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"

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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.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    "348. KingoftheChavs
    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules"

    I suggest you stick to the topic in hand and not make wild, and totally inaccurate, assumptions about the motivations and means of other contributors to the discussion. If you moniker is not representative of you change it but don't assume anything about anyone else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    The UK pays Spain the full cost of providing "free" healthcare to qualifying British pensioners resident there. So lets put that one to bed right now eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    What rubbish !!! No non UK national should be aloud into the UK unless they have employment to come to be it £31k or more, and then only be aloud to remain in the UK for a max of 2 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    There is what politicians are not telling you... A non-EU immigrant has to demonstrate that no UK or EU citizen can do what she/he does. Non-EU visas state clearly: "No recourse to public funds". So no benefits claimed, just paying taxes. EU migrants are those taking the benefits and UK jobs, and of course... useless civil servants that allow people to come here and claim benefits illegaly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    You just condemned thousands of tons of East Anglian vegetables and Kentish fruit to rot where it lies. Cheers."

    Very drole. But theres no reason we cant be putting a boot up the backsides of our layabouts for those jobs - we have such high unemployment and homelessness its ridiculous we take in low/unskilled workers from abroad - we could be training/employing our own

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    tim 333
    so we've got millions of people who are being paid to do nothing and you don't think any of them could retrain to replace foreigners working here ?
    If these millions were really determined to get a job and earn money, they would do. However most prob wouldn't turn up to the re-training.

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    I am now going to have to go home and tell my Filipina girlfriend that our lives have been made even more difficult. Thanks Damien.

  • Comment number 353.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    The reason many non-EU immigrants come here, rather than stay in larger countries like France or Spain they pass through on their way here is simple: they speak enough English to get by here, and they haven't learned French or Spanish or German.

    Maybe we should stop sending English-language teachers out into the world? Besides, we could use a few here on this forum!

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    Ian Alexander
    2 Hours ago

    So as a disabled person on a reduced income I would not be allowed to bring my non EU partner to my country? I think there is a Human Right issue here.

    This comment has a -14 rating?!? Hello, nazi Britain! Where have you been?

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    "339. tonep
    310 simplesimon

    "we should only accept imigrants with professions and skills we want; Engineers, Scientists, Doctors, Researchers etc."

    You just condemned thousands of tons of East Anglian vegetables and Kentish fruit to rot where it lies. Cheers."

    You mean there's 100% employment in Anglia and Kent?

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    311. pitchforksout
    Immigration unchecked has the capacity to turn back the clock on the progress made both socially and fianancially since the end of WW2 in the UK.
    Thing is you cant stop the clock either.
    Culture and tradition evolve over time, always has done always will.
    Having said that immigration has to be controlled and not left to the profit hungry, free market, low wage brigade...

  • Comment number 348.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    251. Spectrum21
    The UK is NOT overcrowded - the cities have high population densities, but so so all cities over the entire globe.
    89% of the population live in urban areas... 89% That leaves a hell of a lot of room in the countryside.

    Fantastic then lets start that high-rise development in The New Forest now shall we! Wouldnt want the new arrivals to feel cramped.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.

    Several comments along the lines of 'bosses benefit from cheaper wages' well there may be some truth in this but that's OK because I'm a boss and so is nearly everybody here.

    When I spend my cash I'm the boss. Cheaper wages means cheaper goods and services so my money goes further. So we've all had a sort of pay rise because prices haven't gone up as much

  • 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?

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    With our celtic, anglo-saxon, viking etc roots, we're mixed race,"

    Nope, all those are descended from the Indo-Europeans who were settled around the Russian Steppes about 5-6000 years ago and spoke the ancestral language of all European languages except Basque, Magyar and Finnish/Estonian. Iranians and N Indians are also descended from these peoples.

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    313 Gort2012.

    I presume that on attaining independence all Scots living in England will be repatriated before day 1, whatever their salary and marital status. That is at least whilst Scotland's membership of the EU is in some doubt. Just imagine the number of jobs up for grabs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

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

    Does anyone else feel uncontrollable rage when reading the above?

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    That is nonsensical. What defines the British "quality of life"?
    If Indians and Pakistani hadn't brought in their curry, if the Chinese hadn't brought in their cuisine, if the Turks hadn't brought in their kebabs, the only take away option would be fish and chips! Any and every culture has value (EU and non EU) and diversity adds to the quality of life!!! Why this arbitrary £31K?????????


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