Since 2010 we have reformed all routes to the UK, tightening areas where abuse was rife. In particular, around 700 colleges can no longer bring students into the UK, but at the same time, sponsored visa applications for university students increased by 7% in the past year. In the areas where we can exert control, our reforms are working and have cut non-EU migration to its lowest level since 1998.
I thank the Home Secretary for that answer. Most statistics are quoted as net migration figures, although most people are concerned about the number of people coming to this country. Is it important to assess gross immigration figures when talking about these issues?
Obviously it is important to consider all migration figures, and uncontrolled gross immigration does put pressure on our public services and infrastructure. As the immigration Minister pointed out, the people who suffer most from the impact of uncontrolled immigration are those at the lower end of the income scale. Indeed, the hon. Member for Dagenham and Rainham (Jon Cruddas) said that the previous Labour Government used migration
“to introduce a covert 21st-century incomes policy.”
Last Thursday the immigration Minister scolded the metropolitan elite, which included members of the Cabinet, for employing people who were born outside this country. Some 4.4 million people who were born outside this country are contributing to our economy, and what the immigration Minister said came dangerously close to endorsing the discredited slogan of “British jobs for British workers.” When the Minister speaks in Harrow next Wednesday, will the Home Secretary ask him to return to his normal sensible demeanour, and let us have a constructive debate on immigration, rather than relying on stereotypes and clichés?
A constructive debate on immigration was exactly what my hon. Friend was contributing to, and I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman’s description of his speech. As I said in answer to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson), the immigration Minister was pointing out that uncontrolled immigration has greatest impact on those at the lower end of the income scale. I would have thought that as a Labour Member of Parliament, the right hon. Gentleman should care about that.
23. Given that freedom of movement within the EU is the elephant in the room of the immigration issue, what plans do the Government have to reform that part of the EU strategy? It might have been suitable for the founding fathers, but given that there are now 28 member states with disparate economic cycles, it is past its sell-by date. Otherwise, we should stop talking about targets. (902925)
My hon. Friend makes an important point about free movement. I have been party to discussions and have raised the issue, particularly on the question of the abuse of free movement, within the EU. Many other member states are concerned. We are taking action with them to cut out the problems of the abuse of free movement.
My hon. Friend also mentioned the disparity of incomes among accession countries. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in an article he wrote some weeks ago, suggested that a future approach might be not allowing full free movement rights until accession countries have reached a certain income level compared with the rest of the EU.
When will we see an end to the persecution of Scottish fishing boats and their good foreign crews by the UK Border Agency? Boats from my constituency have been tied up and money is being lost because of the stupid obsession with immigrant numbers. The message should be that immigrants are good and we need them. Will the Home Secretary help Scottish fishing boats to work rather than cause them to waste their time and to be tied up?
My understanding is that there is a limit on the number of days that fishing boats can go out to fish, and that that is absolutely nothing to do with UK Visas and Immigration—if I might remind him, the UK Border Agency was abolished close to a year ago. I know that good work is being done—I saw this in Aberdeen recently—by UK Border Force, UK immigration enforcement, the National Crime Agency, Police Scotland and others to ensure that we get rid of the abuse that takes place in the fishing industry, particularly on issues such as trafficking.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s encouragement. As I have said, in the past nearly four years, I have seen growing concern on free movement among European Union member states. The UK has raised and pursued the matter. We are now working with other member states, particularly on the abuse of free movement, but we need to look ahead to future accession treaties, and the terms in which free movement is included in them.
The Prime Minister has said that the Government would get net migration down to the tens of thousands by 2015, “no ifs, no buts”, and yet this month, the figure has risen to more than 212,000. The question is simple. Will the Government meet their net migration target—yes or no?
We are continuing to deal with net migration. [Interruption.] I fully accept that the most recent figures, which show an increase in migration from the EU, have made the task more difficult, but it ill behoves Labour Members to talk in those terms when they had an immigration policy that meant there was uncontrolled immigration throughout their period in office.
A successful Wiltshire businesswoman who has created jobs for dozens of local people and paid her fair share of taxes faces her family being wrenched apart on account of her mother being denied leave to remain. How can we ensure that wealth creators—people who create jobs for our constituents —are not made to feel unwelcome here by changes to the family migration route?
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will want to raise individual cases with my hon. Friend the Minister for Security and Immigration. In overall terms, we have changed all routes of entry into the United Kingdom, which has had an impact on non-EU migration, which is at its lowest since 1998. The hon. Gentleman talks about wealth creators, and it is important that we differentiate in the system. We are cutting out abuse and ensuring that the brightest and the best can come to the UK.