Opinion: The Immigration Premium: A positive approach to immigration

This concept of an Immigration Premium was developed after watching Nick Clegg struggle to counter Nigel Farage on the subject of immigration in the European election debates. The UKIP leader is correctly able to state that we have an open door policy to European Immigration and hundreds of thousands of people arrive year after year, putting immense strains on housing, education, healthcare and other infrastructure elements.

The Immigration Premium turns this problem on its head. New immigrants (identifiable by NI number) have high levels of employment and through sheer weight of numbers make a major contribution to the exchequer both through direct taxes and indirect spending. In fact, immigration is a major factor in the economy’s return to growth. The Immigration Premium identifies additional tax revenues generated by immigration and directs additional funds to the geographic areas and services most directly affected by sudden influxes of large numbers of new people.

I recognise that this concept can just be viewed as additional unfunded expenditure; the immigrants are coming anyway and the treasury needs the funds to deal with the deficit. However, I was disappointed that the idea, when submitted to David Law’s manifesto contributions page, was not worked up and did not make it to the conference agenda. This is a flexible policy that could be delivered in affordable stages. For example, it could initially focus on housing and then expand into healthcare. It could also be directed at investment instead of current expenditure. Areas receiving the premium would be prioritised by the scale of the issues they face.

UKIP’s ability to push their argument not only feeds anti-immigration views, it also powers their anti-EU position, which between the Conservatives and UKIP is a real threat to our national interest. We need, as a matter of urgency, to develop a positive alternative, a policy that both recognises the amazing contribution of immigration to our economy and deals with the negative impacts for the country’s infrastructure. An immigration premium is one way forward, there are others, but to ignore this issue is a major failure for the only party that is genuinely positive about both immigration and EU membership.

* Drew Durning is a Liberal Democrat member in Stockton-on-Tees

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  • Richard Dean 23rd Sep '14 - 9:19am

    Is there any evidence for the claim that “immigration is a major factor in the economy’s return to growth”?

    Does immigration improve GDP per capita, and if so, what damage are immigrants doing to the countries they’re emigrating from?

  • Immigration is only part of this debate.

    Government infrastructure funding is based on frozen population figures to 2020. So for areas planning growth (i.e. getting on with building houses) the funds for core council services aren’t growing (although you have infrastructure funding from the developers and new homes bonus is better than nothing.) So high growth areas are having to rethink their plans, flying in the face of Government encouragement to get on witih building.

    We would be rightly attacked, if we directed funding to areas impacted by immigration, but not those seeing growth through internal migration.

    My proposal would be to lobby Government about making funding far more sensitive to population growth – it would give the meat of what Drew is asking for, but be based on need, and encourage more house-building where there is local consent.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Sep '14 - 9:49am

    … or more accurately: Does immigration improve the growth rate of GDP per capita? (bearing in mind that if GDP increases and the number of people increase, then it is actually possible for GDP per person to decrease).

    And does it do so by benefitting immigrants, existing citizens, or everyone? A major claim of UKIP and others is that it reduces the equivalent of GDP per capita for some citizens – specifically, those who are in low paid jobs for which some immigrants compete by accepting even lower wages. What does the evidence say?

  • Drew Durning 23rd Sep '14 - 10:05am

    “Is there any evidence for the claim that “immigration is a major factor in the economy’s return to growth”?

    Does immigration improve GDP per capita, and if so, what damage are immigrants doing to the countries they’re emigrating from?”

    Richard – yes there’s loads of evidence about immigration and economic growth. The BBC mentions it virtually every time they report on the return to growth. This FT article looks at a couple of studies

  • Morning Drew

    Are you sure this counters fear of immigration, I don’t think it does

    Not enough infrastructure
    Not enough health service
    Keeping wages lower than otherwise would be
    Risk some may be terrorist ie no border control

    I don’t think fear of immigration is based on racial prejudice but that is simply far too fast give control over numbers maybe a slight just stop for months a year or so let the country catch up

    I for one do not like not being able to get appointments for a GP or waiting in an ambulance let alone far to few homes

  • Drew Durning 23rd Sep '14 - 10:20am

    “We would be rightly attacked, if we directed funding to areas impacted by immigration, but not those seeing growth through internal migration.”

    Good point tpfkar but firstly, this doesn’t have to be an “either or”, there should be support for all areas requiring support due to population growth – this is about extra support for areas that could possibly have social cohesion issues because of rapid changes in population due to immigration

    Secondly, I suspect there’s some overlap between areas that are attracting significant population movements both from abroad and within the UK – any ideas about how you could identify one vs the other?

  • Drew Durning 23rd Sep '14 - 10:28am

    Morning Allan!

    A potential referendum on EU membership will be fought largely on the issue of open borders vs the economic prosperity that comes with membership. I think it’s very unlikely that we will get control of our borders and remain within the EU. Those who want out have a simple answer and are prepared to take the loss. Those who want to stay in need to find solutions to the impacts of immigration – as I said I don’t think Nick Clegg had a vision to combat Nigel Farage’s on this issue. I think we need to develop one.

  • Igor Sagdejev 23rd Sep '14 - 10:38am

    All areas of population growth need extra funding and infrastructure. These are likely to be places where there is a job growth.

    I doubt it is possible to treat social cohesion issues, whether real or imaginary.

    And it is definitely impossible to do much to convince most of the UKIP supporters of anything.

  • Igor Sagdejev 23rd Sep '14 - 10:44am

    @Drew Durning: “I think it’s very unlikely that we will get control of our borders and remain within the EU”

    The UK has control of the borders. What cannot be controlled within the EU is the EU citizens coming to work.

  • Drew Durning 23rd Sep '14 - 11:22am

    OK Igor and tpfkar – how about renaming this a Population Growth Premium? Where funds get directed to any areas that have sudden growths in population for whatever reason. (In practice that would still help a lot of areas that have high levels of new immigrants)

    I’m not expecting it to change the views of natural UKIP supporters but there are a lot more people who are potential “out of EU” voters than just UKIP and they need a more positive vision related to immigration

    And Igor the line about control and no control seems a bit oxymoronic to me – my point is that it is highly unlikely that we can stay in the EU and stop high levels of net immigration by EU citizens.

  • Conor McGovern 23rd Sep '14 - 11:42am

    I think it’s a great idea. As liberals we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up against immigrant-bashing, but we should also be able to identify the major faults in a system set up by successive Labour and Tory governments, and deal with them. This is a good step on the way to doing that, and doing it positively without starry-eyed idealism on the one hand, or bitterness and xenophobia on the other.

  • Igor Sagdejev 23rd Sep '14 - 12:05pm

    Yes, Drew, this looks like a proper name for it to me. I’m actually surprised it doesn’t already exist.

    The border controls are border controls, and the UK has them in full, not being in Schengen. So what we are talking about here is controlling immigration. No, there is no way to control immigration of EEA citizens, even if the UK becomes “like Norway” or “like Switzerland” (Switzerland made some noises about this, but we’ll see what happens if they try to really do it). Unfortunately, many of the UKIP supporters believe that becoming “like Switzerland” will save them from the “Polish” hordes, while keeping the free trade.

    You are absolutely right that it is the undecided potential referendum voters that we should address. Unfortunately, some of their worries are real, and I wonder if we can address them. Here are a few:

    – housing (there’s not enough built, and mass immigration squeezes this further)
    – a very swift and brutal cultural change in some places. I have seen a few, but the prime example is Boston in Lincolnshire – just have a stroll on the Western outskirts of the town centre. I am a former Lithuanian, and it is a pleasure for me to have a lunch in a Lithuanain cafe, and buy some really excellent food, but I can imagine what a shock it is for the locals

    Some are semi-real:
    – NHS – the EU labour migrants are mostly young and healthy, not a great burden on the NHS. Moreover, a lot of them work for NHS, its contractors, or as carers
    – Wages – the EU migrants have a right to be paid the minimum wage, they know it, and almost none of them agree for less. The jobs most of them take (remember, knowing English is not very common among them when they come) would never command much more than a minimum wage, or become just economically unviable. A really bad practice, however, is agencies hiring people abroad – this should be curtailed.

    There is also a good thing about the EU migrants: they can come and go at will, and they do come and go, as the economy rises and falls. Those who stay assimilate pretty well. In the 90ies there were a lot of illegal migrants working in Britain, now they are mostly replaced with EU migrants, who are less disruptive (I don’t have statistics, just my own observations).

  • Richard Dean 23rd Sep '14 - 12:13pm

    @Drew Durning

    In fact the “evidence” on immigration, growth, and fairness is dubious at best. An FT article is hardly likely to be an unbiased source – FT readers are probably biased towards making profits and money rather than focussed on the welfare of ordinary people. As it happens the New Zealand Treasury has some interesting though rather highbrow information (http://www.treasury.govt.nz/publications/research-policy/wp/2006/06-02/03.htm). But even a little bit of independent thinking can help …

    International trade occurs because it benefits the countries involved, so any aspect of immigration that assist trade is likely to benefit everyone. For example, an foreign entrepreneur who takes up residence in the UK can bring benefits by bringing the knowledge, skills, and contacts needed to develop trade with his or her own country.

    But what of someone who comes here to live and work? If that person produces less than what he/she consumes, then the country as a whole is worse off, and if he/she produces more that he/she consumes, then that is being unfair to the person, as well as creating the opportunity for immigrants to be preferentially hired, so taking jobs away from indigenous peoples.

    So it looks like the benefit of this kind of immigration can only come if everyone (or at least some indigenous people as well as the immigrant) ends up being able to consume more as a result. Taxation really has nothing to do with this, since taxation just shifts money rather than increasing GDP. What is more relevant is efficiency (in terms of value generation per effort rather than cash generation per effort) and innovation. Do immigrants who come to live and work bring benefits in terms of these criteria – without being unfair to themselves or to indigenous peoples?

    Maybe immigration can bring economies of scale? If it does, then this would be an economic rationale for the concentration of immigrants in distinct areas. Another possible benefit to all could be in changing the skills profile of a population, making it match modern products and needs better. But is this enough to support your proposals?

  • Personally I’m intensely relaxed about immigration but I fear this idea would end up playing into UKIP’s hands and that they would spin this as extra money spent on housing and services for immigrants. And they would kind of have a point because we also need to direct resources at areas where population is increasing because of internal immigration and higher than average birthrates. You won’t counter the sense of grievance exploited by UKIP by treating immigrant taxes as special.

  • Igor Sagdejev 23rd Sep '14 - 1:03pm

    Bravo, AndrewR! You are spot on.

  • Igor Sagdejev 23rd Sep '14 - 1:12pm

    @Richard Dean
    I’d tend to think that not any kind of immigrants benefit anyone besides themselves. But entrepreneurs need a sufficient labour (or, as is fashionable to say in our days, “talent”) pool in times of expansion. People, who easily move to where they are needed, will reliably come to work in the morning (or in the evening, if this is their shift), sober and not stoned.

  • Drew Durning 23rd Sep '14 - 2:18pm

    @Richard Dean

    I don’t have time to go through that paper line-by-line but a quick scan shows the models reviewed allow for and have found examples of “immigration surplus” – where, the surplus arises “because immigrants increase national income by more than the cost of hiring them” The FT article reviews two independent studies and if you need an example of long term growth fuelled by immigration then the USA from the 1930s to 1990s is a good one. It’s also worth noting that European immigration to the UK is not just relatively low-skilled, low paid jobs, there are plenty of high skilled jobs and entrepreneurs too

  • Drew Durning 23rd Sep '14 - 2:31pm


    “You won’t counter the sense of grievance exploited by UKIP by treating immigrant taxes as special.” Well you certainly won’t counter the sense of grievance by just letting Nigel Farage exploit it! As I’ve already stated my starting point for this was the Euro-Election debates and the obvious need for a more positive vision on this issue

    I’m not precious about only using immigrant taxes for this (or the concept name as already stated) what I’m trying to sell is the concept that those areas that have had sudden increases in population (which are largely driven by immigration) need financial support to help with the impacts on infrastructure above and beyond whatever already exists, so when people like Allen above quite rationally state their concerns the LibDems have a positive answer.

  • Drew Durning 23rd Sep '14 - 2:39pm

    @Conor McGovern

    Thanks for the positive support. Raising the subject of immigration is always risky! My worry is those at the top of the party think the answer is to keep the LibDems out of this debate as the focus groups don’t like our general stance.

  • Richard Dean 23rd Sep '14 - 2:42pm

    @Drew Durning

    That would be the FT bias, certainly – measurement in terms of national income. But that’s not necessarily the most relevant measure as far as the benefits to a population are concerned. National income does not take account of things like the perceived quality of the social environment, for example.

  • Igor, we don’t need to persuade the convinced UKIPpers. As you say, they are mostly absorbed into Nigel’s personality cult and will remain there until he falls on his face in some particularly conspicuous way. It’ll be like Cleggmania all over again.

    But what we do need to do is have a competing idea on immigration and what it does. Having that and placing it out there might not win the arguments on the internet, but it will stem the flow of people drifting over to UKIP because they think it is the only show in town that has a clear vision.

    On the question of immigration and the economics of its effects, the free traders who set up the European Single Market would argue that free movement of labour, as with capital, simply allows for the most efficient distribution of people, skills and assets. The effect is that some get better off, but nobody is worse off because negative effects on the donor country are offset by reduced inefficiency there, and the receiving country benefits from a demographic windfall and increased competitiveness for its economy as compared to other economies.

    As Liberals, though, we should be able to see that statistical improvements can mask individual cases that don’t get better and even get worse. Unfettered free markets aren’t infallible. That’s why the European Union uses transitional controls on new members to ease the effect of membership on their economies, avoiding the sudden shock changes for both sides that can harm as well as help.

    The decision to be the only major European economy not to apply these controls to the 2004 Accession countries does mean that we’re dealing with the impacts of sudden shock. And the politics of the Conservatives, the Clegg faction Lib Dems and, whisper it, but most of the Labour Party too, mean that we’re trying to deal with a problem requiring investment through the use of austerity.

    It is also interesting to note that the parties most opposed to immigration are also the ones most staunchly against such social investment. In voting against the low-wage foreigners, people will be voting Britain quickly along the route to becoming Europe’s cheap outsourcing capital.

    Anyway, I would anticipate that Cameron’s renegotiation, if it ends up happening, will try to get transitional controls or something like them applied between the UK and the European Union. This would be bad for our economy, highlight conflicts of interest within our union and truly relegate us to a second-tier status in Europe. But it would give Cameron something to take to the voters to win a referendum and avoid the serious trouble that leaving the European Union and the Single Market would cause.

    Hopefully, it won’t end up happening, the next government will decide to use the fact that we’re not in immediate danger of bankruptcy to end the austerity in favour of investment that will reduce the social impacts of immigration and we can settle the two-tier Europe question as and when the next major constitutional change comes about. But who knows.

  • Really excellent article embracing the positives of the multi cultural society we live in. Interestingly the White Paper “Scotland’s Future” published by the Scottish Government laid out a very similar approach to positive immigration. It was a plan aiming to addressing the population imbalance, create employment and build an all inclusive society, with the added benefit of raising tax revenue. It didn’t seem to go down too well with the 3 main UK parties.

  • “The UKIP leader is correctly able to state that we have an open door policy to European Immigration and hundreds of thousands of people arrive year after year, putting immense strains on housing, education, healthcare and other infrastructure elements.”

    It is hard enough to dealing with these factually incorrect comments when it UKIP saying them, let us not help them spread this rhetoric.

    First, immigration from the EU is not completely unrestrained – and plenty of rules, laws and restrictions exist around it.

    Secondly, schools with a high number of multicultural students are often more successful than homogeneous ones – and even if we ignore the economic benefits of immigration, institutions such as our hospitals and universities simply could not function with their immigrant employees.

  • Drew Durning 24th Sep '14 - 9:40am

    @Mark Greer

    Scotland has not had the same level of immigration since 2004 as parts of England and population issues are genuinely different. However, it is refreshing that the Scots take a more positive attitude to immigration – although I suspect not many will vote LibDem at the 2015 elections, even if we do share the SNPs positive approach on this issue.

  • Drew Durning 24th Sep '14 - 9:47am

    @ Liberal Al

    I share your sentiments and do not want to prove your point by laying down the UKIPs spurious arguments in detail. However, net migration to the UK is currently running in excess of 240,000 per year and some areas are impacted by those numbers more than others. We should recognise and champion the benefits but to ignore the “strains” that those high numbers can place on infrastructure just plays into UKIPs hands

  • It is pretty simple.

    UKIP, alone of the political parties, favours immigration control, they are wrong, you have been right to allow unlimited immigration.. Leave them to their ridiculous policy, as a party they are going to fade away when the electorate realise how wonderful unlimited immigration and multiculturalism is.

    I just don’t understand your dilemma. Since your position intellectually is that unlimited immigration is nirvana, and anyone who disagrees is a racist and beneath you morally, why would you need to apologise for it?

    Embrace our wonderful diversity, shout your position from the rooftops, and the electorate will come flooding back to you and the other parties!

    Clacton will your next chance to show just how popular the Lib Dem position is on this. Don’t be embarrassed, be proud of the fact that you have the most pro immigration policy in British politics.

    Sorted, no need to thank me.

  • Steve Coltman 24th Sep '14 - 10:35am

    During the 1970s, net immigration into Britain was minus 50,000 a year. During the ’80s it was about zero, during the ’90s it was about plus 50,000 a year until ‘New Labour’ came to power when it shot up to about a quarter of a million a year, where it more or less remains. Immigration on this scale has no precedent in the previous thousand years and it is believed Labour encouraged this scale of immigration in the hope that it would swing the demographics their way. Don’t the opinions of the British people count for anything in this? Immigration on this scale has a profound effect on a country, be it good, bad or a mixture. But it should have some sort of democratic mandate, or don’t we care about democracy except when it suits us?

  • Two good questions from Richard Dean 23rd Sep ’14 – 9:19am
    1—–Is there any evidence for the claim that “immigration is a major factor in the economy’s return to growth”?
    2———-Does immigration improve GDP per capita, and if so, what damage are immigrants doing to the countries they’re emigrating from?

    My answer to question 1 is that there are clear signs that this is true depending on how you define “major factor” and “return to growth”. Some people unfortunately will not take the trouble to define either and will fall back on comfortable prejudices, when in doubt blame it on the foreigners, and for good measure heave a brick at them. We used to call these people “Conservatives” or in a small number of cases “facists”. Now all sorts of respectable people , not just supporters of UKIP, give house room to such prejudices.

    My answer to question 2 is — it depends on the immigrant. Those who are able to get work and send money home to support family, or build up enough capital to start a business or build a house back home will be of benefit to both this country and to their home country. It is not a either or question.
    It can be argued that those highly qualified people who for example keep our universities at the leading edge of research in their field or the doctors who keep the NHS going are damaging their own country by not providing the benefits of their skills back home.

    Immigrants vary enormously and the jobs that they do and the contribution that they make varies enormously as well.

    In my recent stay in hospital I was lucky enough to be treated and cared for by people from all over the world including Colombia, Zimbabwe, The Philipines, mainland China, Taiwan, there was even someone from Wigan. They were all brilliant. The contribution they make to the economy of either this country or their home country cannot easily be calculated but they certainly made my stay in hospital more interesting than if they had all come from Surbiton.

  • “Don’t the opinions of the British people count for anything in this?”

    Those who support unlimited immigration have an appropriate view, and their opinion counts. Those who feel that as a nation we are entitled to control our borders have the wrong opinion. They are racist and socially divisive and the sort of people who would cause an embarrassed silence at a dinner party held by a group of the metropolitan elite.

    So their opinion doesn’t count. In fact, how very dare they set up a party which goes against the liberal consensus!

    But don’t worry, Farage is a populist demagogue and will soon go away when his supporters realise they have been duped. Normal service will soon be resumed, rule by those who know best for everyone. Miliband, probably our next PM felt immigration was of such importance to our nation he forgot to mention it in his speech. Do they call that a Freudian slip?

    Meanwhile immigration on the scale of hundreds of thousands every year will continue, as we are one of the richest countries in the world, and others are poor. Every year more and more and more people will come, and more and more houses will need to be built just to keep still, and schools and hospitals. (And prisons, although it isn’t comme il faut to mention the concomitant crime caused by uncontrolled immigration or how many in our prisons are now foreign nationals)..

    And then one day even the complacent, clueless, worthless metropolitan elite will realise that they made a catastrophic mistake. But it will be too late.

  • For what it’s worth I think this is an excellent idea. The overall economic benefits of immigration are very well documented, particularly where the influx is working age people (more likely to contribute to the economy via earnings, less likely than older, retired people to need to use social benefits such as the NHS or pensions etc). But the public mostly don’t see this overall picture – they see the effect immigration might have on housing and services in a particular area and understandably don’t get why politicians of most parties aren’t trying to stop it.

    Details aside (how would the allocation be calculated and done etc?) the principle of this is good. One other thing – the existence of a premium might make people question the accepted “fact” that immigration is wholly bad.

  • “In my recent stay in hospital I was lucky enough to be treated and cared for by people from all over the world including Colombia, Zimbabwe, The Philipines, mainland China, Taiwan, there was even someone from Wigan. They were all brilliant. The contribution they make to the economy of either this country or their home country cannot easily be calculated but they certainly made my stay in hospital more interesting than if they had all come from Surbiton.”

    Good for you, I am glad it made your stay in hospital so interesting! But you surely don’t expect this charming little anecdote to inform the national debate on immigration?

    Simple question for you or anyone else in the Lib Democrats. Do you support unlimited immigration? You must do, right? That is your policy, along with the other parties of the elite.

    So why don’t you just admit it?

  • “But the public mostly don’t see this overall picture”

    No of course not, their kids don’t go to school, they don’t go to a GP’s surgery or hospital, they don’t walk the streets!

    Your putative policy is genius. Tell people they don’t see the overall picture, but you do, are right and they are wrong.

    You might call it the “Brown bigot” approach. Gillian Duffy didn’t see the overall picture either. Neither will the voters of Clacton.

    But show them the “overall picture” and there will be a mass Damascene conversion to the right way of thinking.

    Dream on.

  • simon 24th Sep ’14 – 12:03pm
    You chose to quote my anecdote as if it had not followed a considered answer to two specific questions, neither of which was on the subject of unlimited immigration.
    I am touched by your belief that because I am not obsessed with immigration controls, that means I must be part of “the elite”.

  • simon 24th Sep ’14 – 12:03pm
    My answer to your last comment has been caught up in the software policing.
    I do hope it is because I have treated your comment with contempt.

  • I think the reason why this idea wasn’t worked up was because once you start to look at it all the flaws become visible along with a realisation that it does absolutely nothing to alter the economic’s of being a migrant.

    Today we already have a form of ‘IP’ in that many immigrants already have National Insurance numbers and hence their contributions to the Exchequer could be identified. the problem is that all monies currently received by the Exchequer have been allocated, so for these monies to be diverted in the way Drew wants, saving would have to be made and the first place many will look is at welfare …

    To truly turn the problem on its head the “Immigrant Premium” needs to be levied directly on the immigrant: you want to live and/or work in the UK then you must pay for the privilege. Interestingly, if we look at education we already see such a system with “home student fees” (UK & EU nationals) and “international student fees”. This style of IP would truly generate new monies.

  • Drew – sorry for not replying yesterday but “Population Growth Premium” is a winner for me. It ALSO encourages housebuilding as communities know that the Government will support their ambitions.

    It wouldn’t be hard to do – local authorities have to invest in population modelling for school places among other functions, so as long as there’s some independent checks, you could use their projections.

  • Drew Durning 24th Sep '14 - 1:20pm

    @Simon – You’re sincerity shines through

    @Steve – The British people are not a homogenous bunch of UKIP / right wing Tory supporters but this whole concept recognises that there are genuine concerns about immigration. As I’ve pointed out, it’s likely that if there is a referendum on EU membership, it will be largely fought on the economic benefits of membership vs the scale of immigration that goes with it- this idea is that we use some of the former to alleviate some of the latter

  • “My answer to your last comment has been caught up in the software policing.
    I do hope it is because I have treated your comment with contempt.”

    That is fine, obviously I don’t care one way of the other what you, a stranger on a message board, might think of me, I do wish your post had made it however. Because the intemperance would have been very telling. It would demonstrate that you have no argument, merely invective.

    In fact you, and your entire party, and indeed the entire establishment have LOST the argument.

    Do you support unlimited immigration or not? Yes or no? If yes why doesn’t your party admit it? If not, what is your policy to control it with the free movement of labour?

    You won’t answer, none of you will will answer. This whole thread is an admission of intellectual bankruptcy on the most pressing issue of British politics after the very state of the Union itself.

    That simply isn’t sustainable, it won’t wash. Not with me, but with the British people. They aren’t as stupid as you think they are. For all your contempt of them, or me.

  • Steve Coltman 25th Sep '14 - 3:44pm

    Answer to Simon: What is the Lib Dem policy on immigration?
    I was in a meeting about immigration at conference. At the end of it I said to a professional researcher who had done a presentation the following: “I suspect the people in this meeting are more pro-immigration than conference goers in general, who are, probably more keen than activists in general, who are more pro-immigration than ordinary members, who are less anti than Lib Dem voters. That is to say there is a hierarchy of support for immigration. Yes, he said, that’s about right. My gut feeling (no more than that) is that the ordinary members of this party have more concerns about immigration than enthusiasm, but that this is not reflected in the party’s ‘official’ stance. Reading the Policy document (Making Migration work for Britain, no 116) no figures are quoted except one, claiming that (according to the Treasury) if annual net immigration, now running at 250,000, were to become zero, it would add £18bn to the public sector debt within 5 years. (It would make the debt about 1% bigger than it would otherwise have been). So I guess the Treasury is keen on immigration. There is little in the document to say about limiting immigration but it does say the government should submit an annual migration plan to parliament. There is no doubt our dysfunctional education and training system has left us with serious skills shortages as well as high unemployment and unprecedented numbers going to University (you would not have thought it possible!). I chaired a meeting on the Skills Shortage and there is no doubt we need to allow skilled migrants in to fill these jobs or the jobs themselves will leave the country. You can read the document for yourself, just Google the title. The document does not seriously consider the long-term implications of annual net immigration running at 200,000-250,000, nor does it address the opposition of the British people to immigration on this scale. It does not even reflect the reservations (I suspect) of the ordinary party members. It will cost us votes and seats in parliament in May.

  • Drew Durning 25th Sep '14 - 4:40pm

    @Steve Coltman

    On the positive side, the document does contain a proposal for a £1bn Community Protection Fund, funded by the EU, in support of “neighbourhood cohesion projects and to ease pressure on local public services”. However, this looks like a relatively small sum compared to the scale of the investment needed. It appears to be aimed at sticking plaster on current expenditure rather than the big infrastructure support really required. I agree “the document does not seriously consider the long-term implications of annual net immigration running at 200,000-250,000” but something is better than nothing (which is my guess as to what the other supposedly pro-EU parties are offering).

  • “Answer to Simon: What is the Lib Dem policy on immigration?
    I was in a meeting about immigration at conference. ”

    You seem a nice enough guy, bright and well informed.

    But when I read your posts, and see what the policy on immigration is (as well as that of the Tories and Labour) and how the Emperor has no clothes I feel despair for my country.

    You guys are clueless, you haven’t the first idea. It is so depressing I can’t tell you to read the poverty of policy evinced by this thread.

    I vote UKIP but I know in my hear of hearts it won’t make any difference in the great scheme of things. The liberal elite need to get it and reading this I understand that they never will.

    You have ALL betrayed this country, and won’t realise until it is too late.

  • Drew Durning 26th Sep '14 - 11:49am


    Well your sincerity really did shine through in the end! The great thing about British democracy is that it allows for you and others to find a home for Little Englanders in the UKIP party. In contrast to your concern that voting UKIP won’t make a difference, my worry is that it will. How sad for this wonderful country that views like yours dominate the media and right wing isolationism is on the rise.

  • @Drew Durning (26th Sep ’14 – 11:49am) – I would re-read Steve Coltman’s post (25th Sep ’14 – 3:44pm) and understand a reason many people are seemingly turning to nationalist and separatist parties across the UK isn’t because they are bigoted etc. but because the main parties are out of touch and not listening.

    If you are truly worried about people voting UKIP and/or jumping up and down and wanting more regional identity and control then I suggest you need to get out and understand why and modify your views and policy proposals accordingly; particularly when your policy is so obviously a lead balloon.

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