|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I am also glad that the report brought home the responsibilities of employers to operate not only legally in a minimalist way but in the spirit of the law. There was reference in the report to the expectations of immigrant labour being lower than the expectations of the traditional resident population. That is part of the global reality. We have taken for granted a standard of life that the overwhelming majority of the world's population does not begin to know anything about. Of course the expectations of those who come from elsewhere are not as demanding as those who have been brought up and conditioned by the advantage and privilege of which our society as a whole is a part.
There is reference to the impact on UK population size. But what is lacking is any analysis of what is happening to the world population size. It is another good illustration of what is happening to the world and its resources, and of how it is not very helpful to produce a report that does not look at the interrelationships and see the reality of the absolutely inescapable international interdependence of it all.
I become rather critical of my own Government when we come to the points-tiered system. We have funked some of the underlying issues, because we say that only those from outside the European economic area will have to prove that they have qualifications for some job which cannot be filled in this country. People from the European economic area can come here as of right. Buthang aboutwhat is the reality of that? We bend our minds around the issues of world poverty
14 Nov 2008 : Column 902
I may be accused of over-egging this, but I do not believe that I am. If an intelligent being on another planet were looking at the situation, they would say that this world is in a classic pre-revolutionary situation. The cost of trying to hang on to advantage, which is what is really happening in the developed world, is getting higher and higher. It is getting higher in security with the wars that have to be fought and the rest. If we are going to have proper consideration of these matters, we must invariably have them in the context of a wider agenda. In the discussions now going on about a revival of the strength of global institutions to meet the grave economic and financial crises that face the world, it is at least as important that we start to consider migration and the implications of how it is handled at the same level.
Lord Haskel: My Lords, I was not a member of this committee, so I thank noble Lords who were, and the committee staff, for their hard work. I try to read as many of our Select Committee papers as possible, because I value their information and insights. I had a special reason for reading this one because I, too, am an immigrant.
However, as I read this paper, like the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, I began to feel more and more dismayed by its tone. The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, spoke of empirical evidence. The noble Lord, Lord Vallance, said that he is sticking to the facts. However, early in the paper, at paragraph 7, we are told that a recurring theme in the inquiry was a serious shortage of facts and reliable and complete empirical data. The paper says that this,
This concern is repeated many times by witnesses. I join the noble Lord, Lord Moser, in his surprise that, in spite of this, the paper draws some pretty firm conclusions. As a result, one gets the feeling that the committee did not want to be bothered by the facts. It had already made up its mind that immigration did little for the economy.
The noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, also said that this report is not racist. While I am sure that it was not intentional, the impression given is that the politics of the committee are anti-immigration. If they want to, a reader can detect racist views in the paper, because its arguments only applied to those outside the European Unionimmigrants from Asia, Africa or the Indian subcontinent. Like my noble friend Lord Peston, I think that this was rather unfortunate.
My noble friend Lord Layard said that immigration is political. He is right. This is a political paper because, as the right reverend Prelate reminded us, immigrants are people. The impression that this is a political paper is reinforced by the fact that it only looks at recent immigration. In fact, it looks at immigrant manual labour during the time of the present Labour Government. As many speakers have said, we have had immigration into this country for hundreds of years. What about the economic impact of immigration from earlier years? What about the effect of immigration by non-manual workers? As my noble friends Lord Paul and Lord Peston explained, they have certainly had an impact on the economy and it is a pity that the paper did not acknowledge this. They have had an impact not only the economy, but on many other aspects of life here that have been enriched by those who came from elsewhere, as the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, reminded us.
My noble friend Lord Paul said that immigrants make a contribution to the economy because they are self-selecting. That may be true, but I believe that there is another important reason. They are innovative because they do not have the historical baggage of the resident population. This is how progress is made. Keynes tells us that the major barrier to developing new ideas is escaping from the old ones. Immigration certainly helps that escape.
That was why I was concerned when, in chapter 4 of the paper, the committee tells us how businesses should be run. During my business life, I was very careful not to do this because the real test of a business is not how it does things but how it satisfies its consumers. Surely this is the economic impact of a business. Somebody, often an immigrant, will always find a new way of doing things cheaper, better, quicker, safer, nicer, with less energy and waste, and with more variety. The analysis in paragraphs 117 and 118 hardly touches on the need for businesses to constantly raise their game, as the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, pointed out. It is this which makes our economy competitive in the worldnot simply holding down wages.
I am not an economisteminent economists are taking part in the debatebut it seems to me that that may be correct at a moment of time. But surely over time this economic opportunity becomes productive capacity, which in turn becomes a well paid job and eventually turns into wealth. Therefore, what starts as an economic opportunity eventually benefits the nation. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Layard, implied that in a roundabout way.
The paper explains that by joining the European Union we cannot control immigration because the right to work anywhere in the Union is one of the four freedoms. In fact, the freedom to travel and work anywhere within the EU is probably the freedom which the younger generation appreciates most. What business appreciates most is a free market where it can not only sell its goods and services but buy the goods and services that it needs, and this includes labour. Is
14 Nov 2008 : Column 904
I am also concerned at the simplistic view expressed in chapter 4 that the cost of wages is the sole criterion that affects immigrant employment. The noble Lord, Lord Best, spoke of construction. I happen to know that it is not just a matter of labour cost as regards the bathrooms discussed in paragraph 121; it is also very much a matter of waste. A recent paper by your Lordships' Science and Technology Committee pointed out that the construction industry is responsible for nearly a third of the waste in this country, and that one way in which it is being cut in that industry is by carrying out as much work as possible in a factory rather than on a building site. That is the point about the bathrooms that I mentioned being constructed off-site. It is not a case of using cheap labour.
It is obvious that immigrants have an enormous impact on our economy. I am sure that the committee is right in paragraph 43 to call for an improvement in the data. It points out the danger that immigration might have an adverse impact on training and skills opportunities offered to other UK workers. It also points out that, in spite of the minimum wage regulations, some immigrant labour might be exploited and that the Government have to deal with this. It rightly points out that over the short term immigrants might cause pressures on health, housing and education. The noble Baroness, Lady Cox, is certain that they do. She is wrong because nothing in the paper proves that that is the case.
Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. I agree that immigration is valuable and has made a great contribution to this country. The noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, has, as usual, produced a very comprehensive and controversial report. I recall that the Royal Commission on House of Lords Reform produced a whole series of recommendations and that the House of Commons turned down the whole lot. Therefore, the noble Lord is used to controversy.
As the night watchman from the Back Benches, I wish to discuss an aspect that has not yet been mentioned. Earlier this month, the All-Party Group on Latin America, ably chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson of Market Rasen, held a meeting with the collected Latin American ambassadors, at their request, to discuss their immigration concerns. My comments are drawn almost entirely from that meeting. In June, the EU Parliament adopted a Motion on the procedures and rules for the return of third country nationals who
14 Nov 2008 : Column 905
The Latin American countries, which produce a large number of immigrants into this country, act frequently as a regional group with a single voice, and they have expressed their concerns and protested at a series of summit meetings between Latin America and the European Union, and at internal regional summit meetings. Precise figures of Latin Americans in the United Kingdom are hard to come by. One study suggests that there may be as many as 700,000 or even up to 1 million. To my mind, that seems a bit exaggerated, but I very much welcome the suggestion made in the Wakeham report that there should be some proper government statistics on who comes from where, because Latin Americans make a very valuable contribution. I declare an interest, because I have been associated for a long time with Latin America, and I spend much of my energies promoting its interests and its contribution to world affairs, which is not inconsiderable.
The largest numbers of immigrants from Latin America come from Brazil, followed by the Andean countries of Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador, which have sizeable indigenous populations, plus Colombia, which has suffered from a devastating internal civil conflict. Despite the supposed large numbers here, there are only some 300-odd in prisons in the United Kingdom, probably almost certainly concerned with drug offences, but I have no knowledge of the details.
Latin Americans are hard-working, educated and share the same Judaeo-Christian traditions as Europeans. In that sense, I totally agree with the brilliant maiden speech made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln. They are clearly here for economic reasons, they work hard, and many of them remit part of their earnings home to help alleviate the poverty that exists, particularly in the Andean countries. They are at the lower end of the scale of remuneration, and they do jobs that British citizens are unwilling to do.
There are also large numbers here on research scholarships, which provide a tremendous two-way benefit. Those who stay contribute enormously to our welfare, and those who return invariably rise to high office in their own countries. For those and other reasons, we should welcome Latin Americans, just as we should welcome other immigrants, as has been mentioned by a number of speakers, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Peston. I have not given notice to the Minister of this subject, and I therefore do not expect him to comment. I raise the issue in the hope that he will investigate and that either he or appropriate Ministers will explain the position directly to the Latin American ambassadors in London, who have serious concerns on behalf of their respective Governments.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this has been a vigorous debate on a very delicate subject. The self-denying ordinance that the committee took to deal only with
14 Nov 2008 : Column 906
The shortage of facts has been pointed out by several speakers. The statistics are not reliable and, therefore, the analysis has to be accompanied by some careful remarks about how it is difficult to state anything with much certainty. The selection of the timescale, the past 10 years, is arbitrary and open to question. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, did not broaden his attack to economics. Perhaps we will have to have that debate later. I increasingly feel that economics, as a German once said to me, is a blend of mathematics and theology, and that one gets certainty from mathematics and from a rather fundamentalist theology and applies it to deeply uncertain figures and deeply uncertain issues on which there are, as the right reverend Prelate rightly pointed out, immense issues of contested values.
The report was to some extent captured by Migration Watch, which seeks a cap on migration. I have no doubt that that partly shaped the press comments. I read Migration Watchs material and I am conscious of the issuethe threat that the whole of south-eastern England will be concreted over as population increases. As I hear that, I recognise that the Austrian and Dutch populists, whom I have met and had to deal with over the past 15 years, said in the early 1990s that the boat was full and that we could not cope with any more Bosnians, Croats and Serbs, let alone Turks and others. We have to be very careful about how we use that sort of issue.
The tone of the report laid itself open to such comments. I strongly support everything that the right reverend Prelate said about the need to recognise that we are not simply talking about economic units. I recall that a German friend said some years ago, The problem with our guest worker programme in Germany was that we asked for guest workers, and what we got was people. That is why it is difficult to deal with immigration simply in economic terms.
We have seen a surge in the past five to 10 years, particularly in the past five years, and the question is how far we can extrapolate that trend, or how far we can expect the trend to continue. I recall those who argued at the height of the global economic boom that it was not like previous booms and that immigration trends would continue. More sceptical economists said that trends that could not continue would not continue. Large numbers of the Poles and Lithuanians who arrived in Ireland during the boom are already going home, and some of the descendants of Irish people who went to the United States and elsewhere, and went back to Ireland, are leaving it again. We can observe that some self-correcting mechanisms are under way.
I regret the lack of a more comparative dimension to the report. We all know from the history of Spanish, Italian and Greek migration that as those countries joined the European Union, there was a major surge from those countries into northern Europe and that then, as their economies picked up, people went back. That will clearly happen with regard to Poles, Slovaks and Estonians.
The underlying issues of the report are large. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Paul, remarked, there is the question of whether we can pick and choose on globalisation. Can we have entirely free markets in finance, foreign investment and other areas, but increasingly tighten our control of labour? The British conventional wisdom, far more than in any other country, is to accept full globalisation in financial markets, foreign investment, foreign takeovers and so on, but increasingly to resist the free movement of labour.
We do have a problem, because the UK is particularly attractive to migrants. We are English speaking, we are already diverse, and migrant communities are already here for others to join. We attract more immigrants from more countries than many comparable countries. However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Valentine, said, the immense attractions of London as one of the worlds few global cities are part of what gives Britain a comparative advantage in a host of ways. It is a wonderful place for young people to work in, live in and enjoy. I often found, while teaching at the London School of Economics, that my students would say, But I dont want to go back to Frankfurt. Its such a parochial city, but it could have been Helsinki, Zurich or anywhere else.
The evidence of the gains and losses that we have from mass gross immigration is not bad. Last night, I had a quick look at fellows of the Royal Society and discovered a pretty fair disproportion of foreign-born scientists. As the noble Lord, Lord Peston, will remember, 40 per cent of the staff at the London School of Economics are foreign-born. This is part of what Britain gains from being much more open to the movement of people than many other countries.
I found the treatment in the report of cross-border marriage unduly negative. What I now see happening anecdotally as a result of lots of extremely intelligent and attractive young Polish women working in this country is cross-border marriage between Brits and Poles. A month or two ago, I stood in the queue at Heathrow with a young British man who was on his way to Krakow to get married. How do we treat that? Is it a negative if his wife comes to live in this country afterwards? Many of my students at the LSE were involved in cross-border marriage. I sometimes thought that we were an international marriage market. That is part of what globalisation is about. Of course, there are problems with south Asian families in this country and arranged marriages that take place partly for immigration purposes, but that is a specific problem with which we also have to deal.
I also found the calculations on balanced migration a little inadequate. Again, I am very conscious that we see young people coming here to work and old people leaving to retire. When President Sarkozy came to talk to some of the 300,000 young French people who live in Britain, part of his message was, I want to recreate a France in which people want to work and not just retire back to. We gain in some ways from having young people coming in and old people leaving, although someone concerned with British consular arrangements tells me that one of the biggest problems that our
14 Nov 2008 : Column 908
Population density is an underlying issue, which was addressed by the noble Lord, Lord Best. The revival of living in city centres in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London is one of the positive effects in Britain. Part of the current debate may have been affected by the Governments vast overestimation of how many more houses will need to be imposed by the centre on the regions. I think that that calculation will now be sharply revised as we discover how much spare housing has been built.
There are several issues relating to employment planning. We believe in the free market and are going back to picking winners. In employment, perhaps we know from the points-based system the people we want for different industries. However, I have some hesitation about that. In planning for the training of doctors, nurses and midwives, the National Health Service has not been entirely successful in recent years, but we have to recognise that, as migration is restricted, these sorts of calculations have to be made. Whether it is best to have a Migration Advisory Committee that consists entirely of labour market economists, I am not sure. Perhaps the odd bishop or two would help.
Then there is the problem of those who are not in education, employment or trainingthe pockets of native long-term unemployed and demotivated people around the country who do not pick up the employment opportunities available to them. We all know of occasions where bright young people from eastern Europe have come in and picked up jobs within a couple of miles of pockets of high unemploymentoften second or third generation unemploymentin Britain. That is a different set of problems with which we have to deal through a whole host of economic and social issues. Nor do they join the Armed Forces. There are 3,000 Fijianspart of our current immigrationin our Army, together with a substantial number of Afro-Caribbeans and, of course, Gurkhas. They come partly because, through service, they become British citizens. That is also part of the balance of migration.
There is the real and sensitive issue of social cohesion, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, said, is very much a top issue for people in some parts of northern England in particular where there is low employment and only low wages and where there are established second-generation Asian communities and established but on the whole high unemployment native communities. Both think that the other is getting more of an inadequate public supply of money and complain about that. But that is a different issue.
There is the issue of the cost of the public sector. Care homes would necessarily take more public and private money if we were to cut back on the number of Filipinos, black South African, and other people who work so hard for so little pay in that sector. The age of retirement is another issue that perhaps the committee would like to address further. The young and fit retired will have to become the young and fit part-time. I suspect that in the next 20 years people of my age will be looking after our parents when they are in their 90s or early 100s.
Lastly, there is the underlying issue, on which the committee touches, of immigration pressures from Africa and Asia. It is a long-term and very delicate issue. There are huge push factorspopulation pressures in the south, poverty, climate change, state collapse, war and civil conflict. There are lessons for British public policy here. Our response cannot be only national. We cannot build a fortress Britain. We have to co-operate with others. Migrants trying to get into Britain, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, remarked, are coming through Libya, Morocco and Turkey. It makes an enormous amount of sense to work with other receiving countries in coping with that. That also means that we have to have a development policy which helps to deal with the push factors. Population growth is itself a major issue. We must pay attention to the rights of women in developing countries, which we all know to be key in reducing population growth. I regard as wicked the coalition between American right-wing fundamentalists, Islamic regimes and the Vatican that has blocked UN co-operation on limiting population growth.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|