Skip to main content


Volume 779: debated on Wednesday 1 March 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what percentage of the change in the total number of households in the United Kingdom between 2010 and 2014 is attributed to households with a non-United Kingdom born household reference person.

My Lords, according to the Office for National Statistics, 90% of the growth in households from 2010 to 2014 can be attributed to households with a household reference person born outside the UK.

My Lords, I have been asked to explain that a “household reference person” is modern bureaucratic-speak for head of household. Now we know what we are talking about, I thank the Minister for his response. Does he agree that we should welcome the many contributions that immigrants make to our society and economy, but that we should also be frank about the costs? Does he recall telling this House on 19 January that in the main scenario, just over one-third of additional households were due to net migration? Yet today he tells us that in the most recent period, 90% of additional households were headed by an immigrant. Surely it is now obvious that the DCLG should be using the high-migration scenario—that is, the one that implies a demand for a new house for a migrant family every five minutes, night and day.

My Lords, it is the case that 37% of household growth is due to net migration. I certainly endorse the noble Lord’s comment that we have every reason to be grateful for immigration; it adds to the diversity of national life and makes a significant contribution to national life, not least to the public services.

My Lords, these statistics need to be interpreted very carefully. For example, the Minister’s right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary was born in the United States of America so—although Marina might argue to the contrary—Boris Johnson is the head of a household who was born outside the United Kingdom. Does the Minister agree that overall, migrants, particularly those from the European Union, contribute far more to the United Kingdom than they take out, and not only should they be welcomed but, if they are already here, they should be allowed to stay?

My Lords, it is interesting to speculate that as the Foreign Secretary was, as the noble Lord has said, born in the United States, that makes him, I think, eligible to stand and become President of the United States—an interesting scenario. I certainly endorse the noble Lord’s effective point about the contribution that the immigrant communities have made to this country. As the Prime Minister has indicated, that will continue to be the case: in any scenario we will still be welcoming many people to this country as immigrants.

My Lords, does the Minister realise that the Foreign Secretary renounced his American citizenship only last year and that he is therefore not eligible to stand for President of the United States of America?

But while I am on my feet, will the Minister also confirm that about 60,000 individuals from the European Union are working in our National Health Service, and that the service would collapse completely without them?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for correcting me in relation to the Foreign Secretary. I certainly was not trying to whip up a campaign on his behalf, and I now know that there would be no point in doing that any way.

The noble Lord’s very serious point about the contribution of EU citizens—as well as of other people who were not born in this country—to public services, including the National Health Service, is well made and the Government are well aware of that.

My Lords, I would not dream of asking the Minister a question about how many EU citizens are involved in building houses because he is very proficient and I am sure he would not have that information. However, would he agree with my observation that many houses—for both incoming and existing families—are built with the endeavours of migrant workers from the EU?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is very kind and her point is well made. It is certainly the case that a significant number of people who work in construction are from communities that were born overseas. We have regular discussions with the construction management board to ensure that the needs of that sector are taken account of, in view of the independent Farmer review which looked at that area.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that our universities are—along with those in the United States of America—the best in the world? This is greatly because of the foreigners who make up almost one-third of our academics. According to a recent report, almost 50% of academics in some subjects are from abroad. Without them we would not have excellence. It does not matter that they were foreign born: they are of benefit to this country.

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very important point about our universities, which I think are the best in the world, independently of America. Many people in them are undoubtedly from overseas, including many students.

My Lords, the Minister rightly pointed to the contribution made by immigrants to the health service, but a growing proportion of households have someone needing care at home. A report today from the TUC suggested that 7% of social care workers are from other EEA countries, with others from outside the EU as well. What effect would it have on informal care in the home if immigration were significantly reduced?

My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a very valuable point about the care sector, a large number of the employees of which undoubtedly come from overseas—not just the European communities. The Government are well aware of this and it will inform our immigration policy. We recognise that we need significant numbers of the brightest and best people with particular skills for our public services and elsewhere.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, as the series of questions to which we have just listened shows, it is completely counter- productive to keep harping on about the quantity of immigration, not the quality?

My Lords, I think that that is the essence of the Government’s policy. We recognise the need for particular skills. We recognise that over time we have relied on the skills of immigrant communities who have made a massive contribution to national life, and continue to do so. I endorse what the noble Lord said.

My Lords, we have heard a number of questions and all of them have commented on the very good things—the advantages of immigration to this country. Will my noble friend tell me how many of those convicted of terrorism or aiding terrorism have been immigrants, and how many of them have been the children of immigrants?

My Lords, my noble friend will appreciate that I do not have those figures to hand, but it is undoubtedly the case that there are people from any community who are involved in crimes—terrorist crimes or other crimes. I will endeavour to get the figures that my noble friend asked for and ensure that a copy of the letter is placed in the Library.