Migration Schemes

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th October 2002.

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Photo of Mr Lawrie Quinn Mr Lawrie Quinn Labour, Scarborough and Whitby 2:30 pm, 28th October 2002

If he will make a statement on his plans to set up new sector based migration schemes next year.

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism)

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary announced on 7 October two new schemes to help employers in the hotel, leisure and food manufacturing sectors to recruit workers from abroad to fill vacancies that they have been unable to fill from the resident work force. This is part of the continued development of our comprehensive policy of managed migration.

Photo of Mr Lawrie Quinn Mr Lawrie Quinn Labour, Scarborough and Whitby

Does my hon. Friend agree that such managed schemes are good news not only for the economy but for key cutting-edge technology areas such as engineering, information technology and medical research? People can enter the country legally and make a great contribution to our future wealth, thereby providing extra jobs that can give a real boost to the economy. In addition, are we not sending a clear signal to those who try to smuggle individuals into this country by clandestine measures that we want to undermine their terrible acts and put a stop to the despicable smuggling of people?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Recent estimates suggest that migrants contribute a net benefit of about #2.5 billion to the economy, over and above any resources they consume. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is chairing a new Cabinet Committee that is looking into the social and economic impacts of migration. My hon. Friend is also right that the White Paper marked a radical shift in policy, based on a recognition of the positive contribution of migration while acknowledging that we need to manage it, return asylum to its proper purpose and bear down on the gangs that encourage people to enter the country illegally to work. We need better integration of refugees, including a UNHCR gateway, and to open up legitimate routes into the United Kingdom for people to work. These schemes will be additional to the work permit and other existing schemes.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

Everybody accepts the terrific benefits that this country has enjoyed over the years and centuries from the immigration of people with key skills, but is not this scheme one more example of the Government trying to paper over the disaster that is their asylum policy? Are not we still failing to deport even one in 10 of failed asylum seekers? At what stage will the Government recognise that they must look at more imaginative ways of tackling the asylum problem if they are going to avoid the sort of pressures that Members on both sides want to avoid?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism)

We are already removing more failed asylum seekers than the Conservative Government did—indeed, we are now removing more than any other European country. The hon. Gentleman misses the point. We will not get on top of the extent to which the asylum system is being used by people to get into the country unless we send out the right signals to the countries that they come from, and part of that is being clear that we will bear down strongly on traffickers and smugglers and that people who arrive here will be dealt with swiftly and removed if their claim fails. At the same time, we want to make it clear that we welcome people coming here legitimately and that we are opening up new legitimate routes.

Photo of Gwyneth Dunwoody Gwyneth Dunwoody Labour, Crewe and Nantwich

Does my hon. Friend agree that the attitude that all immigrants should be used as cheap labour should be stamped on firmly? Will the working party examine closely the way in which immigrants are constantly and deliberately being used in an attempt to keep down wages and conditions in certain industries?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism)

Indeed, the role that illegal working plays in encouraging people to come here, with the consequences for indigenous workers in some parts of the labour market and the economy that my hon. Friend describes, is a serious problem. That is precisely why the strategies of bearing down strongly on abuse of the asylum system and opening up legitimate routes in, as I outlined, are the two essential strands of a coherent policy—one that the Conservative party signally failed to introduce when it had the opportunity.

Photo of Humfrey Malins Humfrey Malins Conservative, Woking

I listened with interest to the Minister's comments on the new migration schemes. Will she amplify as fully as possible the meaning, effect and means of implementation of the new external gateway proposals?

Photo of Beverley Hughes Beverley Hughes Minister of State (Citizenship and Immigration), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Citizenship, Immigration and Counter-Terrorism)

I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to the new migration schemes that the original question was about or to the UNHCR gateway. That gateway, to bring in refugees from out of country, is currently being discussed with UNHCR and the voluntary organisations. We intend to institute a pilot scheme from April next year. We aim to start fairly small, with about 500 people. We are currently working up the details of the scheme, considering both how the gateway will work and how we can ensure more effective integration of those people once they are here. Several European countries already operate such schemes, and we will draw on their expertise to ensure that we have an efficient and effective system in place early next year.