Labour’s plan is to control immigration, but to do so without risking jobs by leaving the EU – as Mr Farage wants. (Incidentally, he’s also said that he wants to privatise the NHS.)
The Labour Party will not engage in some race-to-the bottom by trying to out-UKIP UKIP, as the Tories seem intent on doing. So won't turn our backs on the world by increasingly setting us on a course to leave the EU. Similarly, Labour won't make empty promises which we know we won’t be able to keep, as Mr Cameron did when he promised to reduce net migration to “tens of thousands” – when in fact immigration is now rising.
Earlier this month, Mr Ed Miliband set out Labour’s core election promise: to build an economic recovery which works for working people, not just a few at the top. That includes action to freeze people’s gas and electricity bills, raising the Minimum Wage, and protecting the NHS.
Labour will apply British values in the way our economy is run, and we will do the same on immigration. As a starting point, immigrants should learn English and be part of our society. That’s good for immigrants themselves as well as for our country.
EU immigrants make a net positive contribution to the UK economy. Nevertheless, the Labour leadership at last recognises that short- and medium-term pressures can result from immigration. (Some of us were raising these issues over ten years ago.) The UK has the second-highest immigration from other member states in the EU, and the third highest net migration. Part of Labour’s policy is that these pressures should be recognised by the EU, so that states with the highest levels of internal EU immigration (free movement of labour) receive support for the inevitable short- and medium-term pressures on essential public services and integration.
This government continues its many failures. The Coalition has failed to secure our borders, and has failed to deal with illegal immigration – which is bad for the migrants who are being exploited, bad for British workers, and bad for our country.
A Labour government will:
- ensure that, when people cross our borders, they are counted in and counted out, so we know who is here, who has gone home, and who has stayed
- re-instate fingerprinting of illegal would-be migrants at Calais
- reform the visa system, to fund 1,000 more border and enforcement staff to take stronger enforcement action against illegal migration
Fair rules in the European Union
Our country needs to negotiate change in the EU – not by hectoring and threats, like the present government, but by discussion and negotiation, and by building alliances with other member states.
A Labour government will:
- insist on longer transitional controls on movement, when new countries join the EU.
- pursue an EU Migration Impact Fund to be incorporated within the EU budget. That fund will be used to ease the pressure on public services in areas with particularly high levels of immigration, and to support integration. It would sit within the existing EU Social Fund, although Labour will argue for additional resources within the current envelope to help states manage free movement.
A sense of fairness also means that we simply cannot allow wages of UK workers to be undercut. So there must be enforcement of the Minimum Wage – something which the Coalition government has singularly refused to do.
Benefits: Earned Entitlements
A Labour government will change the rules governing EU migrants’ access to Benefits in the UK. Those changes will be based on the principle of earned entitlement. EU migrants can come to the UK to work. The EU rules provide for “free movement of labour”, not – despite all those British pensioners living in Spain – “free movement of people”.
EU rules do not allow migrants just to come here to live and claim Benefits – those are already the rules, but the Coalition government has failed to make that clear. Immigrants must know that there a reasonable period of contributions will be required before they can claim Benefits available to UK citizens.
A Labour government will:
- stop the payment of Child Benefit for children living abroad
- stop the payment of Child Tax Credits for children living abroad
- negotiate changes to EU rules, so that jobseekers are banned from claiming work-based Benefits until they have been resident in the UK for two years
As predicted by so many commentators, the Tory approach to immigration has failed. It’s all hot air and anti-immigrant rhetoric, stoking up division. Mr Cameron promised “no ifs, no buts”, he would meet his net migration target. Yet net migration is the same now as when the Coalition came into office in 2010. Because an exploited workforce suits their rich crony funders, the Conservatives have done nothing to deal with dodgy firms who exploit migrant labour to undercut UK workers.
It’s all indicative of the fact that the Tories can’t build a better future for working people, because Tories only stand up for a privileged few. They’ve introduced tax cuts for the rich, Benefits cuts for the poor – including the working poor. Inequality in our society has grown fast under this government, and that trend needs to be sharply reversed – it’s bad for everyone, even for the rich themselves. In as much as there is an economic recovery, it is only working for the rich few, and basically is only being felt in London and the South East.
Rob Marris, Labour Candidate for Wolverhampton South West