My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Forsyth for bringing this debate to your Lordships’ House. It has been a very interesting debate and I shall endeavour to respond to as many questions as possible. At the outset, however, I will make a number of general remarks.
I thank the Economic Affairs Committee for its report, Brexit and the Labour Market, published last summer. The committee has done a great service by producing a thoughtful report which covers a number of key issues facing the Government as we prepare to leave the European Union. The Government produced a full response to the committee’s report in the autumn, in the form of a letter from the then Immigration Minister, Brandon Lewis. I do not intend to repeat everything that was said in that document.
The noble Lords, Lord Livermore and Lord Darling, and my noble friend Lord Forsyth, asked about the net migration target and talked about immigration concerns not recognising economic issues and the national interest. The Government are clear that there are many benefits to immigration: economic, social and cultural. The noble Lord, Lord Reid, pointed out those and also the subtleties beneath them. But we must not underestimate the legitimate and real concerns of the public about the impact of unrestricted immigration from the EU on jobs, wages and public services. These concerns were clearly expressed during the referendum campaign and it would be remiss of us to dismiss them or to suppose that we know better.