08:07 Thursday 16th May 2013
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
PAUL STAINTON: Business leaders and academics in Cambridge are asking the Government for special dispensation when it comes to granting visas to non-EU workers. Businesses are meeting Immigration Minister Mark Harper today, and will explain how restrictions on immigration are restricting their work, Earlier we heard from Tim Hedger, Managing Director of a new school of English in Cambridge. His language school is one of the businesses meeting with Mark Harper. Earlier he told us the message he wanted to get across to the Minister today. (TAPE)
TIM HEDGER: To understand exactly where we’re going, whether we can refine out some of the more illogical aspects of the system, and hopefully he will hear that economically it makes no sense to restrict us. We’re an engine for growth. We’re exporters. We employ people. We’re everything they want to get us out of these difficult times. So I hope that he’ll listen to us, and see the industry as something that’s very positive for the country. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well Professor Jeremy Sanders is the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Institutional Affairs at the University of Cambridge, and he’s hosting two of the meetings today with the Minister. Morning Jeremy.
JEREMY SANDERS: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: And also with us this morning is Liberal Democrat Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, who’s concerned that the rules mean talent is being kept out of Cambridge. Julian’s here. Morning Julian.
JULIAN HUPPERT: Good morning. How are you?
PAUL STAINTON: I’m fine, thank you. Obviously there’ll be people listening to this this morning saying talent being kept out, more immigration, more people coming in. Oh no no no no. We don’t want that.
JULIAN HUPPERT: What we need to see is a system that makes the correct decisions, so that people who shouldn’t be in this country don’t get to come in. And those decisions need to be made correctly and quickly. But also, if you talk to the universities, if you talk to businesses, if you talk to any of those groups, they rely on having people coming in. Let’s take the English language school as an example. Obviously they rely on people who aren’t British, because most people here can speak English already, but we do want to make it possible for them to make the money because it keeps the economy growing. It has to be focused on getting the jobs and growth, and getting people in who should be able to come here is absolutely essential.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. I can’t believe we’re still not counting people out. How do we know how many are coming in, how many are going home, what the deficit is? How do we know what the numbers are?
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well absolutely. It’s absurd. There used to be two sets of exit checks, and the last Conservative Government in ’94 scrapped one of them, and the Labour Government in ’98 scrapped the other one of them. And so it’s bizarre that we don’t know who’s leaving. We’ve campaigned as a party, as Liberal Democrats, to have those exit checks back in, and there’s now finally some work being done to reinstate them. Because the people who come here, do bits and then leave, we should know that they’ve left. People who come and stay illegally, we should be able to find out who they are.
PAUL STAINTON: The rise of UKIP in the local council elections is testament to where immigration features on people’s agenda, and you’ve got to be careful here haven’t you, because a lot of people don’t want any more immigration. They think the country is full up.
JULIAN HUPPERT: There are a range of views. But actually I’ve found very few people who object to skilled business people coming here to set up companies, who object to students coming here, who often pay huge amounts of money to keep our economy going. Education is probably our third biggest export as a country. If you look around Cambridge you have not just the language schools themselves, but all the people who make money by letting rooms to the students. I’ve found very few people who object to that. What they object to is the fact that the system feels like it’s in chaos. Like the Borders Agency, which we’ve now got rid of, it just wasn’t in control of what was happening. People were being let in who shouldn’t be.
PAUL STAINTON: Julian, thank you for that. We’ve got Jeremy Sanders with us as well, as I said, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Institutional Affairs. Is this just a particular problem for Cambridge, do you think Jeremy?
JEREMY SANDERS: No it’s not a problem exclusive to Cambridge, but given that we are an internationally pre-eminent university we recruit more than most other universities, both students and staff, from around the world, who come to Cambridge, and who contribute to the national economy, both, as Julian said through fees and living locally, but also they create new knowledge. They create new companies which benefit the local economy and the national economy. And what we want to say to the Minister is that although we welcome some of the changes in procedures that have been brought in recently, we still have a whole set of procedures which have the effect of keeping out the best, the strongest people, who could come and contribute more here. So they go somewhere else. And they end up competing with Britain rather than helping Britain.
PAUL STAINTON: Yes. So the immigration we’re getting is not what we could be getting. We could be getting the creme de la creme. We’re getting Joe Average, which is what you’re saying.
JEREMY SANDERS: Everybody who comes to the University of Cambridge is outstanding. But we are still losing some others who are just good.
PAUL STAINTON: The rules are very very complicated. Do we just need a simpler system?
JEREMY SANDERS: We need a simpler system. We need decision making which is fair and coherent and consistent. And it isn’t always.
PAUL STAINTON: Julian, you’re in Government now. Come on. Sort it out.
JULIAN HUPPERT: Well that’s exactly what I’m trying to do and what we have been trying to do. And there have been a few steps to the good (UNCLEAR) exceptional visa. But there is far more to do, and that’s why I was so keen to get the Immigration Minister here to Cambridge, where we could get him to meet some of the entrepreneurs who are having issues here, the University, such as Jeremy has just been talking about, some of the language schools, so that he can hear for himself the problems that are being caused. One of the huge problems is the way that the processing works, the bureaucracy. And that causes problems for everybody. We want a system that makes the right decisions quickly and fairly, but in too many cases we have delays of many many months in even making decisions as to whether somebody can or cannot come in. As Jeremy was just saying, that means that some of the very best people who we’d most like end up going somewhere else, setting up a business somewhere else, employing people in another country. We don’t want to lose that.
PAUL STAINTON: The trouble is, while we’re still part of the EU of course, we get this whole influx of EU migration which is perfectly legal which muddies the waters somewhat, doesn’t it? It would be better if we pulled out of the EU, would it?
JULIAN HUPPERT: (LAUGHS) Not in the slightest. Just to take one figure for example, there are about three million jobs in the UK that are dependent on our interactions with the European Union. We wouldn’t want to put any of those at risk.
PAUL STAINTON: It’s in your Manifesto to pull out though.
JULIAN HUPPERT: .. deal with the US, which .. a trade deal between the whole European Union and the US which would be better than it could be if we pulled out, because it’s a bigger block. And that’s going to be worth about ten billion pounds to the British economy.
PAUL STAINTON: Why have the LibDems changed their mind on that then?
JULIAN HUPPERT: We haven’t changed our mind on that in the slightest. We’ve always been pro-Europe. We’re pro reforming what Europe does. Again it could do things much better. What we have said consistently is that when there is a major change like a treaty, then there should be a referendum. And we stand by that. In fact just two years ago Parliament passed an Act which we supported, the European Union Act, saying that in law there must be a referendum when there is a treaty change. We’ve absolutely stuck to that the whole time.
PAUL STAINTON: That’s Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, part of this big pow wow today with the Minister. We did ask Mark Harper the Minister to come on earlier this morning but he said he will only talk during the event. We also heard from Professor Jeremy Sanders, the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Institutional Affairs from the University of Cambridge.