Not so much an immigration cap as an immigration colander

Immigration was one of the issues on which Nick Clegg and David Cameron repeatedly clashed during the general election, so it is no surprise that it has continued to be a source of tension in the coalition. More surprisingly, the fault line in the coalition has not been a simple Lib Dem versus Conservative because many Conservatives are persuaded by the pleas from universities (that they need high fee paying foreign students else the funding higher education would be an even bigger political problem) and from business (that many firms in the UK cannot get the right skilled staff except through immigration).

UK passportAs a result, the promised immigration cap is looking rather leaky with the limitations on what European agreements allow in the way of restrictions added to be an unwillingness to slash the number of foreign students and now, in yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, confirmation of a concession to business:

Thousands of employees of multinational companies will be exempt from the government’s immigration cap, Prime Minister David Cameron has indicated.

The government is still deciding on the level at which the cap will be set – and to whom it will apply.

But speaking at prime minister’s questions, Mr Cameron said: “Intra-company transfers shouldn’t be included in what we are looking at.” (BBC)

In other words, multinational companies will be able to redeploy staff to the UK without running into any immigration cap problems.

All in all, not so much a cap as a colander really.

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  • The exemptions still mean that those who are poorer or darker skinned will be refused entry to this country – if not because of that then because they are not everything else.

    Outrageous tabloid racism in disguise. Immigration is good for this country.

  • You correctly state, “Immigration was one of the issues on which Nick Clegg and David Cameron repeatedly clashed during the general election”, and on this issue I strongly agreed with David Cameron and most definitely not with Nick Clegg, despite the fact that I voted Lib Dem in a close Conservative/Lib Dem marginal.

    There is no doubt whatsoever that immigration to the UK must be greatly reduced – the UK is already grossly overpopulated and current population growth is unsustainable in terms of environmental stress and resource usage. Consequently, I strongly support an immigration cap which should be set very low, and employees of multinational companies should be included in the cap, as should students, footballers, religious preachers etc. There should be no exemptions.

    Finally, speaking as someone who works in private business, I find the bleating and whining of businesses (that they cannot get the right skilled staff) quite pathetic – intelligent and qualified potential employees ARE already available in the UK, it is just that too many businesses want to do things on the cheap by paying low wages and by not providing specialised training (as confirmed by recent graduate unemployment figures, especially in the IT sector). Whining businesses should be ignored.

  • The problem with intra company transfers has less to do with immigration and everything to do with the way that the UK tax system is being gamed by certain corporations. Peoples brought in from overseas can claim their Accommodation, Travel and subsistence costs borne for upto 24 months by their employer as a Tax deductible expense something which is not allowed to UK employees who have to meet these costs out of their income after paying PAYE and NIC. Add in the fact these individuals normally have their salary paid in their country of origin and taxed there then you can see that this is not a great deal for the UK Exchequer. It should be noted that most other European countries limit the time that Living and Travel Expenses can be claimed from employees brought in from overseas to 6-12 months. The UK should do likewise.

  • A fully qualified UK IT worker will cost about £40k minimum (including NI, pension etc), an Indian can be bought across on an inter-company transfer for £24k (this includes all costs, the worker may only earn about minimum wage).
    There is no skills shortage, the Indian worker is no better, however they are prepared to work for half the UK workers cost as £500 a month sent home goes a long way whilst it pays for half a months rent in the UK.
    Once again politicians bend over for big business whilst screwing the electorate (not a pretty image)

  • Good. The immigration cap was always a daft idea. Now, hopefully, it will die a quiet death.

  • @mark

    Spot on. The other scandal is that many foreign workers in the IT industry are being employed through agencies who are creaming the situation to their advantage. I’ve nothing against immigrant labour coming into the country but the system is being abused in many cases – a wholesale investigation is required to ensure the correct balance is being made between employers who genuinely need foreign workers and those who do it as simply a cost cutting exercise.

  • Andrew Suffield 4th Nov '10 - 9:18pm

    Bottom line is that once you’ve eliminated students, asylum seekers, EU citizens and high-skill workers who are hard to obtain in the UK, there’s actually not very much immigration left at all, since other forms of immigration are mostly banned. And you either can’t or don’t want to reduce immigration from any of those categories.

    intelligent and qualified potential employees ARE already available in the UK, it is just that too many businesses want to do things on the cheap by paying low wages and by not providing specialised training (as confirmed by recent graduate unemployment figures, especially in the IT sector)

    Graduates, especially in the IT sector, are largely unskilled and unqualified. This is a serious problem which all IT companies and many others spend a lot of time fighting: if you hire a fresh graduate, you’re going to have to train them at your own expense. The bottom line is that the education system is not delivering what employers need, and that is what needs to be addressed. IT is one of the worst, because you cannot learn what you need to work in the field merely by studying at a university. What we need is a system more like apprenticeships, where students spend several years working and being trained by an employer, at little cost to that employer compared to a regular employee.

    This is in fact exactly the reason why we need high-skilled immigration right now: while we have a surplus of graduates, we have a severe shortage of graduates who are skilled at the job which needs to be done. Solve that problem and the immigration goes down.

  • Andrew
    “other forms of immigration are mostly banned”
    Including foreign spouses of British citizens?

  • Andrew Suffield 5th Nov '10 - 7:27am

    Including foreign spouses of British citizens?

    No, why would that be banned?

    It’s also not a very large number of people left over (most of them are EU citizens). I suppose you could also classify that handful under “things you can’t or won’t ban”.

  • “Graduates, especially in the IT sector, are largely unskilled and unqualified.”
    That is nonsense. It is true that it takes a few years of real world experience to produce a fully rounded professional developer or system admin but I’ve worked with an number of IT graduates and many of them are highly skilled, knowledgeable and talented.

    The cap is a daft idea and I suspect the Tories know it. It is just a bit of politics to look tough and to get the credit for the falls in immigration which would occur naturally as a result of the depressed nature of the economy.

  • Andrew S
    Foreign spouses are not exactly banned but subject to increasing restrictions- eg language and citizenship tests.
    Why should a foreign spouse be expected to have an English language level equal to that of a foreign skilled worker?
    Those whose native tongue is very different from English will have a hard time reaching a high level but may still have enough English to “integrate”.
    Foreign skilled workers are aliens not immigrants. Most will return to their own country after a few years or work in another country.

  • patrick murray 5th Nov '10 - 2:16pm

    i reject the notion that clegg was liberal in the debate on immigration as a whole. whilst we struck a good line on illegal immigration, clegg repeatedly spoke of the problems and negatives of legal immigration. at points he sounded like the daily mail. there were even times when it was left to cameron (!) to say something positive about the contribution of immigrants to the economy and society. to be honest i felt ashamed to be a lib dem when i heard him talk on this particular issue in the debates. i dont see, given the rhetoric he employed, that it would have been hard for him (or chris huhne whose record is also similarly tainted by pandering to the tabloids on question time) to sign up to the hideously illiberal policy of an immigration cap.

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