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The Government agree without equivocation with the committee’s conclusion that migration policy must be informed by an understanding of the economic and social impacts and manage to deliver the best outcome for the UK and its communities. The noble Lord, Lord Layard, referred to this issue. The policy is absolutely right because this is a complex matter and the rationale underpins the programme of immigration reform, the establishment of the points-based system, to which I have referred, the Migration Advisory Committee, the Migration Impacts Forum and the Migration Impacts Fund, which will secure tens of millions of pounds to help services locally to deal with the short-term pressures of migration. That point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Vallance.

When the Home Secretary spoke in another place on 21 October she said:

“When it comes to protecting our border, enforcing the law, selecting what skills we need here and setting high expectations of those who come, the Government will continue to act in Britain’s best interests on immigration”.—[Official Report, Commons, 21/10/08; col. 199.]

The Government also believe that in a global economy, with increasing labour mobility, an open economy such as the UK benefits from skilled immigrants. Those who have recently come from new EU accession countries have been largely welcomed and have made an important contribution to the British economy.

Indeed, I have some knowledge of this—I declare an interest—because my relatively new son-in-law is Polish; he came here and married my daughter. I have been constantly amazed by how incredibly hard he works and with the amount of overtime he does; how he seems to pick up on faults that he sees in the benefits system; and how he rather too often phones up current affairs programmes, which I find slightly embarrassing. He contributes a huge amount. The noble Lord mentioned the work ethic—which is certainly there—and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, mentioned cross-border marriages, of which I have some experience. Certainly the most current available research by the Department for Work and Pensions, published alongside the response to the committee’s report, indicates that this has not been to the detriment of British workers. Again, that points out how important real statistics and real knowledge of them are.

However, as we go into an economic downturn, the Government accept that these newly established flexible and evidence-based controls and levers will be crucial

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in ensuring that Britain is able to respond to the impact of any changes in demand for migrants coming through the system in some sectors.

The House should be left in no doubt about the overall benefit that we feel the United Kingdom has had from its immigrant population. As my noble friend Lord Dubs said, it has actually been, even with the small difficulties we have had, a story of great success. Personally, I think that is a credit to our wonderful nation. But we are a small overcrowded island, and at times there are pressures on social services. We believe that immigration needs to be carefully controlled, and I assure your Lordships that we will use all the levers already mentioned to ensure the maximum benefit for British communities and British business.

We have had a valuable debate. I have certainly learnt a great deal, and I thank the committee for giving us this opportunity.

3.50 pm

Lord Wakeham: My Lords, I thank everyone who has taken part in this debate—particularly the right reverend Prelate, who we heard for the first time. His speech was excellent. In my time in the House we have had several distinguished Bishops from Lincoln, and it seems to me that they have managed to keep the standard up with our new Member. I am delighted about that.

I said in my opening remarks that this debate was likely to be controversial, and indeed it was. The only concession I will make to that is to say that if we had tackled a different subject, or we had tackled wider aspects of the subject that we did, or we had tackled it over a longer period than we did, we might have produced a different report. But we did not do that, for the simple reason that we consider that our position in this House is to give advice to the Government that we hope might have some effect on policy for the future. That is what I think Select Committees should do.

Having listened to the helpful reply from the Minister, I hope he does not mind if I say that he reminded me a little of an admiral putting up a massive smokescreen while the Government reorganise themselves with slightly different policies from the ones they had not so long ago. I am grateful to him for his contribution to the debate, as I am to everyone. Although the Government have today accepted only part of what we said, I have a feeling that by the time of the next election they will have accepted considerably more.

On Question, Motion agreed to.


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