Sir Andrew Green is Chairman of Migrationwatch UK.
Does the government’s political imperative to get immigration down to acceptable levels conflict with their economic imperative to stimulate economic growth?
For business generally, the answer is a resounding “no”. There are no limits on the transfer of international staff, vital to so many companies based here. Only half of the available work permits (about 20,000 a year) have, so far, been taken up. Special visas for entrepreneurs and investors are unlimited but the take up has been very limited – only 360 entrepreneurs and 300 investors had taken advantage of these routes by last Autumn. Meanwhile, the arrival of 1.5 million business visitors every year suggests that Britain is indeed open for business.
Most of the complaints nowadays are about process, not limits. The process has, indeed, become absurdly bureaucratic. An attempt by Labour to make the issue of visas “transparent and objective” has utterly failed – for the obvious reason that the two million who apply for visas every year have circumstances so diverse that even 800 pages of regulations cannot prescribe the answers. It must be a major task for the new Minister of Immigration to restore to the system the human element sometimes known as common sense.