Moved by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
77: After Clause 4, insert the following new Clause—“Charter for EU Immigration and Demographic Change(1) The Secretary of State must prepare a document, to be known as the Charter for EU Immigration and Demographic Change, explaining the formulation of the policies of Her Majesty’s Government relating to immigration from the European Union.(2) The Charter must, in particular, set out—(a) the Government’s demographic objectives in relation to such immigration, and(b) the means by which such objectives will be attained.(3) The Government must lay the Charter before Parliament within one year of the commencement of this Act.”
My Lords, I will also speak to Amendment 78, which forms part of this group. I do not often quote Lenin, but he is supposed to have said, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” Our present era is one of the latter. It presents challenges and opportunities to the people in this country and across the world, and a challenge for Governments in managing these changes in a way that enhances our overall quality of life while balancing the inevitable tension between preservation and progress. However, politicians of all persuasions find it hard to address these mega-issues, which have a 10, 20 or even 30-year timescale. Inevitably, and quite properly, they have their eyes fixed on the five-year electoral cycle. Given this, it is perhaps unsurprising that, for many politicians, the long grass is an effective way out.
Many Members of your Lordships’ House will be aware of my long-standing interest in demography and the impact of demographic change. The results of increases or decreases in population—I am glad to see the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, in her place, because she referred to the dangers of decreases in her speech when I was not here last Wednesday; she was quite right about that—are inexorable in their effect and are of extreme importance to the settled population of this country. When I refer to the “settled population” I mean every person legally entitled to be in this country, irrespective of race, colour or creed, or whether they have lived here for five months or 500 years. The views of the settled population on the issue of population growth could not be clearer. Recent polling found that 64% of us think that the UK is too crowded and 74% felt that the Government should have policies to address this challenge.
Nevertheless, there remains an influential minority, particularly among the commentariat, who agree that this is all too difficult and what will be will be. On the right, the argument is that the market will decide. On the left, the brotherhood of man means that we should keep our arms and our borders open. However, I am afraid that these arguments would not be supported by the overwhelming majority of this country. For many, a perpetually growing population in a relatively small island has not obviously resulted in an improvement in their prosperity or their way of life.
A couple of figures help set the matter in context. In the late 1990s, when the Blair Government decided to encourage large-scale immigration, the population of the United Kingdom was 58.1 million. Today, it is 66.4 million—an increase of more than 8 million. The ONS mid-projection for 25 years from now is 72 million —another 6 million increase. Therefore, over half a century our population will have increased 14 million, or 24%—a particularly significant figure in a country with some very densely populated regions.
Even reciting these figures gives critics the chance to allege a little Englander mentality, with machine guns on the white cliffs of Dover. That is not so: I absolutely recognise that new arrivals bring an economic and cultural dynamic from which our society has benefited greatly. This is an argument about scale, the wider impact of population growth and responding to the concerns of the people of this country in a way that builds trust in government.
Most of the arguments in favour of the demographic policies followed to date have been economic ones. Total GDP is often waved about by politicians as some sort of totemic symbol of success. Like many, I find that argument unappealing. GDP per head would surely be a more accurate measurement, and since economic gains are often not fairly shared, median GDP per head would be even better. We can argue about these and many other economic factors and we have done so at great length in this House over the years. What is unarguable is that no one is weighing in the scale the long-term non-economic challenges for our environment, our ecology and our society.
According to the latest ONS figures, released a couple of weeks ago, our population is currently growing by an average of 1,172 per day—428,000 per year. We live 2.3 people per dwelling. So on that metric, the inevitable maths show that we need to build 509 dwellings every day, 21 an hour, one every three minutes. By 2040, we seem likely to have built over an area the size of Bedfordshire—this after a decade in which Danny Dorling, professor of geography at Oxford University, has said:
“In absolute terms this is very likely to be the largest increase in the number of square miles that have been tarmacked or paved over in any decade in British history”.
The ecological challenge is no less severe. It is not just that the Environment Agency believes we will run short of water within 20 years. The Environmental Audit Committee believes that 25% of our agricultural land suffers from acute soil degradation. The impact on our native species is no less dramatic. We have seen a 75% decline in the number of our farmland birds in the last 40 years. Earlier today, the House discussed a Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, about the report from the RSPB giving further details of the collapse in bird populations. The effect on pollinators—on bees and bumblebees—has been equally severe.
For those Members of the House who are inclined to accept this development with equanimity, I gently remind them of the phrase, “every third bite”—one third of the food that we eat depends on pollination for its production.
“I have a regular correspondent—let us call him Igor—who writes to me from Offa’s Dyke to complain about the modern world … Running through Igor’s protestations is a sense of bewilderment. And in this he captures what I now feel. What many of us are feeling and expressing. How could they? Why would they? Why didn’t we know?”
And these are only a handful of the non-economic issues that need to be properly considered and weighed. I hope the House will accept that collectively they are more important than, to quote Solzhenitsyn,
“the mould grown on the rock of economics”.
My amendments seek to achieve this balanced consideration. I have used as a template the example of the excellent Office for Budget Responsibility, which has the necessary level of independence and has achieved a high degree of public confidence in a relatively short time. Amendment 77 creates a charter for EU immigration and demographic change, which requires the Government to set out both their demographic objectives and the means of their achievement.
Amendment 78 establishes a body, the office for EU immigration and demographic change, to assess whether these objectives have been achieved. The office must report at least annually and under subsection 4(a) must include assessments of the environmental, ecological and societal impacts. Importantly, under subsection 5(b) the office is not empowered to,
“consider the impact of any alternative policies”.
This is to provide the reassurance that the office will not become a mouthpiece for one particular side of the argument.
No doubt some will ask, “Why does this only cover the EU?” Well, I am afraid that the scope of the Bill rules out wider considerations, but I see this as a first step. I freely admit that I would like the remit of this new body eventually to be extended to assess all aspects of the demographic challenges that this country faces.
To conclude, I hope the Minister will see that this is a way to lance the boil of an issue which has divided and disfigured our society for too long. I hope the House will agree that now is the time for the issue to be considered and addressed fairly and squarely. This is a new road and I accept fully that it will not be an easy one. In his book The New World Order Henry Kissinger wrote:
“To undertake a journey on a road never before travelled requires character and courage: character because the choice is not obvious; courage because the road will be lonely at first.”
I hope that the Government, and indeed the Opposition parties, will on this occasion show the necessary character and courage. I beg to move.
My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend was able to get these amendments tabled. I think we should pay tribute to the wisdom of the clerks on this issue in extending it as far as they have. This is the right way to approach immigration policy—from the point of view of demography and population growth. We should assess the optimum level of population for a country such as the UK and, once that has been settled, we should decide what our policy is on immigration.
My noble friend has set out this subject with great clarity in his pamphlet Overcrowded Islands, produced with the help of Civitas, the Institute for the Study of Civil Society—an entirely appropriate body, if I may say so, for this question. It is well researched, cogently written, beautifully illustrated and I urge noble Lords to read it if they get an opportunity. I may say in passing that it is far better than most government White Papers in this area, which are rather turgid by comparison. They could well take a leaf out of his pamphlet.
My noble friend has covered the ground very well in his remarks this evening, so I will confine myself to two points, remembering the advice of Lloyd George to Harold Macmillan after his maiden speech that a good speech should make no more than two points, and if the audience remembers even one of them you have done well.
My first point is that, despite being an economist myself, I wholly agree with my noble friend’s sentiments about the role of economics. It is entirely the wrong way to approach immigration through the prism of economic policy. Business and many commentators and, sadly, the Government, do this in spades. The Government’s main adviser in this area is the Migration Advisory Council and they invoke it at every turn. However, the fact is that the MAC is composed almost entirely of academic economists specialising in manpower issues.
The MAC does a good job within its narrow remit, under a lot of pressure from business interests. I have met the new chairman of the MAC, Professor Brian Bell, and he is an impressive man. But, as my noble friend said, immigration involves much broader issues than simply economic policy. There is the question of democracy and population. There are environmental issues. Quoted in my noble friend’s pamphlet is a certain Boris Johnson, who said in an article in 2007:
“Do we want the south-east of Britain to resemble a giant suburbia?”
Frankly, he seems to be going the right way about that at the moment, judging by his housing policy. He seems to have forgotten all about his excellent sentiments of 2007. However, that is another matter.
There are ecological issues as well as environmental issues. There is the quality of life issue. Do we want all the good things about Britain to be perpetually unavailable because of overcrowding? There is the question of social cohesion. There is even a moral dimension—I have attached great importance to this. What right has Britain, a rich, developed country, to scour the world for talent from poorer developing countries that need it more than we do? All these issues should be addressed and the sort of unit that my noble friend envisages has the right approach to do that.
Again, speaking as an economist, I should say also that the assumptions underlying the usual economic argument that large-scale immigration is essential for business are simply wrong. Large-scale immigration damages economic growth. The simple point is that growth depends on increasing productivity. Productivity comes from increasing capital assets per person. When a person comes to this country, they occasionally bring significant capital assets but usually do not, and therefore productivity decreases and economic growth is damaged. It is no surprise to me that the large-scale immigration we have had over the last 10 or 20 years has been accompanied by very poor levels of productivity in this country. It is a major problem and the two are not unconnected.
Those are the simple economics. In addition, allowing business to recruit immigrants on a large scale reduces the incentive to train people who are already here. That is one reason why technical education and apprenticeships have been so poor in this country. We have supported higher education too much and further education too little. Arguing that we need immigration for economic reasons leaves out all those other subjects that are so important. In my view, it is also bad economics and bad business.
My noble friend mentioned the views of the people. My final point is that it is about time that we listened to the views of the people. They have been saying consistently and for years that they do not want any more immigration. They have been ignored. This is one of the issues that led to Brexit. Now we have Brexit, and still the people’s views are ignored. Especially in a Covid-haunted situation, where jobs are scarce, I cannot imagine what the political explosion will be. The only sensible way out of this is to put a cap on immigration at a reasonable level, decided with the help of a body such as that proposed by my noble friend.
I appreciate, in addressing the Minister, that these are large issues that his brief may not cover to the extent which we would like. But he is from the north of England, as I am from the north of England, and I am sure he is well aware of opinion on matters of this kind in the north of England. I hope that he will convey to his colleagues in government the importance and urgency of understanding these issues.
My Lords, I am grateful to be able to express my support for these amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts. I particularly support the tour d’horizon of his opening speech.
I accept that these amendments are trying to sow the seeds of defining a wider principle than is focused on in the Bill, which is just on the EU. In my opinion, the two key words in these amendments are “demographic objectives.” As has been said, these will be defined by the Government and assessed by this new body, the office for demographic change. That office will focus exclusively on the agenda as put forward by the Government; it will not range freely wherever the current fashion happens to take it. However, it will focus on the current demographic objectives, while maybe revealing any shortcomings in them in practice.
Debate on this Bill has highlighted the need for a more systematic and dispassionate examination of this issue. There is, more than ever, a need for the public to have confidence in the statistics and aims on immigration to which the Government aspire. In the longer term, it is important that the department has some independent touchstone by which the public and Parliament can begin to assess the success or otherwise of what is being done in their name. The independence of the Treasury model gives some guidance as to how that might be achieved.
As a strong supporter of Brexit, and to the extent that we are no longer basing ourselves on the EU framework, I believe that we are now in a position to develop our own independent structures on immigration. Developing this new purported office or organisation to shadow how the department is framing its demographic objectives would be a vital process. This new office would not be an organisation that can range at will on the subject of immigration. Just to emphasise that, it is correctly restrained by the last line of Amendment 78, that it is not allowed to go wherever it wants and that it
“may not consider the impact of any alternative policies”— that is, alternative to the Government’s.
Finally, following the stresses expected over the next few months, I would hope that the department and the Government could put this issue on their agenda for the future.
My Lords, I rise to offer my support to my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts in his quest for a mechanism to inject a careful, objective study of demographic change into government work, particularly on immigration. I start by congratulating my noble friend on his excellent and thoughtful report for Civitas, Overcrowded Islands? This report is full of facts and perspectives that make the case for the action that we are discussing. I wish to highlight three very different points from the report, which I think make the case for today’s amendments.
First, our population continues to grow fast—on average by just under 1,100 people a day. Only 316 of these are from natural increase, while 202 represent net immigration from Europe, the subject of this Bill, and 679 are from net immigration from outside Europe, which is partly balanced by 134 departing Brits. This growth is unbalanced, with more in the south-east, and by the mid-century the UK will overtake Germany in having the largest population in Europe and the most dense. The numbers I cited are also an underestimate of migration, given the weakness of official statistics—a consistent problem since at least the 1990s, when I worked on home affairs at Downing Street. For example, national insurance card numbers suggest that the migrant figures are significantly higher than those that I have just mentioned.
My second point is that there is growing evidence that widespread immigration is an important factor in our persistently poor productivity growth. That makes sense to me as a businesswoman: if low-cost labour is available, you invest less in capital.
Thirdly, as my noble friend has already said, to house the growth in population we are likely to have to build an area over the size of Bedfordshire by 2041, which will lead to a further increase in the rate of species loss and possibly a shortage of water. Indeed, the species loss we are already suffering was highlighted this week by the UN and the RSPB, as was discussed by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, and my noble friend Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park at Questions earlier today. I am sure that those who care about the environment, as I do, also have an interest in proper demographic work.
Demographic changes have for many decades been a matter of contention. I am afraid that Ministers have sometimes misled the public on the facts. It would be clearer what the Government’s intentions were if there was a regular and reliable source of statistics and forecasts on demographic change. As discussed on earlier amendments, the new system leaves a great deal to employers, whose needs may change, which makes it impossible to plan properly for the additional houses, schools, GP surgeries, hospitals and transport infrastructure that we need. That planning takes many years, as we know so well from our debates on housing and the railways.
My noble friend Lord Hodgson, encouraged by several of us, has tried to secure a Lords committee to look at these demographic and immigration issues. That was an excellent idea and just the sort of thing that this House is really good at. Sadly, the House authorities have not yet seen the light.
Amendment 77 proposes a charter and Amendment 78 a new independent office for immigration and demographic change. Another approach would be to give this duty to the ONS or the Office for Budget Responsibility, both of which are full of quantitative experts, although perhaps less dynamic in their thinking than a new body might be. There should also be ministerial overview, which I know works well in areas as diverse as international property, Companies House and the Environment Agency. It allows regular reports to be made to Parliament and questions to be asked, so that we have more transparency.
We are entering a new era, and the UK will be more dependent on our own expertise in planning for the future across the economy and in statistics—and, indeed, in crafting their collection, analysis and presentation. The Government should listen carefully to my noble friend Lord Hodgson.
My Lords, I will start by highlighting how immigration is enriching our society. I am totally committed to the cultural and racial diversity that it has made possible. These amendments require the Government to prepare a charter setting out the objectives for EU immigration and to establish an office for demographic change which would examine and report on the impact of the Government’s demographic objectives in relation to immigration. I strongly support these objectives and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, on his extremely important report. The report highlights that the population of the UK has grown by 6.6 million since 2001 and is estimated to grow by another 5.6 million by 2041. Our population is growing by 1,100 people every day and 61% of new migrants are from nations outside the EU.
As chief executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, I contributed to the noble Lord’s Civitas report and highlighted that by 2030 the number of older people in Britain is set to increase by half. The UK faces a situation where there are increased numbers of older workers crowded out of employment due to population increases. There are currently 1 million unemployed people over the age of 50 in the UK. Some 41% of people over 50 have at some stage been unemployed for over 12 months, which is a higher figure than for any other age group. The Government have a strategy to ensure that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035. Current population growth in the UK puts this strategy at risk, as older people have reduced opportunities for work and income—plus it puts a greater strain on the NHS, as we know, and the other government services required to deliver this strategy.
I spoke at Second Reading of the impact on the social care sector which, like the NHS, relies on immigration to fill vacancies. There are 122,000 vacancies in social care at any one time. Part of developing sustainable demographic objectives for the UK should include having a health and social care system that is not reliant on the immigration system alone in order to function.
These amendments are an opportunity for the UK to set demographic objectives that ensure greater sustainability and maintain a quality of life for the people of the United Kingdom, whatever their age.
My Lords, Amendments 77 and 78 contain an interesting and potentially very valuable idea. I pay tribute to the original thinking that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, brings to so many of his contributions to this House. I warmly endorse the arguments that he made, ably supported by the noble Lord, Lord Horam, and the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Rolfe. I particularly welcome the wider perspective that these amendments bring to the issues surrounding immigration. The detail is always important, but so is the wider perspective, especially when very significant changes are being proposed.
As noble Lords may be aware, I have been closely involved in immigration policy matters for nearly 20 years. I think I am now on my 10th Home Secretary and my 16th Minister of Immigration. An office for immigration and demographic change, which the noble Lord proposes, would bring together the study of the key elements that cross the boundaries of so many Whitehall departments, most of which have departmental interests in higher immigration, rather than lower.
As the noble Lord mentioned, we already have the OBR, which provides a wider framework for economic policy. The Migration Advisory Committee is focused on immigration but, as has been remarked on a number of times in these debates, it comprises mainly economists and is largely focused on economics. It does not, nor is it asked to, take the longer view of the wider impacts that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, is advocating. The reality is that nobody in government is pulling together the demographic, economic, social and, perhaps, climatic elements that set the frame for the whole future development of our society.
Demography has its own uncertainties, of course. Death rates are fairly stable, but birth rates can change quite rapidly, especially for different groups in our society. But immigration has been, for some years, the key variable. Before the full impact of the Covid crisis became clear, immigration remained close to its highest level in our history. It is now the major factor in our demographic future. For the time being, the Covid crisis has distorted the impact of immigration but, if it were allowed to continue at recent levels, it would have huge consequences for education, health, housing and pensions. Nobody is considering that in an organised way. We need close and co-ordinated consideration of all these aspects, and where it is all leading to. We need to decide whether this is where we want to go and, whatever we decide, how best we can prepare for such a future.
So I commend the noble Lord’s valuable contribution to the immigration debate, and I support his amendments.
My Lords, I concede that these amendments have a sincere purpose, but I am not sure that they really work. In Amendment 77, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, proposes that the Government issue a charter for EU immigration and demographic change, explaining the formulation of their policies on immigration. But the Government can already do this in other ways; indeed, they issued their White Paper on a points-based system a few months ago. The proposed charter would be laid before Parliament, but there is no description of what Parliament would then do. Would it approve, endorse or reject? I also query why the charter would set out demographic objectives only in relation to immigration when other factors are mentioned elsewhere in the two amendments. Of course, the other major factor in demographic change is the birth rate.
Amendment 78 aims to set up a new quango called the office of EU immigration and demographic change. Again, I am not sure why the Government cannot do this work, because it is the Government who issue the charter. It is proposed that the office should report on the impact of the Government’s demographic objectives for EU immigration, but it would be barred from considering the impact of any alternative policies. The noble Lord sought to explain, or justify, that constraint, but it seems to take away something—critiquing the Government’s policy and suggesting alternatives—which could be valuable. Again, no role is specified for Parliament as regards reports from this new office. I cannot in all honesty see the added value of such a body to the duo that we already have—the Migration Advisory Committee and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, mentioned, the Office for National Statistics, which already does population projections. I had a quick look and saw that it did one in October 2019; I do not know when the next one is due. And then there are surely academics on whose work either the MAC or the ONS could draw.
So I will not make the point that these amendments relate to immigration only from the EU, since such an objection would be disingenuous, given that I recognise the constraint imposed by the scope of the Bill. We have been a round that circuit several times in the last few days. I can do no more than say that these amendments, while interesting, do not really fly, for the reasons that I have given.
My Lords, Amendment 77, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, and Amendment 78, also in his name, seek to add two new clauses to the Bill. Amendment 77 would require the Secretary of State to publish a document, to be called the
“Charter for EU Immigration and Demographic Change”, which would explain the policies of the Government and their formulation with respect to immigration from the EU.
I am afraid that when the noble Lord started quoting Lenin, he lost me. I take the view that this amendment is not necessary. The Government have already set out their position with respect to immigration, and he can either agree or disagree with it. I am not persuaded of the benefit or the necessity of the amendment. As I am not supporting Amendment 77, it should be no surprise that I am not supporting Amendment 78 either. It is not necessary and just adds to the cost to the taxpayer.
The case just has not been made for these amendments. We have discussed many amendments during our four days in Committee, and there are many others which we should support: the amendments moved by my noble friend Lord Dubs today and on Monday; those moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on providing physical documentary proof; and those of the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, on the problems of freelancers working here and in the European Union. These issues need to be addressed in the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, mentioned “trust” in government. I think it is fair to say that the Government have a trust problem. A little bit of advice to the Benches opposite: it is going to get worse and worse, because your communications are dreadful. Not everything can be run out of No. 10—you need motivated civil servants and effective Ministers running departments to deliver the policies of the Government, with the freedom to act and get on with the job without being second-guessed all the time.
There are a number of boils that need lancing; it is quite a long list actually, but I will not go through them all. I think there is an issue with the influence of think tanks on the Government. I am a treasurer of a think tank, the Fabian Society, and it is very clear who funds it. Civitas, however, is one of the opaquest organisations in terms of funding, of who funds who. Maybe the noble Lord can tell us who funds Civitas and who paid for the report—we do not know. We had similar problems with Policy Exchange, the Adam Smith Institute, the Centre for Policy Studies, the Institute of Economic Affairs and the TaxPayers’ Alliance. We do not know who funds these bodies, so it would be interesting to find out.
Does the Minister believe that we live in an overcrowded island? I think that was the challenge posed by the noble Lord, Lord Horam. It would be good to get a response from the Minister on that—yes or no?
There are many other issues. We can talk about industrial productivity, and I would suggest we look at Germany. Germany has much better industrial relations and does great work with its Mittelstand, its small family-owned companies. We have a lot to learn from what goes on in Germany. We also have a housing crisis. I go on about the housing crisis all the time, but I cannot get the Government to talk about social housing; we always talk about affordable housing. Those are issues we need to deal with.
Sadly, although I like the noble Lord very much, I am not with him today on these amendments.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts for tabling these amendments, and all noble Lords who have participated in what has been a very interesting and wide-ranging debate. As the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, said, it has been a veritable tour d’horizon, taking in Lenin, Solzhenitsyn, Kissinger and the tips of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, on good governance. I am slightly surprised, given the environmental and ecological elements of the amendments, not to have heard from either of the noble Lords from the Green Party, but those have been well covered by other noble Lords.
It is self-evident that immigration has an impact on the demography of a nation, and very clear that ending free movement will therefore mean a demographic change for the UK. The current automatic preference for EEA citizens will cease and, as we deliver a new immigration system that works in the interests of the whole of the UK, it is right that the impacts of immigration arrangements on all aspects of UK life are monitored and reviewed regularly.
In tabling these amendments my noble friend is therefore shining a light on the need for objective, transparent and independent scrutiny of a very important issue, one which does not always get the attention it deserves, as he and my noble friend Lord Horam mentioned. In answer to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, it was a topic that I touched on in my first speech in your Lordships’ House. I refer him back to that for my views.
I could not agree more with my noble friend, and the Government are clear that we will introduce new arrangements in a phased way, monitor any pressures in key sectors and keep labour market data under careful scrutiny. As I have said previously in Committee, that is particularly important when the changes are as significant as the ones we will introduce with our new points-based immigration system.
I can assure noble Lords that the Government have not made decisions in isolation. We have engaged extensively, even during the current pandemic, to build awareness and promote understanding of the new system, ensuring that those affected by the changes are fully aware of what it means for them and understand how it will operate. We have established a series of advisory groups, designed to bring together a wide range of views, to provide critical challenge to our proposals. We have also sought to go beyond the expected impact of the future immigration system in the Bill’s published impact assessment.
However, we recognise that we need to go further than predictions and estimates, or, as my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe mentioned, the published statistics. We need to assess the realities once the system is operating and understand the experiences of those who are using the system, including individual people, employers and educational institutions. However, while the Government are absolutely committed to understanding the impact of those changes, I am afraid I diverge from my noble friend’s view as I do not believe we need a whole new body and process to do that.
The Government have outlined their proposals in two published policy statements, making clear their intention to take back full control of our borders by ending free movement and introducing a single global immigration system, transforming the way in which people from all over the world come to the UK to work, study, visit or join their family. I do not believe the charter proposed in Amendment 77 would make our immigration objectives any clearer.
Furthermore, in terms of holding the Government to account for the impact of their immigration policies, the Migration Advisory Committee is widely recognised for its expertise and impartiality. I acknowledge the points some noble Lords have made about the MAC’s expertise being focused solely on economics but, again, I must disagree. One of the strengths of the MAC is that it does not represent any one sector or industry; it looks at these things as a whole.
The Migration Advisory Committee is well used to running large-scale consultations. It accumulates evidence from many employers, businesses and sectors to produce carefully considered conclusions which apply to the best interests of the whole United Kingdom. This will not change under the future system. I re-emphasise to noble Lords who have made these points that this Government have expanded the remit of the Migration Advisory Committee. It is no longer constrained to specific government commissions. It now has licence to consider and comment on any aspect of immigration policy, both reactively monitoring trends in the UK labour market and proactively advising the Government about changes to the migration system that it thinks might be necessary.
It would therefore be well within the MAC’s remit to look at the wider view, as the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, put it: the environmental, ecological and societal impacts, as proposed by Amendment 78, as well as economic impacts. To that end, we have asked the MAC to start producing annual reports which cover not only issues such as its budget or staffing but commentary on the operation of the immigration system as a whole. The committee has accepted this challenge and we can look forward to the first such report later this year.
Finally, given the scope of the Bill, these amendments relate only to EU migration. Ending free movement from the EU is our opportunity to introduce a firmer and, more importantly, fairer system, one which applies to EEA and non-EEA citizens alike. Introducing a charter or body which looked only at EU migration would not reflect that system and would run counter to the Government’s intentions. For these reasons, I hope my noble friend will see fit to withdraw his amendments.
My Lords, the Minister had clearly not been informed that I was already waiting to ask a question, so I hope this does not come as too much of a shock to him. However, in the interests of clarity in this debate, I am sure he will agree to note the fact that the human ecological footprint is a product of a number of people in an area or nation, or on the globe, multiplied by their consumption level. I am sure he will know that the people of the UK collectively consume our share of three planets’ resources each year, but we have only one planet. Even if we had half the number of people in the UK that we have now, we would greatly exceed the planetary limits.
Can the Minister confirm the Government’s understanding of the essential environmental approach in areas ranging from the climate emergency—noting our special responsibilities as COP26 chair—to the nature crisis and water concerns that we discussed earlier in Oral Questions? The key approach is transforming our currently wasteful, destructive treatment of the planet as a mine and dumping ground, which has produced a miserable, insecure and vulnerable society—as exposed by Covid-19—that exceeds a significant number of planetary boundaries.
It is not a shock but a pleasure to hear from the noble Baroness, and a particular pleasure to agree with what she says about it being not just the level of consumption but the overall number of people that has an ecological impact. That is why I am pleased to be part of a Government who are pursuing our world-leading target of achieving net zero.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for referring me to his personal views about the overcrowding question. I will look at them but I am also conscious that he was asked a question by the noble Lord, Lord Horam, his noble friend on the Conservative Benches. The Minister is sitting there, and the question was posed to him, as a member of Her Majesty’s Government. We would like to know the Government’s position in respect of whether we live on an overcrowded island—not his personal view, the view of Her Majesty’s Government.
My Lords, this Government are introducing an immigration system that will allow us to have full control over our borders for the first time, so that elected Governments can respond to the views of the people and achieve the level that they say they want to see. I hope all democrats would welcome that.
I thank all who participated in this debate. This was the first time we have taken the car out on the track and I think we got around without a wheel coming off. I am particularly grateful to my noble friends Lord Horam and Lady Neville-Rolfe on the economics, the importance of productivity and the problem of crowding out and to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. When I was preparing my pamphlet, I went to see a captain of industry about employing older people. He said “Of course, we are very keen to employ older people”, and I said “Well, let us look at your human resources booklet”. It did not have a person over 30 in it. The way our society looks at people is unfair.
Of course, the noble Lord, Lord Green, has forgotten more about immigration than I will ever know. To the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, I say—without wishing to flog my pamphlet—that there is a map of the ecological footprint of London in it, on which you can see the numbers she referred to. I thought I got half— no, a quarter—of a loaf out of the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford. It was a principled refusal but the car needed a bit of tinkering to get her to come onside.
To the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, I say that we had a classic knockabout. We were all biffed about. I will make one serious point, which is meant to be gentle. If the Labour Party does not get its act together and its policy clear on the issues of people coming to this country, it will not regain the red-wall seats that went blue. People outside the M25 feel passionately about this. How you tackle it is up to his party but just saying “Never mind; it will all be alright” does not, to be honest, sound like a good political strategy.
I say to my noble friend the Minister that we pray in aid the MAC, which does not know anything about birds, ecology or anything like that but focuses on numbers, as does the ONS—quite rightly, too. We always come back to the fact that the papers go on about immigration. We are trying to lift the argument to talk about more than just numbers. What happens when people get here? What happens to the countryside and our society? We always get back down into the weeds of the numbers.
Finally, on “taking back control”, in the last three years non-EU immigration has gone from 479 to 866 a day. Is that what taking back control is? We have virtually doubled an area of immigration over which the country has always had control. However, this is the first go around the track and I look forward to producing a sleeker car in due course. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 77 withdrawn.
Amendments 78 and 79 not moved.