Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180
TUESDAY 10 JANUARY 2006
GREEN KCMG AND
Q180 Mr Winnick: Sir Andrew, are
you familiar with the film or the novel The Caine Mutiny?
Sir Andrew Green: No.
Q181 Mr Winnick: You do not know
the story. Without wishing in any wayheaven forbidto
be rude, I must say that when anyone asks you about immigration,
the way in which you seem to be so negative, obsessive and the
rest does remind me (for those who remember the film) of the character
played by Humphrey Bogart being questioned at the court martial
who, quite clearly, was paranoid, and it does seem to me that
you are in danger, Sir Andrew, of going down the same road. I
asked you a reasonable question and you gave a lot of statistics
and all the rest of it, but the upshot really is that you will
not find in your comments anything really positive about immigrants;
it is all negativebe it in Britain or anywhere else. Is
there not a danger that you are just simply paranoid?
Sir Andrew Green: There is a danger.
It is important to try to keep a balance in these matters.
Q182 Mr Winnick: Do you keep that
Sir Andrew Green: I try to, but
allow me to recall that in this evidence session you have got
75% of your witnesses on one side of the argument
Dr Sriskandarajah: Which side
Sir Andrew Green: What I am trying
to do is put a case against large-scale immigrationno question
about thatbut that is not to say that I do not recognise
the value of immigrationat a sensible level, of course.
Q183 Mrs Dean: Sir Andrew, do you
or do you not accept that there is demand for low-skilled workers
in the UK?
Sir Andrew Green: When there is
demand for a particular kind of worker what should happen is that
the wage rate goes up and people are drawn into that profession.
If you actually have a continuing flow of people ready to work
at low wages you hold wages down, which is not in the longer term
interest of the country.
Q184 Mrs Dean: So you would advocate
that there is no immigration but that wage rates rise?
Sir Andrew Green: And productivity.
That is the only way you increase the wealth of an economyby
Q185 Mrs Dean: So you disagree with
the argument that we heard earlier that one of the reasons why
we have irregular immigration is that we do not allow in people
to fill low-skilled jobs legitimately?
Sir Andrew Green: The reason we
have such fairly substantial illegal immigration is two fold:
it is that there has been no control over the labour market here,
there has been no attempt to deal with the illegalindeed
often exploitativeuse of labour, and the other is that
because people know that they can come here and work illegally
then they are prepared to pay people-smugglers to bring them over.
It is a cycle.
Q186 Mrs Dean: So how do you solve
Sir Andrew Green: You improve
your border controls and you improve your enforcement of the labour
Q187 Mrs Dean: We have improved our
Sir Andrew Green: No, not yet.
There are measures in hand for it, which we welcome.
Q188 Mrs Dean: We already know that
there are less people coming here to seek asylum and one of the
reasons for that is that we have improved our border controls.
Sir Andrew Green: That is one
of the reasons. There are other reasons: that we have also improved
and are still improving the asylum system so that people are less
confident that they can simply stay on forever.
Q189 Mrs Dean: Do you agree that
if the economy was not so buoyant there would be fewer people
coming here to find employment?
Sir Andrew Green: Possibly. There
are an awful lot of factors in this, as I think my colleague mentioned.
One of the factors is thatyes, I agree.
Q190 Mrs Dean: So a slump would help
Sir Andrew Green: Not very much
and it is certainly not what one would want to see. Most immigration
is not greatly affected by the precise level of the economy here
because for many people they can work even below the minimum wage
and still send money home.
Q191 Mrs Dean: Do you agree that
people who come here to seek employment, whether legally or illegally,
are generally younger than the average person in this country
and, therefore, address some of the demographic problems that
we face in this matter?
Sir Andrew Green: I think, broadly,
so far as there is accurate information, they are younger, yes,
but they have the same problem as the rest of usthey get
Q192 Mrs Dean: Can I sum-up: you
do not actually believe that we should accept there is a demand
for immigration to address the demand for low-skilled workers
in the UK?
Sir Andrew Green: Well, you have
to start from where you are and where you are is that the Government
took the decision that there would be no controls on East European
access to Britain and what has happened is that a very large number
of people from East Europe have come and are working in those
low-skilled jobs. That is the fact of the matter. 80% are earning
less than £6 an hour. That does not give me any particular
difficulty because I think that it is very much in our strategic
and political interest to extend the European Union eastwards,
and this is part of it, and in the long term it will balance.
If you look at the immigration flows between the EU 15 and Britain
they are broadly in balance, and they have come back into balance
with those countries that used to be poorer. So, as far as Eastern
Europe is concerned, then that will come back into balance in
Q193 Mrs Dean: Can I turn to Dr Sriskandarajah?
Do you think the Government's proposal for a points system will
deliver the transparent system for labour migration to the UK
promised in the Government's Five Year Strategy?
Dr Sriskandarajah: As the proposals
stand I am very optimistic that the points-based system will deliver
the right sorts of people at the upper end of the skills/wage
spectrum. My concern, and indeed that of the IPPR, is that at
the lower end of the skills/wage spectrum the new system might
not deliver the numbers of people who are willing and able to
work in the sorts of jobs that are likely to need filling. As
you have said yourself, the low-skilled, low-wage areas of the
economy are unlikely to shrink in the coming years, given economic
and demographic conditions. What we need and what immigration
control should be about is having realistic measures in place
to address some of that need. There are two worst-case scenarios
for policy-makers in this country: one is that some of that unmet
labour demand, if it remains unmet, hampers economic growth, may
lead to the export of jobs overseas and may lead to the UK becoming
increasingly uncompetitive and may hamper economic growth in the
UK. The second worst-case scenario is that by not meeting low-skilled
demand we fuel flows of irregular migration and we are bedevilled
by the same sort of problems but, perhaps, on a greater scale.
So I am confident that the points-based system will deliver at
the upper end, but I am a bit more troubled about how the new
policies will be able to meet demand at the lower end.
Q194 Chairman: If I can leap in there,
I do not understand from your evidence why you are so dismissive
of the point Sir Andrew Green has just made about EU accession
states. Surely, it is the case that, for some considerable period
of time to come, at least, demand for low-skilled labour is likely
to be met within movements from the EU, which even officially
are 250,000 and most of us will accept are substantially greater
Dr Sriskandarajah: I think you
are right to point out that the position of the UK Government
to allow free movement of workers after the 2004 accession was
a great way of managing migration needs in the UK economy; it
allowed the UK to tap into a great resourcein this case,
it seems, particularlyof people willing to do the sorts
of jobs that UK workers are unwilling or unable to do. In the
long term I am a bit more sceptical about whether that will continue
to be the case, for three reasons: one, even those who are here
at the moment from accession countries, anecdotally, seem to be
clearly skilled peoplepeople with a high school or tertiary
educationwho are working, picking fruit or serving in a
café while they learn English and get some human capital.
So they are not necessarily the people who will continue to do
those sorts of jobs. In the longer term, the demographic conditions
in our Central and Eastern European partners are in some cases
worse than they are in the UK, so the very pool of young people
willing to come and pick fruit in the UK is likely to diminish.
Thirdly, if you look at even the most recent accession experience
there is, it seems to be, at first glance, a relationship between
the level of development in countries and the numbers of people
leaving, such that from Slovenia, the most developed of the A8
countries, we have relatively few people coming to the UK, and
from Poland and Lithuania, at the other end of the spectrum, we
have relatively more people. If the EU accession is a success
and our A8 partners develop at the pace we want them to that supply
of labour is likely to diminish.
Q195 Mrs Dean: A last question for
Dr Sriskandarajah: one measure that you propose to improve the
transparency and effectiveness of the current system of immigration
controls is the creation of what you call a "Managed Migration
Policy Committee". Can you explain to us in more detail what
this would involve and how it would improve the current system?
I do apologise for not getting your name right.
Dr Sriskandarajah: That is no
problem at all. My understanding of working in this area is that
there are some in the UK who are concerned about race issues,
when it comes to immigration. When they hear "immigration"
they hear the word "race", "social change"
and "cultural change".
Q196 Mr Winnick: They must have been
listening to Sir Andrew.
Sir Andrew Green: I will answer
that later, if I may.
Dr Sriskandarajah: On the other
hand, a great many people in the UK are concerned about the governance
of immigration. They genuinely feel that the immigration system
is not under control; that Britain is a soft touch and, perhaps,
the politically correct forces of government have pulled the wool
over their collective eyes. If governance is the issue and not
race, as I hope it is, then we need to take some measures to improve
the transparency and improve accountability in this area of policy
making. There may well be several options. The option that we
have arrived at that might help is to set up some form of independent
or autonomous or semi-autonomous body that could oversee immigration
statistics, oversee immigration control, perhaps table an annual
report to Parliamenta public exercise of accountability
in which the country's immigration records are put on display
but, perhaps, also rolling in some of the expert panels that the
Home Office already relies on to advise it on sectoral needs,
rolling some of those panels into a bigger Managed Migration Policy
Committee that can also have something to say about Britain's
migration needs, not necessarily setting quotas of "this
many plumbers and this many carpenters" for next year but
setting out the scene, short-term and medium-term, for what sort
of migration needs the UK might have.
Sir Andrew Green: I do not think
it is altogether a bad idea, Mr Chairman. I think you will still
need people making the arguments for one direction or another.
I do not mind being accused of being paranoid; I know that when
people attack me personally they have run out of arguments. I
feel that that is not a problem. There is a need, and I think
it has been touched on several times in this meeting, to reassure
the public. This may be a means of doing so, as and when the Government
actually have a policy to set out.
Q197 Chairman: One last question,
Sir Andrew, for clarification. You said earlier that one in five
children in the country was born to
Sir Andrew Green: Mothers born
Q198 Chairman: And their fathers?
Sir Andrew Green: I do not think
that is recorded.
Q199 Chairman: Earlier, if I am right,
I think you said "born to immigrants". Do you accept
that presenting that fact in terms of how many British people
have children with a spouse from overseas is a very different
way of presenting statistics from saying: "These are children
born to immigrants"? Do you accept that actually one of the
problems with the way in which Migration Watch enters this debate
is you choose to present your statistics in the most sensational
and pejorative way? The question of parentage of children is a
legitimate matter of social interest and there is no reason why
there should not be statistics on it but, actually, if it is a
social phenomenon that British citizens are choosing to have children
with overseas-born parents that is an entirely different way of
looking at the matter to saying that they are the children of
Sir Andrew Green: Yes. Our report,
when we published it, expressed it in exactly the way that you
recommend. I was speaking loosely here, for shorthand. There is
a big difference between ethnicity and immigration, and they do
not correspond at all. As regards your general point, I think
that what we are seeking to do is to draw the public's attention
to the position and it is then really for public opinion and the
political process to deal with it. There have been three major
occasions on which the Government have not actually given the
full facts, which you will not want me to enumerate.