Posted on July 29, 2014

David Cameron: We’re Building an Immigration System That Puts Britain First

David Cameron, Telegraph (London), July 28, 2014

This Government has a long-term economic plan to secure a better future for Britain–and controlling immigration is a vital part of it.

Under Labour, 2.5 million more people came to this country than left. As Lord Mandelson has admitted, they were practically sending out “search parties” for people to come here. There was a failed points system, which allowed so-called “highly skilled” workers to come for up to three years to look for work; often, they ended up stacking shelves. There was an increasingly generous, no-questions-asked welfare system which drew migrants to Britain for the wrong reasons. And unforgivably, while we had the highest rates of migration in our modern history, we also had well over five million people of working age on out-of-work benefits.

Over the past four years, we have been single-mindedly turning this around. Our goal is clear: an immigration system that puts Britain first. Achieving that means doing three things: clamping down on abuses of the system; making sure the right people are coming here for the right reasons; and ensuring the British people get a fair deal. Here I want to set out our progress on each–and the new action we are announcing today.

First, clamping down on abuses. Some of the most egregious examples were those new arrivals claiming to be students, enrolling at bogus colleges. In one of these colleges, inspectors found no students at all; the excuse was that they had all gone on a field trip to the British Library. We have taken radical action, shutting down more than 750 of these colleges. Today we are announcing a further step to make sure colleges do proper checks on students: if 10 per cent of those they recruit are refused visas, they will lose their licence.

Illegal immigration is another area that demanded harder action. Yes, that means effective controls at the border, but it also means taking action inside the country too. It was absurd that those who were here illegally could get a licence to drive a car, or rent a flat, or have a bank account. So since earlier this month, we have been revoking their driving licences–with 3,150 already withdrawn. From November, we will start introducing a system in which landlords have a legal obligation to check the immigration status of their tenants. From December, rules to prevent illegal immigrants from opening bank accounts will be introduced. And crucially, once illegal immigrants have been identified, we are making it much easier to deport them.

I can think of few things more infuriating than seeing people who have caused harm in our country and who launch appeal after appeal to stay, with the line that they have a “right to a family life”–never mind the families whose lives they have shattered. So we have taken every possible step to change this through the Immigration Act, with some important measures coming into force this week.

From now on, for example, we will have a policy of “deport first, appeal later”. This means that where there is no risk of serious harm, we will deport foreign criminals first and hear their appeal once they’re back in their home country.

We are also addressing the abuse of Article Eight of the European Convention on Human Rights–the right to a family life. Too many judges have treated this as an unqualified right. So we have written very clearly into the law that when weighing up these cases, judges must also consider the British public interest too. As far as this Government is concerned, the rights of law-abiding citizens come well above the rights of criminals.

The second big plank of our new approach is making sure the right people come for the right reasons. The success of this nation was built by millions of hands, many from overseas–doctors, teachers, inventors, academics, businesspeople–and succeeding in the decades to come means staying open to those who can really contribute. So we have been rolling out new visas for graduate entrepreneurs and the exceptionally talented, and establishing a much more robust system that accepts the right people with the skills we need. We have also set a cap on economic migration from outside the EU. Crucially, this has been done without deterring talent; the cap has been undersubscribed each month.

We’re also making sure people come for the right reasons–which has meant addressing the magnetic pull of Britain’s benefits system. We changed the rules so that no one can come to this country and expect to get out-of-work benefits immediately; they must wait at least three months. And we are announcing today that we are cutting the time people can claim these benefits for. It used to be that European arrivals could claim Jobseeker’s Allowance or child benefit for a maximum of six months before their benefits would be cut off, unless they had very clear job prospects. I can tell Telegraph readers today that we will be reducing that cut-off point to three months, saying very clearly: you cannot expect to come to Britain and get something for nothing.

Third, we are making changes to put the British people first. Many have been annoyed to see their taxes going to those who have never paid into the system here. Labour ignored this resentment; but we have been acting. For instance, on housing, you can no longer come here and expect to be given a home instantly. Statutory guidance now ensures that councils only add people to housing waiting lists when they have lived in the area for two years.

Over the past decade, there has also been concern about employers hunting out cheap labour from abroad, while too many young people are out of work. Some recruitment agencies have even been recruiting directly from elsewhere in the EU without British workers ever getting a chance to apply for the jobs. So we are banning overseas-only recruitment–legally requiring these agencies to advertise in English in the UK. And today we are announcing a further measure. In the past, all vacancies advertised via Jobcentre Plus were automatically put on an EU-wide job portal, too: this meant advertising more than a million vacancies across the EU. We are going to massively restrict this, aiming to cut back the number of vacancies posted on this portal by more than 500,000. Again, this is quite simply about putting British residents first.

Of course when talking about getting young British people into work, the problem isn’t a simplistic one of too many people coming here–it’s also about too many British people being untrained, and too many thinking they can get a better income on benefits. You can’t fix your immigration problem unless you fix your education, training and welfare problems, too. That’s what we’ve been engaged in for four years: radical school reform; record numbers of apprenticeships; and a complete rewiring of our welfare system so that it pays to work. This is a long-term challenge, but progress is being made: while most new jobs used to go to foreign workers, in the past year more than three quarters have gone to British workers.

Taken together, this is about building a different kind of Britain–a country that is not a soft touch, but a place to play your part, a nation where those who work hard can get on. Carefully and painstakingly, we are building an economy that has real opportunities for our young people; an education system that encourages them to do their best; a welfare system that encourages work; and an immigration system that puts Britain first.