• International Workplace
  • 23 January 2018

Changes to migration rules recommended to help business attract talent

Immigration rules should allow UK businesses and organisations easily to attract top talent, with restrictions and controls focused more on low-skilled migration, according to a report from the Home Affairs Committee, which argues that not all migrants should be treated the same.

In Immigration policy: basis for building consensus, the Committee calls on the government to make it a clear and stated objective of public policy to build greater consensus and trust on immigration as part of a major overhaul of immigration policy-making.

Drawing from the National Conversation on Immigration launched in Parliament a year ago and involving citizens’ panels all across the country, the Committee finds that there is considerable public appetite for engagement on immigration but that the debate requires care, honesty and the opportunity for people to be involved. Achieving greater consensus on immigration will require a transformation in the way policy is made because, it says, in too many areas the current approach has served to undermine trust in the system.

The Committee calls for the net migration target to be replaced by an evidence-based framework for different types of migration, taking into account the UK’s needs and humanitarian obligations.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • An Annual Migration Report setting out a three-year, rolling plan for migration, which would detail migration flows, the government’s controls and targets, the economic contribution from migration, measures taken to manage impacts and pressures, and action on skills, training and integration.
  • Clearer and simpler immigration rules, underpinned by principles and values – including the contributory principle, supporting family life and safeguarding security.
  • A greater focus on early enforcement, clearer criminal and security checks, and improved Home Office performance to tackle errors and delays.
  • Replacing the net migration target with an evidence-based framework for different types of immigration that takes into account the UK’s needs.
  • An immigration system which treats different skills differently. There is clear public support for the continued arrival of high-skilled (not just highly paid) workers who are needed in the economy. Immigration rules should allow UK businesses and organisations easily to attract top talent, with restrictions and controls focused more on low-skilled migration.
  • Immigration plans should be linked with training plans to increase domestic skills in sectors and regions where there are skills gaps that need to be filled through migration.
  • Stronger action to prevent undercutting and exploitation of workers from overseas, including strengthening the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and expanding its remit.
  • An assessment of the positive benefits and negative pressures of immigration on public services, leading to additional funding for local authorities with higher levels of migration.
  • An overhaul of evidence and data, with the recording of all entry and exit information, analyses of migration flows by local areas, and an annual estimate of the number of people who have breached the rules in that year to remain in the UK.

On publishing the report, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP commented:

"The government has a responsibility to build consensus and confidence on immigration rather than allowing this to be a divisive debate. But that requires a transformation in the way that immigration policy is made as too often the current approach has undermined trust in the system.

“We've deliberately done a different kind of inquiry, working with British Future, HOPE not hate and other organisations to hear from people in citizens’ panels and community meetings right across the country. What's striking is that there is considerable common ground in contrast to the polarisation we too often hear in national debates.

“But we need a much more open and honest debate, with sensible reforms to address people’s concerns. We are proposing an Annual Migration Report like the Budget each year with proper public consultation and independent advice. It should include wide-ranging plans to address integration, support for public services, action on skills shortages and measures to prevent exploitation as well as targets and controls.

“The net migration target isn’t working to build confidence and it treats all migration as the same. That’s why it should be replaced by a different framework of targets and controls. And frankly the system needs to work effectively. As long as there are so many errors and so many problems with enforcement, people won't have confidence that the system is either fair or robust.

“Most people think immigration is important for Britain, but they want to know that the system is under control, that people are contributing to this country and that communities and public services are benefiting rather than facing pressures. And crucially they have different attitudes to different kinds of migration. We believe people should be working together to build consensus on the benefits and address concerns about problems on immigration.

“Immigration has always been an important part of our history, economy and culture and will continue to be a crucial policy area for our future. We cannot stress enough how important it is to prevent escalating divisions, polarisation, anger or misinformation on an issue like immigration. To fail to respond risks doing long-term damage to the social fabric, economy and politics of our country." 

Read the full report at: