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Examination of Witnesses

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:31 am on 12th February 2019.

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Lord Green:

I think you are implying that the Bill does just that—that it is a framework Bill. I think it has to be read in conjunction with the White Paper. We have looked at that to see what the risks might be, and today we are publishing an estimate that it will lead to net foreign migration of about 430,000 a year in a few years’ time. It could even hit half a million unless serious moves are taken to reduce it. From that figure, you have to subtract roughly 50,000 a year, which is the 10-year average of British emigration. You are looking at something like 380,000 net migration quite soon, which is higher than the previous peak of 340,000. Reaching that calculation—as I said, I will send it to the Committee—has very serious political implications, but I will leave that to you. In reaching it, we have deliberately ignored the 11-month workers to whom you referred in your first question, Mr Khan. We think that is misleading, and in practice there will be circular migration that amounts to significant numbers of low-skilled workers.

Let me just explain the proposal to weaken the highly skilled department. As you probably know, the proposal is to reduce the level of skills from degree to A-level, to reduce the salary level from £30,000—even £21,000 has been mentioned—to remove the requirement to advertise a job beforehand, and so on. You would be left with pretty much free movement, because 50% of EU migrants who have come here already are in those higher-skilled categories that the Government are now talking about. The other 50% could come as the 11-month brigade.

You would be looking at something that is very close to free movement, and you would have enormously increased the scope for migration from around the world. As outlined in the White Paper, these moves will open 9 million UK jobs to worldwide competition. That is bound to have a very substantial effect, partly because employers will understandably scour the world for less expensive employees. What is more, there will be a substantial number of employees who would want to come here, because those routes will lead to settlement. Our view is that this is a very dangerous policy in terms of numbers, and therefore in terms of the public response to immigration and immigrants.