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Some of us have spent a lifetime of work in the field of race relations. The United Kingdom has been at the forefront of legislation and other machinery to establish equality of opportunity for all our citizens. There is now a strong emphasis on race, disability, gender, age, faith and sexual orientation. The law puts a new emphasis on promoting good relations between people of different groups. It is clear that bench-marking is commonly used in the private sector and particularly in the field of justice, security and freedom; however, the exercise remains a relatively new phenomenon for immigrant integration. It is here that MIPEX provides a constant and reliable stocktaking with the ability to track policy advances and reversals.
Let me at the outset avoid the confusion about migrants. We are talking aboutMIPEX uses the term in this waythird country nationals legally residing in an EU member state. It covers six policy areas which shape a migrants journey to full citizenship. I am delighted that the debate in the UK has moved to citizenship. The six policy areas that are covered by MIPEX are labour market access, family reunion, long-term residence, principal participation, access to nationality and anti-discrimination.
There is clear evidence that now links MIPEX with debates on the impact of European co-operation in the areas of national law, measuring integration outcomes and other indexing exercises. The outcome has demonstrated that best practices flow from such initiatives. It would be helpful to know the Ministers response on this point. How often do we use such information and has this assisted our law-making process on matters of
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We expect to see further synergies activities in the upcoming year, as the MIPEX, one of the few sources for comparative information on integration policies in Europe, stimulates new projects that aim to move forward national, sub-national, and European debates.
I want to ensure that we, in this country, are part of this process. It would also be helpful to have an assurance from the Minister that the Government will use the study at many levels of governance. This is a positive way to take the integration debate forward.
We all accept that the old political spectrum of left and right is less important now and politicians are competing to promote concepts such as community cohesion. However, frequent political debates and statements lack strategic thought. Political agendas often fail to take into account the systematic benefits of planned migration. MIPEX has moved national agendas forward by raising potential areas of improvement and greater European co-operation. The conclusion reached by MIPEX was that making policies themselves the subject of evaluations, through good indicators, may bring significant improvements to the appropriateness and quality of a country's integration strategy. It is for this reason that a viable national policy on immigration and integration must take into account the European dimension and that best practices identified by MIPEX ought to be at the core of such debates.
Other important issues are identified by MIPEX, such as equality and access, which have been the cornerstone principles in many of the definitions of integration policy across Europe. There can be little dispute that equality of opportunity and access allows migrants to have full confidence to lead an active and purposeful life. The United Kingdom has a proud record of anti-discriminatory legislation. Successive Race Relations Acts have helped to outlaw discrimination, but the promotion of equality of opportunity and good relations between different groups is established in our legislation.
However, the reality is different. The former Commission for Racial Equality has repeatedly reported an increase in race discrimination cases. Law is an unequivocal statement of public policy in a democratic institution. Citizenship and nationality mean very little if that process is flawed. MIPEX found that, when this is translated into laws and policies across Europe, the six policy areas covered by the MIPEX report favourably about traditional countries of immigration. I am glad to record that the United Kingdom fits into this category.
Some European countries seek out best practices from countries such as the United Kingdom. To an extent this has helped to set the legal framework in
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However, we must respect a right to a family life. If there is one criticism I have to make of our Government, it is their subjective approach to marriage and family reunion. The MIPEX report stated that reuniting families gives a migrant a sense of social and cultural stability in their countries of residence that makes for more stable, diverse societies. A fair, flexible, transparent, expeditious procedure does not introduce bureaucratic conditions that aim to keep families apart. The state aims to protect a migrant resident's right to live in a family. Based on the equal treatment of men and women and the rights of the child, the country ensures that a migrant and his family members enjoy the same rights. Independent status and equal access promotes equality within the family and offers opportunities to integrate into all areas of life in the country. I hope that any policy consideration on such matters in future legislation will ensure that bureaucratic considerations do not keep families apart. The Minister will be aware that the migration in the 1950s and 1960s was predominantly from male members and in the case of Bangladesh it took years before family reunion was established. That had a direct impact on those communities.
I draw the Ministers attention to matters relating to access to nationality. The UK's policy scored fifth, although to be fair most first-generation migrants are eligible for British citizenship after five years. MIPEX reports that migrants are compelled to pass conditions that score halfway to best practice, including the newly introduced test. The test is based on a government-provided study guide, though the significant failure rate has been blamed on the guide's historical inaccuracies and the test's obscure questions. The applicant's individual abilities are not taken into account. Those who have been naturalised can lose their citizenship for various reasons. We should note that the UK's score decreased in this second edition of MIPEX due to the additional vaguer ground for withdrawing nationality,
I conclude by saying that MIPEX has shown a way that will help the process of integration leading to the cohesive community for which we all strive. Let us hope it will be the basis of future policies on immigration and integration in this country.
Lord Kinnock: I declare an interest as chairman of the British Council. I offer my warmest thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for initiating this debate and by that means highlighting the purpose and value of the index. Like the noble Lord, I thank the Migration
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The migration integration policy index is the product of practical and pragmatic study. It offers dispassionate, collated evidence of the conditions encountered by people migrating inside and into Europe by focusing on the six policy areas listed by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, all of which are clearly among the prime factors that determine whether people have satisfactory conditions for employment opportunities and basic human security.
In our time, the levels of provision and practice in these areas patently have particular significance for two main reasons: first, and very obviously, a combination of economic realities, transport, technological advances and statutory freedoms of movement within Europe means that migration in and into our continent has increased and, if demographic deficits are to be countered and economic growth sustained, that migration needs to continue. Secondly, in those circumstances, insularity is unrealistic, indeed, unattainable, as well as economically negative, and the movement of large numbers of people is a reality and a necessity. Effective integration of those people in the societies to which they move is therefore a vital safeguard of employment and civil rights for incomers and, I emphasise, for the host population as well as being an essential ingredient of social stability and serenity. However, such integration is feasible only if there is manifest equity in the treatment of newcomers and if accurate information about that treatment is available to migrants, host populations and local, national and international policy makers.
The index therefore exists to provide that information by assessing the policies of individual countries with objectivity, by making comparisons between the records of those countries and by benchmarking that performance mainly against standards set in EU directives agreed by member states, in Council of Europe conventions ratified by member states or in European presidency conclusions. In short, the body of information produced by MIPEX for use by policy makers and the general public has substantially been compiled with reference to standards which democratic Governments have already agreed. There is therefore particular authority in the MIPEX analysis of what has been achieved, what has not been achieved and what needs to be improved in establishing and operating policies that will foster integration and, through that, benefit migrants and host societies.
It is clear that the assessment of policies in the index is thorough and factual and that the comparisons are made with the constructive objective of clarifying best practice and identifying areas in which that standard is or is not met. They are not made for any invidious purpose or with any naming and shaming motive. It is also clear that the intended outcome of this work is to provide a common framework for informed public
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I am grateful for the opportunity given by this short debate to say why the British Council is strongly engaged in the MIPEX project. As the Committee knows, the British Council has been the UKs leading international organisation for cultural relations for more than 70 years, successfully sustaining its primary mission of promoting understanding and appreciation of the United Kingdom by anticipating and responding to changing realities and changing needs. That is happening now in this post-Cold War, globalised, increasingly interdependent, interactive, mobile century where, as well as being a dynamic enriching asset, cultural diversity in social proximity can also be a source of tension between human beings.
In such conditions, the British Council has recognised that migration and the success or failure of the integration of migrants is manifestly central to cultural relations. It is therefore quite naturally involved in MIPEX with its purpose of clarifying what is happening at high and low standards of migration and integration policy performance, promoting reasoned discussion and encouraging alignment between declared national policies and applied national practices. If that consistency between policies and practices is attained, it is more likely that social cohesion will be strengthened without sacrifice of identity or of freedom by migrants and host societies. If that consistency is not achieved, the millions will still move, but that is likely to be accompanied by avoidable inequities, avoidable resulting resentments and avoidable social and economic division and disability for those who arrive and for the communities which receive them.
Obviously no research project can prevent such appalling negatives. It can, however, help to chart a course to productive positives. I hope my noble friend, with his distinguished professional expertise, will ensure that the Government navigate that positive course.
Lord Dearing: We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, for stimulating this short debate. It is a privilege to follow the chairman of the British Council because it contributes so much to the well-being of our people and those with whom we live in this world.
It is a golden rule in the House of Lords that you sit still and maintain your silence unless you know the subject and have something worthwhile to say. For the first time in 10 years, at least in my opinion if not in the opinion of many others, I am breaking my rule because, having had my attention drawn to this index, of which, I confess, I had never heard, I realised its importance and potential value. I wanted, by the very
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I shall illustrate the importance, or potential importance, of indices to those who will read them. In December 2006, UNICEF published indices of the well-being of children in economically advanced countries. Out of 21 countries, we were bottom. It was a shock. It may be that the analysis was not perfect, but the message was very strong. There were two areas in which we came resoundingly bottomin matters relating to parenthood. I cannot argue that those indices published in December 2006 were the cause of the measures that the Government have taken since, which are so relevant. There is an old Latin tag which I forget that warns against such presumption. But to recapitulate, there was the creation in the summer of a Department for Children, Schools and Families, which brings together those matters that are so central to the well-being of children. There has also been the Children and Young Persons Bill, which has just been debated, to strengthen delivery of welfare services to children and to state the clear duty of the Secretary of State to promote the well-being of children in England. The Bill makes provision to strengthen our arrangements, including those for immigrant children. Then, on 1 November, the Prime Minister announced the Governments intention to consider extending the right of parents of six year-olds to ask for flexible working hours to children of older yearsthe very years in which young people were most at risk of embracing some of the practices of their elders that are not to their own good. So there we have an example of a shock from an index followed by action. I cannot argueand happily it is not the casethat the MIPEX index points to any such great basis for shame. However, it has the potential in what it says to draw attention through the indices to better practice overseas in stimulating policy initiatives.
The reason why I wanted to speak, underlined by speaking from no knowledge, is the danger we are in from having an increasingly fractured society, based very much, to give one dimension, on increasing disparities in wealth and incomes and the creation of ghettoes and disadvantage, which leads to fissures in society. Then there is the challenge to the wholeness and integration of society of the increasing rates of immigration, to which we have to respond. That has led to tensions relating to income policy of communitiesfor example, in the north of England some years ago. Fundamental to the integration of immigrants, particularly those from distant countries with very different cultures, is language and facility in the use of the English language. I understand that there are proposals that financial support for lessons to enable immigrants to increase their facility in English will be limited to those who are unemployed and on income support.
I question the wisdom of that because it is so important to integration that they all should come to have a greater facility in the use of the language. We must do much more proactively for the poor and unemployed, for whom languages will be available
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We have to look abroad to discover what lessons we can learn from there and, perhaps, look at the indices and what emerges from them to see what we can do. I endorse the tail end of the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, in which he invited the Government to use this material. I believe they should use it not only in debates but also in policy making. I hope the Minister will feel able to encourage us on that matter.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: I congratulate my noble friend Lord Dholakia who, as always, has raised an important subject. The Committee will be grateful to him for drawing attention to it because many of us did not know about the existence of the index. I was particularly interested in the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, who is chair of the British Council, in which he explained why the British Council became involved.
One of the difficulties with the debate around immigration and societal cohesion is misinformation, and anything which can improve the position is to be welcomed. Sections of the media, extreme political parties and others use misinformation to create fear and apprehension. The best counter to that is to have correct facts of the kind laid out here widely available. The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, quite rightly mentioned the current topic of fractures and tensions in society. This is explored in an interesting way in the BBCs White Season. The programme examines these issues and is a particularly worthy attempt to examine some of the more complex feelings surrounding how we choose to live together.
The Governments recent announcement of their citizenship proposals was met, at best, by a lukewarm response. The real work on making cohesion happen has to be undertaken at community level. Given the enormous variations between cities and small towns, rural areas and the north, south, east and west of the UK, the most that should be organised centrally is a framework and an aspiration. The index that we are debating today considers the framework and tests how adequate it is against a benchmark. That is why it is an especially useful piece of work.
My noble friend mentioned the scale of what we are talking about: 16 million people from non-EU countries form the migrant diaspora across Europe. The index does not address illegal economic migrants, asylum seekers or those moving within the EU. All too often, people coming from abroad are defined in the resident population as falling within the same category, and it is very useful to concentrate the mind on exactly what we are talking about.
Of the six categories covered by the index, access to citizenship causes the most contention in policy terms. Liberal Democrats have a significantly different policy on it from that of Labour or the Conservatives. We would open a path to earned citizenship for those who are already here but are currently in limbo. They are unable to contribute to the tax base. If they work, they are doing so illegally, with poor access to all kinds of services. They are a much more pressing issue than those who may yet arrive in the UK. The Governments response has been to impose a much heavier penalty on employers, which has had astonishingly awful results for members of the Chinese community, for example.
We Liberal Democrats believe that there should be a route to earned citizenship. The index is a helpful tool in debating this matter, because it enables us to see clearly what is happening in the rest of Europe. As legislators, we are constantly asked to debate and approve changes in immigration policy. To make good, informed decisions, the index provides exactly the kind of information that we need.
We need to know the norm across Europe; we need to ensure that legislative changes are producing a more integrated society. Apart from helping us get better in areas in which we do poorly, the index would help us track situations where we are getting worse, which is important, because policy does not always produce an upward trajectory. However, it is not all bad news. Seeing where best practice is producing especially good results should be encouraging. I appreciate that this area of policy is an uphill struggle for whichever Government are in power; it is not simple. The index is updated bi-annually, so it will not become out of date. It will give us a clear benchmark for how we compare with our European neighbours.
Preparing for this debate gave me the opportunity to study the index. I liked especially the interactive maps. As I tried them out, I was surprised to find that the UK scored as well as it did, because the constant background hum of negativity around immigration made me think that we would come out worse. A desire to change the background noise is not to be equated with having a totally open-door policy to mass immigration, but it is often taken as such. It increasingly takes brave politicians to point out the immense benefits that immigration has brought and continues to bring.
It is our responsibility to ensure that the legislative frameworks are informed by fact and not the background hum which the media, particularly the red-top newspapers, encourage. I have mentioned the good practice adopted by the BBC in encouraging a more informed debate. I accept that legislative frameworks are only the beginning of the process. Public perception, economic push-and-pull factors, access to public services and availability of housing all play a role that is at least as, if not more, important.
Before we become complacent, it is worth noting that we score very poorly on political participationI was disappointed, although not entirely surprised, by that. Political participation is critical, because ensuring that communities have their rightful voice in the democratic process is an essential step in making sure
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