Immigration Minister Damian Green is in favour of a national consensus on how to make immigration work for Britain.
`What we need is a national consensus on how we can make immigration work for Britain. We are evidently a long way from such a consensus but I want to start to build it,’ Green said.
He was speaking at the Policy Exchange. Green said: `Whether you come here to work, study, or get married, we as a country are entitled to check that you will add to the quality of life in Britain.
`There are people who think that all immigrants are bad for Britain. There are also people who think that all immigrants are good for Britain. To move the immigration debate on to a higher level let’s take it as read that they are both wrong, and that the legitimate question in today’s world is how can we benefit from immigration….
`We need to raise the whole tone of the immigration debate. Immigration remains one of the two or three most important issues, and it is frankly absurd that anyone who argues for firmer immigration controls is accused of dog-whistling or nastiness.
`That kind of response may have worked as a political trick 10 years ago but even those on the left who take a detailed and intelligent interest in immigration matters recognise that the world has moved on….’
He added: `We need to know not just that the right numbers of people are coming here, but that the right people are coming here. People who will benefit Britain, not just those who will benefit from Britain.
`An immigration policy which reflects a consensus about who should be able to come here, and an immigration system that can actually deliver that. A legal framework which reflects the will of Parliament while respecting our international legal obligations. A system, and a policy, which makes immigration work for Britain economically. This is absolutely necessary so that immigration policy can contribute to the wider agenda for economic growth’.
Referring to a recently published study by the Migration Advisory Committee on how the UK calculates the costs and benefits of immigration, Green said: `The analysis gives us the basis for a more intelligent debate.
`It supports a more selective approach to non-EU migration. The old assumption was that as immigration adds to GDP – national output- it is economically a good thing, and that therefore logically the more immigration the better, whatever the social consequences. It is not my view, or the view of the vast majority of the British people.
`The key insight of the MAC’s work is that the measure of a successful immigration policy is how it increases the wealth of the resident population. It is easy to see the opposite in action.
`In the boom decade before the bust of 2008 the number of people employed in the UK economy increased by 2.9 million. But 1.6 million of the jobs were taken by non-UK nationals. That is emphatically not a sustainable policy.
`What is sustainable is an approach which brings the numbers down but at the same time targets those whom Britain needs to attract to create a dynamic economy. Those who have the knowledge, ideas and the skills to make us a more productive place, and therefore a place where it is easier for UK citizens to find a job. This means developing a system which chooses carefully who we allow to come, and who we allow to stay’.