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The right hon. Gentleman referred to students. If, instead of commenting on the statement he thought I was going to make, he had listened to the statement that I made, he would have heard me say that we would indeed be looking at other immigration routes in due course and bringing further proposals to this House.
I recognise that this is one part of the job that we are doing as regards immigration, and other measures will come forward in due course.
The right hon. Gentleman asked why we did not yet have a figure for the annual limit on immigration, despite the fact that this has been a Conservative policy for some time and was in the coalition agreement. I can tell him why not: because we have, for some time, been committed to going out there and consulting those who will be affected-businesses, public service providers and others-about what the limit should be. As I said, the Migration Advisory Committee will be advising the Government and recommending what that annual limit should be. Of course, this is in sharp contrast to the approach of the previous Government, who, in one consultation exercise after another, merely paid lip service to consultation because they had already decided what they were going to do. People then got fed up with being asked to give comments and finding that Government took no notice. We are genuinely consulting people and will be listening to the responses that we get.
Mr Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that although individual employers may benefit by importing cheap labour, as a nation we will get richer only if our existing employees are enabled and encouraged to acquire skills themselves so that they can produce more, and enrich themselves and the country, rather than have those incentives to acquire skills undermined by the importation of cheap labour from abroad?
Mrs May: My right hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. This is another area where frankly, yet again, the Labour Government failed over the course of 13 years: they failed to ensure that people in this country had the skills necessary to get the jobs that become available. This Government, through our welfare reform proposals and our work programme, will be helping people and giving them much more support to get into the workplace, whereas under the Labour Government economic inactivity in the UK rose significantly. Many migrant workers were being brought in from overseas, and limiting that number will be part of the process of ensuring that we are able to help people to get out of unemployment and into the workplace.
Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): The Home Secretary's cap, if I may call it that, is a departure from existing policy, because this is the first time we have had a definitive figure. How did she arrive at the figure of 24,100? What will we do about the 24,102nd person who applies and is turned down? Will we give them the right of appeal if they have the skills necessary to help our country? What resources does she propose to give to posts abroad, which will be overwhelmed by a stampede of applications over the next year? Will she come before my Committee as soon as possible to discuss these matters further?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for raising those points. He mentioned the possibility of a stampede at posts overseas in relation to this matter. The whole point of having the interim limit set over the next nine months or so, until the permanent annual limit comes into place, is precisely to avoid that stampede. It will not be possible for people to say that they are
going to try to apply to come here before that limit comes in, because we have the interim limit, which we have set at slightly below-5% below-the numbers for the past year.
The right hon. Gentleman said that this is a change in policy. It is indeed, because under the points-based system the impetus is with the individual migrant: if they have the right number of points, they can decide whether they want to try to come into the UK. Under our system, we are saying, "We do want to welcome the brightest and the best, but we recognise that it is necessary to have a limit because we want to ensure that we are able to control immigration." I am sure that Members across the whole House will agree that that is the view of many members of the general public who have raised this issue with them.
Mr James Clappison (Hertsmere) (Con): I welcome my right hon. Friend's sensible and proportionate measure. There have already been representations about it on the radio this lunchtime from care home owners. Will she gently remind them that there are 1 million young people unemployed in this country, who would welcome the opportunity to have training and employment in the care homes sector? Is it not a shame that some employers, and the Opposition Front Benchers, seem to put a vote of no confidence in our young people?
Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his sensible and wise point. Of course, there will be those whom businesses want to bring in from abroad, and as I have said, we will raise the number of tier 1 general points required to ensure that they genuinely bring in the brightest and best. However, there are indeed sectors of employment in which many unemployed people would be very happy to train, and to take up the job opportunities that would then be available to them. As I have said, it is a great sadness that so many young people are unemployed in this country today and have not been given such opportunities as a result of the failure of the previous Labour Government.
Mr Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): Does the Home Secretary accept that her statement will be widely welcomed throughout most of our constituencies, but that during the election voters expressed another worry, which was that we are growing our population through immigration? At what stage will she consider the last Labour Government's proposal to break the link between coming here to work and gaining citizenship? If we are to prevent our population from passing 70 million, we need to control both the number of people coming in and the number who can permanently settle here.
Mrs May: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for having raised that point. I said in my statement that what I have announced today is but one part of what we are doing about immigration into this country. We have already made a statement about tightening the English language requirements for people coming here to marry, and we will examine all immigration routes into this country across the board.
Simon Hughes (Bermondsey and Old Southwark) (LD):
Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to carry on this important consultation in a measured and considered way, given that it is controversial but very
important? We need to avoid unfair discrimination, particularly as most people coming from outside the EU are not white and not Christian. That must include discrimination against people who are skilled but not academically skilled-who come here to do skilled jobs in the catering trade, for example. Finally, will she ensure that we consult on having the best possible border police force, incorporating customs, police and immigration, thereby saving money and breaking down entrenched divides that are not working in the public interest?
Mrs May: On the last of my hon. Friend's points, we will bring forward in due course more detailed proposals on the policing of our borders. On his earlier points, I draw his attention to the consultation document, which has fairness as one of its objectives, including fairness in ensuring that individuals have some understanding of the system and an expectation of whether they are likely to be able to come here under our proposals. The whole point of the consultation is to discuss with businesses and others what the best system would be and how it should operate to provide business with the flexibility that it requires, within the constraint of the annual limit.
Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): Will these strictures apply to those usually immensely wealthy employers from the middle east who bring with them their own domestic servants, usually of nationalities not in the middle east? That practice has been deemed slavery, given the appalling treatment that is often meted out to those workers by their employers, not least having to work incredibly long hours, usually for no money. There have been allegations of physical and sexual abuse, and there is an almost invariable practice of the employer stealing the employee's passport. Will the strictures apply to those individual employers, and will those practices be stopped?
Mrs May: The hon. Lady raises an important point about the treatment of individuals who are brought here on the basis of working for others. I believe that Members in all parts of the House recognise that there are problems that need to be addressed, and we will indeed do that.
Mr Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): My right hon. Friend has made a powerful and welcome statement, particularly in her points about skills. Does she agree that another key factor in our social problems today is a lack of adequate housing in many areas, and that in deciding on the future direction that immigration should take, the overall population factor mentioned by the right hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr Field) is extremely important? We should consider the issue of housing in particular.
Mrs May: My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point. Housing is, indeed, one of those wider social issues that will be taken into account in the consultation, and I am sure that the Migration Advisory Committee will take it into account as it looks at wider social issues other than just the economic impact of immigration into this country.
Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): May I agree with the Home Secretary that immigration has enriched our culture and enhanced our society? I welcome the fact that she intends to consult business and other interested parties on the implementation of the new rules. May I ask for that to include further detailed discussions with the Scottish Government, particularly the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, and Scotland's universities, to make sure that the difficulties that we have had under the current regime in recruiting world-class academic and research staff are not made worse, and to make sure that the reputation of those universities is not weakened?
Mrs May: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that point and for reminding me that I did not make it clear in my statement that we will, of course, be consulting the devolved Administrations. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Minister for Immigration has written to the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales today on exactly this point.
James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): I thank the Secretary of State for her statement, which I am sure will be welcomed by my constituents who have been concerned about uncontrolled immigration. She talked about migration within the European Union. Will she give some indication of the process and timetable in relation to agreeing transitional controls on migration from new EU partners?
Mrs May: The process is very clear and is set out in the treaty. What happened previously was that the previous Government-certainly for the first tranche of accession countries that we have seen in recent years-simply failed to put those transitional arrangements in place, whereas other EU member states such as Germany did. We are absolutely clear that, with any future new EU member state, we would put those transitional arrangements in place.
Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) (Lab): A certain someone, who is often described as a towering intellect of this House, said that the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) was planning a cap on workers, not on dependent immigrants, students or asylum seekers, so it would not work. That someone is the Business Secretary; has he changed his mind?
Mrs May: I assure the right hon. Gentleman that in relation to what we are proposing to do, it has always been our intention to look across the various immigration routes. I specifically mentioned, earlier, that we will look at the student route in relation to immigration, and we will do that in due course.
Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): In welcoming the Home Secretary's long overdue implementation of these measures, may I ask about her plans to crack down on the trafficking of people, weapons and drugs? In Dover, on Friday morning, 17 people of Afghan origin were found in the back of a lorry, of whom many were children and all were in a pretty bad way.
Charlie Elphicke: The lorry driver was Polish. It was a refrigerated lorry and many of the people were taken to hospital. It is important to have X-ray scanning on the French side of the border, for lorry cabs to be checked on the French side and for the French to be encouraged to do more as the first country of arrival. What measures might the Home Secretary take in that regard?
Mrs May: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue and for reminding us of this problem as well as the number of people involved and the way that some of those being persuaded to come here are treated. We should all take human trafficking extremely seriously in this House, as, indeed, the Conservatives do. On our interaction with the French authorities, I am pleased to say that the Minister for Immigration and I have already held meetings with the French Minister for Immigration and that we are talking to the French on a regular basis about the processes that need to be in place to ensure that we can control our borders.
Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): Will the Home Secretary confirm that any limit will have no impact on those seeking political asylum? May I also ask her to look into the case of Charles Atangana, who lives in Glasgow? He is a journalist in a trade union and is due to be deported to Cameroon tomorrow. He has previously been imprisoned there because of his activities, including writing articles that are critical of the state. Will she confirm that she, as Home Secretary, will have a compassionate approach to those seeking political asylum?
Mrs May: As I am sure the hon. Lady will recognise, I am unable to comment on individual cases such as the one she raises, but I assure her that the limit we set out today applies to non-EU economic migrants, not to asylum seekers.
Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): Does the right hon. Lady accept that success in research and high-tech businesses in areas such as Cambridge is fuelled by many non-EU migrants who are sensitive both to rules and to how welcome they are made to feel? What steps will she take to ensure that it continues to be possible, or even easy, for us to attract the best and the brightest to this country to help our universities, industry and economy?
Mrs May: I say to my hon. Friend that it is indeed our intention to ensure that we can continue to attract the brightest and the best. That is why we are taking steps to ensure that we do so within tier 1 migrant workers. We will consult with business and others on how we can best operate the limit to ensure that that continues.
Mr MacShane: I welcome the Home Secretary's statement, but I heard it on the "Today" programme this morning. She was right to criticise the previous Government for such things, but frankly, she is repeating all the same errors.
The Prime Minister met Mr Harper of Canada, Mr Singh of India and Mr Uribe of Colombia, but the Prime Minister must now tell them that their skilled people are not welcome in this country. Does the Home Secretary accept that her policy is frankly protectionist? I do not know whether she understands the bureaucratic
gobbledegook that she had to read out, but no business can. Some of us in the House are still liberal on this issue, and the fig leaves in the Liberal Democrats ought to be ashamed.
Mrs May: I must tell the right hon. Gentleman that the technical gobbledegook of which he speaks is the rules that have been applied and how we will change the rules. Businesses understand those rules very well. The idea that the statement somehow says to every other country in the world that their skilled workers will never be able to come into the UK is completely and utterly wrong, and he should frankly be ashamed of himself for standing up and suggesting that in the House. As I said, immigration has been good for the UK, but uncontrolled immigration is not. We are ensuring that we put an annual limit on immigration. I believe that that is what people are looking to this Government to do. They are looking for us to take action on the things that we promised prior to the election, but perhaps he finds it difficult to accept that we are actually delivering on our promise.
Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): The new rules announced today will be warmly welcomed not least among the rather newer residents of the UK. How will the rules be applied to ensure that not only big firms but smaller, entrepreneurial firms, which are quite often run by people from immigrant families, can bring in the brightest and the best?
Mrs May: I suggest that my hon. Friend looks at the consultation document. We are asking businesses about a number of ways in which we can apply the limit, be that a first-come-first-served system or a pool system such as New Zealand's, so that his points are taken into account. I am sure he will want to make his own representations on the matter.
Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): I welcome the Home Secretary's statement. I recognise that this is a difficult matter for any Government to deal with and that there are no easy answers, but will the cap be flexible in any way with regard to those fleeing religious persecution, especially Christians from Iran, Iraq and parts of Africa?
Mrs May: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, but as I said to the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Katy Clark), who raised the issue of political asylum, the limit does not apply to asylum seekers. The statement is about economic migrants coming in from outside the EU.
Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): I put my question on behalf of the 4.5 million people who lived on out-of-work benefits during the past decade, when four out of five of the new jobs created in the boom years went to foreign nationals. That was unforgivable and we cannot let it happen again. We were elected on a clear platform significantly to reduce immigration. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that she will stand firm in the face of lobbying that seeks to defend unacceptably high levels of immigration again in the name of skills? The skills we do not have in this country, and indeed across the rest of the EU, cannot reasonably-[Hon. Members: "Speech!"] I will give way now.
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