17:40 Monday 5th March 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
CHRIS MANN: Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson has backed new Home Office rules which mean unskilled immigrants from outside the EU will no longer have an automatic right to settle in the UK. Until now, someone who had lived in the UK for five years was virtually guaranteed to be allowed to settle here permanently. Those who have settled in the past tend to be lower earners, more than those who have not. Now, in order to settle, workers must be paid at least £35,000. Stewart Jackson joined me earlier to give his reaction. (TAPE)
STEWART JACKSON: Well I think it will make a big difference, because it does put in place very strict rules for those people who are seeking employment opportunities in the United Kingdom from outside the European Union. Previously, it was very much the case that if you came here and were working, at whatever level, at whatever salary, in whatever job, certainly less than £35,000 per year, you inevitably were able to move forward to become effectively citizens of the United Kingdom, and you settled in the UK. That automatic settlement for unskilled workers is not tenable in a very high unemployment situation, and we have high unemployment both in Peterborough and across the UK. And therefore along with our welfare changes, these immigration changes will put the emphasis much more on indigenous workers actually being able to fill these very important jobs.
CHRIS MANN: So is it a form of protectionism?
STEWART JACKSON: No, it’s a reality that at a time of high unemployment, we owe it to workers in Peterborough and across the country to make sure our migration system doesn’t mean that we’re overly reliant on migrant labour. We have to make work pay. We have to change the welfare system. But we also have to change the immigration system to ensure that the first refusal for a job under £35,000 will go to local people who are from the United Kingdom, so that they are in a position to come off welfare benefits and work. Now that obviously doesn’t apply for people earning more than £35,000, because they’re high skilled, usually white collar workers, with particular knowledge and experience and skills to the UK needs. And of course we will continue to welcome those people.
CHRIS MANN: Do you think at the moment that the system is being regularly abused?
STEWART JACKSON: Well I’m not certain that it’s being abused, so much as people are being rational, and they are coming to do some very important jobs that need doing, perhaps working in care homes, working in the health sector, working in jobs that frankly British people should and could be doing. And they are inevitably saying, well, I’m probably earning more than I would be in the country I’ve come from, so I’m going to stay here and seek to become a citizen. Well that’s not good in the long term for the country, because it’s not improving the country’s skills profile. It’s also embedding many thousands of British people in welfare dependancy, which isn’t good for them, or their families, or the UK economy. So we’re breaking that link between automatically doing low skilled jobs if you’re a foreign immigrant, and staying in the UK. And I think public opinion is behind us, and also business is behind us. And it will also prompt businesses I think to make much more effort to train and develop homegrown talent. And that can only be good for the future of the country.
CHRIS MANN: Isn’t it the case though in this country there is so much red tape involved in trying to throw somebody out of the country if you don’t want them here? That almost doesn’t happen now.
STEWART JACKSON: Well I think there’s a distinction between letting the brightest and the best from across the world, people that are well educated, articulate, will make a real contribution to our society, and those that come in to do jobs that frankly local people could do. And I think it’s time that we redress the balance, and we took a tougher line also on removing those people who have no legal basis to remain in the United Kingdom. So it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen next week. But if we get the welfare system right, and we look at benefits, and we have a welfare benefits cap, we take a robust tough but fair approach to immigration, and we encourage employers to employ local British indigenous people, then I think overall, over the course of a number of years, I think it will be in the best interests of everyone, the tax payer, and the future economic prosperity of the UK. (LIVE)
CHRIS MANN: Stewart Jackson, the MP for Peterborough, talking to me a little earlier on.