Reid launches independent committee to advise on immigration
Matthew Tempest and agencies
Wednesday November 29, 2006
John Reid today unveiled plans for a new, independent “migration advisory committee” which will advise the government on skills and job shortages in the British economy, and how to fill them with workers from abroad.
First mooted by the home secretary in August – just after he took over the department and branded it “not fit for purpose” – the board is modelled on the Bank of England's monetary policy committee, which sets interest rates and is designed to take the “politics” out of the issue.
It was welcomed today by the heads of both the CBI and TUC.
The MAC is due to come into force next April, with a consultation between now and then on its exact powers.
The consultation will also seek views on the composition of the committee from business representatives, local authorities, trade union groups and community leaders.
Also up for debate is the MAC's exact remit, with the Home Office suggesting that it should provide “the most up-to-date information on labour market trends, skills shortages and the wider impacts of migration, helping to ensure that migration into the UK is balanced alongside the needs of both the economy and society”.
But it would also be responsible for weighing those benefits against “wider” factors, such as whether the immigration could damage cohesion in communities, and whether it might discourage companies from training local workers and investing in new technology.
For the first time, from 2008, the UK will introduce a points system for migrants' skills, partly based on the Australian model, and proposed by Michael Howard's Conservatives at the last election.
At the launch of the MAC, at the TUC today, the immigration minister Liam Byrne said that the committee would help the government “set the bar in the right place”.
“The MAC will generate a more open debate about the level of immigration that is good for Britain.
“For some kinds of migration, such as low-skilled labour, the debate is about the right limit, but for others we think the question is about how high the standards need to be for people to come and work here.”
Supporting today's launch, the CBI's deputy director general, John Cridland, added: “Migrant workers have brought huge benefits to the UK economy and employers support the government's managed migration policy.
“It is important that business and the general public are confident that the migration system is controlled, yet open and flexible.
Welcoming today's announcement, the TUC's general secretary, Brendan Barber, said the MAC could improve government decision-making.
Mr Barber added: “The best way to make the case for the positive role of migrant workers and prevent undercutting is to ensure they get the same rights and respect that all workers deserve.
“A new committee needs to focus on preventing migrant workers facing exploitation from employers evading their legal and moral responsibilities.”
John Cridland of the CBI said: “The CBI looks forward to working with the Home Office in defining the role and shape of the new committee.”