Rennie: Stand up for immigration to save our universities, health service and farms

Willie Rennie puts immigration front and centre of his Leader’s speech to Scottish Conference today. He will will set out positive examples that immigration brings to local communities and call out hard line Brexiteers who risk tanking the economy in their obsessive pursuit of a damaging Brexit. He will say:

The Conservatives are about to betray Leave voters or trash the economy. This is the real political car crash that is heading our way.

If immigration is not cut with Brexit then Leavers will feel betrayed because that is what they voted for. If the Conservatives keep that promise, and immigration is cut, it will damage our economy and public services, and even more will feel betrayed because they were not told this would happen.

Whilst leaders bicker about transition periods and single markets and common external tariffs the elephant in the room is immigration. In the Brexit vote people were promised fewer foreigners in our country. Yet people were not told the price of that policy.  And it is big.

The price is a shortage of workers to get food from British farm into the shops.

The price is a shortage of carers, nurses and GPs.

The price is billions of pounds of lost taxes from these jobs.
They are already going home and Brexit has not even happened yet.

Some say that too much immigration is a threat to our way of life. But the truth is that not enough immigration is the real threat to our way of life. It’s not the workers from Poland, Romania or Bulgaria who we should fear. We should fear all those political leaders who are blindly backing Brexit. These are the people we should be sending home.

The Conservatives do not want a debate over immigration. But we need it and that is what I am calling for today before it’s too late.

My call today is for people to stand up for immigration. Stand up to save our farms, universities and health service. We shouldn’t be timid. We need this debate now.

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39 Comments

  • Is net migration of around a quarter of a million per year not enough?

  • David Evershed 12th Nov '17 - 11:16am

    Brexit does not stop immigration but make it fairer between immigrants from EU countries and non EU countries in Africa and Asia.

  • David Evershed
    How fair is non-EU immigration?

  • Manfarang,
    Fairer than EU immigration. The biggest threat to Universities and the NHS has come from the kind of free marketeers who now say we need endless high levels of immigration to save institutions said free marketeers have nearly wrecked. It’s the politics of Ponzi merchants who need a steady supply of new people to keep the books looking good.

  • Many employers who call for endless immigration are only concerned with acquiring cheap labour and in some cases avoiding the cost of recruitment and training. Cheap labour replaces the need for investment and leads to low productivity and suppressed wages locally. It is a false economy that damages the country.

  • Red Liberal 12th Nov '17 - 5:18pm

    Xenophobic poison flowing as ever.

  • Red Liberal,

    I’m afraid you are right unfortunately the people spouting it wouldn’t recognise themselves as xenophobes, they have a hundred reasons why that cannot be the case. Although to be fair Peter makes a valid point our politicians have placed no value on training the people of the UK, but blaming immigrants for that rather than blaming the politicians isn’t really fair.

  • Frankie.
    I don’t think so.

  • frankie, why would businesses go to the effort of training staff if there’s practically an unlimited pool of foreign workers (often readily trained) willing to accept lower pay, worse conditions and perhaps even living 8 to a house?

    I’m neutral of Brexit, but this is an extract from the Guardian on the ‘dire’ consequences of leaving Europe;

    “We are struggling at the moment to find staff because of Brexit – there is no doubt,” said Wawrzyniak, who recently switched entirely to hiring trainees and teaming up with Peterborough Regional College to run an apprenticeship scheme.”

    Any comment?

  • PT,

    I agree why train when you can poach. Other European countries don’t have that issue I wonder why. Perhaps we should ask the French

    Since the 1970s, employers have to finance the vocational training system. Furthermore, the legislator and the case law forced them to be more active through several schemes such as the personal training account, the obligation to negotiate so-called anticipatory management of employment and competencies or the commitment to organise a career interview for each employee. According to the Labour Code, the employer is obliged to ensure adaptation of its employees to their workplace (L. 6321-1).

    ​Personal training account (Compte personnel de formation, CPF)

    From 1 January 2015, all private sector employees have an personal training account valid from when they first join the labour market until they retire (Labour Code, article L. 6111-1). An employee who changes jobs or alternates between work and unemployment will retain his or her right to training. This arrangement has replaced the Individual Right to Training, (Droit individuel à la formation, DIF) which was created in 2003 and was rarely used. Every employee receives 24 hours per year worked (for a full-time post) until they reach a threshold of 120 hours, and after they have reached the 120 hours threshold, 12 hours a year until they reach the threshold of 150 hours. If the worker is employed on a part-time basis, the duration of the rights acquired is calculated proportionally to the working time. The account is accessible via an online service.

    https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/emcc/erm/legislation/france-employers-obligation-to-provide-skill-development-plans-or-training

    Other countries politicians prioritised training ours didn’t. They allowed and in fact encouraged companies and the state to poach qualified people. We became a low skill, dependent on immigration economy. The Brexiteers cry stop bring foreigners in, problem with that is you get

    “We are struggling at the moment to find staff because of Brexit – there is no doubt,”

    Now over time the economy will adjust, but it’s likely to make us poorer. We have decided to cut off a leg to cure a sceptic toe. Our economic failures are a failure of UK politicians, but rather than face up to that we blame anyone because our tribe is special.

  • The students are coming they cry. True but how many stay?

    Theresa May’s determination to continue counting foreign students in the government’s immigration target left her increasingly isolated on Thursday night, after official figures revealed that fewer than 5,000 a year stay on after their visa expires.

    A string of Conservative and opposition politicians called on the prime minister to end the focus on overseas students as it appeared the government had been drastically overestimating the risk that they remain in Britain illegally.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/12/uk-braces-for-sub-zero-temperatures-as-first-snow-falls-in-the-north

    Lord and you know those students actually pay for their tuition and on the whole have fond memories of the UK after they leave, well we can’t be having that now can we. Nope a positive image is not for us.

  • Frankie,
    Who are they?
    Personally, I’ve never thought students should be counted in the immigration figures. However, I think British Universities have essentially been turned into private businesses and they thus try to expand their franchises into new territories. I don’t think students are going to places like DeMonfort because these establishments are educational world beaters. I think it’s because they are heavily advertised and have become part of the right of passage especially from countries like China. The point being most of the hugely increased intake of students only occurs after the introduction and expansion of student fees. This expansion is also why removing student fees would be cost too much to be viable. Of course most of the students go back afterwards. Britain is not actually a particularly great place to live. Wet, expensive, overcrowded and not as welcoming as advertised. People talk about Brexit ruining the reputation of Britain on the world stage , but really they shouldn’t have misadvertised it in the first place. It’s not a nation of Richard Curtiss movies. It’s a country with lots of bitter class based politics, huge structural problems and debt through the roof.

    We don’t live in France and France as it’s own tensions, anyway. What the EU allows and doesn’t allow is neither here nor there. My view is that we should go for the off the peg Norway solution, take some of the uncertainty out of the situation and concentrate on addressing domestic politics rather than strutting our stuff on the world stage.

  • Glen,
    You want an off the peg Norway solution, that comes with freedom of movement, but I thought you wanted control of immigration. I keep saying it but it doesn’t seem to be getting through “you don’t get the Brexit you want, you get the Brexit you are given”. You were warned that you had voted for the pig in the poke option, and saying it isn’t my type of Brexit doesn’t cut it.

  • Frankie,
    You keep saying that you can control immigration within the EU, which actually you can and I think UK governments have basically not applied the rules. Also it isn’t me saying I want to control immigration. It’s over 70% of the population according to most surveys and that includes over half of Remain voters! There simply is not much support for immigration at the current level and virtually non at all for it to be any higher. You’re the one who’s always talking about unicorns, I’m simply pointing out that Britain is not a land full of happy welcoming pixies who want to bake the world a steak ‘n’ kidney pudding either and that no amount of name calling is going to alter this. To be honest, I used to be in favour of the open borders ideal, but I’ve come to realise it has no real support, thus can’t really be justified democratically and causes more problems than it’s worth. I think if you look at the impact honestly, rather than through rose-tinted optics, it’s actually been counter productive politically. Sorry, if that sounds depressing, but there you go.

    Now to me a Norway style solution is a compromise that acknowledges a close vote and calms things down. And in the end after much posturing it’s what you’ll get anyway. And surely compromise is better than endless shouting matches?

  • Glenn,
    You can use the present rules to filter out the feckless, our politicians chose not too ( probably because they felt it was too hard to do). As to would Norway be better, yes but we don’t get to chose and those that do don’t seem to be going down that route. You voted for Brexit under the understanding the Tories would scope out what Brexit would be, it’s a bit late too scream this isn’t the Brexit I wanted because it looks increasingly likely it will be a much harder Brexit that you get (but how could it ever be different given the leadership you intrusted it too).

  • Frankie.

    I’m not screaming anything. That’s your rhetorical hyperbole.

    The Conservatives are in a very much weaker position than they were pre-referendum and probably in a very much weaker position than they would have been had Remain won. They’ll end up having to go for what they can get through parliament and that’s if they are even in government by 2019.

  • The price is a shortage of workers to get food from British farm into the shops.
    The price is a shortage of carers, nurses and GPs.
    The price is billions of pounds of lost taxes from these jobs.

    Not a real problem, there are more than enough people already permanently resident in the UK, who are currently either unemployed or economically inactive to take on these jobs. Thus Brexit (ignoring all its other faults) gives us an opportunity to take a dose of home truths and get “Britain working”, this is the real problem and thus I conclude that Rennie is wanting to score political points rather than address the real problems in our society.

    The Conservatives do not want a debate over immigration.
    That has been obvious for a long time now, as any such debate would uncover the double standard being adopted over immigration. Brexit allows the government to play the anti-immigration card, yet say little and do nothing about controlling non-EU immigration – something Westminster always had a responsibility for.

  • Peter Martin 13th Nov '17 - 2:19pm

    We have what seems like a relatively low rate of unemployment of 4.4%. This only seems low because we have a record number of people actually working. We do have over 1.6 million unemployed workers.

    So, if you are saying things like “the price is a shortage of workers to get food from British farm into the shops”, you really are just ignoring these 1.6 million.

    What are you saying? That these 1.6 million are work-shy and unemployable? If there is a problem we need to face up to it rather than just pushing them aside and giving the work to overseas workers.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t have overseas workers but, on average, countries manage to feed themselves using the efforts of their own population. If some countries, like the UK, say it is impossible to do this and they need immigration, they are condemning others to have to manage with less than their own population.

  • There may be 1.4 million unemployed but if they don’t have the requisite skills required to replace the people leaving they are not an answer in anything other than the medium to long term. Even if you could force them to move and retrain in the skills required you have a period when skill shortages exist. To cover this you need to invest heavily in training and to encourage the workers to at least stay until they can be replaced; the brave Brexiteer leadership are doing neither, onwards they march too the cliff edge and all their followers can do is sing “We believe we can fly”; well you can’t and you won’t.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '17 - 5:57pm

    Frankie, do you think we as a party would do better to support Personal Training Accounts for employees, guaranteeing up to say 150 hours taken by a maximum 24 hours a year, as you explain is the system in France, rather than Personal Learning Accounts, giving a large amount of money to 18-year-olds to spend when they wish for education or training?

  • Thank you for the question Katherine, ideally I would say both but your question deserves a more detailed answer than that. Both approaches have plus and minuses.

    Personal Learning Accounts. Pluses are they help lance the boil of tuition fees while giving money to train to people who for what ever reason don’t want or are able to enter further education. The downside is if you don’t police what sort of training they can spend it on many will be ripped of by spiv providers as we have unfortunately seen in the past. It also only help 18 year old’s and those that follow not anyone older. If implemented correctly it would set out a framework of real training for young people, but without a policing authority to ensure providers actually did provide it would be open to abuse. Putting my Dail Mail readers hat on, any abuse would be picked up and hyped to show that young people couldn’t be trusted and the best way to prevent that is to make sure they have nothing.

    Personal training accounts by their nature are drip fed and you can’t use it all at once unless you had saved for years. The pluses are I feel you’d feel it was something you had earned and are less likely to waste it. The negative is while 24 hours a year is better than most UK employees receive it doesn’t allow you to retrain or branch out but merely keep your existing skills up to date. Even if you save up the hours and use them you would still lack the time to retrain.

    Perhaps a solution is to combine the two. Don’t give a lump sum but drip feed it. You could take out a grant for training and over time it is whittled away as you receive your yearly training grant. The pluses of this are it rewards work and only rewards workers who stay in the UK or continue to pay UK tax. You also could then include everyone and even differentiate by paying those who had to pay more for their education a bigger discount subject to what ever criteria you wish to set. In a working career of 40 years a sum of £700 a year would wipe out the student debt of anyone attending university and pay for a substantial amount of training for anyone who didn’t.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Nov '17 - 10:57pm

    Thanks, Frankie, that sounds like a great idea, to combine Personal Training Accounts and Personal Learning Accounts, and I hope you will recommend it and advance the idea for the party. I have nothing to add, except that I have wondered, whether the lump sum proposed to be given could be invested in a short-term ISA, or National Savings account, to accumulate interest and therefore grow a little bit while it was unspent or only partly spent.

  • Katherine you could call it an education account and link any money in it to inflation. One problem with monetizing it is some Tory would end up suggesting it could be used as a deposit for a house.

  • Is the number of people needed by said institutions more or less fixed and stable or is it rapidly increasing?

    In other words does it require roughly neutral net immigration with the EU (therefore a stable number of people in the country) or does it require positive net immigration from the EU (a constantly increasing number of people in the country).

    People who for ideological reasons want a rapidly increasing number of non-UK born people in the country should just be honest and argue directly why that’s better than having a stable number of people in the country rather than talking about the consequences of a rapid decrease that isn’t going to happen.

  • Richard,
    It isn’t the numbers that matter it is the balance. As our population ages we require immigration to provide the workers to pay for and provide the services to the pensioners. Now you could make a case that rather than import workers we should export the old. We wouldn’t need to import medical and care staff just export the old to the countries we poached the staff from. Care costs would be lower so we would need less revenue generation and therefore less immigrants to fill the treasury coffers, less infrastructure to support a smaller population. Alternatively you could ask people to work longer. So it appears we have three options, work till we drop, rely on importing young people or export the old. Don’t like any of those options well we can always just shout stop the world I want to get off or invest in training. I’d prefer the training option but I think the country has voted for stop the world I want to get off. The problem with that is we eventually get back to the original three options, with much less time even if we wanted to take the training option .

  • @frankie – As our population ages we require immigration to provide the workers to pay for and provide the services to the pensioners.

    No, think again!

    We have a temporary problem where we have an increasing number of people in the 70+ age group. We’ve just massively increased the working population by effectively increasing the retirement age from 60 to 70 and so have created a large pool of workers in the 50~70 age group. Once you dig into the ‘population crisis’ you realise that much is being made of something that is relatively easy to address through sensible social changes, facilitated by tax breaks and allowances.

    To paraphrase Mark Valladares “You forget, it seems, that migrants are people too, not production units to be shuffled around the country as it suits.” If we are not prepared to do the work ourselves then immigration, on the basis being shouted about by Rennie is simply exploitation.

  • Roland,
    That is the work till you drop option. Problem is if lifespans extend the date of retirement goes back and back. Personally I don’t want to be working at 74 but by your logic that could easily happen.

  • @ Roland “We have a temporary problem where we have an increasing number of people in the 70+ age group.”

    Delighted to be a temporary problem for you, young Roland, though I must warn you I’m going to make it last as long as I can !!

    To paraphrase your quote from Mark Valladares , “You forget, it seems, that persons 70+ are people too”.

  • Mark’
    Well it is temporary because people die and the people brought in to care for them in their dotage also get old. And so on and so on. Short termism. What you actually need is for older people is retirement villages rather homes, thus encouraging independence. And later better palliative care because death is an inevitability. Endlessly bringing in people becomes a spiral and we do not know where the tech will lead.

  • It is the responsibility of employers to train recruits, not poach them from elsewhere. This places an enormous strain on infrastructure such as housing and services.

    This selfish practice also takes trained professionals away from much poorer countries that cannot afford to train and then lose these skills.

    Red Liberal and other liberal minded contributors to this site call such comments xenophobic poison. It says much about this person and makes me wonder what sort of people are welcome as party supporters.

  • Mark Valladares 16th Nov ’17 – 9:31pm:

    We need more houses because there are more of us, living longer, living differently from earlier generations, and that’s not just about migration – there are more households anyway.

    ‘The Impact of Immigration on Housing Demand in England’ [November 2017]:
    https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefing-paper/424

    Impact of immigration on Recent Household Growth

    13. On the basis of the recent past, all or nearly all of household growth in England has been as a result of immigration.

    14. Official data from the Office for National Statistics shows that 80% of the additional households created in England between 2000 and 2015 have a foreign-born Household Reference Person[6]. That is, 1.65 million of the additional 2 million households.[7]

    15. More recently the impact of immigration has been even greater. In the period 2005-2014, 90% of the additional households in England have a foreign-born HRP. In the last five years (since 2010), there has actually been a fall in the number of households headed by a UK born person with all the growth coming from the foreign born.[8]

  • @ Mark Valladares

    When my mother was receiving 24/7 care in her home all the care workers were non-European. When she was receiving an hour or 90 minutes of care most of the care workers were British. I don’t think the non-EU immigration rules have changed since the coalition government. I didn’t get the impression that the non-EU care workers had only been in the UK a short period they seemed to have been here for quite some time. Do you have an internet link to your evidence?

    If we wanted to encourage residents of the UK to become care workers we would pay more, provide better conditions of work and provide a career structure for their development. It just needs the political will!

    It would be possible for the UK to forecast how many new doctors and nurses it will need after their training period and ensure there are a few more training places than required and make the training free for UK citizens. However we have failed to do this and so we need to import trained doctors and nurses from other countries and this includes third world countries who have trained them but lose their skills, which can’t be morally right.

    I am not convinced that there are many jobs that need such a special type of mind, skills and training that the only person suitable for the role lives in a foreign country.

  • @ Michael BG “If we wanted to encourage residents of the UK to become care workers we would pay more, provide better conditions of work and provide a career structure for their development. It just needs the political will!”

    Completely agree, Michael. As a Cabinet member for Social Care I witnessed a squeezing out of Local Authority provision and a race to the bottom with competition for contracts with private contractors for both residential accommodation and in care at home. The culprit ? Central government of all shades – Labour, Coalition, Tory which has whittled away local government finance by pursuing the privatised route.

    Social care for the elderly is now at crisis point – and has been for many years. See examples below.

    Care home ‘crisis’ as funding cuts loom – Channel 4 News
    https://www.channel4.com/news/care-home-crisis-as-funding-cuts-loom
    5 Oct 2010 – Exclusive: care homes in many parts of the United Kingdom are facing a grim combination of funding cuts and declining standards, according to …

    Care home closures set to rise as funding crisis bites | Society | The …
    https://www.theguardian.com › Society › Social care
    11 Jan 2017 – Care home closures set to rise as funding crisis bites … how much they pay towards social care after seeing their budgets cut by up to 50% as a …

    We can afford vanity weapon systems and transport systems such as HS2 – but when it comes to caring for the elderly the record is shameful. It’s time the Lib Dems got their heads round it instead of the scapegoating the elderly with ‘Brexit Blame’ which even Vince Cable seems to be falling for these days.

  • Peter Hirst 17th Nov '17 - 9:59am

    Immigration is a delicate balancing act. One thing is for certain and that is to prevent illegal immigration. Another is to know who and how many are entering and leaving.

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