Gordon Brown sides with business to reject peers appeal for curb on migrants
Philip Webster, Richard Ford
From The Times
April 2, 2008
Gordon Brown led opposition yesterday to calls from a heavyweight Lords committee for a cap on non-European Union immigration. He lined up with prominent business figures in rejecting suggestions from the Lords Economic Affairs Committee that record numbers of immigrants have had little or no impact on the economy.
At the same time, one member of the committee expressed strong reservations about its key recommendation that immigration should be measured by the impact on income per head of resident population. Lord Paul, a Labour peer, said that other peers had doubts about the proposal but had not been in a majority.
He said: The report does really concentrate on the benefits of immigration per capita, which I dont really agree with myself. We have a strong economy, we want a competitive economy and one of the things is that jobs will go to the immigrants. So what, as long as the country is happy with low inflation and a strong economy.
The report has again put immigration at the centre of the political debate, with David Cameron backing its proposal yesterday for controls on non-EU numbers entering Britain.
Peers: Immigration no benefit to economy
Home Office in illegal immigrants cover-up
Fears for Scots economy as Poles head home
Mr Brown said that the concerns raised were already being tackled by a new points based system that would allow only highly skilled workers into Britain. He said that immigration had added 6 billion to the economy, a substantial boost. He added that most British businesses that have faced labour shortages had benefited from being able to recruit more widely for skilled labour.
Speaking at his monthly news conference, Mr Brown said that the Australian-style points-based system would effectively restrict the numbers of people who come into this country from outside Europe. He said that a cap on immigrants could be applied only to those coming from outside the EU. Most people who are proposing a cap are proposing a cap of only 20 per cent of possible migrants into this country. Many of these people are the highly skilled workers who are important to the economy.
Mr Brown said that there would be a new citizenship fund, with people coming into the country being expected to contribute to the public services they use. There was also more financial help for local authorities to enable them to deal with the influx.
Lord Paul said that other peers on the committee doubted that the benefits of immigration should be measured by income per head of population. He said: I think a lot of them had anxiety that per capita was not the best measure but the evidence was not coming to back us.
Lord Paul, chairman and founder of the manufacturer Caparo, said: We have a strong economy, we have low inflation and that is because we are getting younger workers who are filling shortages. My company is short of people, skilled people. If we did not have the choice of migrants we would be closing factories and going overseas for production.
Lord Skidelsky, a crossbench peer who was on the committee, admitted that there had been debate over the issue but said it was not the tradition in the Lords committees for matters to be taken to a vote. Another member, who declined to be named, said he did not like the report.
Chris Hannant, head of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said that by focusing on gross domestic product the report had ignored the contribution made by immigrant labour in plugging the skills gaps blighting the economy. Many businesses are reliant on migrant workers because increasingly large numbers of British people do not have either the right skills or aptitude for work. David Coats, associate director of policy at The Work Foundation, said that the report seemed to be based on accentuate the negative, eliminate the positive. He said: They accept that there is very little evidence that migration has had an adverse impact on jobs or employment, no decisive evidence that immigration is pushing up youth unemployment and no incontrovertible data that the lowest paid have been most badly affected.
The committee, whose members include two former chancellors, took eight months to consider government immigration policies. It rejected claims by ministers that a high level of immigration was needed to prevent labour shortages. Members said also that the points-based system carried a clear danger of inconsistencies.
Mr Cameron said: We want people to work here and come to Britain. The problem with the Government is that they absolutely refuse to set any sort of limit on immigration.Its still possible to control nonEU immigration. Britains curry restaurants will have to rely on British-trained chefs rather than on migrants, the Prime Minister said yesterday. He dashed industry hopes that they would get a special deal to allow them to continue recruiting from the Indian sub-continent.
Every tradesman that I know of has been hit
Alan Harris recalls a golden age of plumbing. We were doing very nicely, he said. Everyone was sending their children to university, they were all coming out wanting to be Richard Branson and there were few qualified tradesmen. In those halcyon days, before the summer of 2004, plumbing seemed so worthwhile that barristers and bankers began retraining to fix toilets.
Then came the Eastern Europeans. Supposedly all these migrant workers were good for the economy, he said. I dont know of a single tradesman in this country who hasnt been hugely affected. Any self-respecting builder is going to get the cheapest labour available. A Polish worker is looking to make 10,000 a year to spend in Poland, where it will go a lot farther. His cost base is far lower.
Mr Harris still gets plenty of work fixing central heating boilers, for which plumbers need to be Corgi registered, but planned work has almost entirely dried up.
Workmen were more efficient and cheaper
In 2006 Ann Willis needed someone to paint her windows (Emily Monk and Will Pavia write). Two companies said that they would be unable to start the job for several months.
A friend told her that she had hired a Polish worker to paint her house. His name was Jack and when Mrs Willis called he instantly arranged a team of seven of his countrymen to paint the windows of her home on the outskirts of a village in Hampshire.
It was all done very efficiently and properly and much cheaper than the local people, she said.
Mrs Willis, 52, then hired a Polish handyman and gardener called Peter to help with her 50 acres of land and livery yard. I tried English people and I had a chap who was working for me at the same time as Peter, she said. He just couldnt turn his hand to as many things. Despite some Polish pupils being unable to speak English, Mrs Willis believes that immigrants in Hampshire are an asset to the community.
On the move
1.5m net immigration since 1997. Two thirds have come from Africa and Asia
190,000 projected annual net immigration until 2031
71m the estimated British population in 2031, compared with 60.6m in 2006
69% of population growth attributable, directly or indirectly, to future net migration
10% the proportion of the population that is foreign born, compared with 24 per cent in Australia, 19 per cent in Canada, 11 per cent in Netherlands and 11 per of Irish Republic
Source: Office for National Statistics
Have your say
In “An Inconvenient Truth” Al Gore talked about the disfunction in the Bush administration. He called it “The assault on Reason”.
What left leaning pundit would not agree that Bush has ignored the evidence to pursue policies supporting vested interest groups and pandering to bull headed bigots.
How ironic therefore that we now have a Leader who is doing exactly the same thing as Bush.
A body of experts with impeccable credentials and unrivalled experience have clearly spoken out about how mass immigration is damaging Britain. This report cannot be trashed, its writers are too well informed and too highly regarded.
So what does Brown do, he claims they are wrong, he has no evidence for this, he is motivated by party political rivalry, pandering to his vested interest groups and a conceipt that is unable to admit that it is wrong and that a huge wrong has been done to the nation.
How ironic that this “highly intellectual” PM is Leading An Attack On Reason”.
Well immigration ends up talking about bird flu, some comments obviously are secret codes or thick people not knowing what the hell they are talking about.
Immigration the dole idle people, totally agree let the Poles have the good jobs, like cleaning offices, guarding the government ministers, oh sorry that only goes to asylum seekers.
I have been looking for work for four years now I've done everything possible, OK I have no legs but I can bum it mates.
But the fact is every time I get close to a job along comes about twenty Polish workers and I back looking for work.
treborc, wales, uk
Jobs would not be going to immigrants if we made the idle sods who prefer the dole take up these jobs instead. What madness to force the taxpayer to support them and then fill the jobs they should be doing with immigrants who, in turn, are a burden on our resources.
James Wheeldon, Carnforth, UK
New Labour has reintroduce SLAVERY in Britain, I am working with people do not even have the basic comand of English such as please & thank you. They are a nightmare to work with. They do not have basic clenliness standard, they have brought in nothing but desease into Britain. TB is the main one. I left a Job three weeks ago because I could not take the high levels of contagious desease in my place of work, I just walked out I was sick of people seneezing in my face, and coughing in my face, one came in and openly admitted to having a contagious desease, and I was out of there the next day, I value my health. I was violently ill after been there only a week, I was worried for my health and safety. I had never in my life worked in a place where every one was ill in my life, one Indian managed to infect every one in the work place and the employer was not interested. Openly wiped his nose with his hands and every thing he touched every one else had to handle, I wore gloves.
daphne kenward, Cambridge, UK
I am concerned by TB in Britain, and I am concerned about buying pre packaged goods, because I do not know by what standard they have been handled. The other most scary thing I have been faced with is the amount of people who have nasty old mens cough in Britain. It is sickening to hear. I was asked in the 90's when I was on Holidays in Antigua why all the British people seem to be coughing up rotten flesh, whats wrong with them I had not noticed it. I live in a rural area, and did not come in contact with huge numbers of people. To be honest I am seriously considering leaving Britain because I think they is a plauge round the corner and it was introduced into Britain by people coming from places with vile deseases. Because no one is checked for desease. I don't want to be caught up in it, we have a health service but it could not cope with a major out break of TB or Bird Flu.
daphne kenward, Cambridge, UK
I have been a stauch supporter of the Labour party most of my life, but now, unless they stop the immigrants cming into this country, I and most of my friends aee definately NOT going to vote for the Labour party.
Also, i think it was the Conservities who were the first ones to open the doors of Britain to immigrants, so i dont think thier much better than Labour.
Both parties seem determined to spoil Britain for the British..
Emma , Manchester, UK
Immigration in Britain is only a symptom of much wider Global issues. Want to stop non-EU immigration? Start trading fairly and stop participating in armed conflict. It is not a coincidence that a very large number of immigrants in recent years come from places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. BIG PICTURE PLEASE!!!
Mr Brown and co are simply deluded. If they would care to visit an
any small town across the country they would be confronted by a
lost generation of unemployed youth (male and female) perambulating in the afternoon in town centres with their offspring
in expensive buggies whilst the rest work. Would boredom then be the trigger for antisocial behaviour in the evenings? The failure of the education system and with it, social engineering, has meant that particularly Poles are better employees than the
indigenous population (incidentally, even in communist times they didn't mess about with their education system – they have always had selective education) and so no wonder employers prefer them
what is to happen to the indigenous population thrown on to the
scrap heap already? Who is going to pay for them in a recession? Even high taxation will not cover the needs of a huge
rump of economically inactive citizens.
Elizabeth Cummings, London,
This whole immigration issue seems to me little more than a modern day version of slave labour. The reason the Govt wants them here is for very cheap labour, often not even on minimum wage, and they appear to deliberately want them to undercut English tradesmen and to drive wages down. I feel very sorry for so many tradespeople and I can tell you that loads of them have moved to France and Spain and probably Oz too, because there they can still earn a decent wage and not be forced to compete with unskilled migrants sleeping 10 to a house, with no insurance and other business costs. In most other countries indigenous workers would be protected from all this, but Labour appears to be determined to break the backbone of our fellow workers.
Michel, Guildford, UK
This Labour government couldn't care less about the British working class. If you're a worker, you should look to the Conservatives. 6 billion benefit to the economy? The reality is that the low-cost Eastern Europeans are perpetuating a high-cost welfare state which supports the millions of British unemployed stashed away under headings like “disabled”, “training”, “higher education”, etc., and is funded by swingeing taxes on those of us in work.
Add the social cost, the education cost, the health cost and the cultural impact, and there's your 6 billion gone, and more besides.
And just how many more should Britain take in as 'refugees' or 'immigrants'? Is the flood of entrants into the country to go on ad infinitum? And how does the Government propose to finance the rising cost of taking care of these people? And tell me why the indigenous people of the UK should have do suffer a decline in their living standards (i.e. hospital care, housing, social security schemes, etc) as a result of those who hold the reigns of power seemingly heedless of people's concerns on this matter? It doesn't take a genius to see that is why so many voters are now turning to the British National Party in ever-increasing numbers.
Colin Cumner, Adelaide, South Australia
Forget all the 'cultural' arguments, the real issue is population density. This overcrowded island we live on cannot sustain the existing level of population, never mind any more!
Immigration is a vicious circle that feeds on itself making a few business men wealthy.
I have one question for Brown, is it moral that migrants are daily bent double in the cold fields of East Anglia picking vegetables, the economics of which only benefit the landowner and the supermarkets.
If we were a clever nation these jobs would be done by machine, it is 2006 not 1906.
wayne, huntingdon, cambridgeshire
“Britain, the lifeboat to the world, but remember, even a lifeboat can sink! ” …—… …—… …—… New Labour's time is almost past. It's possible they will be replaced with the spoilt ballot paper party if politics is not cleaned up rapidly and politicians start to hear the public voice! Politicians do not appear to possess the common sense of their electorate, blindly believing they know best in all things, when obviously they do not!
Brown misses the point. Immigration may well be beneficial economically, but at what cost to our culture? This government harps on about Britishness, but has done everything it can over the last 11 years to undermine it. This country needs to be a little more selfish and protect itself from the foreign onslaught that will only worsen as population pressures increasingly force people out of Africa and Asia and onto our shores.
In other words, the Prime Minister and “prominent business figures” want cheap and easily manipulated labour, even if it comes from abroad and is at the cost of jobs for native-born citizens of Great Britain.
Bob Evans, Anaheim, California
I used to work for Cadbury Nigeria PLC at a senior management level until I took early retirement last year to pick up an HSMP opportunity in the UK.Since coming, I have started a small trading company of mine with funds brought in from my terminal benefits in Nigeria.The small business has had multiplier effect on warehousing, goods delivery, customs and the FMCG retail segments of the British economy.Relative to my invested money, I havent made any appreciable profits.Im not even sure that I havent made a loss when I compound my cost of living in the UK.The Lords report is baseless.The global economy is in a flux of cross dependency .Today, more british citizens work in Nigeria than ten years ago.At Cadbury Nigeria, the top management echelon is nearly, entirely british.Should we also send them back to Britain?The House of Lords should engage in more useful ventures than such trite, baseless and unreasoned xenophobic reports.Money and skills will continue to move around the world.
Gbolahan Akinbode, Basildon, Essex, UK
As the article shows, the middle classes approve because they can find someone to “do” for them on the cheap. Employers approve as there is a pool of unskilled labour to be hired and fired according to seasonal or economic fluctuations. These supposed benefits will be more than offset by the cost of new infrastructure, of which there has been very little in the last 10 years. Immigration does nothing towards reducing the balance of trade deficit. If it is being justified to overcome the effects of an aging population, it has to continue indefinitely as the immigrants themselves age. The welfare state itself encourages the youth of today to under-achieve or remain idle, and state support for retraining the older person wishing to work has diminished. The Lords Committee is correct. The country should look to its own before opening the flood gates. Add an extra 10 million to the population, and there will be no quality of life. It will be standing room only.
Dwight Vandryver, Scholar Green, Cheshire, UK
Unfortunately it is already too late. As an English-born Australian citizen I can remember the wonderful country England used to be. Now it is ruled by a Scot who wants it to be ruled by a huge bunch of apparently corrupt foreigners in Brussels, and he has already said that he will not take any notice of the House of Lords report. Thank God I won't be alive when Britain becomes a muslim caliphate.
James, Perth Western Australia.
James Wells, Perth, Western Australia
It is not about EU immigration as long as the workers pay tax and integrate in to society, the issue that upsets people is Non EU immigration and the large number of unskilled workers working and not paying tax!!!!
My small home town, Redcar. has over 20 Kebab shops run by migrant workers… is this a record?
James , Shanghai,
The positive examples given are skilled eastern European workers who generally fit into our culture. We should definitely stop non EU, unskilled workers coming here and remove all illegals, no pussy footing around rather than the unofficial amnesties…Cutting these groups out would probably improve the figures supporting migration overall. Obviously stopping unskilled EU immigrants arriving is impossible due to the treaties we have signed – so remember to oppose Turkey's membership!
Jason, Leeds, England
Gordon Brown has gold plated pension. The middle classes are funding these migrantion through high taxation without seeing any real benefit to their own standard of living which is dropping to pay for Brown's poor policy and where are the poor coming from Africa, Eastern Europe, India.
steve tea, manchester, cheshire
Read all 22 comments
Have your say