UKIP Wales Debate: Immigration Policy

Jun 21, 2017 | Articles, Assembly Business, Assembly Issues, International | 0 comments

Plenary Wednesday 21 June 2017

17:54:10

Spoken Contribution – 17:54:10
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We’re having this debate today because we are coming out of the EU and we need to work out what kind of Brexit we actually want, in particular, what kind of immigration policy we want. Our motion talks about a firm but fair system of immigration, it notes the Bank of England’s paper on the impact of immigration on wages and it looks at the issue of balancing immigration and emigration as a medium-term aim.

There are many amendments to our motion that have come from the other parties and my colleague David Rowlands has just looked at the Conservative ones.

Now, to some extent, the Labour and Plaid Cymru positions on this subject were laid out in their joint document, ‘Securing Wales’ Future’, which they brought out earlier this year. So, we can look to that for some detail of the immigration policies that they propose, which are also reflected in their amendments today.

Some of the points raised in their joint paper are quite interesting in themselves. For instance, the document states that an additional 100,000 construction workers are estimated to be needed in the UK by 2020. I note that there are lots of unemployed young people in the former industrial areas of Wales. I would say this skills shortage, combined with our latent labour force, could provide a perfect opportunity to reinvigorate apprenticeships and relieve the problem of NEETs—young people not in education, employment or training. It could, in other words, be an opportunity rather than a problem.

Some of the skills shortages highlighted in their joint paper are decidedly odd. For instance, 50 per cent of vets are from outside the UK, yet we are traditionally a nation of animal lovers, so why aren’t we able to train our own vets? The basic premise that Labour and Plaid are highlighting—[Interruption.] Well, why aren’t we? Vets are one example—there are many others. Why aren’t we able to do that? [Interruption.] Okay.

The basic premise that Labour and Plaid are highlighting in their document is a skills shortage. The worry they are trying to perpetuate is that a so-called hard Brexit would harm businesses’ access to skills, yet the vast majority of EU migrants who come to the UK come to fill low-skilled jobs. So, it is not actually businesses’ access to skills that is likely to be affected so much as their access to cheap labour. It is sometimes curious to note that the Labour Party is worried about businesses being able to access cheap labour since they normally portray themselves as the party that wants to raise wages. Yet, in their position on migration, they actually position themselves in such a way as to become a party that effectively wants to keep wages down.

Plaid, of course, have signed up to many of the same positions as Labour. There is an argument advanced by Labour and Plaid, in their document, that, post Brexit, we should not have the same freedom of movement of workers that we have now, but we should have a different system, and this will be related to jobs or offers of jobs, as the First Minister has explained to us in the Chamber. Well, when we look at the actual wording of the Labour/Plaid Cymru document, it is decidedly vague on this point of the job offer. I quote:

‘This might involve the prior offer of a job or the ability to secure an offer within a short time of arrival in the country’.

End of quote. [Interruption.] I haven’t got time, Simon.

Spoken Contribution – 17:57:44
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Well, maybe I have time, but I don’t have the inclination.

Spoken Contribution – 17:57:52
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I’m afraid this approach seems to beg more questions than it delivers answers. What is the evidence of this job offer? What checks would there be to prevent—[Interruption.]

Spoken Contribution – 17:58:08
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Thank you. What is the evidence of this job offer? What checks would there be to prevent bogus job offers? What exactly constitutes a short time? How would these people be tracked if they had a job and then left it?

Finally, the joint Labour and Plaid Cymru document says that it wants, and I quote,

‘A strong culture of enforcement of legislation to prevent the exploitation of workers.’

End of quote. But we know, as it is a matter of record, that there have been pitifully few successful prosecutions by HMRC for not paying the minimum wage. The joint document says it will push for ‘much stronger enforcement’ of minimum wage legislation. What the document signally doesn’t say is how it will do this, which puts rather a gaping hole in their plan to stop worker exploitation. So, I would be interested to hear what the Government Minister has to say about this today.