Andrew Green: What’s the point of taking back control of immigration if we don’t reduce it?

27 Dec

Lord Green is President of MigrationWatch UK and a cross-bench peer.

The Trade Agreement announced on Christmas Eve has at last given us the very welcome opportunity to take back control of our laws, our trade, and our future.  The government is to be warmly congratulated.  Sadly,however, immigration has still not been effectively tackled.  What is the point of taking back control if we make no effective us of it to tackle this long standing public concern?

The new “points-based” immigration system comes into operation on January 1 but it will not reduce net migration. Indeed, it is far more likely to increase it substantially. What is certain is that it is by far the greatest shake up of the system for half a century with implications for the scale and nature of immigration which are huge. Despite this there has been virtually no Parliamentary scrutiny and, thanks largely to Covid and Brexit, very little public discussion.

Certainly, most of the public will be unaware that the new arrangements for recruiting immigrant workers represent a total surrender to every demand that employers could think of. The ‘consultation’ groups set up by the Home Office were dominated by business interests and their advisory committee is largely comprised of economists. The outcome was a scheme providing a bonanza for business at the expense of their workers. Although it was published before Covid struck, no adjustments whatsoever have been made to take account of the massive deterioration in the UK labour market that has resulted.

The Government claim that their “simple, effective and flexible system will ensure that employers can recruit the skilled workers they need, while also encouraging employers to train and invest in the UK’s workforce.” It is impossible to see how the second half of this claim can be achieved.

The list of concessions is truly extraordinary. Here is a summary of the seven main changes: / A summary of the seven main changes is at Annex A.

  • There is to be no cap whatever on the number of foreign workers that employers can bring in to the UK. The previous cap has been removed and the government have not retained a ready means of re-imposing it.
  • The skill levels required have been reduced substantially from degree level to A level. Curiously, they are to apply to the job not the applicant thus providing considerable scope for abuse.
  • The basic salary requirement has been greatly reduced from £30,000 to only £25,600.
  • An even lower salary of £20,480 is to suffice for anyone under the age of 26 on arrival. This is not much more than the National Living Wage and is bound to add to the competition faced by young British workers seeking promotion.
  • The requirement to first advertise jobs within the UK has simply been abandoned despite widespread public support for keeping this provision in place, including 78 per cent of those in “Red Wall” seats. (Deltapoll, May 2020).
  • The salary requirement for settlement has been reduced by a massive £10,200 a year to £25,600. So foreign workers will find it easier to stay on, thus relieving employers from the need to train British replacements
  • All students will be able to stay on for an extra two years after they finish studying so as to work in the UK, even if that is no more than stacking shelves.

The impact of these changes is that some seven million jobs in the UK will be opened to new or increased competition by migrant workers at a lower threshold for both wages and qualifications. It is not hard to imagine that employers who have lost considerable sums over the past year will be tempted to employ cheaper labour from overseas. Others who see them gaining a competitive advantage will be sorely tempted to follow suit. This is what happened when our labour market was opened to workers from eight Eastern European members of the EU in 2004. Ten years later there was a similar outcome when Romanians and Bulgarians became able to come freely to work in the UK.

All this is to say nothing of the government’s decision to allow up to three million British Nationals (Overseas) to move from Hong Kong to Britain for work or settlement whenever they choose.

This outcome is the very opposite of “taking back control” of immigration. It is a betrayal of all those who are concerned about the sheer scale of immigration – that is 55 per cent of the population or 30 million adults. It is also a particular betrayal of many working class voters, especially in the “red wall” constituencies. A Deltapoll in these seats conducted over the summer found that 72 per cent of respondents supported strict controls on immigration (including 83 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters). So if the Government lose these constituencies on which their power is based, they will certainly have deserved it.

Andrew Green: As unemployment soars, why are Ministers harming our young people – by helping migrants compete for their jobs?

9 Sep

Lord Green is President of MigrationWatch UK and a cross-bench peer.

This week, the Government is promoting its “Kickstart” scheme – a £2 billion programme which Ministers claim will put young people at the heart of our economic recovery.

Really? So what about their “new entrant” route in the immigration system that will come into force in January? Perhaps this is another case of the left hand having no idea what the right hand is doing?

Very few people have realised what an impact this new route could have on our youngsters. Their employment prospects are already very worrying. Unemployment is likely to run into millions across the whole workforce, and our school leavers will already face strong competition from British workers who will have lost their jobs and who already have several years of work experience.

That is a daunting prospect, but it is made even worse by the special deal that the Government is planning to offer to employers to recruit young workers from all over the world.

The Government already intends to lower the qualifications required to work in the UK from degree level to A level, thus placing migrants in direct competition with our school leavers. Worse, there will be a special scheme for younger workers, under 26 when they first arrive, for whom the salary requirement will be only £20,480 per year – little more than the National Living Wage.

As if that was not enough, the Government is also planning to remove the current requirement that jobs should be advertised in the UK before being offered to workers from abroad. This has been a requirement for decades and for a very good reason – to require employers to give British workers a shot at applying before a job is given to a foreign applicant.

However, employers say this is inconvenient (no surprise there), so the Government is deferring to their wishes, and will abolish it from next January when the new immigration system comes into force.

And, on top of all that, there is to be no limit on the numbers, from all over the world and of whatever age, permitted to come to work in the UK.

Will they come? Of course they will, and not just “new entrants”. The number of foreign workers who meet these requirements and are likely to have the necessary level of English (so far unspecified) runs literally into tens of millions.

For many, the salary is far more than they could earn at home. Furthermore, some will have relatives already here who will encourage them. Others will be attracted by the right to settle here after five years – a right that also extends to “new entrants”

That in turn will bring the possibility of eventually bringing a wife, children and other dependants over from their home country with free education for any children and, after settlement, free health care for all. What is there not to like about such an offer?

As for the employers who have ruthlessly pressed for these arrangements, how will they respond? Well, of course, they will be out recruiting. Cheaper, obedient labour unlikely to unionise. What more could they ask for?

And, if you are in any doubt consider what happened when we opened our labour market to East European workers with no limit on numbers. Within four years, there were half a million in the UK, and hundreds of thousands more were taken on in the years following the Great Financial Crash while the number of unemployed British workers remained stubbornly high.

Then, some half a million Romanians and Bulgarians came following the opening up of the employment market to them in 2014. Remember that firm in Northampton that recruited a plane load of 300 Hungarians to make sandwiches? When the Government checked afterwards, they found that the firm had not even approached the local job centre to see if there were any British workers available.

So, in a nutshell, there is to be no limit on the number of foreign workers that employers can bring in to the UK and if they are under 26, have the equivalent of A Levels, and speak some English they can be brought in on pay not much higher than the living wage.

This scheme threatens the jobs, training and future of our young people. The number of young British workers who will be directly affected by this scheme is roughly one and a half million. They have had disruption enough in their young lives. The least that the Government can do in the current crisis is to withdraw this dangerous proposal.