(Report By Shahid Qureshi) Prime Minister David Cameron discussed government plans to control immigration ahead of the Queen’s Speech.
Two weeks ago the people of Britain spoke. They voted for a majority Conservative government.
In doing so, their message was clear: They wanted a government that was on their side; that backed them; that would help them get on – a government for working people. Across the spectrum it was a clear command to deliver: Sound finances, lower taxes, better schools, more homes, an improved NHS.
Included in those demands was something else: immigration properly controlled. That desire is in no way at odds with how proud we are of our diversity. Poles who fought with us in the Battle of Britain. West Indians who helped rebuild our country after the war. Asians from East Africa and the sub-continent who have brought enterprise to our country. All those who have come to make a life, work hard, back our public services. These people help make our country strong.
So while a strong country isn’t one that pulls up the drawbridge, it is one that controls immigration. That’s what people – people of all backgrounds – voted for. And they were right to do so. Why is it right? Because if you have uncontrolled immigration, you have uncontrolled pressure on public services. And that raises basic issues of fairness. Uncontrolled immigration can damage our labour market and push down wages. And working people want a government that is on their side. Uncontrolled immigration means too many people entering the UK legally but staying illegally. And people are fed up with a system that allows those who are not meant to be in our country to remain here.
What we’ve done
The British people want these things sorted. Over the past 5 years, we’ve been working towards that. We’ve fundamentally changed the approach taken by Labour. Bogus colleges – we shut them down. Paying the rent and dole of jobless migrants – we stopped it. Illegal immigrants driving on our roads – we revoked their licences – over 9000 of them. People from outside Europe using the NHS for free – we’re now charging them and putting the money back into our health service. We clamped down on the fake brides and grooms entering into sham marriages, brought in exit checks so we will know who is here and whether they should have gone home, and said to all parts of government: controlling immigration isn’t just a job for the Home Office, it’s a job for health, employment, housing, education, business – everyone. It’s what I call a whole government approach and I want to thank everyone here, from all different departments as well as the Home Office, for the role you play in that.
We also recognised that we needed to reduce the demand for migrant labour by making our own people able and willing to do the jobs this country needs. And with 2 million more apprenticeships, radical welfare reform, and a system where it pays to work, we are getting there. There were times under Labour when 90% of job growth was taken up by foreign nationals, under us, the majority of the rise in employment – a record 1,000 jobs for every day we’ve been in office – has gone to Brits.
Conservative majority approach
But today’s (21 May 2015) figures show how far we have to go to reach our goal. They show that more than ever, this country needs a majority Conservative government, one which aims to get net migration into the tens of thousands – and that remains our ambition. I said on the steps of Downing Street we would be a ‘one nation’ party.
That means governing for every single person in Britain: for the mum worrying about her child getting a school place; for the pensioner fearing he won’t get the hospital appointment he needs; for the Asian family whose business is being undercut by illegal traders; for the young couple praying that someone won’t jump ahead of them on the housing list and yes – for the migrants trafficked here to live in appalling conditions on pitiful wages. We are for them. We are for working people. For them, we will control immigration.
Now we’re on our own in government, we can be stronger. Our ‘one nation’ approach will be tougher, fairer and faster. That starts next week, with a new Immigration Bill included in the Queens Speech. That bill, and the further measures we’ll pursue, will focus on 3 big things:
- Dealing with those who shouldn’t be here, by rooting out illegal immigrants and boosting deportations.
- Reforming our immigration and labour market rules, so we reduce the demand for skilled migrant labour and crack down on the exploitation of low-skilled workers.
- Addressing the spike in EU migration by renegotiating in Europe.
They’re the 3 big things we will do – the 3 things I want to talk about today. And I can announce that we will push them forward with a new Immigration Taskforce, one which I will chair, and which will hold every part of government to account on our relentless drive to control immigration.
Those who shouldn’t be here
So first: dealing with those who shouldn’t be here. That starts with making Britain a less attractive place to come and work illegally. The truth is it has been too easy to work illegally and employ illegal workers here. So we’ll take a radical step – we’ll make illegal working a criminal offence in its own right. That means wages paid to illegal migrants will be seized as proceeds of crime. More businesses will be told when their workers’ visas expire, so if you’re involved in illegal working – employer or employee – you’re breaking the law.
There are other ways we can identify those who shouldn’t be here, for example through housing. For the first time we’ve had landlords checking whether their tenants are here legally. The Liberal Democrats only wanted us to run a pilot on that one. But now we’ve got a majority, we will roll it out nationwide and we’ll change the rules so landlords can evict illegal immigrants more quickly. We’ll also crack down on the unscrupulous landlords who cram houses full of illegal migrants, by introducing a new mandatory licensing regime. And, a bit like ending jobs when visas expire, we’ll consult on cancelling tenancies automatically at the same point.
It’s not just through housing and jobs; we can track down illegal migrants through the banking system too. We’ve already made sure banks can’t let illegal immigrants open new accounts. With our new bill, we will ensure banks take action against existing accounts held by illegal immigrants. Of course, once we’ve found the illegal immigrants, we need to be tougher in removing them.
We’ve already introduced a “deport first; appeal later” rule for foreign criminals claiming a so-called right to family life. It means if you’ve committed a crime and you’re not meant to be here, you have to go home before you can appeal. Next we will extend that to all immigration appeals, except asylum cases. That’s a big step: preventing people from staying on and on with appeal after appeal. And for those criminals due to be deported, we will introduce satellite tracking tags, so we always know exactly where they are.
Immigration and labour market rules
Second: we will reform our immigration and labour market rules, reducing the demand for skilled workers, and cracking down on those who exploit low-skilled workers. That starts with training our own people. For too long we’ve had a shortage of workers in certain roles. Engineers, nurses, teachers, chefs – we haven’t had enough Brits trained in these areas and companies have had to fill the gaps with people from overseas. With Sajid Javid as the new business secretary we’re going to get far better at training our own people. This involves creating 3 million more apprenticeships – and we will consult on getting the businesses that use foreign labour to help fund them through a new visa levy.
And today I can announce we will consult on another big change. As we improve the training of British workers, we should – over time – be able to lower the number of skilled workers we have to bring in from elsewhere. So as we embark on this massive skills drive, we will ask the Migration Advisory Committee to advise on significantly reducing the level of economic migration from outside the EU.
We should be getting to a place where we only bring in workers from outside Europe where we have genuine skills shortages or require highly-specialist experts. Some professions are on the Shortage Occupation List year after year and nothing is being done about it. That’s not good enough. So we will seek to limit the length of time professions can be classed as having shortages. So sectors that have become over-reliant on migrant workers will be encouraged to train Brits instead.
What’s more, we’ll make it illegal for employment agencies to recruit solely from abroad without advertising those jobs in Britain and in English. But it’s not only our skills gaps that act as a pull factor for migrants; it’s the businesses who exploit cheap labour from overseas. That’s why, in the last Parliament, we quadrupled the penalties for those not paying the Minimum Wage and why – for the first time – we’re naming and shaming those businesses.
But while one employer or gangmaster can still exploit a worker in our country, luring them here with the promise of a better life, but delivering the exact opposite, low or no wages; horrendous housing; horrific working conditions, our task is not complete. So we will make a crucial change: creating a new enforcement agency that cracks down on the worst cases of exploitation.
Responsibilities for this are currently split between 4 different departments. They will be brought into one body – so businesses can’t bring in cheap labour that undercuts the wages of local people.
Let me be clear: none of these measures will stop us from rolling out the red carpet for the brightest and the best, the talented workers and brilliant students who are going to help Britain succeed, as I’ve said before: no cap on the number of overseas students who come and study at our universities. But, as we promised in our manifesto, we must go further on curbing abuse, shutting more bogus colleges, being more robust with institutions that have high rates of students overstaying and looking to toughen English language requirements for students.
In fact, it’s not just students coming here who need to speak our language – it’s everyone who works in our public sector. In our manifesto we said we’d make sure those who deal with the public will speak our language – and our Immigration Bill will deliver on that too. So that’s our stronger approach: filling the shortages with our own workers; stopping the exploitation of migrants that can push down wages and making sure that, through it all, we remain open to the world’s best talent.
But to truly succeed in controlling immigration, we also need the third part of this approach: reducing the incentives for people coming here from within the EU. Largely because of our economic success, many are – we have seen a big spike in the numbers coming to Britain.
I support free movement. It allows over 1.3 million Brits to live abroad, our students to study at great European universities, our business people to tap into new markets, our pensioners to retire to their place in the sun and it allows Europeans to come here – working in our NHS; teaching in our schools; setting up businesses and creating jobs. But I am not alone in arguing to change the system or wanting to allay those concerns, here and in Europe, that under the free movement rules, national welfare systems can provide an unintended additional incentive for large migratory movements. That’s why I and many others believe it is right for us to reduce the incentives for people who want to come here to claim benefits rather than work.
I set out the clear steps in our manifesto that need to be taken with respect to welfare. Changes to welfare to cut EU migration will be an absolute requirement in the renegotiation. And once we have negotiated that settlement, we will put it to the British people before the end of 2017 in an in-out referendum.
And there is another pressing issue facing all our nations: the ongoing tragedy of those crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. I am absolutely clear that we must help address this.
Britain is a compassionate country – and we will play our part, not least with our development aid to Africa and the Middle East. HMS Bulwark is patrolling the seas, just last week rescuing 600 people from rubber boats, 600 men, women and children who may not have survived otherwise.
At the emergency summit in Brussels, I made clear that we needed a comprehensive plan addressing the conditions that make people set off on such a perilous journey.
But 2 fundamental things need to happen to really get to the root of this problem: a properly functioning government in Libya with which we can work to go after the gangs, traffickers and owners of the boats who are profiting from this human tragedy and dissuading people from taking those terrible risks – by fundamentally breaking the link between setting off in a boat and achieving settlement in Europe.
Britain is one of the most successful multiracial democracies in the world. I am so proud of that. But to sustain that success, immigration needs to be controlled. After all, that was the clear instruction at the election. With this Immigration Bill, with these other measures, with our EU renegotiations and with a fully Conservative government, we will do just that.
Our approach will be tougher, fairer and faster. It will put an end to the houses packed full of illegal workers, stop people stalling deportation with spurious appeals, give British people the skills to do the jobs we need and deliver what people want – what they voted for.
We’ve got the majority to do that now. We’re not wasting a second. So we’re going to get on – and we’re going to do it.