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One could go through the whole list. The House of Lords categorically demolished the Government’s case that migration is an economic benefit to the country.

It is interesting that that has been the Government’s case throughout their time in office, irrespective of the other issues that I have always believed are very important, such as population growth, population pressures and pressure on housing and public services. The Government have said that whatever was happening in those respects, immigration was in the economic interests of the country. Against that background, I shall put some brief questions to the Minister in an endeavour to establish what is now the Government’s position.

First and foremost, does the Minister expect the points-based system to bring about a reduction in inward migration, at least in the category of migration that is subject to it? We need an answer to that. Does he expect inward migration to be higher or lower? To put the matter in a wider context, is he content—some elements of his speech indicated that he might be—with the Government’s official projection of net migration for the years to come, running at a level of 190,000 a year? That is the official projection of the Office for National Statistics, based on the work of the Government Actuary’s Department. As the House of Lords pointed out, that number is equivalent to a city the size of Milton Keynes arriving in the UK every year. The vast majority come to England, and, as I think the hon. Member for Eastleigh (Chris Huhne) well knows, the vast majority, or at least a majority, go to the south of England.

Is the Minister content with the Government’s projection that the population of the UK will grow from 60 million today to 71 million in 2031, with most of that growth taking place in England and the population of England growing from 51 million now to just over 60 million in 2031? Is he satisfied with that level of population growth and the implications that it has for the quality of life in this country? We need an answer—is he satisfied with that prospect? That would be equivalent to putting the existing populations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland into England by 2031.

The Office for National Statistics has said that 69 per cent. of that population growth can be attributed, directly or indirectly, to net migration. Will the Minister say whether the points-based system will alter those projections, or will changing the way that people are selected mean that the projections will stay the same?

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Ministers claim that the points-based system will be more selective, but the more important question is how many migrants are admitted. Migrant workers might hold national vocational qualifications, bachelors or masters degrees, or doctorates—or, for the benefit of the hon. Member for Eastleigh, they might even be bankers. Regardless of the qualifications that they hold, however, they still need a roof over their heads, and that has implications for the numbers of households formed every year.

It is frankly amazing that the Government have drawn no connection at all between migration policy, which is controlled by the Home Office, the population projections derived from that policy, and the housing policy that is implemented by another Department and which requires counties in the English regions to accommodate very substantial extra households. My county of Hertfordshire has been told to find room for about 80,000 more houses in the years leading up to 2021. In the same period, the borough of Hertsmere alone must find room for 5,000 new houses. I understand that that will be very difficult to accomplish without losing at least some of the green belt in the area.

A significant proportion of the projected housing demand will arise from net migration, some of it covered by the points-based system. The Government have had to raise their estimate of that demand three times already since they came to office. The most recent estimate is that one third of household demand will come from migration, but that is based on an old figure and may have to be revised upwards in light of more recent population predictions. The House of Lords Select Committee was told in evidence that more than 200 new households per day will be generated by net migration in years, and one estimate is that more than 260 houses will have to be built every day. Is the Minister satisfied with that prospect? Does he plan to change anything to deal with it? Will the points-based system make any difference?

In his opening remarks, the Minister referred briefly to the resident labour market test. In their written evidence to the House of Lords Committee, the Government said:

That evidence was submitted in the autumn of last year. When he winds up the debate, will the Minister say whether it is still the Government’s intention to remove the requirement for a resident labour market test above a certain level of income? If so, at what level of income will the test be removed? How does the policy sit with the Prime Minister’s talk of British jobs for British workers?

For its part, the House of Lords concluded that the resident labour market test was important for the employment opportunities of resident workers. It suggested that such a test should be properly enforced under the points-based system. I do not have as much confidence as I should like that the Government will be willing—or able—to implement that recommendation, especially given that we are still waiting to hear from them on the question of illegal workers. A year ago, Ministers discovered that workers were being employed
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illegally in the security industry, some of them guarding sensitive Government establishments. We have still to hear whether the Government have issued those workers with national insurance numbers. If the Minister knows that today, I ask him to give us an answer. One year on from first discovering that, how many of those workers were given national insurance numbers? Were any of them given numbers? Does the Minister know?

A number of detailed questions arise from the Government’s proposals, but the most important question is simply the effect that they will have on the Government’s projections for population. Will more or fewer people be admitted to this country? The Government have presided over an unparalleled period in our history of population growth and, particularly, inward migration. The hon. Member for Eastleigh mentioned migration history. There has never been a period in history of such sustained and concentrated inward migration as that under the 10 years of this Government. Never before has inward migration reached the level that it has reached under this Government today. Well over 500,000 people are inwardly migrating every year. There is no time in history when that has been the case. If the Minister is aware of such a time, perhaps he will tell us. [ Interruption. ] If the hon. Member for Eastleigh knows, I would welcome hearing from him. I believe that the evidence from the Office for National Statistics shows that there has been no such time in the past 30 years. I do not think that there has been any such time in history.

Chris Huhne: The hon. Gentleman may well be right about the past few decades, but he might be disregarding previous episodes in our history. Certainly, the Huguenot immigration to this country was proportionately far greater than anything that we have seen since. That is quite astonishing, given that the Huguenots were French speakers.

Mr. Clappison: I think that the hon. Gentleman would find, if he did some research, that certainly the Huguenots came to this country, fleeing persecution, and made a distinctive contribution, but it was not on the scale of the migration that we have seen in recent times. None of the previous migrations—whether Jewish, Huguenot or any other group—caused migration at the level of the past 10 years. I believe that the Government have a commitment to migration. They believe that migration is good; they are ideologically committed to high migration; they believe that there is an economic case for it. That case has been demolished, but the Government continue with migration nevertheless. That has been reflected in the migration that they brought about as soon as they took office, with the increase in the number of work permits that were issued to workers from outside the European Union. Since then, they have continued with high migration, sometimes through policy errors, as in the case of the accession eight countries, but more through the issuing of work permits and other means.

The interesting point about work permits—I would appreciate the Minister’s answer on this—is that, even when it became apparent that Ministers had got their predictions completely wrong in 2004 and that far
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more people were coming from the accession eight countries than the Government had predicted, they still continued to issue work permits to workers from outside the European Union at an increasing rate.

Mr. Byrne rose—

Mr. Clappison: I will give way to the Minister if he is prepared to explain why he did that.

Mr. Byrne: I will reflect in my concluding remarks on the points that the hon. Gentleman makes, but I intervened because I was intellectually curious as much as anything else. The thrust of his argument points toward a prescription of either zero immigration or, at best, a zero net balance. Is that what he is proposing?

Mr. Clappison: I have no problem with immigration, still less with immigrants, and I respect the hard work and the contribution that they make. When I refer to immigration, I am referring to the unprecedented, exceptionally high levels that the Government have caused or permitted to take place into the country over the past 10 years. I believe that the Government have a bias in favour of high migration. It will be for historians to determine the real policy reasons behind that. As I say, the economic rationale for the Government’s case has been demolished in the debate. The Government have failed to take into account the housing and all the other implications. That view is held by not just myself; my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford was quite right to say that there is widespread public concern, which Ministers from time to time acknowledge and try to address. How has that concern come about? It is because the public can see what the Government are doing.

I shall draw my remarks to a close by saying that Ministers can pay lip service to those public concerns as much as they like, they can use whatever rhetoric they want, and they can pretend that a big shake-up is taking place in the migration system and that they will address those concerns, but the real concern of people is that the Government are not listening to their legitimate concern about the very high immigration, and that concern will not be allayed until proper and effective measures are taken to control that high immigration. I commend the measures that my hon. Friend has proposed in the debate.

Several hon. Members rose

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. There is less than an hour left for contributions from Back Benchers. I ask hon. Members to bear that in mind when making their speeches, so that more of them are successful in catching my eye.

5.10 pm

Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): I want primarily to speak on behalf of the Chinese community. I speak as the chair of the all-party Chinese in Britain group, and as a Member of Parliament representing a borough that has the biggest Chinese community in Britain. In particular, I want to speak on behalf of the hospitality
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trade. Traditionally, 51 per cent. of the Chinese work force have been employed in that line of work. From the very constructive meetings that we have had with the Minister, I think he is aware of the strength of feeling on the subject. However, businesses face considerable unease and fear for the future, which I hope that he can allay.

I can tell my hon. Friend that, as of yesterday, 600 submissions had been sent to the migration advisory committee from people in the industry. The submissions contained a large number of very moving stories, although obviously there is not time to refer to them now. I hope that he will be able to reschedule his revisit to Chinatown, which was due to take place last night, so that he can see for himself what I am talking about, and particularly the impact of tiers 2 and 3 on businesses. The fear is that businesses will not be able to recruit the staff from China and Hong Kong required to keep themselves going.

Of course, the issue is not just the points-based system; there are already recruitment problems, and it is feared that they will get worse. The Chinese community is high achieving, both academically and professionally, and those who are second or third generation do not want to work in the business. They are happy to be customers, but not employees. I can sympathise with that, having grown up in the hospitality industry. I was the third generation in that trade, and I was very happy to be able to go to university and qualify as a lawyer, rather than work in the kitchens and bars.

The problems are evidenced by the fact that the cost of staffing has increased. I am told that in the past six months alone wages have gone up by between 30 and 35 per cent. Head-hunting and poaching are becoming real problems as people try to find staff from an ever-diminishing work force. Families are being called in to help. Children’s education is being affected, as they are called in to help in the takeaways. Parents and grandparents are enlisted. In Doncaster, I heard at the Emperor restaurant, owned by Mr. Yip, that his 80-year-old grandfather is now doing the cooking. In Chinatown, Mrs. Lee, whom my hon. Friend the Minister knows, says that her 75-year-old uncle is now the wok chef in the Golden Dragon.

People are working increased hours, and that inevitably affects the quality and range of dishes available. Businesses have closed, including the Furama restaurant in Chinatown and Dragon Springs in Doncaster. We are not talking just about catering establishments; the Loon Fung supermarket in Gerrard street closed because it could not find staff. A 10-year-old business in Doncaster, a noodle factory owned by Mr. Chan, has also had to close down. That is partly owing to the pressure on irregular workers, and the raids that have already been referred to. The real concern is the complete lack of respect for the businesses, the customers and others involved. I will not discuss the issue in detail, because it has already been referred to, but what has not been mentioned is that on 18 October—the week after the big raid in Chinatown—the whole of Chinatown closed down for three hours as a protest at the way in which people had been treated during those raids. Unfortunately, such
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raids continue; there have been six such raids elsewhere in the past two months. That has a significant impact on businesses.

Relations with the Border and Immigration Agency have improved; there is better co-operation, and there is education and training for employers, but I am told that employers can never get through on the helpline number that they were told to use. There is no answer. They have been told that that is the way to get advice, but it simply does not work. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to resolve that.

One of the key issues is that of irregular workers. Frankly, they will not be sent home; they will never be caught, and the sensible thing to do is to find a way of regularising them under tier 2, otherwise they will remain in limbo. Occupation 5434, cooks and chefs, is a very broad category, and as I said to my hon. Friend earlier, it has to be broken down much further, particularly given the needs of ethnic restaurants, because there are significant differences between the western catering trade and Chinese and south Asian restaurants. That is why workers from China and Hong Kong are needed.

There is not a single catering college in the United Kingdom that offers formal courses for Chinese chefs. There are eight main styles of cooking—each requires separate skills and specialised knowledge of ingredients, cooking methods and presentation—including Cantonese, Peking, Szechuan and dim sum. We have all tried them, and they all require special marinades and sauces—even the vegetable preparation involves specialist training.

The Chinese community resents the fact that takeaways are regarded as on a par with burger joints and fish and ship shops under the system. Takeaways, too, require highly trained chefs, and provide dozens of dishes. There is rather more to Chinese takeaway cooking than flipping burgers or deep-frying chips. The language barrier is an important consideration. Cantonese is the language of the kitchen, and the lack of experience, skill and cultural awareness of indigenous and EU workers is a barrier to their employment. They do not have the knowledge of the utensils and ingredients, let alone the knowledge of what to do with them and which cooking methods to use. I saw for myself the special high-heat naked flame cookers specially imported from Hong Kong—they are like volcanoes. The kitchens have tried to use indigenous and EU staff, but that has simply not worked out: the work is unpopular, and the staff cannot stick it. The language barrier imposes physical demands in a pressurised environment.

Formal qualifications are not required to become a Chinese chef, but we should remember that in the indigenous population, only 26 per cent. of cooks and chefs have level 3 NVQ or above. The apprenticeship for Chinese cooking is long, and begins at the age of 15 or 16. The best guide to skills is references, experience and ability in practice, and that must be reflected in the system. Recruits from Hong Kong and China do not speak English. I have heard an apocryphal story that there are more people in China who speak English than in England, but the fact that Chinese chefs cannot speak English. However, they must be able to speak Chinese in the restaurants for health and safety and efficiency reasons. Indeed, most indigenous chefs do
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not have grade C GCSE English, so I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Minister is looking at that in more detail. There must be a relaxation of the rules on language. The best answer is to allow people to learn English when they are here, through the total immersion system of language learning, and test them when they try to renew their permit; otherwise the requirement will impose an insurmountable obstacle to recruitment.

Last night, I visited Chinatown, not just to have a meal, although I was pleased to do so, but to meet chefs and talk to staff. I visited the Golden Dragon in Gerrard street—an excellent restaurant; I will give it a plug—to see the differences between Chinese and western restaurants. I very much appreciate those differences, given my background in the trade, and I was surprised by how different that restaurant was. I met Mr. Wong, the manager, who said the restaurant serves 500 covers a day, although I think that that is probably an underestimate. Some 50 per cent. of the restaurant’s customers are Chinese, and it employs 15 waiters, two supervisors and two managers front of house. They all have to speak Cantonese, Mandarin and English. Mr. Wong is originally from Hong Kong, and has worked in the restaurant business in the UK for 30 years, 10 of them as manager of the Golden Dragon. He was worried about the impact of the new rules and their enforcement, as were many other restaurateurs whom I met last night.

Most interesting of all was my visit to the kitchens, where I met the head chef, Mr. S. H. Wong—no relation—who has no English to speak of, so I had to speak to him through an interpreter. He has 40 years’ experience in catering, and his apprenticeship in Hong Kong lasted five years. He had to do a further five years’ on-the-job training before he could be considered for the position of head chef, and he told me that he was still learning. He was hired from Hong Kong seven years ago, and he has worked in China and the Philippines. He had no problem obtaining a work permit, and has permanent residency status. However, as things are currently configured, the chances are that he would not qualify to come here under the points-based system. He is an expert in Cantonese cooking, but he said that he can only do “a little bit” of Szechuan cooking, which makes the point about the differences in cuisine. Indeed, the restaurant employs a different chef to make dim sum. There are 100 dishes on the menu that Mr. Wong has to be able to make, and he mixes marinades and sauces from his own ingredients, making them from scratch. He is in charge of a staff of 20 in the kitchen. He said he is four or five short—he cannot find the right number of people—so the staff have to work harder and longer hours.

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