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 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 579.

    This is essential, for too long the UK has been importing poverty.

    People should speak English, be able to support themselves and their relations and be able to earn sufficient to pay tax.

  • rate this

    Comment number 578.

    What with benefit levels higher for non-working familes than working families, uncontrolled immigration (we signed away our EU veto), a mountain of debt created in the good times and the rest of the myriad of problems...

    What on earth was the last government doing? They should all be disbarred from ever holding public office again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 577.

    557 Mr Max. History? Clearly not your strong point. My point? Immigration (like Europeans into America/Australia) is inevitable. Contribution to quality of life is conceptually vague and subjective. Come on, do keep up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 576.

    The cut off point has to come somewhere and there will be some harsh decisions from an individuals pov, but everythings not cut and dry - so those couples will just have to deal with it. Theres no automatic distinction between 'good immigration' and 'bad imigration' so draw a line and deliver the bad news.

    If something could be done about EU migration, things would no doubt be different

  • Comment number 575.

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

  • Comment number 574.

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

  • Comment number 573.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 572.

    I used to believe that ALL immigration is good. But recent studies have indicated it is debatable if low paid immigrants have a positive effect on the economy. That is, whilst 99% of immigrants work hard, the tax the low paid contribute is low and the "welfare" they use is high resulting in a negative financial impact. The Gov has a responsibility to the voting population and their taxes etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 571.

    I don't mind immigrants coming in, but we must cherry pick only the best. Doctors, scientists, and business people; only that sort will do. The rest are economic and should be sent home. The only exception I would make would be for political asylum seekers. We have a long history of tolerance & far play, long may it continue (for the genuine).

  • rate this

    Comment number 570.

    If this idea becomes a policy, there is a danger that non-EU citizens will not take up British Citizenship and would remain on Indefinite leave to remain. This would negate the whole aim of "integration"

  • rate this

    Comment number 569.

    Just policing our borders properly by stopping/removing all the illegals coming in would be a bloody good start.

    Now that I do agree on. If you want to be here and be part of it, play by the rules. I have done so for years and will continue to do so.

    What we don't need though is xenophobia, It sounds like Kristallnacht in the making all over again. Google it.....

  • Comment number 568.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    People think immigration is only a concept supported by Labour?

    Tories are just figureheads for big business who love a cheap work force to maximise profits. There's no way the Tories are against immigration, quite the contrary and they're playing you for fools if you think otherwise.

    EU freedom of movement, the immigration figure we can't control? Tories gave it to us.

    Not just Labour's fault.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    A bit of common sense at last. The government also needs to stop the practise of bringing in brides and family members from abroad. That is loophole that allows in far too many unskilled non-english speakers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    Damian Green - immigration is bad for GDP

    Where are the figures?
    He is the man in charge there should be an actual amount!

    Not just a point of view!

    Immigration introduces cultural strains when concentrate in one area not employing locals but this is not a GDP issue.

    It is a divisive issue and we need facts not just opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.

    If citizens of the West switched places, all moving to a poor country, giving the citizens of poor countries the no time we would make our new country better and the new Westerners would want to immigrate back home. IOW wherever we go to live we take our culture & problems with us. People recreate what is familiar. Say home & fix what is wrong with your own country - give it quality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    Damian Green has said. Britain does not need more "middle managers" or unskilled labour.

    Pretty much rules out politicians then.

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    512.ShatnersBasoon "Why not... live in the poor person's country?"
    Because not everyone who marries a Brit is from the 3rd world. Many are from the US, Canada, Aus, NZ... all countries which are also clamping down on overseas spouses. In our case (I'm the Brit, wife is US) the goalposts will be moved halfway through the process - result being that our son will grow up without one of his parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    I read an article in the standard a while ago about the lack of bengali chefs and how immigration controls would close restaurants. Someone pointed out that plenty of asian women could do the job. Isn't this the point? We have plenty of people who can do low paid jobs and we need to solve the How. If we are lacking certain skills then these should be free from tuition fees at uni.


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