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Net Migration

Volume 801: debated on Monday 3 February 2020


Asked by

My Lords, as outlined in the Government’s manifesto, we will shortly set out plans for a new immigration system that will give us full control over who comes in and goes out of the UK and will lead to an overall reduction in numbers.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. I declare my interest as president of Migration Watch UK. I am afraid that I do not have a booklet to wave, but I speak for 30 million UK adults who wish to see immigration reduced.

Read all about it on our website, and you will see how we got that figure. Last week, the Migration Advisory Committee made some recommendations that, on its own admission, would result in 16 million jobs becoming open to worldwide competition. Clearly a rapid increase in immigration is a considerable risk, as indeed has happened on a number of occasions, so will the Government, as a precaution, take powers to introduce a cap should that prove necessary?

My Lords, we will introduce a new, points-based immigration system, and of course we will have the immigration and social security co-ordination Bill later this year. Noble Lords will know that reviewing legislation, having introduced it, will be at the top of the Government’s mind when they look at their overall priority of bringing the numbers down.

My Lords, what assessment has been made on provision of care if net migration is reduced? There is real concern in the care sector, as well as in the health sector, that it could cause problems if the noble Lord’s aim of reducing net migration were achieved in that sector.

It is fair to say that the Government want to import the skills needed for the gaps in the market. We are looking to reduce low-skilled migration overall but will introduce a points-based system focused on skills and talents. That combination will mean that overall numbers will come down, I hope.

What assumptions have the Government made about people leaving the UK—in other words, emigration, which is a component of net migration?

There is now net positive migration, which has been pretty much steady over the last few years, so we are not currently seeing net emigration.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that a sure way to reduce potential immigration is to consider refugees fleeing from local conflicts, which is made horrendously worse by the intervention and bombing carried out by Russia and the western powers?

The noble Lord will agree that, as a country, we are absolutely committed to giving people our safety and refuge where they need it and are fleeing war-torn countries. That goes to our values as citizens, and it will continue.

My Lords, while the MAC’s recommendation to reduce the salary cap to £26,500 is welcome, does the Minister agree that there has been a failure to recognise regional differentiation and areas of employment like social care where the levels of pay are much lower? That has not been taken adequately seriously by the MAC.

There have been several looks at the shortage occupation list. In fact, there does not tend to be a terribly big regional variation between the needs of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales: the list is pretty similar across the nations. Of course, someone taking up a job in Scotland through a regional shortage occupation list could then just migrate further south if such a system were introduced.

My Lords, what conclusion do the Government draw from the fact that my home city of Cambridge is one of the places in the country with the highest level of inward migration and the city with the highest level of employment in Europe?

As my noble friend will agree, Cambridge is a city with a huge number of people doing research and innovation, and with the best university in the country, I would say—apart from Oxford; I do not want to irritate anyone from Oxford. That is why Cambridge attracts such inward migration within the UK.

Despite the Minister’s assiduously giving an impression to the contrary, will she confirm that the only reason the net migration figure has not been much lower since 2010 has been a—many would say correct—government policy not to reduce net migration from non-EU countries, over which the Government have had control, which has been higher than net migration from EU countries? Will she also confirm that the only reason that net migration might not be lower in future is exactly the same as has applied to net migration over the past decade: a de facto government policy decision that it would not be in Britain’s interests to go down that road?

The Government are absolutely clear that we want the brightest and best to come to work and live in this country. Following our exit from the European Union, non-EU citizens will be treated just the same as EU citizens.

My Lords, if we want a cap on net triggers, what about a cap on what is happening in Syria, in Afghanistan and in terms of climate change? These are things we must respond to, if we have any heart at all. Will the Minister go along with this: we must prepare for increased numbers instead of reduced numbers?

I do not know to which cap the noble Lord refers. We certainly have some very ambitious targets for the people who need our refuge and support from that region. The Prime Minister has already pledged that the UK will take 5,000 refugees from the broader region than just Syria, in this year alone, which is a very generous offer.