Brexit and the Labour Market (Economic Affairs Committee Report) - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:46 pm on 8th February 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat 1:46 pm, 8th February 2018

I thank the noble Lord for that clarification. That raises two questions. What do the Government propose to bring in? If the implementation period for a new immigration policy was about access to the European labour market, there is still the question of what the Government propose to do. If the committee’s proposals are taken on board, is there a suggestion of having an interim period in which there are more liberal policies for EEA nationals than for third-country nationals? That might be welcome, but are the Government thinking about that? Also, are the Government willing to think about a wider range of implementation periods and transitional periods then we have heard so far? The use of the words “implementation” or “transition” suggests that the Government have a process and an idea of where they are going. So far, there is not a great deal of clarity on where the United Kingdom will be beyond 29 March 2019. The noble Lord, Lord Lea, would like us still to be in the single market, in which case many of these questions do not arise. However, assuming that the Prime Minister does not take on board the Chancellor’s idea that the United Kingdom should remain linked as closely as possible to the single market, what sort of immigration policy do the Government propose? To what extent are they willing to open up to the idea of having a policy that is based on the needs of the labour market, not on arbitrary targets? With the possible exception of the noble Lord, Lord Green, we are united in saying that arbitrary targets are not necessary or desirable. Therefore, to what extent will the Home Office be flexible?

We on these Benches very much welcome the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, in Committee, which has therefore been brought forward in this report, on the situation of students and the idea that they should not be included in short-term immigration statistics for public policy. I know that the Minister will say, as her noble friend Lady Vere said on Monday in answer to comments on a Statement, that students have to be included in the numbers because that is what happens in the OECD. But for public policy purposes, other countries, including the United States, do not consider students in the migration statistics. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, pointed that out again on Monday and got the stock answer from the noble Baroness, Lady Vere, and the same answer is in the Government’s response to the Economic Affairs Committee’s report. Can the Minister please think about giving us an answer today that goes beyond the stock answer and which recognises that students are important and benefit the UK economy? In addition, the standard answer we get is not correct. We keep being told that there is no cap on student numbers, but if there is a commitment to a figure of net migration, and all of a sudden we say, “We want another 100,000 students this year”, does that mean that there are 100,000 workers who cannot come?