There is great interest in the possibility that, if Scotland votes ‘Yes’ – I am firmly of the view that would be bad for Scotland and the UK – then Scots moving to England would become immigrants needing passports and border controls.
There is already a vigorous debate on migration. It is often misleading and disappointing that people deliberately confuse and mix-up asylum, migration, and illegal immigration.
Most people are proud we provide asylum for those in fear of their lives. Neither do Sheffield people object when doctors or computer technicians come here to do vital jobs. Nor do they object to overseas students, who are bringing income and benefit to the city. Sheffield’s universities are one of our biggest industries.
I think it is right to specify the minimum incomes people should have when they sponsor dependants to come here, and to say that those who come ought to speak English. I also understand the need for effective measures to deal with illegal migrants.
This is the problem withthe Government’s “one-size- fits-all” policy of a 100,000 limit, where every migrant is pushed into a single category including students. It’s like adding apples and pears and getting a lemon.
But we face social and economic challenges from the scale of legal economic migration, particularly from within the expanded European Union. If , as a society, we believe immigration benefits the whole country, the country has a responsibility to help those on whom the migrants will put particular pressure.
We need to be tough on employers who undercut minimum wage and employment laws, on landlords who get inflated rents from over-crowded and poorly-maintained housing and on the scams. We must ensure schools, health and other services are resourced to respond to the challenges and that long-term British residents don’t get poorer services as a result.
People want fairness. I think it fair to insist there are minimum periods before migrants can claim benefits or to go on a housing list; and we must stop the nonsense of paying child benefits for children who have never lived in this country. British emigrants to Europe should expect the same treatment.