Immigrants 'must add to quality of life in Britain'

UKBA The government has pledged to cut net migration from the current 242,000 to the "tens of thousands"

Related Stories

People coming to live in the UK from outside the EU must "add to the quality of life in Britain", immigration minister Damian Green has said.

He argued Britain does not need more "middle managers" or unskilled labour and those who settle could have to command a salary of more than £31,000.

Any British citizen who wants to bring in a non-EU spouse should also meet a minimum salary level, he added.

Labour said ministers had set out "no workable proposals" to cut immigration.

The government has pledged to cut net migration from 242,000 - the figure for the year ending September 2010 - to the "tens of thousands" last seen in the 1990s.

As part of that the number of people from outside the EU coming to the UK to work will be capped.

National consensus

In his speech to the Policy Exchange in London, Mr Green referred to a report by the government's Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) which found there were up to 23 fewer jobs for British workers for every additional 100 working migrants coming from outside the EU.

He said it disproved the "old assumption" that "as immigration adds to GDP it is economically a good thing, and that therefore logically the more immigration the better, whatever the social consequences".


Conservative ministers have focused on cutting the numbers of immigrants - but this speech is about a vision of what the remainder all adds up to.

At its heart is an idea that has long driven policy in countries like Australia and the US: You only get in if you're good enough - and only if Britain wants you.

It's a markets-led approach to economic migration. The UK should select only what it needs from a global stall of workers.

Labour tried to sell this idea - but struggled to get the message across because, as it admitted, the system wasn't fit for purpose.

The criticism Damian Green will face is that he's focusing on immigration rights for the wealthy despite the lower-paid also paying their way and keeping Britain moving

Ministers know that public trust in immigration is the prize. A lot of that trust will depend on the reforms to the system itself.

"That was the view of the previous government in its early years, and it is still the view of Tony Blair and some of his former advisers," he said.

"It is not my view, or the view of the vast majority of the British people.

"The key insight of the Mac's work is that the measure of a successful immigration policy is how it increases the wealth of the resident population."

Mr Green said he wanted to build a "national consensus" around immigration, adding: "Importing economic dependency on the state is unacceptable.

"Bringing people to this country who can play no role in the life of this country is equally unacceptable."

He said he wanted anyone moving to the UK to join a British spouse "to be able to integrate and be independent", which was why a requirement to speak English was being introduced.

But he said he was also proposing to set a minimum income level for any sponsor seeking to bring in a foreign spouse - and said the recommended level from Mac was between £18,600 and £25,700.

The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said that would be "hammer blow to the human rights of cross border partners and their families".

Chief executive Habib Rahman said: "They've already been hit with an age minimum (although we defeated that), language requirements and ever increasing visa fees. Now they face what is likely to be an unreasonably high income threshold.

"One might argue that this government has it in for poor people who fall in love with anyone who's not resident in the UK."

Skill shortages

Ahead of his speech, Mr Green told BBC Radio Kent he wanted "to be much more intelligently selective about who we let come here", and that anyone individual seeking permanent settlement should be able to command a salary of between £31,000 and £49,000.

"We need to know that you're not going to be living off benefits from day one of arriving here.

Start Quote

The government is still weakening action on illegal immigration, abandoning checks at our border during the summer”

End Quote Chris Bryant Shadow immigration minister

"We want people either to fill skill gaps we may have... [or] we want to know that they are being offered jobs that are genuinely at a skill level.

"Similarly with students, we want to make sure that they are genuine student studying genuine courses at a genuine institution."

New specialist routes will be developed further to improve the visa system for short-term business visitors and entertainers, as well as a "young talent" scheme to encourage the entrepreneurs and scientists of the future to immigrate.

But on the subject of professions suffering from shortages, such as nursing, Mr Green said there was "no reason why Britain should have a permanent shortage of nurses" and any use of foreign workers should be temporary.

He said importing unskilled labour had "caused enough problems when there was an economic boom on" and would be completely "wrong-headed" in tougher times.

'Massive gap'

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migration Watch UK, said it had to be the "right approach" to try to get immigration down by being "much more selective".

"We need to consider the common good, not just the demands of special interest groups who benefit financially from immigration," he said.

Shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant said Labour agreed with the need for national consensus but there was "still a massive gap between the government's rhetoric and the reality on immigration".

"David Cameron pledged 'no ifs, no buts', net migration would be in the tens of thousands by the end of the Parliament. Yet the minister today has again set out no workable proposals to deliver it," he said.

"And the government is still weakening action on illegal immigration, abandoning checks at our border during the summer, stopping the routine fingerprinting of illegal immigrants trying to enter the UK through the Channel Tunnel, and seeing the number of people removed for breaking the rules going down not up."

The government has promised to crack down on sham and forced marriages, and last year consulted on plans to create a more formal test to define whether a relationship is genuine.

This could involve UK Border Agency case workers questioning a couple to see whether they are able to provide accurate personal details about each other and whether they agree on the facts of their relationship, for example how they met.


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 580.

    I've been living in this country for 8 yrs, Paid nearly £60000 tax only in last financial year. Never claimed any benefit. My children goes to private school. I think Govt should stop demonizing immigrants for all their problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    The only part of this I am not happy with is having a wage cap for a couple who want to marry and live together in the UK. Assuming the marriage is genuine, the amount you earn shouldn't matter, as another thing this country is lacking in is stable families. I do agree though that the spouse should have a certain amount of UK knowledge and be able to speak English so that they can integrate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    I think this new proposal is ludicrous. I am 23 and was married in August to my husband who lives in America but is of Colombian Nationality. I have never taken benefits, I do no earn a lot of money but it is enough and when he comes here his income will be much the same as mine. Just because he was born outside the EU does not mean I should give up my right to a family life. It is preposterous!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    I'm a non-EU immigrant here as a spouse and with Indefinite Leave to Remain and have spent the last four years contributing to the UK economy and working to assimilate myself into British society and culture. As a tax payer should I be up in arms that the immigrants are using UK resources? Or as an immigrant should I be shocked and appalled and the callousness of the proposal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Spouse and I retired to France 5 years ago. Early retirees, we are only now eligible to join health service, have paid income tax here since arriving, can't vote except for village council, and are made welcome. All forms are in French only. Don't know many other English speakers and have made many friends here, while working on French language skills.
    Why is immigration to UK so different?


Comments 5 of 11


More Politics stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.