UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 884-i

House of COMMONS

MINUTES OF EVIDENCE

TAKEN BEFORE

HOME AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

 

 

MANAGING MIGRATION: POINTS-BASED SYSTEM

 

 

Tuesday 8 July 2008

SIR ANDREW GREEN

MS SOPHIE BARRETT-BROWN

MR RANJIT MATHRANI and MR JABEZ LAM

Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 103

 

 

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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Home Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 8 July 2008

Members present

Keith Vaz, in the Chair

David T C Davies

Mrs Janet Dean

Margaret Moran

Gwyn Prosser

Bob Russell

Martin Salter

Mr Gary Streeter

Mr David Winnick

________________

Memorandum submitted by Migration Watch UK

 

Examination of Witness

Witness: Sir Andrew Green, Chairman, Migration Watch UK, gave evidence.

Q1 Chairman: Sir Andrew, welcome to this first session of the Select Committee's inquiry into the points-based system. Can I refer everybody to the Register of Members' Interests, where our interests are declared. In particular, can I declare an interest: my wife is a solicitor and part-time judge. Sir Andrew, welcome. Can I ask you a general question first of all because, obviously, you are a key commentator on these issues. Do you think we have too many immigrants in the United Kingdom?

Sir Andrew Green: Chairman, first of all, thank you for your invitation. It is an honour to be your first witness. I would like to make it clear that we are not opposed to immigration as such. We believe that a sensible level of immigration is a natural part of a global economy, that is migration actually in both directions. We have no difficulty with that and, of course, we have no difficulty with our existing migrant communities. Where we do, I think, differ from the Government, probably, is where this is leading to, and I think it follows from your question if I say to you that we are now in a situation where 70% of our population growth is as a result of immigration; that the Government's main forecast, the central forecast, is that our population of England only would increase by 10 million in the next 25 years, of which seven million will be as a result of immigration. That is seven times the population of Birmingham. So, I think my answer to you, Chairman, is this. Our view is that we cannot and should not continue down this course; that there should be a substantial reduction in the level of immigration to one which our society can absorb and which is acceptable to the population at large. I am sure you will have seen many opinion polls that suggest that 75% of the population want to see a significant reduction in immigration. I hope that is an answer to your question.

Q2 Chairman: Thank you. The points-based system, of course, is about skills. Do you think it is better than the system that was in operation before? Would it mean that people with real skills will come into this country in order to deal with the shortages that obviously exist in certain sectors?

Sir Andrew Green: I think, if you are going to evaluate a system, you have to evaluate it against its purpose, and I do not want to repeat myself, but there seems to be a vacuum at the heart of the Government's policy. They do not know what scale of immigration they want and, therefore, it is quite difficult to say whether this system or that system is effective. That said, if you examine the detail (and I will not go into the detail here) the two systems are remarkably similar. What the Government have done is to add points, as it were, to the requirements that existed previously, and that enables them, as you know, to raise or lower the threshold and the aim of that is to have some control over the numbers. The difficulty, from our point of view, is that it only controls one part of the numbers and it is, as it were, ex post facto - you only know later how many people you have omitted under this sort or that scheme - and one of our concerns about the points-based system (and we may come on to it) is that there is a sort of automaticity about it that if you get the points you come in and it will not be until later that the Government know how many applications they have accepted. I draw your attention to the American experience, where they have a broadly similar visa called H1V, which is a kind of work permit, broadly speaking. They had 65,000 available and they went on the first day, many of them to India, but not all. So we could find very large numbers applying, and I think that is something that the system and Parliament needs to be aware of.

Q3 Mrs Dean: A recent report by Sarah Buttler Associates found that the UK ranked only 17 out of 20 global economies, in descending order, in terms of strictness of their business migration policies. The same report concluded that the points-based system would increase the strictness of the UK's policy. Do you agree with that and is that not a welcome development from the point of view of Migration Watch?

Sir Andrew Green: Yes, it would be if it were so. I think it is a little early to judge, frankly. A great deal depends on how it is administered. The devil, as always, is in the detail and, of course, the detail is very important to individuals, as you will almost certainly know. To give you one example, you get points, as you know, for age, qualifications and salary. A key element is how you assess the salary in a foreign country. What kind of exchange rate do you use? I will not go any further, but you can see the difficulties.

Q4 Mr Streeter: Going back to your first answer for a second, Sir Andrew, you mentioned seven million growth due to immigration. How many of those seven million are due to children of people already here, or are you talking about seven million extra people coming into the country?

Sir Andrew Green: I am talking about seven million extra people. That is a very important question. I am not talking about the children of the existing immigrant community. What I am talking about is the Government Actuary's Department, and the way they do it is to look at what would happen to the population on certain assumptions about immigration, and then they subtract from that what would happen if there was no immigration, and that is the difference that I am talking about. Effectively, it is new immigrants and their children in a nutshell.

Q5 Mr Streeter: The Government set up the Migration Advisory Committee to look at the issue of occupational shortages. Do you have any comments about whether or not that is the right committee to judge the ebb and flow of occupational shortages and do you think it is sufficiently well resourced?

Sir Andrew Green: The chairman of that committee gave evidence to the House of Lords, as you may know, and he was very interesting. He said himself that the whole concept of a shortage is (his word) rather a slippery one, because he said that in a market system, as we know, the market adjusts to shortages, wages go up, people are brought in, and so in a sense whether or not there is a shortage depends on how long you are prepared to wait for the necessary people to be drawn into that profession, and that depends, of course, on what you are talking about. If you are talking about a doctor, it is seven years; if it is something else, it might be two years; so it is a slippery concept. It is the case that immigration is not the answer to skill shortages - that is the view of the CBI and I hope it is the view of the trade unions - but I have not seen them say it, for the very reason that over time you should be able to produce the people you need. That is not to say that ad interim (in the interim period) you do not need some people, but it is an interim thing and it should be a short-term thing. Are they the right people to do it? Yes, why not. They are quite small, but then I think small organisations are nearly always better.

Q6 Mr Winnick: You have painted, not for the first time, Sir Andrew, a picture of continued mass immigration into the United Kingdom. As far as the figures are concerned, I think it is Dr Colman who supplies most of the statistics.

Sir Andrew Green: No, it is the Government Actuary's Department.

Q7 Mr Winnick: Yes, but you have a Dr Colman involved?

Sir Andrew Green: We have a professor at Oxford, who is an honorary consultant, yes.

Q8 Mr Winnick: His name is?

Sir Andrew Green: David Coleman.

Q9 Mr Winnick: Thank you. How far is the situation different in the UK to other advanced western countries - France, Germany, Holland? Presumably in the last 30 or 40 years they have had the same amount of immigration?

Sir Andrew Green: That is a very interesting question actually. There are two halves to that answer. One is they are forecasting populations which are completely different. In Germany, Italy and Spain, if there was no immigration, there would be a significant fall in the population of the order of 15-25%. That is a completely different situation from ourselves, where if we brought immigration into balance, which is what we would like to see, we stabilise our population of 65 million. That is not the case for other major European countries. They face a totally different situation.

Q10 Mr Winnick: It does not quite, if I may say so, Sir Andrew, answer the question. What I am saying to you is, whatever may be the balance in population of the rest, what we have witnessed in Britain, say, since 1945, 1948, whichever year you want to use - shall we say post 1950 - to a very large extent, am I not right, this has been the situation in other EU countries, certainly the leading ones?

Sir Andrew Green: That was the second half of my answer. No, that is not quite right. The situation in the UK is that there was no net immigration until 1985: more people left than came from 1985. For the next ten years net immigration was of the order of 50,000. It is only in the last ten years that that has increased very substantially, and it is now 190,000 a year on the Government's own numbers; so the whole pattern in the UK has been very different. The present pattern is of a very considerable increase, and when you look at the future, what the Government Actuaries Department does, and these are their numbers, not ours, of course, if you are going to talk about the future population what you have to do is make to make an assumption about future immigration, and you just take a flat line. So you say your best guess is that in the coming year it will be 190,000 - that is the Government's present position, and that is what we base our numbers on. Is that clear?

Chairman: Thank you.

Q11 Bob Russell: Sir Andrew, you co-founded Migration Watch UK in 2001 and you are its chairman. Can you tell us, please, how many members it has got, who elected you chairman and when did that election take place?

Sir Andrew Green: I elected myself chairman because I founded the organisation, and we started six and a half years ago in December 2001 when we opened a website.

Q12 Bob Russell: How many members do you have?

Sir Andrew Green: We do not have any members. As a matter of policy, we have no members so there is no risk of any particular group trying to take us over. We have supporters, of course, who finance us. We are financed by donations from the public and we have several thousand people who donate to us.

Q13 Bob Russell: Do you have a constitution which people can read? Do you have meetings that people can come to?

Sir Andrew Green: We have a website that you are very welcome to read. That is our main, if you like, interface with the public.

Q14 Margaret Moran: Following that point, could you say who your main sponsors are?

Sir Andrew Green: We have several thousand donors who give us such money as we require, but I remind you that we are a voluntary organisation and, therefore, we do not need very large sums of money.

Q15 Margaret Moran: Could you provide us with a list of your sponsors?

Sir Andrew Green: Absolutely not. I do not know of any organisation or charity that does list its donors. For a start, we do not have their permission. I have never heard of anyone doing that.

Q16 Margaret Moran: I am sure, under the charity rules, that most charities do indicate their main sponsors.

Sir Andrew Green: First of all, I do not believe they do, but, secondly, we are not a charity, we are a private company.

Q17 Margaret Moran: You just referred to yourselves as a charity?

Sir Andrew Green: No, we are a private company limited by guarantee.

Q18 Margaret Moran: We have had lots of evidence that there would be difficulty in relation to low-skilled workers in particular sectors, particularly particular forms of catering, Bangladeshi catering, for example, agriculture and health, and that the points-based system might not help that. What is your view of those arguments?

Sir Andrew Green: I think it is important to distinguish here between short-term seasonal workers and longer-term workers, and I think your question was about the second. I would make three points about that, one about the economics, another about principle and, thirdly, about the practicalities. As far as the economics is concerned, this was considered by the House of Lords Economics Committee, which, as you know, is a heavyweight committee. They said that the argument that immigrants do the jobs that locals cannot or will not do is fundamentally flawed. That is a quote. It ignores, they said, the potential for higher wages to draw in labour. So, that is the economic point which they examined and they dismissed. As regards principle, do we not have to ask ourselves whether it is right to import what, without being offensive, you might call a kind of underclass of foreign workers who are prepared to work in conditions that British people are not prepared to accept? I am not at all sure that is the right way to go. Then you have the question of whether their children are prepared to do that kind of work, and usually you find that they are not. So is it to be that we have a continuous inflow of people working for conditions that Britons will not accept? Lastly, the practical point, which is that access to cheap labour of this kind, according to the House of Lords, reduces employers' incentives to look at other options, particularly changing production methods. They quoted evidence from the United States tomato industry, from the Australian wine industry, where when such cheap labour was not available they turned to different methods of production. It is not always possible, but it is certainly a point that needs to be considered. Finally, I think it is worth bearing in mind that there is no such thing as cheap labour in a welfare state. It is to the benefit of employers, of course, but it is the taxpayer who picks up the bill for all the other aspects, like heath, education, housing, and so on, to the extent they use them. So I think we need to look very carefully at these arguments. It tends to be special pleading. There may be cases which do need careful examination, but the arguments, I would suggest, both economic and practical and even in principle, are quite heavily against it.

Q19 David Davies: Sir Andrew, why do you think that a quota system for entry would be more effective than targeting skills? How would that quota system ensure that the skills that the UK requires are actually brought in?

Sir Andrew Green: That is an extremely good question. I think that goes to the whole heart of the debate actually. Can I in a couple of sentences, Chairman, go back to first principles? I mentioned that immigration is not an answer to skill shortages (and that is the CBI's view), so what we have to do is to find some way to balance the relatively short-term, but very important, requirements of industry against the longer-term pressures on our society. If you have a quota, then you risk cutting off people who we need. If you have targeting skills, then it is hard to see how you can get this balance between the needs of society and the needs of industry. That is why we have stressed a very different approach which the committee might like to consider. We would suggest that you distinguish between work and settlement. At the moment anyone who comes here on a work permit can settle after five years, more or less. Most applications are accepted. What we would suggest is, instead of that, you say, "Okay, work permit, valid for four years. After four years, you go home or on to another country, you use the experience and have the funds that you gained in Britain for the benefit of your own country."

Q20 Chairman: Is there another country that does this that could be a model for what you propose?

Sir Andrew Green: Worldwide, yes. Europe, no; United States, no, but, as I mentioned in reply to Mr Winnick, our situation is somewhat different and different also from the major immigration countries like the United States, Canada, Australia, which are practically continents. We are a small island and next year we will be the most crowded country in Europe apart from Malta. We have a different balance that we need to strike between these two considerations, and one way to approach it would be to say: the needs are temporary, let us have immigration that is temporary. Why allow those whom we need temporarily to settle permanently? It is a different approach, but I commend it to you for consideration.

Q21 David Davies: What about the possibility of offering an amnesty to the many illegal workers who we have been told by the curry industry are already working in British curry houses?

Sir Andrew Green: We would be very opposed to that.

Q22 Chairman: Do we have numbers on this? Do you have estimates as to how many?

Sir Andrew Green: The Government's estimate, or the one they quote, is of the order of half a million, unofficial estimates are nearer to a million but, of course, nobody knows. We think it is a very serious problem in itself because, of course, it can very often lead to exploitation of workers, it undercuts the pay of British workers and it enables unscrupulous employers to complete unfairly against honest ones. We have four major reasons, and I will just mention them briefly because I know it is a topical subject. First of all, it is wrong in principle to reward illegal behaviour with what amounts to a meal ticket for life. Secondly and, perhaps, more importantly, it cannot possibly work. If you take your half a million or million people and say you, "Right, you are legal." We give out two million visas a year, many of them to people from countries where wages are a fifth or a 25th of ours. Of course they will want to stay on and save some money and send it home, as it happening now; so they will simply be replaced by others. Thirdly, it will be extremely expensive. The IBPR assessment of this was extraordinary. They calculated the benefit to the Treasury without mentioning the cost. If you make a proper assessment, it will cost at least a billion a year and, worse still, it will add say, half a million, if you like. It will add half a million to the housing lists; it will give those people the right to bring their families over here; they will move up the priority list for housing; it will make a shambles of our housing. Finally, the administrative difficulties are enormous. If you say we will give it to people who have been here ten years, for example, how do you know they have been here for ten years? They have no documents by definition.

Q23 Gwyn Prosser: You have described the points-based system as being complex, bureaucratic and highly likely to lead to chaos and confusion, increasing the scope for abuse. Can you tell us what evidence you have for this assertion?

Sir Andrew Green: What evidence?

Q24 Gwyn Prosser: Yes.

Sir Andrew Green: It has not started yet, so we do not have any evidence, but we can certainly point to what we would regard as the potential weaknesses, if I may put it like that.

Q25 Gwyn Prosser: So you have no evidence. You are simply looking ahead and thinking it is going to be difficult?

Sir Andrew Green: Yes, because it has not started yet. I think the main scope for abuse will be under tier one. We need to remember that this system is almost entirely a paper system, not an electronic system. Furthermore, the applications in most countries have been outsourced. We do not any longer go to the visa section of the British Embassy, you go to a company. I think it is an Indian company and an American company doing it.

Q26 Chairman: Kuoni.

Sir Andrew Green: Is it? Yes. People making this application will not see hide nor hair of an immigration officer. So that adds, in our view, to the risk of forged qualifications. There are some countries that you may know where multinational companies simply do not operate on the basis of paper because it is unreliable. Our system is entirely based on paper. Secondly, under tier one there is no requirement for the person concerned actually to work in a skilled occupation when they come here. So that is quite a big loophole. After three years they have to apply for further leave to remain, and then they have to show their payslips, but for three years they can do what they like and if they have not got the payslips they can disappear. Thirdly, and I do not think this has been mentioned before but I think it ought to be mentioned, there are no medical tests. Every other major country of immigration has medical tests. So if you do have qualifications and you also have a medical problem, there must be some possibility that you would choose Britain rather than elsewhere. As regards tier two, the main risk in that is what is called the resident labour market test. What that means is: can you find a local employee? Now that we have free movement in the European Union, the question is: can you find somebody within the European Union? That is notoriously hard to police, because if you are an employer, you put out your advertisement and there is no way of knowing whether they took the answer seriously.

Gwyn Prosser: Referring back to some earlier exchanges, you have described yourself as a self-appointed chairman of a private company by guarantee. When you preface your answers with, "We think this" and, "We think that" should you not be saying, "Andrew Green thinks this", or, "Andrew Green thinks that"?

Q27 David Davies: Chairman, can I make a point of order on this. I have sat through a lot of these committees and I have listened to all sorts of rather nebulous organisations, frankly, whose reason for existence I would question, but I have never done so on this committee because I have always thought it right and proper that those who give evidence be treated with courtesy. Sir Andrew Green has been quizzed several times now in a way that I think would have been unacceptable if I had done it on various legal opposite points of view. But if this line of questioning is to be continued, Sir, I will absolutely be using, word for word, these sorts of questions to many of the other organisations that come before us.

Sir Andrew Green: Chairman, if I may.

Q28 Chairman: If you wish to answer that you may, but you do not have to.

Sir Andrew Green: I am grateful for Mr Davies' support. I think they are well spoken words, but if I may---

Q29 Chairman: Sir Andrew, can I stop you one second. You are not the issue here. We are here to do an inquiry into the points-based system, so I think we should move on.

Sir Andrew Green: Chairman, with respect, the credibility of my organisation has been called into question.

Q30 Chairman: You wish to answer that.

Sir Andrew Green: I would like to answer that.

Q31 Chairman: Could you do so briefly?

Sir Andrew Green: I will do so in about six sentences, and I will take six examples.

Q32 Chairman: Could you reduce the number of examples, because we are pressed for time. Perhaps in a sentence could you say what you have to say and we will move on to the subject of the inquiry.

Sir Andrew Green: I think the committee should be aware that we have a very strong record of accurate prediction and analysis on the whole field of immigration. Six years ago we said that there would be two million immigrants every ten years. That is now the official estimate. When the Government said 13,000 for Eastern Europe, we said it was not credible.

Chairman: We understand that. Sir Andrew, you are here as a witness. We have asked you to come to talk about the points-based system, not about yourself. Martin Salter has the final question.

Martin Salter: Sir Andrew, I have never had the pleasure of meeting you before. Can I ask one question? You said that you did not think it was appropriate for donors or supporters of your organisation to be made public, and I respect that, but as a company limited by guarantee are they not recorded in your company accounts?

Q33 Chairman: Mr Salter, I do not think that is appropriate for the inquiry. You do not have to answer that.

Sir Andrew Green: There is no secret about it. Everyone knows I am a private company limited by guarantee. We have directors and they are recorded at Companies House, but, Chairman, if I may, this is the fourth question that has sought to undermine the reputation of my organisation, I think that is unacceptable. I am grateful to you for your invitation, but I do not think it is right that members of this committee should seek to use the occasion to attack my organisation.

Bob Russell: We are not attacking, we are just asking about it.

Chairman: Sir Andrew, I am the Chairman. Can I call for order on this. We are here, if I may remind members of the committee, to talk about the points-based system, not to talk about Migration Watch. Are there any more questions on the points-based system?

Q34 Martin Salter: I am sorry, Sir Andrew, I was merely seeking to clarify an earlier answer you gave. You talked in terms of migration not being an answer to labour skill shortages and, given time, wages should rise and British workers can be trained to fill those vacancies. Is there not a counter-argument that says that if companies are experiencing recruitment difficulties, particularly in the context of a global economy, there is a very real possibility that they will move their entire operation abroad and therefore UK PLC loses out; in other words everybody loses?

Sir Andrew Green: Yes. What I was giving you was the House of Lords' view on the economics of this, which nobody contests, and that particular House of Lords committee is of extremely high calibre, but this is why we need a balance. If we were to close the door and make immigration impossibly difficult, then you are absolutely right, a lot of firms in the City would say, "We cannot operate like this. We need Japanese speakers, we need this, we need that." That is why we do not suggest that. That is why we recognise, as I said at the start, that we do need migration in both directions, and that is why we also recommend for your consideration that work permits should be available quite freely on a four-year basis but on the clear understanding that people return after four years. That should meet most employers' needs and would also supply the time for British workers to be trained and incentives for employers to replace someone who has come from abroad with a trained British worker. We think it makes a lot of sense.

Q35 Martin Salter: I appreciate that answer. One final question, Chairman. What research have you done which indicates that employers seeking to fill the skill shortage and employees seeking up to uproot themselves to come and work in Britain to fill those short-term skill shortages are prepared to come and work on short-term contracts? Have you done any research to justify that?

Sir Andrew Green: It happens all over the world. I have done it myself. I have been all over the place for three or four years at a time, and that is what is done widely throughout the world economy.

Chairman: Thank you, Mr Salter. Andrew, thank you very much. I apologise if you have felt in any way that you were being questioned about your organisation. You were invited as a witness to this committee to give us evidence on this important subject. You have an important contribution to make because of what Migration Watch has said. If there is anything further that you think would be of use to this committee - I am particularly keen on this country that you have referred to that has this system - please would you let us have this information?

Q36 Mr Streeter: I would like to say, Sir Andrew, that your work is appreciated by many of us in the House of Commons and I hope you continue with it. Thank you.

Sir Andrew Green: Thank you. May I send your committee a memorandum on the points that I would have made about Migration Watch in view of the questions I was asked?

Chairman: That would you most helpful. Thank you very much and thank you very much for coming.


Memorandum submitted by Immigration Law Practitioners Association

 

Examination of Witness

Witness: Ms Sophie Barrett-Brown, Chair, Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, gave evidence.

Q37 Chairman: Sophie Barrett-Brown. Thank you for coming to give evidence for us. Maybe you can give us a line on the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association: how long have you been in existence and how many members you have?

Ms Barrett-Brown: We have been in existence for many years. I do not know off the top of my head when it was first founded.

Q38 Chairman: I am sorry we cannot hear you. You need to speak up.

Ms Barrett-Brown: Certainly. We represent approximately 1,000 members who are migrants of different walks of life. Many of our lawyers and registered representatives represent both major corporations and individual migrants; so it is really the full breadth.

Q39 Chairman: It is the case, obviously, that as you are solicitors, lawyers involved in this, you in a sense have a direct interest in the outcome of the points-based system?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Yes, we are both solicitors and we are members who are regulated by OISC, who are non-solicitor members, advising on all matters immigration-related.

Chairman: Can I move you on to the purpose of this inquiry?

David Davies: Chairman, can I ask this lady a question or two about this organisation?

Q40 Chairman: I am sorry, can we have order. Can I ask you a question about the points-based system and the effect that it is going to have on the problems that already exist in the work permit system? Do you accept the Government's view that it will address the problems that are currently in existence under the system?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Our members are concerned that it will not address those issues. The first point to make is that there is a question as to exactly what are the problems with the existing system in order to identify whether the new proposals will address it. There still remains a lack of sufficient information about the new proposals to judge it effectively, but, as has been mentioned, there are a number of similarities, in fact, with the old and the new systems, so it does not fully address those issues. There is a concern that we have that it is a movement towards a system that is arguably one more of form than substance and that there is an increased focus on specific types of documentation rather that the actual merit of applications, and there is concern about the format in which they will be considered. The issue of skills has been raised earlier, but it is a system that is about assessing skills and we would question whether it effectively does that, and I can elucidate on that point if you would like me to.

Q41 David Davies: You are critical of this new system, but can we clear this up? Most of your members are immigration lawyers and most of them, therefore, benefit financially from bringing cases where they can get people into this country. Is that a fair assumption?

Ms Barrett-Brown: They do benefit, yes, but our organisation is about representing excellence in practice.

Q42 David Davies: Absolutely, but at the end of the day you are all getting paid for it. Your organisation, therefore, does benefit financially from a system allows as many people into this country as possible?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Many of our members do benefit financially from it, but might I add that the points-based system, far from reducing that, is increasing it, because all our lawyers are reporting significant increases in instructions in relation to the issues raised by the points-based system.

Q43 David Davies: Are those significant increases from the taxpayer or are those people having to bring forward their own cases out of their own money?

Ms Barrett-Brown: We represent members who are both working on a legal aid basis for clients and also those who are instructed from private clients, but as far as the points-based system is concerned, because it is about work-based routes, I would say it was predominantly private client and predominantly corporations.

Chairman: Mr Davies, I think this should be the last question.

Q44 David Davies: About 210 million is spent each year on legal aid for people who want to come into this country. Is that likely to go up or down, do you think, on a points-based system?

Ms Barrett-Brown: The points-based system has very little relevance on that because it is about work and study groups and so it is less---

Q45 Chairman: You need to speak up again. We are having difficulty hearing you.

Ms Barrett-Brown: Sorry.

Q46 Mr Winnick: In view of some sensitivity previously today, you are the Chair of the Immigration Law Practitioner's Association. Are you self-appointed or have you been elected?

Ms Barrett-Brown: No, I have been appointed by the members. I thought that we were not going to get into that line of discussion, but I am happy to say we are a member organisation. We reflect the views of our members, and not only our members but those of the many thousands of clients whom we represent, which is not simply migrants but also British business.

Q47 Mr Winnick: The organisation of which you are the chairman, it has rules, and so on and so forth?

Ms Barrett-Brown: It does, yes, which we can make available.

Chairman: Good. Could we move on to the points-based system. Thank you Mr Davies and thank you Mr Winnick. Gary Streeter.

Q48 Mr Streeter: Can I ask you a question about occupational shortages? Do you think that the Migration Advisory Committee is the right organisation to monitor the overflow of occupational shortages and do you think it is sufficiently well resourced?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Frankly, I think it is very difficult to answer that at the moment because we have not seen the product. I understand they were due to report in June and provide a list.

Q49 Chairman: You will need to speak up. Mr Winnick is having difficulty. He is coming closer to you.

Ms Barrett-Brown: I am terribly sorry. I will try to speak up. I am normally accused of being too loud.

Q50 Chairman: Carry on.

Ms Barrett-Brown: It is difficult to assess that because we do not have a product yet. Generally, with a points-based system there is a lot of discussion and it is getting down to the detail that is the difficulty, and the same applies with the Migration Advisory Committee. We have yet to see the product of their endeavours to be able to comment on it.

Chairman: Thank you.

Q51 Margaret Moran: I ask the same question I asked previously. We have heard lots of evidence regarding difficulties in respect of lower skilled employees, particularly around ethnic catering, agriculture and healthcare. Do you think that the assumption behind the points-based system, which is that low-skilled labour can be supplied within the UK or the EU, is the correct assumption, or do you agree with the representations that we have received that that would not be the case?

Ms Barrett-Brown: I do not think it is the correct assumption, but I would want to be careful about getting involved in issues of social policy rather than limiting it to the more legal aspects with which our membership deals. Under the points-based system there is currently no forum for that, there is no proposal to bring in tier three, which is the low-skilled sector. I think personally the assumption that it can be filled from resident labour and particularly the EU is misplaced, particularly in certain industries such as speciality cuisine, but that is my personal view on the topic.

Chairman: Martin Salter on maintenance requirements.

Q52 Martin Salter: Before I turn to maintenance requirements, in the interests of fairness, can ask you exactly the same question I asked Sir Andrew Green. Are the members, funders and sponsors of your organisation listed as a matter of public record?

Ms Barrett-Brown: I believe that they are, but I would check that with our secretariat.

Q53 Martin Salter: You are happy to make that available to us?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Yes, if they are available.

Chairman: Thank you, Mr Salter. Is that it?

Q54 Martin Salter: My question is on maintenance requirements. You have expressed concern that the maintenance requirements under tier one for highly skilled migrants require a cash sum in available funds. If we were looking at a developing country, for example Ghana, this could be the equivalent of somebody actually having 80,000 in disposable income before they could even be considered under the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme. What do you think the effect of this could be? Would it lead to a level of discrimination, and is there anything that can be done within the system to restore the balance to stop us from being denied access to highly skilled migrants that we might need from countries where there is very little disposal income?

Ms Barrett-Brown: In answer to that question, if I may broaden it slightly and just point out to the committee that the maintenance requirement does not only apply to highly skilled migrants, it applies across the board, it is the specific sum that varies. Our concern is that in bringing back in the skills issue that was raised earlier, rather than adjusting the skills - the skills thresholds are pretty much the same or lower than under the previous system; the main fact that is different is the English language level and maintenance - it will have the effect of having a poorly discriminatory effect against certain nationals who are coming from developing countries and, therefore, will not have the level of funds that nationals from more developed counties will have. We do not yet have formal statistics, but anecdotally, for members, there has been a significant tail off in applicants from India. The committee may be aware that when tier one went live in February for applicants within the UK, for applicants from India it was 1 April, and then last week it started elsewhere in the world, and we are seeing already quite an impact on those who are able to apply. The requirement is that they have a sum of money, and in the case of tier one applicants it is 2,800 for the highly skilled migrant and 1,600 for each and every dependent that they are bringing with them to the UK, so that is a significant sum. The classic value for four is 7,600.

Chairman: Thank you Mr Salter. Bob Russell on sponsorship.

Q55 Bob Russell: The committee has been advised that Sarah Buttler Associates are specialists in business immigration, and in the recent survey that they did they found that there were 20 UK companies. As of May this year, two months ago, only 11% had registered to become sponsors under the new system and a further 72% intended to do so by the end of this month. Why do you think companies have been reluctant to register as sponsors?

Ms Barrett-Brown: One of the greatest problems is, again, the lack of information. There have been various documents that have been published (statements of intent), but they do not contain the level of detail to enable a responsible employer to fully satisfy themselves that they will be meeting their obligations under the sponsorship requirement. Most of our members report that their clients are reluctant to register until they are confident that they understand what is required of them, the obligations that they will have and how they can fulfil those obligations. There are fundamental issues, such as who within the organisation must they check; there are definitions as to what class of persons they must produce certain checks on - they have not yet been clarified - so in some organisations they may need to search their entire employee base to make certain checks as to whether they are appropriate individuals or not. There are certain absolute basics that have still not been cleared up, and that is what our members are reporting back that their clients are saying, and this is making them nervous.

Q56 Bob Russell: Is that a cause for concern?

Ms Barrett-Brown: It is a matter of concern. It is one that we have raised time and time again over many, many months, and we are assured it will be rectified. For example, in terms of the resident labour test, if employers are recruiting now for jobs they will fill in the future, they will have to comply with the codes of practice about how they will take up a resident labour search. Those codes of practice have not yet been published. How are they to have any confidence that they are meeting their obligations now for their recruitment searches they are undertaking that will be relevant to their applications to do with the sponsorship once the system goes live in November? On the question of timing information, if I may also add, although we have requested information published well in advance, that has not been happening. When tier one went live in the UK on 29 February, the guidance notes, which really are what explains the proper criteria, did not become available until 29 February.

Q57 Chairman: You mean it came into effect first and then you had the guidance notes?

Ms Barrett-Brown: On the same day.

Q58 Chairman: On the same day?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Yes, we raised this as being a very serious problem, and yet again, when we had the next phase of tier one implementation that happened on 30 June, the guidance notes were available on that day, it may possibly have been over the weekend, but we are talking about simultaneously with going live.

Q59 Gwyn Prosser: Ms Brown, the new system tends to put more responsibilities and delegated powers into the hands of employers themselves?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Yes.

Q60 Gwyn Prosser: Drawing from your experience on advising businesses, do you see this as an advantage or disadvantage? What are the short-comings of it?

Ms Barrett-Brown: I think, being fair, there are both advantages and disadvantages. We believe that there are probably more disadvantages. The clients that that we represent are broadly the clients that are very keen to ensure that they are compliant. That is why they are instructing lawyers. The impression that we have from employers is very much from that perspective. Most of the clients that our members represent are extremely anxious about ensuring that they can meet the new duties. Some of them are exceedingly onerous and unclear. There are duties about reporting changes, including such minutia as changing mobile phone provider, the type of data that is very difficult for an employer to ensure that they are capturing, and we question whether it is reasonable or necessary for them to capture that kind of data. So on some levels employers are extremely concerned. At the opposite end of the spectrum, I do not think that this is tackling the issue of abuse. There seems to be a very short memory, but there was a pilot for self-certification about nine years ago that was piloted only amongst the top employers, predominantly investment banks. It was cancelled, after a very short period of failure, due to abuse in the system, and what is effectively being brought in is another system of self-certification. So for those who want to abuse the system, there will be a implement to do so; for the employers that want to comply it is exceedingly onerous.

Q61 Mrs Dean: Do you think that the process of administrative review would be workable and fair in practice?

Ms Barrett-Brown: No. Obviously we will have to see it in practice, but we do have grave concerns about administrative review. We have seen similar types of process in existence and they have not been tremendously successful. The concept of administrative review in how it will be implemented is that the entry clearance officer at the British Embassy, High Commission, that is considering the decision, one of his colleagues will review the decision. If there is only one ECM in the post, it will be reviewed by another post who is a "buddy" of the post - they will pair in order to check each other's decisions - so it really is an internal review and does not have the independence of a full appeal system.

Q62 Chairman: So you want to see a right of appeal.

Ms Barrett-Brown: We absolutely want to see a right of appeal.

Q63 Chairman: Do you have one at the moment? Just remind the committee.

Ms Barrett-Brown: Yes, there is a right of appeal. There are limitations on rights of appeal, but this a right of appeal, and if the Government has confidence in the new system, then the appropriate safeguard is to have an appeal system, at the very least, for the beginning of the system so that we can see it in action before we go to admin review. One other point I would like to say, we have something similar. Under the work permit scheme, two administrative reviews are permitted. It is a little bit of a running joke in immigration circles that you will always have a first review refused immediately, quite possibly your second, but if you actually telephone the manager to look at the case you will almost always get it overturned. So experience has taught us not to have confidence in administrative review.

Q64 David Davies: What percentage of cases currently get an appeal? Is it not true that virtually everyone puts in an appeal as soon as they are turned down?

Ms Barrett-Brown: No, that is not true. I do not have the statistics. I could find those for you.

Q65 David Davies: Eighty or 90?

Ms Barrett-Brown: If I can talk in terms of my practice as a solicitor, very few cases are appealed but every appeal, with very few exceptions, is successful. It is one of those issues that it is difficult to use statistics because it depends on the sector in which you are working.

Q66 Chairman: But in answer to Mr Davies' point, you did say very few are appealed. Is that what you said?

Ms Barrett-Brown: I said in my own practice.

Q67 Chairman: In your own practice. Very few are appealed but, when they are appealed, they are successful?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Yes.

Q68 Chairman: It would be helpful to have these statistics. Would your organisation be the best one to have them or should we get them from the Government?

Ms Barrett-Brown: We do maintain a certain number of statistics. Obviously, many of those we obtain from the Government, but we have our own---

Q69 Chairman: Of those that go to appeal, following on from Davies' questions, how many are successful?

Ms Barrett-Brown: I do not have those statistics across the board, only from my own practice.

Q70 Chairman: If there was a more robust system, perhaps in London, UK Visas - it is now called the Border Immigration Agency, of course - if there was an ECO here, someone who would be able to receive representations, someone who was not at post and therefore was, in your view, the buddy of the person making the decision, would that not satisfy you rather than a full-blown appeal system, because in many cases the system is quite slow, is it not?

Ms Barrett-Brown: Yes, and in fact in many cases, coming back to your point as well, lawyers' advice is often not to bother with the appeal system, because it is too slow and expensive, and actually simply to make a fresh application but - the point that you raise - it would be more satisfactory than what is proposed now. Obviously, people would prefer to have a proper appeal system, but that is more satisfactory that the annual review at the post in question.

Chairman: Ms Sophie Barrett-Brown, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us today. If there is anything that we have missed out, any information that you feel would be useful to the committee, please do let us have it. Thank you.


Memorandum submitted by the Chinese Immigration Concern Committee

Examination of Witnesses

Witnesses: Mr Ranjit Mathrani, Director, Masala World, and Mr Jabez Lam, Co-ordinator, Chinese Immigration Concern Committee, gave evidence.

Q71 Chairman: Thank you for coming to give evidence to this Committee which, I think, is the first time for both of you. You realise that this an inquiry into the points-based system and obviously you represent or you own a number of restaurants, and I think we could all declare our interest that at some stage we have all been to a Chinese or an Indian restaurant in our lives. If I can start with you, Mr Lam, what percentage of the Chinese catering industry, do you think, is going to be affected by the points-based system?

Mr Lam: We believe that it is a large percentage and there are no official government statistics of research into this matter. We carried out our own research at the beginning of this year and we are finding that more than 50% of the Chinese catering outlets in the country are relying on migrant workers in maintaining the business and the points-based system, if, operated properly, it could resolve the problem of labour shortages, then it would help the businesses to bring in migrants. However, on the implementation stage at this moment, it seems that it is a very complicated system and it does not serve to resolve the labour shortage problem, and I would say that the chances of a meltdown in the Chinese catering business is a real crisis.

Q72 Chairman: We will come on to some of those points and my colleagues will ask you about those questions. Mr Mathrani, in terms of the South Asian field, how many restaurants would be affected, what percentage of the catering industry would be affected by these changes?

Mr Mathrani: Chairman, firstly speaking for ourselves, I am here as an owner and Chairman of a restaurant company, and all our restaurants would be affected. Our skilled chefs from India are the basis of the inverted pyramid on which our business rests. Talking more widely, I think our own experience would be mirrored really by all the specialised cuisines around the world, including Chinese, Japanese, Thai, et cetera, all of whom rely on a large number of highly skilled chefs in the same way. Turning more widely to the sector as a whole, I am not in a good position to talk about the Bangladeshi curry house sector ----

Q73 Chairman: We have actually had a seminar with the Bangladeshi caterers.

Mr Mathrani: ---- but certainly in terms of the specialised ethnic cuisines, we would all be dramatically affected.

Q74 Chairman: In terms of your own restaurant chain, how many chefs do you employ?

Mr Mathrani: We currently have about a total of 500/550 people on our workforce and, of that, we have 45 work permits for chefs from India.

Q75 Chairman: If the points-based system were in existence before, how many of those people would have got work permits under the points-based system?

Mr Mathrani: I think the answer is that, if the English language requirement had been a part of the points-based system, looking at that particularly, the answer is that we would only have had five work permits out of 42.

Q76 Chairman: What effect would that have had on your business?

Mr Mathrani: Well, our business would not exist.

Q77 Mr Winnick: Are you saying in effect that, if you had to employ British workers under British immigration law, including the minimum wage, and you were very severely restricted from recruiting from abroad, many of these restaurants would go under?

Mr Mathrani: Well, let me speak for ourselves. The average salary of a chef from India is 20,000 a year, and that is often speciality cooks.

Q78 David Davies: Did you say 20,000 a year from India?

Mr Mathrani: Yes, and that is apart from our head chefs and manager chefs who get between 30,000 and 45,000 a year. We pay our staff exactly the same as Gordon Ramsay pays his, if not more. Therefore, the issue in our case is not one of wages or rates of pay and, therefore, to answer your question we are not here seeking people at low rates of labour, but we are seeking people because of their highly specialised skills which do not exist in this country.

Q79 Mr Winnick: The people who come from abroad currently to work in the restaurants, are you telling us, and it may be your case, that they are all being paid the national minimum wage?

Mr Mathrani: Well, in our case, they are ----

Q80 Mr Winnick: In your case, yes.

Mr Mathrani: In our case, they are multiples.

Q81 Mr Winnick: But up and down the country with all of these restaurants, and I have a figure here, 2,100 ethnic restaurants in London and most of them, over 1,200, are Indian and Chinese, so are you saying that in all of those places the national minimum wage is being paid? Mr Lam?

Mr Lam: Yes, and in fact we have conducted research earlier this year and our finding is that the research on the actual amount of pay, all the workers in Chinese catering, whether it is restaurants or whether it is takeaway, they are above the minimum wage and, comparable with what Mr Mathrani says, that is over 20,000. We also have other research which we conducted with London Chinatown restaurants to seek referrals from Jobcentre Plus on the vacancies over a period of six weeks. We have 110 vacancies in Chinatown and asked Jobcentre Plus to refer ----

Q82 Chairman: Sorry, 110 vacancies in Chinatown for chefs?

Mr Lam: For chefs over a six-week period, and we asked Jobcentre Plus to refer suitable candidates for us and, over the six-week period, we only had one suitable referral and the wages we offered were between 17,000 and 18,000 initially and in the mid-point we increased all the jobs by 1,000 and we have not had any suitable candidates referred to us. Compared to the Jobcentre Plus statistics, a like-for-like comparison on head chefs, second chefs or demi-chefs, our wages offer was actually higher than what was offered, so that demonstrates the ----

Q83 Mr Winnick: I am sure you are both very good employers, we are not questioning that in any way, but are you saying to this Committee that there is no reason for the suspicion that a number of the restaurants, Indian and Chinese, in some instances want people from abroad because it is cheaper labour and they can get away with it because the people concerned who are being employed are too frightened to take any action against their employer?

Mr Mathrani: Well, firstly, obviously we are speaking about restaurants with which we are not familiar. We are looking at an industry and we are looking at the economics of the industry. Certainly to our knowledge, and I am looking at the Bangladeshi sector from outside, we have no evidence whatsoever that people are actually getting less than the minimum wage. Whether or not people pay tax is another issue, that is a separate issue, but in terms of the minimum wage, no, I think wages is not the issue.

Q84 David Davies: Mr Mathrani, your restaurant is very well-known anyway and I have no doubt that you pay very high prices for high-quality cuisine, but surely you are stretching our credulity a little to ask us to believe that no Indian or Chinese restaurants pay exploitative wages, especially so when one of the Sunday newspapers recently ran an article on exploitation within the Chinese restaurant industry in Soho where one undercover Chinese reporter was told that what was being paid were rates of about 1 an hour and they were being treated in a very exploitative fashion. Surely, that sort of thing goes on and you must have evidence of it.

Mr Lam: I think, first of all, I have to refute any suggestion that there is exploitation in the Chinese community. The article that you refer to, it was in The Sunday Times, the serialisation of a book called Chinese Whispers about unauthorised practice.

Q85 David Davies: I am not sure, but it might have been.

Mr Lam: Following that, the poll was that the waiters were paid 15 a week and were not (?) and, if you look at the book, it refers to that and you have to look at the author. In that chapter, what he is saying is that the waiters paid were 15 basic and they received the tips to top up on the salary which eventually is always over the minimum wage. That was a full attack in the book and it was used to sensationalise ----

Chairman: Yes, thank you, Mr Lam.

Q86 Mr Winnick: We have a sizeable Asian community in this country and, unlike perhaps a previous witness, many of us take the view that that is highly commendable, as a matter of fact, but why is it not possible to find within the British Asian community the particular people required? Are you telling us that they have not got the skills to work in your restaurants that it is so necessary to import people from abroad?

Mr Mathrani: Chairman, I think one of the misapprehensions is the connection between the Asian community and Indian cuisine. I think it is a misapprehension about the nature of the cuisines and the connection with the local community. We, in our case, are talking about Indian cuisines and Indian cuisines are amongst the most sophisticated cuisines in the world. They are a product of 2,000 years of culture, cross-culture, of refined gourmet food, of cooking with a whole range of spices and ingredients and cooking processes which are multi-layered and very complex. I will send each member of the Committee a book, which has sold a million copies, called 50 Great Curries of India by a fellow director, Camellia Panjabi, which has 66 pages on the philosophies of Indian cuisine which sets out some of the implications and complexities of the cuisine, and these cuisines take years and years and years to learn, and also the 30 cuisines of India and each one is totally different. India is a continent, it is not a country, therefore, no one person could even master all the cuisines in a lifetime if they tried. Therefore, against that background, the Asians in Britain come from Bangladesh, most of them, and they have ----

Q87 Chairman: Do you mean in the catering industry?

Mr Mathrani: Yes, in the catering industry, which is totally different actually from Indian cuisines and, therefore, in our case, a lot fewer employed local people, so the connection between the local workforce and our cuisines is quite different.

Q88 Mr Winnick: Recognising that what I normally have in an Indian restaurant, a vegetable curry and boiled rice, does not take a great deal of skill, but otherwise, I am sure, a large number of your customers perhaps want something more elaborate, could I ask you this question: are you telling us that, unless the system will allow you to take in people from abroad as previously, these restaurants, including your own, are likely to have great difficulties in surviving?

Mr Mathrani: All our key chefs, 10% of the total workforce, have had between seven and 15 years' work experience in the best restaurants and hotels in India before they have come here. They have learnt lots of cuisines of their own regions, working with chefs in cuisines from their own regions of India and nowhere else and have learnt it from childhood. Now, it is not the same as expecting in Japan to have a high-quality French restaurant being staffed by Japanese chefs or in Lesotho having a high-quality French restaurant with Lesotho chefs. As you look at the level of specialised cuisines, I think you will always need that source of workforce and that is a different argument from the lower-skilled argument.

Q89 Mr Winnick: So your answer to me really is yes, that you require people from abroad in the same sort of numbers as previously?

Mr Mathrani: Yes.

Mr Lam: Our research supports the lifeline of Chinese catering. Typically, the tradition in China mainly (?). In addition to that, there are no Chinese catering or professional cookery courses in this country. Recently, People First, which is the Sector Skills Council for the hospitality sector, have done research on the knowledge and skills required for entry into a vocation of catering and found that there is no elementary level of training in this country for either Asian or Chinese catering.

Q90 Chairman: If there were courses on this subject, presumably this would help, but not solve, the immediate problem?

Mr Lam: It is the position of the Chinese community that we would like to work with the Government in developing the resources and training facilities to enable a local labour force to be upskilled, but let us remember that this, we believe, will help in alleviating the lower-level skill requirement, but the higher-level, specialist level, in fact we believe it is still a little bit filled by more expert migrant workers.

Q91 David Davies: Mr Mathrani paints a wonderful picture of a selection of Indian restaurants, but the reality is though, as you and I know, that 90% of Indian restaurants offer a choice of korma, masala, madras or vindaloo, washed down with strong pints of lager for groups of lads after a night out at the pub. You do not really need specialist chefs for that. Why can you not recruit, for those restaurants, people from within the Indian or wider British community?

Mr Mathrani: Well, I am not here to make a case for the Bangladeshi Caterers' Association. I am here to talk about the highly specialised, highly skilled restaurants which cook food of a complexity and a sophistication ----

Q92 David Davies: But they are relatively small in number, are they not?

Mr Mathrani: They are relatively small in number. I think issues with the Bangladeshi community are different, but our issues are, as I said at the start, typical of your specialised ethnic cuisines across all cuisines, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Moroccan, whatever, where you are cooking cuisine of a level ----

Q93 David Davies: You are talking about the top of the range.

Mr Mathrani: Yes.

Q94 Mrs Dean: Mr Mathrani, do you agree with Mr Lam regarding the Sector Skills Council and the need for training within this country for skills in the Indian restaurants? Also, as far as highly skilled people are concerned who might be eligible to come in under the points system, is the problem there the English language requirement?

Mr Mathrani: First, I think we certainly would be quite happy to participate, and help, in the establishment of training schools to enable the instruction of an intermediate-based level of skills. The trouble with Indian cuisine is that actually, even in India, craft schools do not exist which are teaching cooking to chefs in restaurants there, but it is learnt (?) with people mastering an apprentice skills-type of approach to life and, therefore, even in doing what we are doing here, which we are happy to participate in, we actually are doing something which is not done in India. Never mind, I think we are happy to help, but that will only solve, to us, the basic issue, the basic-level vocation, it will solve the issue that you refer to and help solve that, and we are happy to participate in that, but it will not solve the top tier and specialised problem; it requires sophistication and levels and years of experience.

Q95 Mrs Dean: On the top-tier issue then and the ability for people to come over through the points-based system, is the problem there the language?

Mr Mathrani: Yes, there are basically two problems. One is the language, the requirement that people should have a certain level of English before they come to this country. It is rather like saying that before someone goes to Kenya to be a chef there, they must learn Swahili, for example, so that is one. The other is the fact that they set the level of salary where someone does not have qualifications, which most of them do not have, at 24,000 a year which actually is equal to a sous-chef in a French restaurant, like Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, and which would make things quite difficult in economic terms and they set that level. We do not mind a salary of 21,000 a year, whatever that is, which we feel is respectable for the catering industry, but the levels they set are unrealistic.

Q96 Bob Russell: Well, gentlemen, I am going to be a huge disappointment to you because I am a fish and chips man, so the cuisine that I am interested in is not yours, but, that said, the Committee is doing an inquiry. What discussions have you had with the Migration Advisory Committee about including Indian and Chinese restaurants on the Shortage Occupation List?

Mr Mathrani: We have and we gave a solution. We had discussions with them and, to answer probably an earlier question from the gentlemen who is now not here, we believe that that Committee is under-resourced. I think that they are doing a very good job, but they are trying to cover a wide range of skills across a whole panoply.

Q97 Bob Russell: But what was their response when you raised your concerns?

Mr Mathrani: I think they listened and they paid serious attention. I think the question they raised, which is the question that the hon Member Mrs Janet Dean raised, was about training, one of, "Can you take a view that over time you could train people in these highly specialised cuisines?" Our view was, as I expressed just now, that, at most, you could do your basic level, but there would always be a continual requirement for skilled chefs. I think they seemed sympathetic, they were obviously listening and they gave us a good hearing.

Q98 Bob Russell: So sympathetic, listening and a good hearing, but were you able to demonstrate to them that the new system would cause significant shortages because they have said nice things to you, but they obviously were not necessarily convinced of the case that you put?

Mr Mathrani: Well, I think that they will report, and I only report that we do not know, but they will not report until, I think, the autumn of this year.

Mr Lam: On the question of the Migration Advisory Committee, it is a small committee which, given the constraints of time and the limited resources, did a very good job. In particular, as to their responsiveness and easy approach, they have actually visited four times Chinatown in Liverpool and in London to actually observe how the chefs and the Chinese catering outlets are operating and the skills involved, and I think that is the bottom-line approach which we appreciate very much. However, we believe that all the committee members recently are economists and, quite rightly, the points-based system has an emphasis on the economic benefits, but at the same time I think recently they have had the inclusion of an official from the Commission for Employment and Skills as a committee member and we believe that the inclusion of a social policy expert would help the Committee because it is not only about the economy of migrants coming into the country. For the Chinese community, in particular, it is a very peculiar community in that we have the highest percentage of education achievers in our children, but at the same time we have the highest number of people who have no qualifications at all, so in that sense, the impact on the potential (?) of Chinese catering if that happened, those people who currently have no qualifications, many of them, who are working as self-employed in Chinese catering, supporting themselves and their families, they will lose their livelihoods, so that will also have implications of negative economic impacts on those already in the country, so that is one recommendation we would like to recommend.

Q99 Mrs Dean: Obviously there are some ethnic restaurants which are family concerns, but is one of the probable causes of potential staff shortages an inter-generational problem where a lot of children do not want to follow their parents into the industry?

Mr Lam: Yes, and I believe we touched earlier on the potential (?) of the Chinese community. If you take the example of looking at the Chinese community and experience in America, the transformation in America, the first generation are very much like those in Britain in that they start with a small-capital, family business like catering and over the years, as the community grows and settles in the country, each generation is moving up the social ladder, and that process is a transition which we are witnessing. It is true that at this moment in time we are at a juncture in time whereby the first-generation Chinese have worked very hard to establish themselves in Chinese catering and their children who, as I said earlier, are the highest education achievers across all ethnic groups, they have their own aspirations and move on to other careers and, in the meantime, (?) the core of the labour shortage that you start with. I think over time that this will resolve as well if we have a sensible policy of transition to enable the restaurateurs to move on.

Q100 Chairman: Mr Mathrani, do you have any additional comments?

Mr Mathrani: Well, I think the question of the inter-generational issue obviously does not affect us, as such, because we are a very professionally managed business, but, looking across the sector, I think there certainly is an issue there in relation to the Bangladeshi caterers about how that can be resolved, but the extent to which the points-based system can be used, that really is another set of issues.

Q101 Margaret Moran: Have you actually done enough to anticipate this problem? Should you not have been looking to invest in the generation that you have just referred to? Should you not have been establishing training mechanisms to increase their qualifications and perhaps providing them with high-profile mentors? We have got the Gordon Ramsays and the Jamie Olivers, and Jamie Oliver is mentoring a generation of young people that perhaps did not have so many educational qualifications. Are you not just talking about a problem of your own making that you are now seeking to have the Government address for you through the immigration system?

Mr Lam: I think with any industry, the Government has a responsibility to ensure a healthy supply of workforce. For example, in nursing, the Government every year will have a projection of how large an intake, how many potential graduates there are compared to the vacancies and it is in the anticipation of those that we have witnessed the NHS recruiting from overseas. My advice is that I believe that the Chinese community has done a lot in the last 50 years in this country to establish themselves as the foundation of the Chinese community's economic force in that they train their own people, they train their own staff with absolutely no support from the Government at all. The question is: how are we going to turn this practice of practical, on-the-job training into a more formal qualification, which is what the points-based system addresses? I believe that it is time and in recent months, during the process producing the response to the Migration Advisory Committee, we have worked with People First closely and the industry and we have identified ways to go forward by providing proper courses, a developed process that is appropriate for Chinese catering to start with, and these would be resourced in co-ordination with the Government and the Chinese community would like to work with the Government to make that possible.

Q102 Chairman: Mr Mathrani, on the final point, why have you not done enough and where are your academies?

Mr Mathrani: Well, I think it comes back in a way to the question of training. I think in every part of the world training and education starts off with the Government itself playing its own part and seeking then a contribution from the industry groups in the sectors. If you look at, for example, the catering colleges in Britain, there are very few of them with ethnic courses. We believe that it is not practical for private employers to take on themselves the burden of creating all of these courses single-handedly. Looking ahead, I think that certainly, going back to earlier remarks, we are happy to play our part in that, but these things do require a government contribution and government funding. Also, it would be many years before they can actually show fruit in terms of their effect on the sector, but it will come through and hopefully come through, but that will not of course by itself solve the problem, as I mentioned before, of continuing for people at the top tier.

Q103 Chairman: But going back to what Mr Winnick said, are you seriously telling us that, if this system goes through, the top end of the market, restaurants like Veeraswamy, Chutney Mary, Quinlan, the Red Fort and the Gaylord, all these top restaurants in London, and, as far as the Chinese restaurants are concerned, the Royal China, will all close because the chefs just will not come?

Mr Mathrani: They will eventually close over time with attrition because they cannot replace them and that is inevitable. We are certainly growing at a rate of two or three restaurants a year in London and we will always only have that expansion hope until we see what happens to sort it out. Going back to the earlier question addressed by the first witness, in this area of highly specialised cuisine, market forces cannot work in the sense that it does not matter what you pay someone, and you can pay them 50,000 a year to be a cook, apart from destroying the economics of the business, you are not going to produce high-quality Indian or Chinese chefs out of British soil, so yes, we will close over time.

Mr Lam: I think I can confirm the reference you made that the Royal China is an international phrase for Chinese fine-dining and the restaurant is our member, and recently they have stated to us that the directors of the Board have made the decision not to invest in any further expansion in this country because of the problem of the labour shortage.

Chairman: Well, Mr Russell will now go off for his fish and chips, and the rest of us are very, very hungry, having heard a lot about Chinese and Indian food, so we will go to the Members' tearoom to see what they have on offer! Thank you very much.