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We must look carefully at other aspects of the transport industry. The Transport Committee is investigating security in transport across the board. It is plain that there is still not a full acceptance of the different situation that we now face in relation to those who would destroy our peace and stability by violent
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means. We should encourage the development of new techniques of transport security, and clear and well developed policies in relation to a ports police. The Government have suggested that they might consider a border police force. In the British Transport police we have the core of an existing force that is properly trained and which understands the existing techniques of policing railways, ports and aviation. The force should be expanded and seen as a professional force with the ability to provide a high level of security for the country. It should be a force that we understand.

The Government should examine closely the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European institutions. We have handed over responsibility for aviation, we are increasingly subject to directives in relation to railways, and I have no doubt that in due course there will be some kind of discussion in the European institutions about how they can rationalise and harmonise the congestion charging and road tolling systems in operation.

That is all perfectly well, if we are having abstract and pleasant seminars on transport planning for the 22nd century. What will not do—this is becoming increasingly clear—is institutions taking over powers that they do not fully exercise from a position of informed consent. The Government must make a real effort to ensure that institutions such as the European Aviation Safety Agency, which will change how aviation operates, proceed on the basis of not only what is workable, but what is acceptable, which is not the current situation. Indeed, the changes in aviation safety introduced by EASA are likely to result in direct and dangerous consequences before very long.

I could cheerfully follow those hon. Members who have discussed aspects of immigration and other changes. There is a marvellous dichotomy among Opposition Members, who say that we must always have economic development, but not in their constituencies. I understand that point, but I do not support it.

The present Government, in their zeal to improve, occasionally confuse the word “modernise” with the word “change”. Human beings will respond to change—they respond to challenges—but they cannot be stampeded into enormous changes without very good evidence. The probation service has done a good job in the United Kingdom. I have great confidence in those of its staff who operate in my constituency, and I work closely with them. Constantly suggesting that the probation service will be privatised and that somebody else can do a better job for profit is not only not very bright; it is very damaging. I say to Ministers that we do not want a Prison Service that is as efficient as private industry is in the transport field, because we have enough problems without that.

2.57 pm

Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): I want to follow some of the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Clappison). Although I welcome the characteristically trenchant thoughts of the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mrs. Dunwoody), I hope that she will forgive me if I do not take them up.

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The Gracious Speech includes a Bill to provide the immigration service with more powers to control immigration. We know that the Government want to appear tough on controlling immigration, because that approach plays well with people who are hostile to immigration per se. That approach also gives the impression that the real policy concerns illegal immigration rather than lawful immigration, which is permitted and encouraged by the Government.

The Government have not given us a rationale for controlling immigration. The one lesson that I learned as a Minister is that it is absolutely crucial to have a rationale for any policy or Bill that one wants to introduce and see work effectively. It is clearly necessary to have a rationale for controlling immigration, if one is to determine which powers are needed. It is also important to have a rationale if one is to determine which categories of immigration one will allow and which categories one will deem to be illegal. Far more importantly, if Ministers do not spell out the rationale, the purpose, the reasons and the justification for what they are doing, such measures will never be enforced.

Officials can implement a policy only if they understand what it is for and if they can see the rationale and can put it into practice. If they do not see a rationale, they will not implement the policy, which may be one reason why the Home Office has not been implementing controls on immigration and has sought to turn a blind eye to large categories of illegal immigration, which led to ministerial resignations a year or two ago.

We know the Government’s policy on lawful immigration, as they have spelled it out. It was spelled out to this House on their behalf in a Home Office document by officials who were probably unduly free at the time because the Home Office Minister concerned was being upbraided in the press about his personal affairs and was unable to be concerned enough about what his officials were releasing. The document stated:

We know the rationale for that policy. The Government have made it clear that they believe that immigration is good for us—an unalloyed good—and that there are no negatives associated with it. The specific economic justifications that they have given all imply that the benefits are proportionate to the numbers that come here. They have never given any reason why any economic migrant should not be permitted to enter the country. They say that we should welcome lawful immigration—why should not we welcome all economic migration? [ Interruption. ] If the hon. Member for Crawley (Laura Moffatt) wants to tell me that that is her policy, she is free to intervene—but no, she has suddenly become glued to her seat.

We are left with a Government whose position seems to be that illegal immigration is not good for us because it is illegal. I prefer things to be illegal because they are not good for us rather than its being a purely circular thing. There may be reasons for the Government’s position, and I will suggest some. It could be that it is a question of numbers—that
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although all immigration is good for us, there should be a limit on numbers. That happens to be my view, but it is not the Government’s. They have said that there should be no upper limit on immigration and have vilified Conservative proposals to set an annual limit on the numbers. I was delighted that our Front-Bench spokesman reaffirmed that we believe in a numerical limit on economic migration into this country.

The Government have said that we must accept as many people into this country as our employers want to accept. That is a potentially unlimited amount, because the demand for labour at less than the going rate is always unlimited. There is a virtually unlimited supply of labour across the world from people who are willing—anxious—to work here for less than those already here are accustomed to accepting.

Anne Snelgrove (South Swindon) (Lab): I am listening with interest to the right hon. Gentleman’s speech. He is making strong assertions. Why, in 2005, did his party abstain on two clauses in the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill that would have tightened restrictions on appeals and improved our ability to strip citizenship from those who pose a risk to Britain?

Mr. Lilley: If the hon. Lady paid more intention to my speech than to the Whip’s brief, she would know that I was talking about economic migration, not asylum, which is a different matter that I shall deal with on another day. When I have an opportunity to catch the Speaker’s eye and talk about asylum, I shall do so, but today I am talking about economic migration.

Mr. Christopher Chope (Christchurch) (Con): On economic migration, does my right hon. Friend accept that the latest figures show that the most economically competitive countries in Europe are Switzerland and Finland? Switzerland has some of the tightest controls; Finland does not, but nobody wants to go there.

Mr. Lilley: My hon. Friend makes a good point, although I think that lots of people do want to go to Finland—it is just that it is quite difficult to get to from the places that immigrants tend to come from.

Could it be that the Government want to reject unskilled migrants? No. The Home Office issued a document that stated:

So it is not simply a matter of allowing in a narrow group of skilled people—we are told that unskilled people are as necessary if not more necessary. Indeed, the Prime Minister specifically said that we need people to do jobs that British people will not do. We are allegedly too grand to do the dirty work and must therefore import a class of helots, who will presumably be required to do only that and never move on to anything else, such as the higher paid jobs that the domestic population finds preferable. Once one allows them to do that, the stream will be unlimited. People will come in initially to do the unpleasant jobs at artificially low wages and then move on to other jobs. The answer is that we should pay people a decent rate for the job. We would then have no difficulty in
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persuading members of the domestic population to be dustmen and so on. Indeed, there is no shortage of people.

The Government’s economic arguments all lead in the direction of unlimited immigration. If they are accepted—they tended to be accepted by a broad political and business consensus until recently—we reach two unacceptable conclusions. The first is that the number of economic migrants to this country should be unlimited and the second is that the only reason for opposing or restricting immigration is hostility to immigrants. Sadly, sections of the press and parties that are anxious to restrict immigration play to the caricature of immigrants as lazy criminal scroungers and so on.

Unlike most hon. Members, I have lived in largely immigrant areas. I have represented many immigrants in my constituency and worshipped in the same church as people from immigrant communities. I therefore know that the caricature is false. Most economic migrants who want to come to this country are hard working and law abiding and want to make a positive contribution. I would not be prepared to base a policy on a caricature founded on hostility to them.

However, it is important to examine the economic arguments to ascertain whether they lead ineluctably to unlimited access to this country. When we do that, we find that they do not. The Government’s first argument is that immigration is good for economic growth. It is true that immigration makes the labour force bigger but it does not necessarily make it richer per head. Indeed, the Government’s own figures are based on the assumption that, although the people coming to this country will add to the labour force, they do not add to output or income per head. That is not surprising.

Some people believed that there might be a dynamic effect and that a flow of immigrants would raise the rate of increase in output per head. However, since the Government have encouraged the process of increasing the flow of often unskilled labour into the country, there has been a decline in the growth of productivity. That applies not only to this country but to America, which is often held up as an economy booming because of immigration. It has grown bigger because of immigration, but, since immigration accelerated there, output per head has grown only at much the same rate as that in Europe and on this side of the Atlantic. Immigration does not, therefore, have that dynamic effect.

The Government’s second argument, which also, if true, means that we should have more and more immigration is that a fiscal benefit ensues; that the amount of tax paid by immigrants exceeds the cost of benefits. Of course, we all know that the initial sums were calculated in a year when there was an overall surplus, so everybody, not only those of immigrant origin, paid more tax than they received benefits. Even if one corrects for a different year, as the Institute for Public Policy Research did, there appears to be a small differential in favour of net taxes—payments to the Exchequer by immigrants. However, that is the case only on the assumption—the Government have refused to revise the figures or acknowledge the need to do that—that all children, one of whose parents is an immigrant and the other is of domestic birth, are counted as British citizens. Their total costs are
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attributed to Britain, rather than half of them—as one would expect—being attributed to the immigrant parent and the other to the domestic population. Once we take that into account, there is no net surplus fiscally. In any case, we know that rich people pay more in taxes than they receive in benefit, by and large, and that it is the other way round for less well-off people. That would lead purely to differentiation in the type of immigration by the likely income level of immigrants, if the Government really believed that it was the case, which they probably do not.

There is an argument that we should import a finite number of people to deal with a finite shortage. Some years ago, the Prime Minister referred to there being some 500,000 vacancies in this country, and said that we therefore needed to import the labour to fill them. Since then, we have let in the best part of a million workers—that is the net figure—yet there are still 500,000 vacancies. That is no accident, because every new worker not only assuages the demand for one unit of labour but is also a consumer. Through their consumption, they create the need for just as much labour as they provide. So there is no net filling of vacancies. Nor do those people undermine the jobs of existing workers here, as the British National party suggests, making the mistake known as the lump of labour fallacy. If there were a domestic labour shortage, we would experience wage inflation, yet we have never seen it at a lower level than now. Furthermore, the answer would not be to encourage unlimited immigration but to tighten monetary policy appropriately.

We need to look closely at the Government’s arguments for justifying virtually unlimited immigration and to recognise that some immigration is necessary to this country. However, it should be more a lubricant than a fuel. A limited amount is good for us, but an unlimited amount is unnecessary and would bring costs and problems in its train. We will need control of immigration, and it is sad that the Government have not given us a rationale for the powers that they propose to take.

3.12 pm

Mr. Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne, North) (Lab): One of the problems with the Queen’s Speech debate is that we have to cover two very important issues in one afternoon. It is tempting to allow oneself to be dragged into a debate on both issues, and I am certainly tempted to take up some of the points on migration raised by the right hon. Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Mr. Lilley), as I take a very different view from him. I believe that economic migration is generally good for the nation—I think that I could even argue a free market case for that—but perhaps I should discuss that with the right hon. Gentleman on another occasion.

I want to say a few words today about the relationship between climate change and our transport systems. I have no ideology about which form of transport is preferable to any other. If air transport is the best form of transport for a particular journey, we should use air. If rail is the best, we should use the railway, and if road transport is the best, we should use the roads. That applies to all the other forms of transport as well. So I start from a non-ideological
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position, but I believe that we need to have a very close look at the effect of climate change on our transport systems.

Transport produces about 14 per cent. of our carbon emissions on average, which is a significant part of the annual emissions not only of this country but throughout the world. If we are to tackle climate change and to reverse some of the developments of the recent past, we must address the issue of transport. We must ask ourselves what we can do, and in what time span, to effect the necessary changes in our transport systems.

I am not someone who loves to quote statistics in the Chamber, but two statistics have hit me right between the eyes. The first is that 85 per cent. of the public transport movements between Glasgow and London are by air. That is a phenomenal increase compared with when I first started travelling around the country about 35 years ago. In relation to the second significant statistic, I have comparable figures for Newcastle and Glasgow, but I would rather use the ones that apply to my own constituency. With regard to carbon emissions, travelling from Newcastle to London in an average petrol car will emit 73 kg of carbon per passenger journey, whereas by air 93 kg of carbon will be emitted, and by rail only 16 kg of carbon will be emitted. The message is clear. If we are to tackle the link between transport and climate change, we must move away from air—I say that as someone who enjoys flying and flies regularly—and away from road transport towards rail, in inter-city transport.

As for transport within a city, there are other solutions including cycling and walking. If I had said in the Chamber 20 years ago that the Labour party should have policies to encourage cycling and walking as a solution to our transport problems, people would have thought that I was a raving lunatic. Today, however, cycling and walking provide a real solution in the inner city. I applaud the action of the Mayor of London in linking up the various London squares. We need to find a way of making safe journeys either by bike or on foot throughout our cities.

A lot needs to be done on moving towards rail. Little can be done quickly, as real changes will involve massive investment. It cannot be done in one country alone. Just as attempts to address climate change, if they are to have any impact, must be bound by an international agreement, so must transport change. If we are to have a competitive airline industry, we cannot take measures in relation to this country’s airlines if similar measures are not being taken by those elsewhere in Europe and the United States.

I have always supported the idea of a fixed rail link from the north to the south of Britain. I first travelled on a fixed link in Japan, probably 20 years ago, and was very impressed. We have seen such development in France and some other European countries, and it now seems logical to have a fixed rail link for inter-city passenger transport throughout Europe. Just as we make the case for a co-ordinated system of public transport in Newcastle or Britain, we should make the case for such a system in Europe. One should be able to get on a train in Newcastle and get off where appropriate in Europe. Travelling from Newcastle to
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Majorca, it would be silly and inefficient to try to go by train and boat, unless one likes sailing and a long journey. If we are to tackle climate change, however, it should be possible to travel from Newcastle to Benidorm—which many people do regularly—and other mainland locations in Europe on a fixed rail link as speedily as possible, as within 750 miles, fixed-link railways are competitive.

Stewart Hosie: When I was young, I travelled from Dundee to Alicante by rail on three occasions, which is a wonderful journey. One could go to a Transalpino office and buy all the tickets. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is no longer a place to buy tickets for such trans-European travel?

Mr. Henderson: As a student I worked as a railway booking clerk, so I do know about such things. The old joke was that if people were going to Dunfermline, they should change at Inverkeithing. We need a coherent system, including ticketing and so on, but it needs major investment.

Similarly, the east coast main line has no more capacity. We cannot put any more inter-city passenger trains on it. Therefore, if we take people off aeroplanes, where do we put them? That issue must be faced by Government, local government and Parliament. We need to look closely at what kind of investment is possible in what time scale. Things should be co-ordinated at European level if through trains are to carry people from one destination to another, but it must also be affordable. At present it is often much cheaper to fly from Newcastle to City airport on Eastern Airways than to travel on GNER—unless we book 12 years in advance.

We need a transport revolution as big as the industrial revolution. Can the market system deal with that? We all agree, in the House and elsewhere, that we want to protect the environment and to be safe from certain things. How do we move from that to changing our transport systems? The same might apply to electricity generation, incidentally, but that is another issue for another day. Can this be left to the market?

I have no particular ideological objection to market economics. I recognise many of its strengths. However, I do not think it can deal with this issue, just as it could not deal with the issue of pollution from factories or sending kids up chimneys in the 18th and 19th centuries. There had to be regulation at that time, which meant intervention in the market system. When it comes to the big issues that we are discussing today, I do not see a market solution. I think that considerable regulation will be needed. I say that with regret, because I do not want a lot of red tape, but I do not see how we can get that passenger train from Newcastle to Benidorm without a number of interventions by the state and the European Union in all the different issues involved: basic investment in the track, common rail systems, and links with bus systems and perhaps with air systems.

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