Labour has changed on immigration, says Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband Speaks

Ed Miliband will say on Tuesday that Labour’s approach to immigration has changed, and that he offers a “clear, credible and concrete plan on immigration – not false promises”.

But he will not put a cap on the number of migrants entering the country, saying false promises such as those made by the Tories only erode trust in politics.

He will say: “We will deal with people’s concerns because we have listened, we have learned and we have changed.” But he promised not to denigrate the contribution of immigrants to the UK.

His remarks are due to be made after the shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, refused four times to say Labour would put a target on net immigration. Speaking on BBC’s Daily Politics debate on home affairs, she would say only that she wanted the number to be lower than the current 300,000.

With polls showing support for the Tories on immigration surprisingly sliding below backing for Labour, Miliband will highlight the rise in net migration to 300,000 under the Conservative government, pointing out that the Tories promised to cut net migration to below 100,000. 

He will say his first 100 days action plan on immigration would strengthen UK borders, restore the principle of contribution, champion integration, and drive out the exploitation that drives down local wages.

Miliband has tried to bridge the differences between popular opinion and the views of Labour activists by highlighting the exploitation of migrant labour, and the way it undercuts wages of British born workers.

Cooper has been determined not to make a pledge on numbers, knowing that so long as the UK remains members of the European Union, any pledge is subject to a European labour market over which she has limited control. Labour has focused like other parties on clamping down on any benefit pull, but has rejected quotas with targets.

But a tea mug with the slogan “control immigration” produced by Labour to go alongside one of its five pledges has caused controversy, with many party members including the shadow cabinet figures saying they would not buy one.

Speaking at a People’s Question Time in the Vale of Glamorgan, Miliband will promise to publish an immigration bill in the next government’s first Queen’s speech to rebuild public trust, strengthen borders, restore contribution, champion integration and end the exploitation that undercuts wages.

His 10-point plan includes recruiting an extra 1,000 borders staff, paid for by a small charge on non-visa visitors to the UK, and stopping those who have committed serious crimes coming to Britain and deporting those who commit them after they arrive.

He promises to introducing full exit checks so border staff can count people in and out of the country. He also promises to end the indefinite detention of people in the asylum and immigration system. He will promise to impose a cap on workers from outside the EU and a tightening of the rules requiring large firms hiring workers from outside to offer apprenticeships in the UK.

In the single toughest clampdown on benefits for EU citizens, Miliband has proposed a ban on people claiming benefits for at least two years, and a ban on sending child benefit to families living abroad.

Miliband will say that “as the son of two refugees myself, I will never do anything to denigrate or demean the contribution people who have come to this country have made.

“David Cameron once promised to cut net immigration to tens of thousands – and told us to kick him out of office if he didn’t deliver. But net migration rose to 298,000 last year, almost exactly three times higher than he promised. Nothing damages people’s faith in politics more than broken promises like that – or those he is still making today.

“I will only make promises I can keep. I won’t offer false targets or seek to exploit concerns with the politics of fear. Instead, I am offering clear, credible and concrete ways of making a real difference.”

A Conservative spokesman said: “This is a desperate attempt by Ed Miliband to distract from his refusal to say what deals he is prepared to do with Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP to prop him up in Downing Street.

“The Conservatives have a plan to control immigration and build a system that puts the British people first. We will regain control of EU migration by reforming welfare rules, tackle criminality and abuse of free movement and cut immigration from outside the EU.”

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