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Pete Wishart: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for those comments and observations; he is probably correct. I am glad that his party's shadow Chancellor acknowledged the success of Ireland on his visit there. Seeing companies such as Google and Bloomberg settling in Ireland as opposed to London is also very positive. It all suggests to me what could be achieved in Scotland if we had our hands on those powers. Being able to adopt that approach and that type of policy would make such a difference to the Scottish economy and the destiny of my nation.

Mr. Lilley: I believe that the Scottish Parliament has the power to reduce taxation. Does the hon. Gentleman's party support that as a way of attracting more people to Scotland?

Pete Wishart: If anything, that is a trick question, and I will resist the temptation of venturing an answer. Scottish parliamentary elections will take place next year, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will wait with great anticipation to see what the fiscal policy of the Scottish National party will be.

To conclude, Scotland's immigration requirements are so far out of kilter with those of the rest of the Untied Kingdom that we must have specifically Scottish solutions to deal with them. We have introduced the idea of a green card system, similar to the Irish model, and we need to adopt such imaginative creative approaches. If we do not, we will continue to see economic decline and deterioration in the quality of life in Scotland. I again urge the Minister to consider the Australian model, how it has devolved power to state level and whether it is suitable and appropriate for Scotland. Surely we need our hands on the tiller so that we can use such powers to make a real difference to what is described as the biggest challenge facing Scotland in the medium to long term.
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9.34 pm

Mr. McNulty: On the whole, my opening remarks about welcoming such a debate were well made, because it has been, on the whole, an interesting debate. Many extremely reflective and thoughtful contributions have been made on the substance, details and practicalities of the new system, without demurring from the overall shape and framework of the system. For that, I am enormously grateful.

I shall not spend undue time on each and every point that has been made, but I shall deal with the broad thrust of what Members have said. One theme was how lower-skilled workers fitted into the overall system. That was a moot point, particularly for my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxford, East (Mr. Smith). We need to consider wider issues, such as the need not to build in too much reliance on what may appear, at least at this stage, to be an unending stream of people from eastern Europe and the A8 countries making very positive contributions.

The key point must be that the system rises and falls with the needs of the economy. In an intervention on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley) described himself as a crass economist. Without, I think, being unduly offensive, I will give the right hon. Gentleman "crass", because I did not agree with his comments at all. I thought that his attempts to analyse a labour market were quite fourth-form. We have heard such views before. We have heard them put less eloquently by Sir Andrew Green and other characters, and we heard them put far less eruditely by the Conservative spokesman, the hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green).

I am afraid that the position of Conservative Front Benchers is still deeply confused. I will give them this: if we deem May and June 2005 to be the immediate election and post-election period, while it appears that the leadership has reached October or November of that year in its Pauline conversion to things more civilised, I fear that the hon. Gentleman is stuck somewhere around the day before the election. Neither of those speeches was terribly good.

My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East—he has left, but he told me that he would have to—is entirely right. If our managed migration system is indeed driven by the questions "What are the needs of the economy?" and "What are the needs of the country?", it is obtuse to talk of limits, numbers and quotas to the extent that the hon. Member for Ashford did—or, worse, to talk in a "second gunman on the grassy knoll" conspiratorial way about the liberal elite simply wanting to get more and more migrants here, for what purpose I do not entirely understand.

I really thought—and most contributions acknowledged this—that in welcoming the points-based system we had reached a stage at which there could and should be mature reflection on the needs of the UK economy. I agree with the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Jeremy Wright) that the sum of what migrants have contributed to this country goes far beyond the economic dimension, entering social,
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cultural and other dimensions. However, the thrust of any managed and controlled migration system must be principally economic.

Damian Green: The Minister is adept at spraying around words such as "obtuse" and "uncivilised", which he has used in the last three minutes, but less adept at answering a simple question. Does he agree with the former Home Secretary that there is no obvious upper limit on legal immigration to this country?

Mr. McNulty: The hon. Gentleman may talk of my "spraying around" phrases, but if he is obtuse, he will be described as obtuse.

Damian Green: Answer the question.

Mr. McNulty: The answer to the question is simply put in the living, breathing elements of the points-based system. What is required by the country and the economy is the appropriate level of migration. It is facile and fatuous in the extreme to talk of upper limits, as happened during the general election. The hon. Gentleman would have it that the country needs a certain number of migrants for the next decade—x migrants—and that is it. Regardless of whether parts of the economy are starved of skills that particular migrants might have, the view of the Conservative party and the hon. Gentleman is that the future of the economy and the vibrancy of the country can go hang if we reach x + 1: one above the facile and fatuous quota that he would set for migration.

The hon. Gentleman's facile argument—it is not a conspiratorial one involving Back Benchers—is that the liberal elite want more and more migration. I repeat: the premise for any managed migration system must be the prevailing economic needs of the United Kingdom in the next five to 10 years that will not be met by the EU-wide labour market. That must be the only driver. However, the hon. Gentleman has some other intention and, once again, he deliberately conflates—he needs to stop doing so if he wants to remain on the Opposition Front Bench—race, community cohesion, asylum, immigration and a whole range of other matters. This is all that a quota is about, and he should be ashamed of himself.

Damian Green: If I had done anything like that, I would be ashamed of myself, but the person who should be ashamed of himself is the Minister. Nothing that I have said this evening could conceivably be construed as having anything to do with damaging race relations in this country. Both this evening and in every speech that I have made since taking this job, I have deliberately made it clear that the cross-over between asylum and immigration is often done improperly, and that they are two entirely separate areas. The Minister demeans his office by making this cheap insult.

Mr. McNulty: The hon. Gentleman is being deliberately obtuse. He has offered the view that the scheme lacks rationality without a quota. He has said, in terms, that it cannot constitute a way forward unless we say what the limit on immigration should be, and he condemned himself with that fatuous claim. It is as fatuous as his even more obtuse claim at the last election
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that an asylum limit or quota should somehow be established. How, in the context of the 1951 convention, that can possibly be done defies belief; so, subconsciously or otherwise, he is obtusely conflating all the issues that the Conservative party deliberately conflated at the last election. That is a matter of regret, because the hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth did not do so and neither did the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden. I profoundly disagree with the right hon. Gentleman's economic analysis and, therefore, his conclusions, but he did not conflate such issues in the scurrilous way that the hon. Member for Ashford did.

Damian Green: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. McNulty: No—I am bored. The hon. Gentleman is boring me now. He has nothing of substance to offer, which is a shame because most the contributions were thoughtful and reflective and raised very real concerns about low-skilled workers and, for example, the practicality of administrative reviews compared with appeals. Such issues are still being discussed.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Cheadle (Mark Hunter) on making a thoughtful maiden Front-Bench contribution. I would have liked to congratulate the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), but I shall not because he spoke absolute nonsense. The notion that, in a UK setting, Scotland's answer in respect of immigration is to have its hands on all the tillers is bunkum—unless the hon. Gentleman is going to explain, in his own paper on a points-based system, perhaps, that border guards will be stationed at Hadrian's wall to let people in and out of Scotland, and that there will be various other port controls.

Scotland is an integral part of the UK and its problems—I accept that they are very real; I have discussed them extensively with the Executive—will best be dealt with by the Scottish Executive and the UK Government sitting down together and working them through. Some matters are devolved and are therefore particular to the Executive, who have done a great deal of work to increase Scotland's attractiveness as an inward investment destination—very successfully—and as a destination for migrants. I congratulate them on that and as I said to the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire when he intervened, there are further measures we can take in respect of the points-based system, and we are talking to the Scottish Executive about them. But the notion that, once Scotland is independent and free at one leap of London's tyranny, all its very real demographic problems will be solved is absolute bunkum.

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