|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
"Fiscal deficits and debt in some advanced economies reach unacceptably high levels... Sound fiscal finances are essential to sustain recovery".
"with serious fiscal challenges need to accelerate the pace of consolidation."
That is what the IMF is saying about us. Yes, there needs to be action across the board, including by emerging markets and developing countries which have very high surpluses, not just fiscal surpluses but trade surpluses. In a way, that is what the G20 was about-trying to get people to put into the process what they need to put in. From us, that is fiscal consolidation; from the Chinese, it is dealing with their surpluses. Not everyone acted as much as we did-Germany included.
Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con):
The communiqué says that the present situation in Gaza is not sustainable and must be changed. Was there any discussion at the
summit about practical assistance that international organisations could offer Israel to ensure that humanitarian aid gets into Gaza but weapons smuggling is stopped?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is right. There were discussions about what could be done, such as having international bodies at the various crossing points to try to examine what is being brought in. The change that has taken place is encouraging on one level because instead of effectively banning everything, Israel has listed those things that it will not allow in, which should lead to increased humanitarian capacity in Gaza. That has a very long way to go, and everybody knows that we are not going to sort out the problem of the middle east peace process while there is, effectively, a giant open prison in Gaza.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Were there any discussions about the possibility of one of our European neighbours falling into further recession? In that eventuality, what contingencies would be considered?
The Prime Minister: There are great concerns, particularly in the eurozone, about the sovereign debt and other problems that countries face. We should be constructive. As I have said before, I do not think that we should join the euro. In my view, we should never join the euro. However, the eurozone is important to us, and those countries sorting out their problems is important to us. We should not stand in their way if they want to take steps to do that. The key point for us is not putting more money in and not passing powers from London to Brussels. Inasmuch as those countries find ways of sorting out their problems, we should back them.
Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): Also in the newspapers this weekend were comments by Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel prize-winning economist, who predicted the global financial meltdown, that announcements in our Budget will, at best, make Britain's recovery from a recession longer, and, at worst, put us into the double-dip recession that we said would occur. Does the Prime Minister agree that we ignore Professor Joseph Stiglitz at our peril?
The Prime Minister:
One can find any number of economists taking any number of different views. I say that as someone who studied under them. In the end, if we look at what the IMF says, at what the OECD says, at what, as I quoted, the Americans and the European Union say and at all the advice we have had from the Bank of England and the Treasury, we see that it is
important to deal with our deficit. Unless we do that, we will not get confidence, and unless we have confidence, we will not get growth.
Rehman Chishti (Gillingham and Rainham) (Con): Apart from the military operation in Afghanistan, what steps are being taken to win over the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan? Linked to that, what steps are the Government of Afghanistan taking to reform the madrassahs, the religious schools, which are often seen as a breeding ground for radicalism?
The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend makes a very good point about religious education. It has been more of a problem in Pakistan than in Afghanistan. In terms of improving the quality of life for Afghans, it is worth remembering why the Taliban succeeded in the first place. They succeeded because there was no law and order, and no system of justice. Effective district governance and security, being able to go about one's daily life, are key. Of course we want to see things such as girls going to school and better observance of human rights, but we should prioritise those things that I think the Afghans themselves would prioritise, which is safety and security.
Ian Austin: The Prime Minister has cracked jokes about his bilateral last night with Chancellor Merkel, but millions of people will agree with me that last night's performance was no laughing matter at all. Is it not time that the governance of the game was shaken up, so that we treat football as a sport, not as a business? Did the Prime Minister find time to discuss with President Sarkozy how he can follow his example and launch an inquiry so that we never have to witness that sort of performance again?
The Prime Minister: There are parts of sport and politics that probably should not mix. It is no laughing matter; it was very depressing. For all of us who wanted England to do well, it was heartbreaking to watch. At least we can say, "We weren't robbed-we were beaten." It was not all down to the disallowed Lampard goal-we were beaten fair and square. An interesting point that was made while I was watching was how much German football institutions put into youth training and their football academy. I am sure there are things that our own game, independent of the Government, as they should be-we only want to take credit when they win-can learn from that.
The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mrs Theresa May): Immigration has enriched our culture and enhanced our society. Britain can benefit from immigration, but not uncontrolled immigration. The levels of net migration seen under the previous Government-an annual figure of almost a quarter of a million at its peak in 2004-were unprecedented in recent times. It is this Government's aim to reduce the level of net migration back down to the levels of the 1990s-tens of thousands each year, not hundreds of thousands.
Of course, it is necessary to attract the world's very best talent to come to the UK to drive strong economic growth, but unlimited migration has placed unacceptable pressure on public services and, worse, severely damaged public confidence in our immigration system. Our over-reliance on migrant labour has done nothing to help the millions of unemployed and low-skilled British citizens who deserve the Government's help to get back to work and improve their skills. The coalition's programme for government confirmed the Government's intention to introduce an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We have always said that we will consult on the implementation of that limit. It is important that the Government take full account of the views of business and other interested sectors. We want to ensure that we can properly weigh the economic considerations against the wider social and public service implications.
I am therefore launching a consultation today on the mechanisms for implementing that annual limit, including questions about the coverage of limits, as well as the mechanics of how they will work in practice. The consultation also recognises the need to attract more high net-worth individuals to the UK through the routes for investors and entrepreneurs, which will not be covered by limits, and we ask for views on how that can be achieved. At the same time, I have commissioned the independent Migration Advisory Committee to provide advice to the Government on the levels at which limits should be set for the first full year of their operation, which I intend should be from April 2011.
I am sure that all Members of the House would agree with me that the Migration Advisory Committee has an excellent track record in this area, and I want to take this opportunity to record my thanks to David Metcalf and the rest of the committee for taking on this critical piece of work. The consultations will be complete by the end of September, and I intend to make final announcements about the first full annual limit before the end of the calendar year.
It is important that today's announcement does not lead to a surge of applications during this interim period, which would lead to an increase in net migration, undermining the purpose of the limit and putting undue strain on the UK Border Agency. I am therefore also taking a number of interim measures, and I have laid a statement of changes to the immigration rules in support of those measures. First, I am introducing an interim limit on the number of out-of-country main applicants to tier 1 (general). For 2010-11, this route will be held flat from the equivalent period for 2009-10. The tier 1
routes for investors, entrepreneurs and the post-study route are not affected. Secondly, to ensure that those who do come through this route are the brightest and best, I am raising the tier 1 (general) pass mark by five points for all new applicants.
Thirdly, I am introducing an interim limit on the number of migrants who can be offered jobs by sponsor employers through tier 2 (general). This route will be reduced in the interim period by 1,300 migrants, the equivalent of a 5% reduction across the relevant routes of tiers 1 and 2. The tier 2 routes for intra-company transfers, ministers for religion and-I am not sure whether to say this, given the comments at the end of the Prime Minister's statement-elite sportspeople are not affected. These interim measures will take effect from 19 July.
It is vital that we restore public confidence in our immigration system. Our plans to do that extend much further than the measures I am announcing today. We support e-borders and the re-introduction of exit checks. We have said that we will create a dedicated border police force to enhance national security, improve immigration controls and crack down on the trafficking of people, weapons and drugs. We have committed to improving our asylum system to speed up the processing of applications. We have said that we will end the detention of children for immigration purposes, and the UK Border Agency has already launched a review engaging a wide range of experts and organisations on how to achieve this.
Our commitment to reduce net migration will require action, as I am sure the right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle (Alan Johnson) will indicate in a moment, beyond the economic routes. It may assist him if I tell the House now that I will be reviewing other immigration routes in due course and will be bringing forward further proposals for consideration by the House. And, of course, unlike the previous Government, we are committed to applying transitional controls for all new EU member states.
The commitment to introduce limits on non-EU economic migration is a major immigration commitment of the coalition Government. Today's announcement is a key step towards the delivery of that commitment, and I commend this statement to the House.
Alan Johnson (Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle) (Lab): I thank the right hon. Lady for a copy of the statement. I am pleased that she has come to make the statement to the House. However, I had already seen the statement she has just made because it was handed to me by a journalist this morning at 11.15.
Obviously, the Home Secretary originally intended to lay a written ministerial statement today. Indeed, the title was laid last Friday. This morning I sought that written ministerial statement. I was told that the Home Office was having a press conference prior to issuing the written ministerial statement-something unknown in my time as a Minister. Therefore, I sought the written ministerial statement again. At 11.15 am a journalist who had been to the press conference handed to me a written ministerial statement that is almost precisely the statement that the right hon. Lady has just made.
I hope the Home Secretary takes the matter seriously. As I am sure you will agree, Mr. Speaker, Members of the House have a right to see written ministerial statements before they are circulated to the media.
The Home Secretary's announcement represents nothing more than a small adjustment to the points-based system. It was spun to the media over the weekend as a profound adjustment to net migration. Migration to this country has gone up. If the Prime Minister were talking to his French and German colleagues, he would know that there were 4 million migrants in Germany, 4 million in France and about 1.5 million in this country. Since the 1990s, the last time the Conservatives were in power, there has been a huge explosion of migration around the world, as the UN has detailed.
Yes, migration has gone up since the last time the Conservatives were in power, but will the right hon. Lady confirm that net migration has fallen substantially over the past three years? Will she confirm that tier 1 migration-the most highly skilled-fell by 44% in the first quarter of this year? What is the problem with skilled migration that she seeks to resolve? Will she also confirm that the number of asylum seekers has fallen to the levels last seen in the early 1990s-a third of their peak, and the same peak everywhere else in Europe? We are 15th in Europe regarding the number of asylum seekers per head of population.
Will the Home Secretary continue to support the points-based system that we introduced, which ensures that no unskilled worker can come to this country-the door has been closed on tier 3 for the past two years-and that skilled workers under tier 2 can come to this country only if their sponsoring employer has advertised that job in Jobcentre Plus for four weeks prior? Can she confirm that she intends to continue with those measures, which we introduced?
How many skilled workers will be denied entry to the UK under that temporary cap, and what percentage of total net migration will that represent? What makes the Home Secretary think that the UK can avoid the problems the US experienced when President Bush introduced a quota on skilled migrants, with disastrous consequences and a whole series of readjustments 10 years ago? Can she give an example of the problems caused to our society by skilled migrants coming to the UK under the current flexible arrangements?
What effect does the right hon. Lady think her announcement today will have on population growth? Over the weekend I heard Government Members speculate that this morning's announcement-this trivial adjustment -will somehow ensure that our population avoids reaching 70 million. Does she believe that? If so, how does she think that that will happen?
Given that this measure has been Conservative policy since the less progressive "Are you thinking what we're thinking?" days of their 2005 manifesto, why have they as yet failed to come up with a figure for their pre-determined quota? Does the right hon. Lady intend to implement fully Labour's tough measures to deal with the abuse of tier 4, the student route, which, along with spousal visas and EU migration, will be totally unaffected by the cap she has announced today?
Today's announcement will affect fewer than one in seven migrants to this country, and those whom it will affect are the migrants our economy needs the most. If the cap is set too high, it will be meaningless; if it set too low, it will damage our economy. At best it is a gesture; at worst it is a deceit. The Home Secretary knows that a
cut in her Department's budget of one third, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies-25%, according to her right hon. Friend the Chancellor-will have disastrous consequences for border control. Is that not the real reason for controlling immigration, rather than this artificial and unnecessary tinkering at the edges?
Mrs May: Let me first address the right hon. Gentleman's point about the written ministerial statement and my coming to the House. He is absolutely right: I had intended to make a written statement, and the title was indeed placed before the House so that Members could be made aware of it. Over the weekend I spoke to the Government Chief Whip about the possibility of changing that statement into an oral statement, because at the time I felt it more important to come to the House to make an oral statement, which is precisely what I have done. The right hon. Gentleman said, "Will I take this issue seriously?" Government Members have taken Parliament seriously over the past 13 years, so I shall take no lessons from him or any of his colleagues about taking it seriously, given how they bypassed Parliament for 13 years and reduced the House's powers to hold the Executive to account.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about migration figures, but immigration actually tripled under the Labour Government. It is our desire to get the number down from the hundreds of thousands a year that it has reached under Labour to tens of thousands a year. If he wishes to look at numbers, he should look no further than the past comments of the former Home Secretary, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett), who said that there was "no obvious upper limit" to immigration. It is this Government who are taking the issue seriously, who promised that they would do something about it and who are taking the action that is necessary.
The right hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle made a number of comments about technicalities and the issue of jobs being advertised for four weeks in a jobcentre. Currently, immigrants can come into the country if the resident labour market test or the shortage occupation list requirements are met. We are consulting on whether they should be combined so that a tier 2 migrant is able to come in if both tests are relevant and met. That would be a significant tightening of the current rules.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the wider social impact, as opposed to the economic impact. He has only to go out and talk to people about the pressure in some areas on public services, hospitals and schools. Another issue that his Government failed to get to grips with over the years is the significant number of unemployed people in this country. Some of those people do not have the necessary skills to get into the jobs that are available, but the job of the Government is to ensure that they do have those skills and to give them the support they need to get into those jobs, rather than simply thinking that the answer is to pull in migrant workers from elsewhere.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|