UK minister blames middle class for fuelling immigration boom

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The UK's new immigration minister, James Brokenshire, has made his first speech as minister and has said that mass immigration 'puts pressure on social cohesion'. He said that it has been good news for the 'metropolitan elite' but has driven down wages for the working class.

Mr Brokenshire became minister after his predecessor, Mark Harper resigned. Mr Harper offered his resignation to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, after realising that he had been employing an illegal immigrant as his cleaner for seven years.

Mr Brokenshire may have been issuing a rebuke to his predecessor when he said 'for too long, the benefits of immigration went to employers who wanted an easy supply of cheap labour, or to the wealthy metropolitan elite who wanted cheap tradesmen and services, but not to the ordinary, hard-working people of this country'.

Clear consequences

He said that this has 'clear consequences'. He said that mass immigration could;
  • Damage social cohesion
  • Put pressure on public services
  • Drive down wages particularly for manual low-skilled workers
Mr Brokenshire said that, under the previous labour government, immigration was out-of-control and immigrants took most of the jobs that were created as the economy boomed. He said that 2.2m people from overseas settled in the UK during the Labour government between 1997 and 2010.

He said that the Coalition government was repairing that system and preventing the 'breath-taking' abuse of the system seen under Labour. He said that the Coalition had

  • Prevented abuse of the student visa route by closing down bogus colleges which were 'prestigious sounding institutions that …were nothing more than a room over a fast food takeaway'
  • Introduced a rule that only British citizens earning over £18,600 per year can bring their spouses to live with them in the UK
  • Shut down Tier 1 (General) visa which 'was supposed to be for highly skilled workers but allowed people to work in unskilled jobs'.

'Myths about net migration'

Mr Brokenshire said that these measures had reduced net immigration considerably and had not harmed UK business. He said 'Let me challenge some of the myths about net migration; that we are somehow harming growth, or reducing the attractiveness of our world class universities.

'These are claims often made but when you look at the facts these arguments are dismissed for the ludicrous fiction that they are'.

He said that the Coalition's reforms;

  • Had closed down bogus further education colleges which had been allowing abuse of the Tier 4 visa system but had allowed reputable universities to teach as many international students as they could recruit. He said that there is no cap on the number of students who can study in the UK. He said that the total number of university applications from international students is up by 7%
  • Had not damaged business. He said that the Tier 2 (General) cap had never been reached and so could not be damaging businesses and added that Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visas are excluded from the cap in any event
  • Had been 'good news for the people of Britain' who were now taking 87% of new jobs created in the British economy (against 90% taken by foreign workers during the Labour years).

Tough on abusers

He said that he intended to ensure that the British immigration system was 'tough on those who abuse the system or flout the law and ensures people who come to the UK are doing so for the right reasons – to work hard and to contribute to our economy and society'.

Early reaction to Mr Brokenshire's speech was not entirely favourable. Writing in his Daily Telegraph blog, former Labour Party official Dan Hodges said that the speech was 'able to claim the prize for most stupid, intellectually bankrupt and vacuous address of the year'.

Employers' organisations the Confederation of British Industry and the Institute of Directors (IoD) also spoke out against the speech.

'Feeble and pathetic'

Simon Walker, Director General of the IoD issued a statement saying 'It is feeble and pathetic to hear yet more divisive language from politicians on immigration'

Mr Walker's statement continued 'The UK is an open, trading country that benefits from the skills and ideas of migrants. We will not become more prosperous by closing our borders to talented individuals and entrepreneurs from across the world.

More about politics, less about what is good for the country

This speech seems to be more about political positioning and less about what is good for the country'.

Sanwar Ali of said it is true that the UK's limit of 20,700 Tier 2 (General) visas has never been reached bit this could be because many employers think it is just too expensive, time consuming and difficult to apply'.

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