Examination of Witnesses (Quesitons 60-79)|
13 DECEMBER 2007
Q60 Mr Whittingdale: In actual fact,
Frank Field I think this week did suggest that we should re-approach
the European Union with a view to asking whether there could be
a cap on the migration of workers from the former Eastern European
countries. Can I finally just put it to you, you must be concerned
about the rising level of support for extremist parties like the
BNP in traditional working class areas, like Barking and Dagenham.
Do you see that as a reflection of a failure of immigration policy?
Mr Brown: The first thing I should
say to you is that there is a limit on Romanian and Bulgarian
people coming into this country. When I meet people from these
countries they say that of course, the decision that we made in
relation to Romania and Bulgaria has had quite a big effect. So
a decision was made there. I think parties like the BNP have to
be opposed head on for what are racialist views that are completely
unacceptable in a democratic society and I do not think there
is anything that justifies the racialist views that they put forward.
Mr Whittingdale: Can we explore one or
two of the specific consequences, particularly employment to begin
with? Can I turn to Keith Vaz.
Q61 Keith Vaz: Prime Minister, good
morning. You coined the phrase on 6 June last year "British
jobs for British workers" yet statistics show that 80% of
the new jobs created since 1997 have gone to people who may have
been born abroad. On reflection, do you think that statement was
a little unwise?
Mr Brown: No, because if you look
at the employment structure of Britain, yesterday we were able
to announce that there are now 29 million people in the workforce,
the highest number of people working in the British economy at
any stage in our history. So we have created over the last 10
years very large number of jobs, nearly 3 million jobs. Two million
of these jobs are held by people who were born outside the country.
If you go to Australia, it is 25% of people; if you go to Canada,
it is 20% of people; if you go to America, it is 15% of people.
In Britain the figure, as I am showing you, is far lower, and
indeed considerably lower than Australia, Canada and America.
When I talk about British workers getting the jobs that are available
in Britain, I am pointing to a situation where we have 600,000
vacancies in the British economy today, we have people who are
inactive, who are on the unemployment register or inactive in
one way or another. We have 200 employers prepared to help them
come off the inactive register into work as a result of a decision
we made over the last few months. I want those people who are
on the inactive register to be encouraged to take those jobs that
are available in the British economy, and I think it should be
a matter of support right across the parties that where you have
people who are out of work and inactive, we should be doing everything
in our power to encourage them to get the jobs that are available
in Britain. There will be increasing jobs in available in the
years to come as a result of the success of our economic policy.
Do not forget that about 5 million to 6 million jobs change hands
every year and we are continually looking for people from the
unemployment register and inactive register to take these jobs
and it is my responsibility, I think, and the responsibility of
the Government, to make sure we do everything in our power so
that these British people are available for the jobs that are
Q62 Keith Vaz: At the same time,
we should be talking about the benefits of migration because migration
has really helped the British economy, has it not?
Mr Brown: As I said a few minutes
ago, the growth rate of the British economy is higher because
of the benefit we get from the skills. It is however important
to recognise that we still have people who are inactive and not
in work, we have young people leaving school who we want to get
jobs that are available, and our duty to these young people and
to people who are inactive is to make sure we do everything in
our power to give them either the skills or the encouragement
or the training so that they can get the jobs that are available.
I think we would be failing in our duties if we did not do that.
Q63 Keith Vaz: Prime Minister, you
very generously in October made some new proposals concerning
Iraqi interpreters. The figures released show that half of those
who have applied have been turned down and that there is also
no right of appeal for some of them. Are you satisfied with the
process and the timetable that has been adopted?
Mr Brown: The figures that I have
seen reported are not the accurate figures. There have been a
large number of people who have applied. There will be many of
them who will be accepted. Where there is evidence of intimidation,
which was the issue in the newspaper report yesterday, that can
be proven as deterring people from completing the work that they
started, that will be taken into account. I do not think people
should fear that people who have done their best working for Britain
in the way that they did will be ... It will be taken into account
if there is evidence of intimidation that prevented them from
finishing their work.
Mr Whittingdale: Prime Minister, can
we now look at the local impact of significant population growth.
Q64 Dr Starkey: Primer Minister,
the Commission on Integration and Cohesion, when they reported
on community cohesion in England, pointed out that, although it
is generally good, there are areas in the country, particularly
those experiencing very rapid change and high rates of migration,
where the funding is not properly reflecting need and there are
cohesion problems. As Chancellor, you gave much greater stability
to the funding for local authorities, the police, the NHS, by
giving funding on three-year funding cycles. Do you accept that
the downside of that is that funding cannot now rapidly react
Mr Brown: Most people want the
three-year settlements, as you know. They want the long-term commitment
to finance that will enable them to plan ahead. There are really
two issues here, not just the long-term funding but of course
the availability of up-to-date information, either from the census
or from other studies, that would enable people to make a reliable
judgment of what the particular needs of an area are. I think
you will find that there is far more cross-government working
on this issue to try and find a way forward. I think you have
probably noticed that we announced that there was going to be
more money provided for schools in particular areas. We are, of
course, looking at what the Local Government Association said
in relation to general funding to deal with some of the areas
where there is very intense or where there have been suggestions
of intense population pressures.
Q65 Dr Starkey: If we can deal with
those two points separately, the first one about refining the
data and making them more accurate, obviously that would be a
good idea but, even if it is accurate now, if there is rapid change,
on a three-year funding cycle there will be a huge difference
developing over the three years. That is the first issue. The
second issue is in relation to the extra funding. The Department
for Communities and Local Government has announced £50 million
of funding for community cohesion over three years but the Local
Government Association has assessed it is £250 million a
year for a migration contingency fund. Can you address those two
Mr Brown: There are always going
to be arguments. I would be surprised if the Local Government
Association did not have a higher bid for most things that were
eventually agreed. There is a recognition of the pressures in
the announcement made by Hazel Blears. There is also a recognition
in the announcements of the exceptional circumstances grants in
relation to education. I do think we have to look at some of the
figures and statistics that are in the public arena with a considerable
degree of caution. Many of the statistics that we have, as people
who have looked at these round the table will know, are in cases
based on relatively low samples, relatively small numbers of people
being either interviewed or assessed. The reliable evidence we
have, of course, is every 10 years from the census and I think
we have to be quite careful in making judgments on the basis of
very small percentage samples. But, of course, there is a recognition
of the pressures in what Hazel Blears has said and in what the
Schools Minister has announced.
Q66 Dr Starkey: People who live in
communities that are experiencing rapid inward migration are very
well aware that there are pressures on services. Do you not think
it would be sensible to be spending the money upfront to diffuse
the competition for scarce public resources, not waiting for community
conflict to arise, which will inevitably cost more?
Mr Brown: We are putting the money
upfront. There is an issue about what one group's assessment is
of the need for money and the others. That is always the case
when you are bargaining about what money is needed for particular
functions but there is a recognition of this issue in the announcements
that have been made and we understand that in some areas things
are changing faster than in others. That will be part of a continuing
debate. Of course you are absolutely right to support community
cohesion and we will do everything that we can. I do not think
you can say the problem has not been recognised. I think the amount
of money is of course something that will always be part of the
debate but more money has been provided.
Q67 Dr Starkey: Can I turn to another
issue related to cohesion, which takes us back to the discussion
earlier about Britishness and a sense of identity and belonging.
Obviously, it is difficult for people to feel that they belong
to our society, people born here or people who have migrated here
a while ago, if they feel they are being treated unequally or
discriminated against. The Equalities Review in 2007 identified
a number of very persistent inequalities in employment for various
black and minority ethnic groups in this country. I will just
cite one: the employment rate amongst the Somali community is
12% compared with 62% for all new migrants. When you are talking
about British jobs for British workers, what are you going to
do to make sure that the new jobs actually reduce that gap in
employment between black and minority ethnic populations and the
Mr Brown: You are absolutely right.
That is why there is a need for a new deal. That is why we need
to support people who have found it particularly difficult to
get employment opportunities, sometimes because they do not have
the skills, sometimes because in some of the areas in which they
live there are not the jobs that have been available in the past.
I do say that round the country this is a dynamic economy that
has large numbers of vacancies, so the issue is not, as it was
ten or 20 years ago, the lack of jobs. The issue is mainly the
lack of skills for jobs, and that will increasingly be the focus
of our welfare policy as well as our education policy, to give
people the skills that they need for the jobs that are available
for the future. I think you will find that, in helping ethnic
minorities get employment opportunities, there is a major emphasis
now being put by the new deal on particular projects in areas
where there has persistently been these high levels of unemployment
to get them into work.
Q68 Dr Starkey: Are you confident
that that will be sufficiently different from what we have done
before to actually close the ethnic employment gap before 2015?
Mr Brown: Yes, because it is back
to how we started this discussion about the role of public services.
The old idea was a labour exchange. If people were out of work
and there were jobs available, you made the information available
to people to get these jobs. We now know that we need to give
people a better personal service, to coach, mentor, encourage,
help people get the jobs that are available. Some people have
fallen through the net by accident, some people have criminal
convictions, some people have other problems that need to be solved.
We need to give people that personal help, often one-to-one help,
that enables them to feel confident and therefore to get the skills
that are necessary to get the jobs. If you look at Britain at
the moment, the one thing that is absolutely clear is that there
are 6 million unskilled jobs in our economy, most of which will
not be needed 10 years from now. Therefore people who are even
in unskilled work at the moment will have to find new skills so
we have to encourage people who are inactive and people who are
in unskilled employment to get the skills that are available for
the future. Education and training policy is going to be so important
for that because we cannot compete simply on low pay with the
Chinese, the Indian or the Asian economies. We can only compete
on the basis of the skills that people have and that is why this
new deal, that helps people get the skills that are necessary,
particularly in communities where there has been a history of
high unemployment, is absolutely crucial to our future.
Mr Whittingdale: Prime Minister, as you
know, there are different perspectives on this issue from the
different parts of the UK.
Q69 Dr Francis: Prime Minister, I
want to ask you about some myths and misconceptions surrounding
migrant workers. The Welsh Affairs Committee has had an inquiry
into globalisation and one of the major themes of that inquiry
has thrown up that the biggest challenge for community cohesion,
certainly in Wales and I am sure it applies across the United
Kingdom, in our society is to explain, to explore and to explode
some of the myths surrounding migrant workers, for example, the
extent to which migrant workers allegedly access social housing.
What new and practical strategies does the Government intend to
pursue in order to address such misconceptions and in order to
foster greater social integration?
Mr Brown: I think the points system
will emphasise the importance of people who come to the country
actually being in work. I think everybody knows that the vast
majority of people who have come from Eastern Europe are actually
in jobs, working, making a contribution to the British economy
and paying taxes to the British economy. I think the evidence
is that more people who come to this country are actually in employment
than perhaps is true in other countries.
Q70 Dr Francis: In Wales the Welsh
Assembly government has actually funded a friendship association,
a Welsh-Polish Association in Llanelli. What is surprising is
that that appears not to have happened anywhere else in Wales
and I do not think it is happening in other parts of the country.
One of the features of that association is a celebration of the
contribution of Polish people to Welsh life in a contemporary
sense but also historicallyacademics, doctors, scientists,
artists have all made a major contribution to Welsh and British
society. Do you think we could actually do a little bit more celebrating
and a little less criticising and complaining?
Mr Brown: I think one of the other
features of British life that has developed in recent years is
the number of inter-faith groups in different communities around
the country. That is not exactly the same as your friendship association
but it is people who have either come to this country or who are
in this country who have different faiths from the established
religions getting together to discuss what they have in common
rather than what divides them. I think it is fascinating to see
that there are several hundred inter-faith groups being formed
in different communities of the United Kingdom, even in areas
where there has not been a history of large immigration people
realising that is a very important part, even with small numbers
of integrating people into the community. We have said we will
publish a paper about how we can encourage these inter-faith groups
to develop in other areas of the country where they do not exist
at the moment. That is one way in which we can recognise that,
despite differences in denomination in faiths, there are shared
values that bind people together.
Q71 Rosemary McKenna: Good morning,
Prime Minister. One of the issues that Dr Francis did not address
was that perhaps a more responsible media would help dispel some
of the myths and misconceptions that there are about immigrants.
In Scotland in particular we welcome immigration and in fact we
have always been a country of immigrants and our economy has always
grown with that, but there is a serious concern just now because
the working population is declining, which will have adverse macro-economic
consequences. Can you tell me what the Government proposes to
do to improve the situation with dispersal to those areas of the
UK, particularly Scotland, where we need immigration?
Mr Brown: As you know, there have
been so many reports over previous decades about the dispersal
of jobs by the civil service and government agencies out of London.
You had big reports in the Sixties and in the Seventies. We had
the Lyons Report recently and the issue is not whether you make
these recommendations, because they have always been made in these
reports in the past. The issue is actually whether you deliver
on these recommendations. I think you will find that the Lyons
recommendations about dispersal are being honoured in practice
and that there is a large number of jobs that are being moved
out of London and the South East into the regions, into Scotland,
Wales, and of course Northern Ireland. That is an important part
of stimulating an economy which is balanced throughout the whole
of the United Kingdom. The other thing I would just emphasise
is that, while there are concerns about population in different
parts of the country, the number of vacancies for jobs that are
available are high in all parts of the country. Twenty years ago
you would have found that vacancies were high in the South East.
They are high in Scotland, in Wales, in the North East, in the
North West and there are jobs available for people who want them.
One of our challenges is actually to encourage people to take
the jobs that are available by giving them the skills that can
get them these jobs.
Q72 Rosemary McKenna: Will the Government
use the points systems to assist in dispersal of immigrants coming
in rather than the concentration that there is just now in London
and the South East, to get people out into the other regions and
nations of the UK?
Mr Brown: I think the key thing
is making a lot of the opportunities that are available in the
different parts of the country exciting so that people see the
opportunities for jobs outside London and the South East as good
opportunities. If you look at the North West, it is attempting
to develop a science base. If you look at Scotland, there are
the financial services and health care industries. If you look
at Wales, there is the aerospace industry and all sorts of other
things developing new technology. It is the attractiveness of
the industries and the services that are developing in these parts
of the country that will make people want to work there and create
opportunities that people want to take up. So it is a combination
of more indigenous investment, more inward investment in private
sector industries and civil service dispersal that will make a
Mr Whittingdale: Prime Minister, I know
Keith Vaz wants to come back to the issue of police pay, which
we touched on earlier.
Q73 Keith Vaz: Prime Minister, did
the Home Secretary consult you before she decided not to implement
the award from the tribunal in full on 1 September?
Mr Brown: Of course. It is a government
decision. You have got to look back to what has happened during
the course of this year. Nobody wanted to say either to the nurses
or to the teachers or to the doctors or to prison officers that
public sector pay awards had to be staged, but it was the right
thing to do for the national economy as a whole.
Q74 Keith Vaz: What is the point
of going to arbitration if you do not honour the arbitration award?
Mr Brown: The decision about the
police pay award is finally a decision in the hands of the Home
Secretary. As you know, we are moving from a system where police
pay was related to private sector pay to one where we have this
arbitration system and to one where there is a discussion about
having a police pay review body but the decision at the end of
the day was a decision the Home Secretary had to make in the national
Q75 Keith Vaz: We understand that.
Mr Brown: I do suggest to you
that people should look at the bigger picture here about the future
of the British economy. Does anybody fail to remember the stop-go
problems that we had in the Seventies, the Eighties and Nineties,
when people were not prepared to take the difficult but long-term
decisions to keep inflation under control? While you want to focus
today, Keith, on a single pay award, you have to look at the national
picture as a whole. We had inflation that was rising and in danger
of getting out of control. We had to take action and the action
included having a tough public sector pay round. Nobody wanted
to do this. Everybody would like to pay our police, whom we admire
and believe do a brilliant job, at the rate that was awarded by
the system itself but you have to take into account the national
interest, and the national interest is that we bear down on inflation.
Q76 Keith Vaz: Is it worth the kind
of headlines we have seen today? The Government needs the support
of the police in implementing local policies, in the struggle
against terrorism. Is it worth all this hassle, with motions of
no confidence being passed on a Home Secretary who everyone regards
as having done a very, very good job indeed, over a three-month
staged pay award?
Mr Brown: Just to be clear, nobody
wants to say to the police "You cannot get a higher salary"
but nobody wants inflation to return to the British economy and
to have pay awards wiped out simply by rising inflation and therefore
of no value to people.
Q77 Keith Vaz: Why not make this
clear before you go to arbitration? Why do it afterwards?
Mr Brown: It was absolutely clear,
right from the beginning of the year, that we had made a decision
to stage public sector pay awards. That was known when the announcements
were made earlier this year. It happens that the police pay award
was the last of all the pay awards in the public sector at a national
level during the course of the year. I repeat, I would like to
pay the police more, just as I would like also, by the way, to
pay the nurses and to pay those people who commit themselves daily
to public service more, but you have to take a broader view of
the national interest. It is easy for people looking at one particular
instance to say "This costs X" or "This costs Y."
We have to look at the economy and the state of our preparedness
to deal with the global events as a whole. There is absolutely
no doubt that politicians in the Seventies and the Eighties and
the early Nineties were prepared to make short-term political
decisions for political gain and lost sight of the long-term interests
in tackling inflation in the British economy. The only reason
why interest rates were able to come down a few days ago was because
inflation was under control in the British economy, and the only
reason inflation is under the control in the British economy is
because we have been prepared to take difficult but long-term
decisions that are necessary in the national interest.
Q78 Keith Vaz: We appreciate that,
Prime Minister. Finally from me, have you met representatives
of the Police Federation or ACPO
on this issue? If you have not, would you be prepared to meet
them to discuss their concerns?
Mr Brown: I have met representatives
of ACPO recently on other issues.
Q79 Keith Vaz: On this issue.
Mr Brown: The point I would suggest
to you is that the award is now being paid at 2.5% from 1 December,
so the award, while postponed in its full implementation from
1 September, is now being paid from 1 December. So the 2.5% is
now being paid from 1 December. Of course I will meet people to
talk about these issues but I think this Committee, which has
always taken a wider appreciation of what the national interest
is in this matter, will understand that this is part of an anti-inflation
policy which is essential to make sure that we are properly equipped
to deal with the problems that every country is facing in the
3 Association of Chief Police Officers Back