Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180 - 199)



  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 way—heaven forbid—to 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 negative—be 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 balance?

  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 exactly?

  Sir Andrew Green: What I am trying to do is put a case against large-scale immigration—no question about that—but that is not to say that I do not recognise the value of immigration—at 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 economy—by increasing productivity.

  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 illegal—indeed often exploitative—use 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 that cycle?

  Sir Andrew Green: You improve your border controls and you improve your enforcement of the labour laws.

  Q187  Mrs Dean: We have improved our border controls.

  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 that—yes, I agree.

  Q190  Mrs Dean: So a slump would help immigration control?

  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 us—they get older.

  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 due course.

  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 than that?

  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 resource—in this case, it seems, particularly—of 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 people—people with a high school or tertiary education—who 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 Parliament—a 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 overseas.

  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 immigrants.

  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.

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