In full: Nick Clegg’s immigration speech – “Successful immigration systems have to be managed”

Nick Clegg York Q&A Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsHere’s the full text of Nick Clegg’s speech today on the Lib Dem approach to immigration…

It should come as no surprise that I’m a believer in the benefits of well-managed immigration.

I lead, in my view, Britain’s only real internationalist party. For the Liberal Democrats this nation is always at its best when we are open and outward-facing. We draw immense pride from living in a country which, throughout its history, has always said: if you come here, if you contribute, if you play your part, Britain will give you a chance.

So I am never going to advocate pulling up the drawbridge because I think it’s what people want to hear. The Liberal Democrats are never going to mimic the likes of UKIP and others – the scaremongering, the immigrant-bashing, the seductive promise that all our problems will disappear if only we shut up shop and stick a ‘closed’ sign on the door.

We don’t meet every visitor with automatic suspicion. We believe everyone, no matter where they come from, should be treated with respect.

It wasn’t the Liberal Democrats who arranged for vans emblazoned with the words ‘Go Home’ to prowl around the streets of London. Had Jeremy Browne – the Liberal Democrat in the Home Office at the time – been consulted we would have put a stop to it then and there.

It was the Liberal Democrats, by contrast, who insisted that the Coalition’s Immigration Act include the outlawing of child detention: no more putting children stuck in the immigration system behind bars. Labour locked up thousands and thousands of little boys and girls every year. We stopped it as soon as we came into power. We’ll leave this Government knowing that no future Labour government – or indeed any government – will be able to do it again.

Dignity. Compassion. Core liberal values and core British values. If you believed everything you read in some of our newspapers you’d think the real Britain is insular, fearful and closed. Yes, look across the country and you’ll see concerns over immigration and some concrete problems. But you’ll also see many non-Brits living and working side-by-side with British-born citizens as colleagues, neighbours, couples, friends.

Two years ago, when Britain hosted the Olympics, we welcomed in the world and we revelled in our diversity. Our heritage is a glorious patchwork of different cultures and influences. My mother is Dutch. My father’s mother a Russian émigré. My wife, Spanish. I am like millions of British citizens whose roots can be traced around the globe.

So I do not accept that we are a closed society. I do not accept that we are condemned to the same trajectory we are witnessing across parts of Europe, where chauvinism and xenophobia are on the march.

But I do believe that being a nation at ease with diversity and difference does not happen by accident. Successful immigration systems have to be managed. People need to see that they are good for society as a whole. Otherwise all you do is create fear and resentment – you give populists an open goal.

And for years our immigration system wasn’t properly managed. Up and down Britain today, around kitchen tables, in the pub, at work, conversation will turn, probably for the millionth time, to the problems of immigration: the unfairness people feel; the threats they see to their way of life.

Does that make you a racist? No it does not. More often than not these are understandable and legitimate concerns. Under the last government people were constantly told one thing only to then experience another. Some of our communities have undergone huge change over what is, relatively, a very short space of time. Labour failed spectacularly to manage that change and equally to manage public expectations – not least, of course, over the number of Eastern Europeans who came here as the EU enlarged.

So no wonder so many people still worry about immigration. But the answer is not tough talk. It isn’t pretending that we can or should boot out every foreigner. The answer is getting down to the nitty gritty of reforming the system so that it works properly – so that we retain the open character of our economy and the generous spirit of our society while also giving people confidence that it’s not a free for all, the rules are fair and enforced, and the system works in Britain’s interest overall.

People have grown sceptical over the years and I understand why. But four years as Deputy Prime Minister have confirmed to me that we can marry our ideals about the open, welcoming Britain we love with the realities of running a effective immigration system. We can keep Britain open-hearted, open-minded and open-for-business and at the same time ensure our hospitality isn’t open to abuse.

It just takes a lot of work.

The Coalition has made extremely important progress, but this is like turning round an oil tanker: we inherited a system in utter disarray. When we came to power UKBA was out of control: collapsing under the weight of its own backlogs with no clue what to prioritise first. No one could tell us the basics: who’s here? Who’s left? Where are the holes in the system?

And, to be candid, we weren’t helped by the fact that my Coalition partners came into Government with the wrong priority.

The Conservatives were completely fixated on the net migration target, and, specifically, their pledge to get it down to 10s of 1000s – a Tory rallying cry in opposition.

I told David Cameron during the Leader’s debates – and in the early part of Government: ‘you’ll never deliver it’. I made sure it wasn’t in the Coalition Agreement precisely because it’s unrealistic; because it’s based on a fallacy: if a million Brits leave and a million migrants come you get net migration of zero – does that mean you’ve done the job? And because the last thing we need is yet another overpromise.

Thankfully the Conservatives have now softened their attachment to the net migration target and backed away from “10s of 1000s” – omitted entirely, for example, from the Prime Minister’s immigration article last week. They’ve realised they won’t deliver it. And bluntly it’s made it much easier for us to get things done.

It was right for Theresa May to split UKBA into two, separate services: visas and enforcement – one to administer legal immigration, the other to prevent illegal immigration – and bring it all back under Ministers’ control.

We’ve been very effective on some of the worst loopholes – notably the fake student route. On the last count we’d closed down around 750 bogus colleges.

People will no longer be able to play the appeals system so easily – previously you could appeal on 17 different grounds, moving from one to the next each time you were refused. Now there are only four, helping clear the path for genuine appeals too.

We’re toughening up on people who exploit migrants as cheap labour. Last year I said I wanted to see the fines increase for employers paying below the minimum wage – they have now quadrupled to up to £20,000 per employee.

And we are the first Government to get a handle on the access migrants from other parts of Europe have to our benefits system. It’s a hugely complicated area, and not without controversy, but we’re doing it.

There will be no coming to Britain and claiming out-of-work benefits on day one. The Prime Minister announced last week that the period for which you can claim at all will be reduced to 3 months unless you have a realistic prospect of finding a job. We’ve also made it impossible for newly arrived migrants to leapfrog local people patiently queuing for social housing – you’ll have to live in an area for two years before you can be added to the list. These are changes every liberal should support because a sense of fair play is the best antidote we have to resentment and mistrust.

So the Coalition has made good progress: reforming the system so that the rules are firm but fair, tough but smart – and to finish that job we need sustained action on four fronts.

Illegal immigration

One: more needs to be done to bear down on illegal immigration.

No one can tell you exactly how many people are living here illegally. The truth is nobody knows. There are estimates – anywhere between half a million and one and a half million – but by definition these people are living below the radar.

What we do know is the damage it does. The crime. The black economy. The slave labour. The beds-in-sheds. No real winners except rogue employers and dodgy landlords.

We’ve withdrawn thousands of driving licenses from illegal immigrants. Last week we announced new rules to prevent illegal immigrants from opening bank accounts. And I can confirm today that we are clamping down on sham marriages too.

When people want to remain in the UK, they’ll do everything they can to stay, and as we close more loopholes more and more people who don’t have permission to live in Britain are paying to marry someone who does.

It’s an industry – and a growing one, with around 2000 sham marriages reported every year. We know that there are criminal gangs charging thousands of pounds for a fake wife. Vulnerable women from Eastern Europe – who are allowed to enter Britain as members of the EU – are being trafficked here to be offered to illegal immigrants from outside Europe; to be used as anchor brides.

So we are making it much harder to get away with – and we are enlisting Britain’s registrars to help.

It is an insult to their profession and the institution of marriage when they have to conduct a ceremony and the groom doesn’t even know his future wife’s maiden name. Many registrars are unsure of exactly what is required from them so we have written, into the Immigration Act, that we expect registrars to tell the Home Office of any suspicion they have that a couple is bogus or an individual is here illegally. We are also issuing advice directly to all registrars so they know exactly what to do.

From next year we are going to extend the notice period for all couples seeking to marry or enter into a civil partnership from 15 to 28 days. And when someone rings the alarm we’ll be able to pause proceedings for 70 days while the Home Office investigates. Currently a marriage application can be refused if we can prove it’s fake – but that can be extremely difficult when the Home Office has such little time to react. With this change we will prevent sham marriages speeding through registry offices.

I can also tell you that the Government is upping the number of inspectors tasked, specifically, with identifying businesses hiring people, including migrants, for less than the minimum wage. We’re investing over a million pounds in a beefed-up, bespoke team. Rather than just respond to tip offs they will proactively go after the worst offending employers, including those running care homes, recruitment agencies and top class hotels

Above all, if we are really going to tackle illegal immigration in a meaningful way, we must complete the job of putting proper border checks in place.

This is fundamental. Illegal immigration isn’t just about people sneaking in in the back of a lorry. We have a major problem in this country with people coming over legitimately with a visa and then overstaying their welcome once it expires. But without border checks we don’t know who they are because we don’t know who has gone. Identifying overstayers, restricting the access they then have to benefits and services, finding them, deporting them – these are all things we can do, but only once we know who is and isn’t here.

Britain used to have exit checks – successive Conservative and Labour governments phased them out. I insisted that we commit, in the Coalition Agreement, to reintroducing them and I’ve been very open about my frustration that the Home Office has taken so long to get going. They didn’t make this a priority in the early years – as I said, the Conservatives were fixated on the illusory net migration target. Before the election around 57% of entry and exit points were covered by proper checks. By March last year we were only at 65%.

So I intervened and I’m pleased to say we are now at 80% and we’re working with Eurotunnel and the big ferry companies to continue plugging the gaps. If the Home Office hasn’t completed this by the election the Liberal Democrats will put it in our manifesto again.

Europe

The second area where more needs to be done is European migration.

I want to be unequivocal: freedom of movement between EU member states is a good thing.

It’s a cornerstone of European integration; a right currently enjoyed by around one and a half million British citizens who live on the other side of the Channel. It is necessary in order to be part of the world’s biggest Single Market where goods and people can flow between nations. Those who wish to undo it should be careful what they wish for: the blow to UK prosperity would be immense.

But the way freedom of movement works should change as Europe changes.

The EU is a very different creature to when freedom of movement was first conceived – when the then European Community was 15 countries of similar sizes and with similar economies. It is now a 28-member bloc, with huge wealth discrepancies across its members. It is only right – and I say this as a pro-European – that we reform freedom of movement to reflect these realities. It is a right to work. It was never intended as an automatic right to claim benefits, but over time the distinction has been blurred.

For that reason the Coalition has taken the unprecedented action I referred to earlier to restrict the access to benefits granted to European nationals. But I also believe that, when the EU enlarges in the future, we’ll need to be stricter and clearer on the transition controls we apply to new member states – the time between a country joining the EU and its people being able to move here.

In 2004 Labour said up to 13,000 people from countries like Poland and Hungary would come here every year. The real figure was around 170,000. When Romania and Bulgaria joined, Labour said no one from those countries would arrive ahead of the transition controls being lifted at the beginning of this year. Yet 60,000 Romanians and Bulgarians were already working here through a loophole for anyone who registered as self-employed.

Is it any wonder – when people have been repeatedly told one thing only to then see another – that so many have lost faith in Government’s ability to manage the flow of migrants from new EU states?

The hidden carve out for the self-employed was meant to allow in entrepreneurs who wouldn’t fill positions that could otherwise be taken by British nationals and who would actually create jobs instead.

The reality was that Romanians and Bulgarians were taking low-paid jobs but registering as self-employed. They gave up their rights – no sick pay, no leave. Their employers didn’t have to pay National Insurance for them. British workers in industries like food and agriculture felt they couldn’t compete. And yet again the reassurances that had been provided to the British people were shown to be false.

Any transition controls for any new member state joining in the future need to be acceptable to the British people and do exactly what they say on the tin.

To that end I can tell you that, whenever the EU enlarges in the future, I want the Liberal Democrats to argue for the removal of the special exemption for the self-employed – and if we’re in Government again, we should insist on it. This loophole can’t be forced on Britain and we mustn’t accept it.

We also need to be prepared to go beyond the 7 year maximum for transition controls, depending on the size and economy of the country joining the EU – and the extent to which we expect it’s nationals to look for work here. I also believe we’ll need to agree a period of time in which existing member states including Britain retain the right to put on the brakes if people begin arriving in numbers too big for our society to absorb successfully.

This is not about bolting the door, but it is about steadying the flow of people into Britain in a way that is careful and honest. It is in everyone’s interests – British born or not – for people living here to feel confident that, when a new member joins the EU, there will be no surprises and they have nothing to fear.

English language

Third area of action: everyone who wants to settle in Britain should speak English.

There is now a big consensus around this. A common language is the glue that binds a society. The ability to communicate is essential in allowing communities to integrate and in making sure every person living here has a voice.

Ask the students who take English language lessons in this centre – they will tell you that as their English improves, so do their lives in Britain. It makes migrants feel empowered; they feel more welcome; the opportunities open to them are transformed.

But it doesn’t happen without intervention. The Coalition has already made English language tests part of all visa applications. We’ve raised the level of English required from skilled workers as well as the husbands and wives of people coming to live and work in the UK. We’ve given Jobcentre advisers power to put people looking for work onto English language courses – and if you don’t go you lose your benefits.

And we need to keep going, pulling every lever we have. So I have also now told Her Majesty’s Passport Office and the DVLA that I want them to stop subsidising translation services for people applying for passports and driving licences. Obtaining a passport and drivers’ license is a privilege and ‘right of passage’ in this country. I think it is only right that someone gaining such rights should be able to speak English to an appropriate standard and I certainly don’t think everyone else should pay for them to use an interpreter or other translation service if they can’t. Far better we ask the Passport Office and the DVLA to try and help those individuals onto an English language course instead.

Brightest and the best

Finally, as we crack down on illegality, as we return Freedom of Movement to being a fair right rather than a feared threat, as we continue to encourage people to speak English, there’s one more thing we need to do.

Britain must remain a magnet for the brightest and the best.

The membership of the CBI – Britain’s biggest businesses – could not have been clearer in their warning at the end of last year: there is a global talent pool for which Britain must compete along with the other major economies of the world.

I’m like you: I want to see as much home grown talent in top jobs as possible. I want Britain’s young people to grow up into the world’s best astrophysicists and chemical engineers and software designers, and I want them to be based here in the UK. But our businesses need people now. Britain is a fantastic place to live – but so is New York, Dubai, Rio, Berlin, Shanghai.

So we have to fight for the best people. That’s why my party was clear from the start that there shouldn’t be a cap on student numbers. We want the world’s best students in our universities – and we should be encouraging them to find high value jobs here afterwards which, in turn, create jobs and growth in our economy.

We have taken steps to ensure our country remains open for business, open for entrepreneurship. It is now easier, for example, to come to Britain as a young entrepreneur, through our new visa scheme for exceptional graduates with promising business ideas.

I also want to see a more intelligent approach to the visas we give high value investors.

At the moment they are asked to invest £1m in either a low-risk government bond or shares in a FTSE company and, providing they satisfy all of the other criteria, they are allowed to stay. That’s been the situation for decades, but it should now be changed to deliver better benefits for the British economy.

For a start, the level has been set at £1m since 1994. These are very wealthy individuals who can afford much more. The Business Department has looked at increasing this to £2m and there’s no reason to believe this will put off the kind of people applying for these visas.

What’s more, their investments should be spent on the things the country needs. I want us to consult on exactly how to do that, but in my view this money should be invested in a wider range of productive sectors, with the highest priority given to clean, green industry. That is smart immigration – encouraging high value investors to invest more money in the real economy for the sake of Britain.

An open economy. Inclusive communities. Freedom of movement yes, freedom to claim no. Proper controls without loopholes. Border checks which count people out and count people in. In short, an immigration system in which people can finally have faith. All this can be done, but it takes work.

We are finally getting to grips with the system; finally dealing with people’s concerns; finally building a system in line with our values – open hearted, generous spirited, but not open to abuse. I just hope the Liberal Democrats get another five years in Government so that we can see it through. Thank you.

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29 Comments

  • matt (Bristol) 5th Aug '14 - 4:20pm

    Mega-post! Give me a week to read and de-code this properly, and I’ll come back to you.

  • David Evershed 5th Aug '14 - 5:34pm

    There is a glaring omission in the speech.

    At a time when we are commemorating the start of the first world war, we unconditionally accept all German immigrants but refuse most immigrants from the Commonwealth countries who fought alongside us against the Germans.

    The solution is to have a common system for immigration from EU and Commonwealth countries based on a points system like Australia.

  • Tony Dawson 5th Aug '14 - 5:54pm

    John Reid famously described the UK Immigration system as ‘not fit for purpose’. Unfortunately, this is precisely how he left the system when he finished as Minister and it did not improve under successive ministers, Labour or Tory. There is no sense of proportion or priority about this organisation which wastes a vast fortune every week on hopeless cases while failing to deploy resources where they would be effective.

  • I’m a Lib Dem member and activist and a non-EU migrant from a Commonwealth country. I have never commented on any issue discussed here but this is something that I feel I have to talk about. I have sometimes felt that the Party kept quiet on migration so as not to upset the voters and have consequently allowed the anti-migrant lobby to have a very free say and much of it based on misinformation and a complete lack of understanding of the mindset of most migrants. People come to the UK for push and pull reasons; I’m a pull migrant who came because we were recruited from our home country to work here. I have worked from the moment I arrived, paid tax, never claimed any benefits, decided not to socialise with the expat community but make British friends and have generally tried to contribute to my local community and be a citizen that the UK would be proud to have. According to the likes of UKIP, Migration Watch, many Tories, the Daily Mail and others, I don’t exist as all migrants are benefit-cheats who don’t want to integrate and only seek to take the jobs of British people. I have had some interesting conversations when out canvassing as my accent immediately identifies me as not originally from these shores. One UKIP voter actually became abusive and claimed that I was lying when I informed him that not all migrants claim or are even allowed to claim benefits . Nick’s speech is fairly balanced but I worry that it is the result of pressure due to the success of UKIP and the anti-migration lobby and is only the start of a progressive swing to the right to appeal to a broader range of voters who have perceived us as soft on migration.

  • Richard Dean 5th Aug '14 - 6:22pm

    I agree with Felix that it’s a good place to start, and with David that it has significant omissions. Me and my furture West Inidan bride look forward to the changes. Nothing much seems to have been said about the emotive subject of “asylum seekers”. It’s a start, Clegg is catching slowly up with voters and I hope he brings the LibDems with him. There’s a long way to go yet.

  • Any transition controls for any new member state joining in the future need to be acceptable to the British people

    Nick Clegg is referring to Turkey. This is a big issue, bigger than a question of transition controls. The question needs to be openly rather than obliquely discussed, otherwise the usual suspects will blame ‘Brussels’ for the decision, when in reality Turkey’s membership has been strongly pushed by the UK.

    If the EU, including the UK want Turkey to be a member then the implications should be accepted as well and Turkey only admitted when the transition period is acceptable; a second class EU citizenship is wrong in principle.

  • Whatever Nick Clegg thinks, our population is increasing at a huge rate that is out of control, not sustainable and driving us towards a failure of our housing system, benefits system, NHS and any other measure of the ability of our infrastructure to cope.

    These are the facts. Nick Clegg’s pie in the sky liberal minded thinking cannot solve this major problem.

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Aug '14 - 8:46pm

    Excellent speech, the content is worthy, I agree with DE that we need to treat the commonwealth on an equal footing with a points system to determine eligibility.

  • I’m not sure who is still listening to Nick Clegg, other than Lib Dem die-hards, but when I got to this part I bailed out of reading any more.
    “So I am never going to advocate pulling up the drawbridge….”
    This ‘pulling up the drawbridge’, comment makes him and others who continue to parrot it, look desperate. The Australian model of immigration management, is no drawbridge and a perfectly reasonable solution. Unfortunately, you cannot have an Australian model of immigration management, and be locked into EU membership.

  • Little Jackie Paper 5th Aug '14 - 9:27pm

    ‘British workers in industries like food and agriculture felt they couldn’t compete. And yet again the reassurances that had been provided to the British people were shown to be false.’

    There it is – right there. In not so many words this is as close as any LD politician has come to saying that the EU is not a reciprocal union. We can have all the flows of trade and capital we want, flows of people are not reciprocal. The EU’s freedom of movement has had the effect of wage arbitrage and the home workforce can’t compete. Freedom of movement is great for those able to take advantage, everyone else is on their own and very often they can’t compete. If it is not realistic for British food processing workers to head en masse to Latvia for wages/housing etc then this is not a reciprocal union. It is that simple. Free movement is not some cherished right for everyone.

    The problem with Nick’s speech is that whilst there are certainly some positive points in there it tries to split an argument that can not be split. Ultimately it all comes back to the zealous pursuit of openness. For years the message has been that the UK is open as an economy and, above all, is open for business. Cheap labour has been welcomed with open arms as a matter of economics. That might be well and good to a point. However the notion that there are benefits to immigration which, in net terms benefit UK plc is pretty abstract if you are the one on the receiving end of economic dislocation. Immigration is social as well as economic. It is hardly surprising that people just don’t believe the hype about the economic benefits when the social problems are stark. Similarly it is not hard to see where UKIP score big by not claiming that openness has been A Good Thing.

    That’s bad enough at the low-skilled end. It is insult to injury when at the skilled end we end up with a 13% six month graduate unemployment rate in engineering and some industries start demanding 12 month internships because they can always import someone with a bit more experience as we are open to this trend. The term, ‘highly skilled,’ is hugely definition-inflated now. Not that long ago I worked in a junior/mid-level admin job and I was surrounded by Australians and South Africans – are we short of junior admin skills in the UK? We are not short of skills – we are short of robustly funded posts. And this is to say nothing of the debts that UK young people are carrying post-fees and how their ability to compete is affected.

    Now, of course, real questions should be asked of successive UK governments who have often found it far too easy to hide behind the EU. But at the heart of it all is the open discourse. One way to help the UK young for example would be to have restrictions on foreign ownership of housing. Denmark has such restrictions. Which is it – being open in housing or helping the UK young get housing, it doesn’t split both ways. Similarly with the job market, are we open or is the priority access for the UK young – I don’t see a middle option except at the truly niche skilled end.

    More and more I just sense (and I may be wrong) that a great many have just had a gutful of being open and the idea that being open for business is the way to run the country. Immigration is just the most high-profile illustration of a more closed view.

    So yes – good on Nick for thinking about this issue. And certainly good on him for not reviving the affront that was the regularisation idea. But I still have a suspicion that he is trying to split the argument two ways and is less convincing for it.

  • Little Jackie Paper 5th Aug '14 - 9:33pm

    jedibeeftrix- A points systems tends to be less attractive the closer you get to it. What tends to happen with them is you end up with very loose categories like (to pick an easy example) doctor. There is a world of difference between a new-qualified doctor and a 20 year experienced global niche shortage specialist. The levels of granularity you need are very, very difficult to capture, not least because if a points system works then by definition skill gaps will be filled quickly. Politically the allocation of points becomes very tough. Points systems also tend to cause problems for non-economic migration such as spouses and you get stupid, stupid things like the primary purpose tests.

    Basically, if a points system is effective it needs to be unpopular – quite a paradox.

  • Little Jackie Paper 5th Aug '14 - 10:08pm

    ‘i simply object that we treat commonwealth citizens as second class citizens’

    Who is ‘we?’ They are NOT UK citizens. Immigration law covers them like everyone else. If you want to have an argument about whether we should open the borders to commonwealth people by dint of them being commonwealth then fine. But let’s have none of this second class citizen rubbish. If I were told by the authorities in my wife’s home country that I needed a visa (which they do) then am I a second-class citizen or a foreign national?

  • jedibeeftrix 5th Aug '14 - 11:04pm

    Sorry, poor terminology; second class immigrants.

    No need for emotive terms like “open the borders to…”, I’d simply like to see managed immigration applied equally to EU and cw nations.

  • David Allen 6th Aug '14 - 9:13am

    I think (as I’ve said elsewhere) that Clegg is a dreadful leader who should be replaced. So I think in all fairness I should comment on this. It’s definitely the best thing Clegg has done for a long time. He has listened, thought, and come up with some reasoned proposals on a very difficult question.

    On one side we have the economists, who see great net benefits from large immigration inflows, and the European idealists, who see free movement as a key principle. On the other side are the people whose wages are driven down by competition from cheap foreign labour, whose jobs are being lost to cheap foreign labour, and who are then resented for boosting the benefits bill.

    Little Jackie Paper, in a generally very thoughtful and helpful post, concludes that “I still have a suspicion that he is trying to split the argument two ways and is less convincing for it.” I would suggest that this is an argument that can’t help being split two ways, if one is trying to respect the valid points on both sides. Clegg has made a reasonable initial fist of tackling this.

  • roger roberts 6th Aug '14 - 9:17am

    NICK’S SPEECH TODAY ON EXIT CHECKS – needs thorough research to avoid massive build up of traffic.

    Asked by Lord Roberts of Llandudno

    To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact universal exit checks at United Kingdom borders will have on (1) passenger and freight queuing times at ports and airports, and (2) United Kingdom trade and travel; and what additional resources they will provide to ensure that the introduction of such checks does not lead to (a) increased queuing, and (b) travel disruption for the travelling public.[ HL1241]

    The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): The Home Office is working with industry to identify a solution to implement exit checks at sea and airports and at international stations to minimise any impact on queuing times. We are also working with service operators to agree how passenger data can be used to reduce the level of additional checks made at the point of departure.

  • Tony Dawson 6th Aug '14 - 10:31am

    Exit checks can be done by throwing passports through scanners with effective OCR software. The data is probably already largely there in the airline and ferry companies’ systems

  • Good grief. How this party has changed. Nick Clegg promises to crack down on immigration, and people are queueing up to support him (though some apparently think he’s not going far enough).

  • Well done Nick for saying that there shouldn’t be a cap on overseas students. Pity not to go just that bit further and say stop treating students as immigrants and including them in immigration statistics. That way you will get the attention of NUS and start to bring back our support in Students Unions up and down the country.

  • Simon Banks 6th Aug '14 - 6:13pm

    There are of course many sensible specifics in this speech, but it is clear Nick Clegg is running scared. Yes, there are many things about the immigration system that aren’t working and need tightening up. But while I agree many people on the doorstep mention immigration, hardly any of them have actually been harmed by it. It’s a “Grand Peur”, an irrational fear that sweeps up all sorts of fears and frustrations. Many of those who complain about immigration are actually complaining about people who look or sound different but may have been born in Britain.

    Even from the narrow viewpoint of electoral advantage, it’s demonstrable from the British Election Survey that most of the people who might vote Liberal Democrat (many of whom currently don’t intend to) have a broadly positive view of immigration. This speech will leave people even more confused than before about what Liberal Democrats really stand for.

    I actually responded to Nick’s message to party members in advance of his speech, but I assume he didn’t read it, not least because his e-mail came so soon before the speech. I queried one point in hisdraft, which is unchanged in the speech, in which he prided himself on telling two public agencies to stop “subsidising translation”. Of course it’s true that it’s much better for all concerned for immigrants to learn to be fluent in English. But it’s not reasonable to expect all such immigrants, irrespective of age, health or mental ability to be able right away to handle important official forms without translation. Making no effort to support translation for those who need it may even be illegal discrimination. And there is a real danger this move will trigger cuts by cash-strapped public authorities to interpreting and translation support in other areas – maybe the NHS and criminal justice? Yes, we’re short of money, but what proportion of the budget are we talking about?

  • A Social Liberal 6th Aug '14 - 10:57pm

    Well said Chris. I think it is a speech pandering to the UKIP voters just as the other two parties did. Anything to get back in the popularity stakes. What next, bring back capital punishment?

  • Richard Dean 7th Aug '14 - 3:16am

    It seems to me that Nick has at least recognized a very important reality, that forcing social change, on a population that doesn’t want it, is unlikely to be successful – the population will rebel in some way just as they rebel against a tyrant – and it surely cannot be considered “liberal”, even if the population is totally misguided on the matter.

    So I agree with the important principle that “a nation at ease with diversity and difference does not happen by accident. Successful immigration systems have to be managed. People need to see that they are good … Otherwise all you do is create fear and resentment”.

    It seems to me to follow logically that attention to immigrant numbers is important, contrary to what Nick suggests, and that EU member states should “retain the right to put on the brakes if people begin arriving in numbers too big for [their] society to absorb successfully”, in agreement with what he says.

    But it seems to me to be unfair to link immigration to the skills that immigrants can bring, or to their wealth. This pulls skills and money out of poorer countries where they are needed, reducing the abilities of those countries to solve their issues, and changing the nature of the social pressures for change in those countries. It also reduces the pressures in our own country to invest in creating the needed skills.

    So, a mixed reaction from me. I agree with the importance of “dealing with people’s concerns; … building a system in line with our values – open hearted, generous spirited, but not open to abuse”. But is that unique? Does it differentiate LibDems from other reasonable commentators? Not really! Will it convince voters?

  • Richard Dean 7th Aug '14 - 9:57am

    An immigrant who is not wealthy, and does not bring special skills, does not necessarily damage the welfare or well-being of the existing citizens of a state. Quite the reverse, in many cases.

    I’d prefer a system in which wealth and education are only valued as special, in this context, if they benefit *both* the UK and the immigrant’s country of origin. For example, by increasing mutually-beneficial trade between the two, or by reducing tensions between the two.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Aug '14 - 10:32am

    @ Richard Dean,
    Bur aren’t people who are less well- off, those who most need and use social provisions?

  • Richard Dean 7th Aug '14 - 2:58pm

    @Jayne Mansfield.
    No. Sound byte time. There are plenty of un-skilled, un-wealthy people who are not benefit scroungers.

  • Jayne Mansfield 7th Aug '14 - 4:58pm

    @ Richard Dean
    I know that.

    I have never ever used the term benefit scroungers ever. I still ask the question as to whether the least wealthy are more more likely to use social services more.

    Given that The poorest and most vulnerable in our society have been those hardest hit by the measures introduced by this coalition government who have chosen to cut services most needed by them, I reserve the right to pose the question.

    If you are going to dismiss any query as a sound byte, that it up to you. I was going to congratulate you on your upcoming marriage ( in fact I would still like to, so very best wishes). I hope your future wife realises what an increasingly testy grump you have become over the time I have been reading your posts!

  • Richard Dean 7th Aug '14 - 5:11pm

    @Jayne Mansfield
    I hope someone will answer your question. As far as my future wife is concerned, thanks for your best wishes. She’s probably grumpier than me!

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