The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration teamed up with The Work Foundation, Universities UK, and Barrow Cadbury at the Labour Party conference this week that marked the launch of Labour’s immigration vision before Ed Miliband’s keynote speech the following day.
The meeting on Monday evening brought together key Labour MPs including APPG on Migration chair, Jack Dromey MP, Shadow Minister for Immigration, Chris Bryant MP, and influential House of Commons Business Committee member and international student campaigner Paul Blomfield MP. Migrants’ Rights Network Director Don Flynn and economist Dr Neil Lee from The Work Foundation provided expert opinions on immigration policy. The meeting was chaired by Huffington Post’s Dina Rickman.
Jack Dromey MP made an impassioned plea to the public that migration should not be observed as a means to “exploit new arrivals”. Migration is an important facet of the British economy and managing its consequences should be accompanied with the same rhetoric and actions as not leaving those who are affected by migration to fend for themselves, in particular, when concerns are raised against pressures on wages, jobs, and services.
He referred to this as needing a Bill Clinton-style ‘no one left behind’ strategy, which includes a stronger and more effective Gangmasters authority and the enforcement of the minimum wage on businesses undercutting local labour. This was echoed in Ed Miliband’s ‘One Nation’ speech to conference the following day.
Dr Neil Lee’s analysis was welcomed by the Labour faithful. His key observations that Labour needed policies that improved the “living standards of those on low wages” would help soften public grievances to migration. Furthermore, he impressed that the clear evidence of “foreign born workers in firms” bring creativity and “new products and processes which can drive growth”. Diversity in workplaces and in the executive boardrooms “perform better” and help the economy grow, Dr Lee said.
This thinking needs to be coupled with an extensive focus on utilising “better skills” that Scotland is currently engaged in doing. Furthermore, migrants help boost declining cities and help sustain urban economies according to the research by The Work Foundation.
Don Flynn referred to the fringe meeting as resembling “a student occupation”. He asserted that Labour should not be ashamed of its record on immigration and actually had “positive story to tell the public about the successes of immigration to the UK under Labour”. There is now two and a half years to go before the general election and we all know that “immigration doesn’t play well on the doorstep”, according to Flynn. However, Flynn added that the opportunity is there for the Labour Party to build “an alliance that includes universities and businesses”, which can help its long term strategy of “providing a progressive policy on migration”.
Paul Blomfield MP, a key player in influencing both the Coalition Government and the Labour Party on changes to student migration, said the UK is losing in the international students market. The economic impact of losing income from overseas students was hampering economic growth and adding to the skills set of the UK’s workforce was being lost as a result of the changes to post-study work route. He attacked the Conservative Party for seeing students “as a quick hit”.
The Shadow Immigration Minister, Chris Bryant MP, outlined Labour’s vision and strategy in the run up to the 2015 General Election. He said he got the job he wanted from Ed Miliband and the first thing he wanted to do was “treat migrants like human beings” in the formulation of immigration policy under his advice. He added that a “coalition of the rational” is what was needed to be able to have a serious and rational debate about migration.