Labour Values and Immigration

21 Feb 2018

Speech – Labour Values and Immigration

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. 

Thank you for coming here today.

This is the first in a series of lectures I intend to make in one of the most vexed questions in modern British political History… Immigration.

Today’s lecture will not be setting out policy details. 

Instead I want to

1.   Put immigration Policy in the context of Labour Values

2.   Deal with some of the urban myths around immigration 

3.   Stress the humanity of the migrant (as you might expect me to as the child of migrants) but the humanity of migrants is why one policy announcement that I will be making this morning will be on Family Reunion.

One of the biggest urban myths about immigration is that we are not allowed to discuss immigration. 

No true, has not been true since the passing if the 1962 Commonwealth immigration Act (Which ended freedom of movement between the UK and Its former colonies) 

1)   Led to a series of pieces of immigration and asylum legislation 

2)   So immigration has never been far from the centre of the British political debate

3)   But incredibly heightened by the economic consequences of the 2008 Crash historically (such as in the period of the Weimar Republic in Germany between the wars) Economic collapse has always led the Scapegoating the other 

4)   But Finally, in the era of Brexit and Trump, immigration has taken on unpresented salience

But, whilst immigration can generate much heat, I see my role this morning as attempting to shed light. 

The topic today is Labour values and shaded by evidence

1967 Commonwealth Immigration Act 

1971 Immigration Act (East African Asians) 

1988 Immigration Act 

1996 Asylum and Immigration Act 

1999 Immigration and Asylum Act 

2002 Nationality, immigration and Asylum Act 

2004 Asylum and Immigration Act

2006 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act

2007 UK Borders Act 

2009 Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 

Not the legislative record of a political class that doesn’t want to walk about immigration. 

I will address Tory values, and their policies in a moment. 

But what I can say now is that Tory values are almost the complete opposite of this

Labour Party and this Labour leadership across the entire spectrum of policy.

And no more so than immigration.

The last Labour Manifesto was very clear about the underlying principles of Labour immigration policy. 

I’d like to remind you, if I can, of what the Manifesto said.

The opening paragraph of the Immigration section states

“Labour offers fair rules and reasonable management of migration.

In trade negotiations our priorities favour growth, jobs and prosperity.

We make no apologies for putting these aims before bogus immigration targets.

”This is a remarkably clear statement of Labour values. 

In my view, it is also remarkably good.

When we say our priorities favour growth, jobs and prosperity before bogus immigration targets, we mean it.

Our values, Labour values mean that we will do nothing

which harms the prosperity of the overwhelming majority of the people in this country. 

We will do nothing to harm growth and we will certainly do nothing which hurts jobs.

Our entire Manifesto and our entire policy programme that we have been developing since has one primary aim. 

That is, to promote the growth of the economy,

to create higher-skilled and more secure jobs and raise the all-round prosperity of the country.

Immigration fits into that framework.

It is subordinate to it in all senses.  To kill another myth:

Labour has never had an ‘open door’ policy on immigration.

We have restricted immigration. And not always in the most humane way.

Or the most sensible way.We actually have a pledge now for 1,000 more Border Guards than the Tories.

We don’t want illegal immigration, or people trafficking.

We are pledged to clamp down on them all.

We do not have an immigration target like the Tories.

HASC ‘ The Government’s existing net migration target set at the tens of thousands is not working to build confidence or consent’ 

We will set out an immigration policy that works for the many, not the few. 

We do not begin with, how do we reduce immigration, and to hell with the consequences.

Those are Tory policies, Tory values and Tory scapegoating.  


We also need to be clear about fair rules and reasonable management.

There is an in-built unfairness in the current immigration system.

In fact, there is a whole series of them. 

Currently, as part of the EU and Single Market

Freedom of Movement operates for EU citizens coming here and for

UK citizens living and working in the EU. 

The Government says it wants a level playing-field for all migrants post-Brexit.

I agree.But the clear indications are that the Government wants the lowest common denominator to be the

basis for equal treatment.

We don’t want to play that lowest common denominator game.

We want to move to a system where we aren’t discriminating against

people based on the skin colour of the majority of the population.

We want a more equal and respected status for all migrants.

We won’t have artificial targets, or Go Home vans, and we won’t have the hostile environment.

Turns teachers, landlords and bank clerks into immigration officers on wheels. 

We will welcome international students.

We will encourage them to come here.

They make a huge contribution to our country.

That isn’t just financial. The cultural, educational and social benefits they bring are enormous.

But the billions of pounds they also bring are not unimportant.

We are committed to taking international students out of the immigration target.

On immigration detention,We don’t want to detain people for months on end or longer,

only to find they have a right to stay, and so it is Labour policy we will end 

indefinite detention and completely review the operation of detention centres.

And the role of private sector organisations like G4S.

We don’t want to charge families thousands of pounds in ‘processing fee’ applications,

which are really Visa fees, only then to deny them a Visa.

We will end the practice of rejecting applications on a detail because one box hasn’t been ticked,

or the date is wrong, and send the applicants to the back of the queue for another 18 months.

We will stop deporting people to countries they have little or no connection with,

as currently happens with charter flight deportations to countries like,

Albania, Afghanistan, Ghana, Jamaica and Nigeria.

We don’t want to start breaking up families from the EU,

in the way that we currently do for non-EU families.


Instead, we intend to respect the right to a family life, a part of the

European Convention on Human Rights. Currently,

Government grants a small number of child refugees each year a right to remain,

but denies some of their parents or carers leave to stay.  

At the same time, some parents with the right to be here suffer the heartbreak of seeing their children

 deported because they have turned 18 and are longer strictly dependants. 

We know that it’s tough for all kids now to make their own way in the world at 18.

And that applies to all kids.So today I am announcing that Labour in Government will end these policies.

If you are a child granted the right to be here, so will your parents or carers. 

If you have been brought up by carers or parents with a right to be here, you still have that right,

even after you turn 18.This underlines our commitment to human rights.

This is the application of Labour values.It is the right thing to do. 



I want to turn now to the second part of our phrase, ‘fair and reasonable’.

What do we mean by the reasonable management of migration?

The Government has repeatedly promised an Immigration Bill.

But don’t hold your breath. The Cabinet can’t agree on much.

It seems that they cannot agree on Brexit and until they agree on Brexit

they cannot reach an agreement on immigration.Labour will do what the Government cannot.

It will set out its own immigration policies in the period ahead.

In a further speech later this year I will set out more detail of our immigration policy. 

It is unreasonable to make claims on immigration that simply aren’t valid.

It has been shown repeatedly that the net migration target doesn’t work.

It never has and never will. Updated version of Thatcher’s ‘swapping’.

Politicians can only do a relatively limited amount to control the movement of people. 

HASC ‘ During the inquiry we heard that the Governments net migration target

undermined public confidence because it acted as a quarterly reminder

that the government is unable to control immigration in the way it had promised.

Witnesses described it as a ‘very crude measure’ that created a ‘one dimensional way of thinking

about our immigration system’ The Institute of Directors described it as a

completely random number which is not based on any empirical understanding of the needs of UK employers. 

What we can do as politicians is set a framework for who we accept and who reject.

We can adopt policies to attract some people, such as nurses or engineers.

We can adopt policies to apprehend others, such as criminals, people-traffickers and terrorists.

That framework must be set first not with overall numbers in mind but with a focus on growth,

jobs and prosperity.So, and it seems odd to have to state this, we really do want doctors to come here. 

It needs saying because we are currently turning away Doctors and nurses from outside the EU,

because the government has already met its monthly targets for work Visa applications. 

The NHS crisis is caused by Tory cuts.

One of it features is a big shortage of doctors, nurses and other workers.

And yet this Government turns doctors away, in a failed effort to meet its net migration target.

This is just one of the glaringly obvious examples of this constant campaign to demonise migrants and migration.

Yet there many other sectors of the economy where we need people from overseas,

whether it is agriculture or astrophysics, in teaching or IT. 

The Home Affairs Select Committee – a cross-party body of MPs – has rejected the Government’s fiction

that it can determine the level of migration needed.

Fixed for all time. The Government’s immigration target isn’t really a policy and it’s not achieveable.

It isn’t even really designed to be.

It is the excuse for a permanent anti-migrant campaign.

It is a nasty campaign that should be binned.

In a global world we need migrants and migration.

They should not be subject to a ‘hostile environment’.

But, like any phenomenon, migration has both costs and benefits.

It is not an unalloyed benefit.Of course, there is pressure on schools,

on the NHS and on housing from a growing population.

This is true no matter how it grows.But these are problems associated with growth,

which should be met with investment. The Government has responded with austerity.

It is Government cuts and austerity which have caused the crisis in schools,

in housing in the NHS, not migrants.The impact of migration on the labour market remains hotly

disputed. We are sometimes told migrants ‘take jobs’ from local workersor that they ‘drive down wages’.

Employers have exploited contract labour from abroad to undercut terms and conditions.

Immigrants haven’t taken jobs. Immigrants haven’t driven down wages – employers have,

including in the public sector. This is exactly in line with the findings of Sir Stephen Nickell.

None of this suggests there are no problems.

To repeat, immigration is not an unalloyed benefit and does provide challenges in health,

education, housing and so on. It also provides challenges in specific economic sectors and regions. 

That isn’t fair.And Labour will act to correct that unfairness too. 

We will tackle the exploitation of migrant labour by unscrupulous employers which serves to undercut wages for all.

We will end overseas-only recruitment.

We will reinstate the Migration Impact Fund, to help specific areas where public services,

or housing are under strain. That investment in those areas will benefit entire communities,

and help create new jobs with decent pay.


You know, some people were reluctant to say the things we said in our 2017 Manifesto.

They believed that British politics works like this: 

The Tories set the agendaThe Tory press supports themLabour must fight the Tories on their terrain,

on their agenda, and stay close to them QED Some of them may still believe this.

But they are wrong. The entire 2017 election campaign shows that. 

When Labour set its own agenda on all the key issues facing the overwhelming majority of people, when

Labour offers them real, workable solutions, it gains and the Tories fall back.

That was the lesson of 2017. And not just in this country. 

When we survey the wreckage of our sister parties’ election campaigns in 2017 the same lesson is clear. 

Unfortunately, our sister parties in the Netherlands,

in France and in Germany were parties that embraced austerity,

maybe reluctantly but they clearly embraced it. 

They didn’t stand up to the scapegoating of migrants, of minorities, of black people, of Jews and of Muslims.

Sometimes, some of their representatives even went along with it.

The verdict is clear. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour had an answer to austerity with investment. 

Labour rejected scapegoating outright.

And, despite all the criticism of highly intelligent, experienced commentators,

it was Labour which was proved right. Labour under Jeremy Corbyn got more votes than the Dutch,

the French and the German sister parties of Labour combined in 2017. 

We were proven right. And popular. Labour stuck to its true values.

These values inform Labour’s approach. This puts prosperity first.

Immigration fits into that priority.Immigration can be harnessed for prosperity.

Its costs can be mitigated by a Government which aims both to raise prosperity and to share it more equally.

Only a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn can achieve that. 

These are our values as they apply to immigration.

They will inform what we do when we are in Government.       

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