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Immigration: Public Services

Volume 771: debated on Tuesday 10 May 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of net immigration continuing at over 300,000 people per year, and the latest Office for National Statistics projections indicating an increase in the United Kingdom population, including births, of 500,000 per year for the next six years, what plans they have to limit immigration and to build more hospitals, schools, housing and prisons to meet an increase in demand.

My Lords, the Government recognise that mass immigration can increase population pressures. That is why we are seeking to reduce net migration to a sustainable level, from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. The Government are committed to a significant programme of investment in our public services. Taken together, these steps and future measures will ensure that there is adequate provision.

I thank the Minister for his somewhat sanguine reply. Would he also agree, though, that the million or so refugees whom Angela Merkel has accepted will soon have the right to come here, and the Turks could be next, adding to the overload on our hospitals, schools and houses, greatly to the detriment of our existing population? Is he also surprised that the effect of uncontrolled immigration from the EU on the stability of our nation and on the welfare of working people appears not to be of concern, with very few exceptions, to the Labour Party?

My Lords, the Government are completely reforming the immigration system, cutting abuse and focusing on attracting the brightest and the best. Since 2010, reforms have cut abuse in the student and family visa systems and raised standards in the work routes. In addition, of course, our recent negotiations in Europe have brought to fruition the provision of new settlement agreements for EU migrants, with the requirement for a seven-year emergency brake being in place.

My Lords, the Minister has told us how wonderful the Government’s investment in public services is—apparently to meet all the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Vinson. Could he then explain, for example, why there is a shortage of primary school places in London, why our health service in so many areas is in crisis and why there is a problem with social care beds becoming unviable? Why is all that happening if the Government’s policies towards the public services have been so benign?

It takes time to recover from the experience that we had up until 2010, but major steps are being taken. The Government are committed to investing £7 billion in school places by 2021, to increasing NHS funding in England by £10 billion in real terms by 2020 and to investing £20 billion in housing in the next five years, including £8 billion in affordable housing.

My Lords, that is all very well, but clearly, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, said, it is not sufficient. Can the Minister tell the House why the Government are not building more new hospitals, schools and houses, using the additional income they are receiving from foreign workers, who are paying significant sums in income tax and national insurance?

As I stated a moment ago, very considerable sums are being expended in these areas. Indeed, we expect to deliver 600,000 new school places by 2021.

My Lords, has my noble and learned friend had any success in establishing a bipartisan policy towards reducing immigration to tens of thousands a year? Or are the Opposition dedicated to an open door to let more and more and more migrants in, with no idea of how we shall pay not just for the schools and the hospitals but for the roads, the waterworks, the power stations and everything else? Whose side does my noble and learned friend think the Opposition are on—the British people or the foreigners?

I believe that all Members of this House recognise the importance of a controlled migration system that brings us the best and is the best for this country. Only by means of a controlled migration system can we have an effective, workable society that is integrated and settled.

Today, we have had the opportunity to hear from the authentic voice of the Conservative Party—from behind the Minister.

The previous Labour Government put in place a migration impacts fund. Local authorities and health trusts, for example, could then apply for a share of the funding to support efforts to reduce the impact of migration on public services. It was certainly not a panacea to solve all problems, but it did help to raise new funding to support infrastructure. However, the fund was scrapped by the coalition Government within a few months, and little was then done to ensure that support was still given where it was needed.

We have also said that EU funding should be made available to areas impacted by rapid migration to help with public services such as schools and GP services. Are the Government supporting, or will they support, that step?

This Government had to wrestle with the inheritance of 2010 on migration. We found ourselves with more than 900 bogus colleges arranging for the admission into this country of fake students in the hundreds of thousands. Some 920 of those fake colleges have been closed since 2010. That itself has relieved pressure on our services.

My Lords, as an Iranian born citizen, I must say that not all of us are a drain on the economy. I remind the House that the National Health Service would not run if it were not for people from abroad with high qualifications who are willing to work in it and help the economy. It is important to recognise the contribution they make, because the caring services and the NHS would not function without it.

That important contribution is of course recognised. The Government believe that in the long term, it is necessary to train our own nurses in this country. Consequently, the Department of Health has put in place a clear plan to reduce the number of overseas nurses each year until 2019, when we expect to have sufficient nurses to meet demand.