake of British citizenship."

Labour’s Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said: "The Government has to ditch the divisive rhetoric of recent years and recognise the hostile environment and the treatment of the Windrush generation as a result demean us and can never be part of a new consensus."