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integration , migration , progressive politics , public services , population and demographics


Watch: A fair deal on migration

06 Mar 2014

64% of people surveyed by IPPR agreed that if migrants work hard, pay into the system and uphold British values then we should welcome them to the UK.

Find out more about our fair deal on immigration at

Work hard, pay into the system and uphold British values

Chris Bryant makes keynote immigration speech

12 Aug 2013

Speaking on an IPPR platform on Monday 12 August, shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant set out the Labour party's approach to migration policy, especially as it relates to the fair treatment of workers, both British and from overseas.

Yvette Cooper at IPPR: Labour's immigration policy

07 Mar 2013

Speaking at IPPR's London office, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper made a keynote address on the Labour party's approach to immigration policy.

'For too long immigration has been one of those difficult subjects politicians don’t talk about, and the public worry about. Yet it is too important to our economy, our society and our future not to discuss.

'We know we need a sensible balanced approach. It is because immigration is important that it needs to be properly controlled. It is because immigration needs public support that the impact must be properly managed so it is fair for all. And yes, we need a serious debate about how to get that right.'

Keynote speech: Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary, outlines Labour's migration policy

IPPR paper on principles for migration policy sparks a lively debate

01 Feb 2013

Sarah Mulley, associate director for migration, integration and communities, reponds to recent comments to IPPR's report, Fair and democratic migration policy: A principled framework for the UK.

IPPR’s paper on the principles and tests that should underpin the UK’s migration policy has sparked an interesting and, we hope, productive debate among experts and commentators.

Former home secretary Jacqui Smith underlined why we need a principled approach to new migration policies, noting that ‘debate on immigration policy and election pledges in this area are too often based on broad statements verging on prejudice on the one hand tied to very specific process proposals.’ We agree – migration policy in the last decade has been characterised by both unhelpful political rhetoric and constant policy change, and our Progressive Migration work, of which our paper is a part, is an attempt to start moving beyond this from a centre-left perspective.

From a liberal (and Liberal Democrat) perspective, Alasdair Murray highlights the innate value of people’s freedom to move between countries. This argument is perhaps most immediately relevant to the debate about migration within the EU where this freedom is already secured by law. In light of recent discussions about Bulgarian and Romanian migration, and no doubt further debate about European migration in the run up to next year’s European elections, this is an issue that all those on the pro-European side of the debate will need to confront directly. Mary Riddell and Anthony Painter both make the point that migration and Europe are now inextricably linked in the UK political conversation, and IPPR plans to carry out significant research and policy work on migration within the EU in 2013-14.

On the question of how politicians and policymakers engage with public opinion on immigration, a very thoughtful response to our paper by Don Flynn of the Migrants’ Rights Network highlights two important points. First, that public attitudes to migration are much more complex and nuanced than politicians often assume. Second, that the apparent disconnect between the public and policymakers on immigration is part of a much wider problem - many people do not believe that politicians and governments respond to their concerns, at least in part because modern politics has deprioritised community in favour of a highly individualised approach. Don’s challenge is that we should think about the ‘public opinion problem’ on immigration in a more radical way that reflects a new politics of social and community activism.

We agree with much of this analysis. As we say in our paper, we are optimistic about public opinion: we believe that a progressive migration policy could secure mainstream public support in the UK, though this will not happen automatically - it will be a long process. Don’s argument that that public attitudes towards immigration must be put in a wider context is also right; although we would argue that the prominence of immigration in public and political debates about community, the pace of change and globalisation does merit a specific political and policy response on this issue. We are arguing for a much more fundamental engagement with public opinion than the poll-driven approach of the current or last government – migration should be part of active ‘everyday democracy’. Progressive politicians should aim for more than grudging consent from the public - an optimistic vision for the UK can more easily accommodate reasonable and realistic levels of migration than the pessimistic vision implicit in the account of many migration sceptics.

In a very detailed response to our paper, David Goodhart of Demos suggests that the UK migration debate has moved on, and that a ‘clear and settled will that immigration has been much too high in recent years and must come down’ must be taken as a starting point for future debate. We agree that everyone in the migration debate must be ready to talk about the numbers, and are clear that even those who believe that migration has generally been a good thing for the UK should accept that this does not mean that more migration would be even better: both costs and benefits are non-linear. However, we have a somewhat different view of how the debate has changed. Historical opinion polls suggest it has long been true that people think ‘immigration has been much too high and must come down’: what has changed is how that belief relates to people’s wider views, about politics and about other areas of policy. And immigration numbers matter because of the impacts that migration has: we believe it is a mistake to conduct debates about migration impacts by proxy through a debate about (net) migration numbers – something that happens all too often at the moment.

The UK is also in desperate need of a more realistic debate about immigration policy – there may be widespread public support for the Government’s net migration target, but there is also widespread doubt that it will be met, and no coherent account from either the Government or from others who support the target about how it can be. David is right that the net migration target is exerting a very strong pull on the current debate, but that should only underline the importance of those on the centre left coming up with a fair and workable alternative – our paper is an attempt to start that conversation, by asking what are the broad principles that should shape this alternative approach.

A number of commentators have noted that our paper leaves unanswered a number of important questions about how policy (past, present and future) measures up against the principles we set out. This is true, and indeed this paper is a prelude to a much more detailed policy report in which we will set out our own account of a future migration policy for the UK (watch this space!). Our former colleague Jill Rutter highlights that the application of our proposed principles is particularly difficult with respect to the sensitive issues of asylum and irregular migration (which involve particularly vulnerable groups). This is undoubtedly true, and these issues highlight some of the more intractable trade offs between principles that progressives have to face up to. We do talk about these trade-offs in the paper, though perhaps we should have been clearer about where the really hard questions are likely to arise.

The question of how past and current policies measure up to the principles we set out is an interesting one. Some commentators have suggested that much of what we set out in our paper seems so much like common sense that it seems impossible that current or past governments would disagree – David Goodhart suggests that Theresa May would agree with much of what we say, and Don Flynn argues that the last Labour government believed itself to be acting in accordance with many of the principles we set out. If this is true, then perhaps we are barking up the wrong tree by talking about new principles for migration policy – perhaps the question is purely one of competence and implementation.

We (unsurprisingly) do not agree with this analysis. There are certainly important questions of competence and implementation to be addressed, but there are also fundamental decisions to be made about the objectives of migration policy. The current government, implicitly at least, rejects our argument that it should be one of the top-tier objectives of migration policy that it should aim to increase the benefits of migration to the UK. Instead, the government has set out a single overriding objective, of reducing net migration to a politically pre-determined level. Other objectives are relegated to a decidedly second-tier status, to be pursued in the margins, or in the space that is left over (with the exception perhaps of respect for human rights, although ministers have questioned aspects of this as well). That is of course a legitimate approach, as we say in the paper, but in our view the wrong one. Equally, when we consider the last Labour government, it may well be true that, at different times, it considered many or all of the principles that we set out in our paper, but it is also true that it did not do so systematically or transparently, and that some objectives (e.g. increasing economic benefits) were repeatedly privileged over others (e.g. managing social and cultural impacts) but without this being explained or justified.

On one level, it is heartening to hear that we are in some sense stating the obvious in this paper – it suggests a degree of emerging consensus that could provide the starting point for a more constructive debate. However, we hope that our paper provides a more transparent and structured version of this emerging consensus, and a framework against which specific policy proposals (from us and others) can be measured. Ultimately, as we argue in our paper, migration is an issue that must be debated and discussed openly and honestly, and to that end we are pleased that our paper has already sparked a useful conversation, one which we hope to continue in the year ahead.

Ed Miliband: new immigration requires new economy

22 Jun 2012

Speaking on an IPPR platform on Friday 22 June, the leader of the Labour party outlined his party's new approach to immigration, based on an honest assessment of past mistakes and changes to UK economic policy to ensure a 'fair crack of the whip' for British workers.

Download a transcript of Ed Miliband's speech.

Ed Miliband outlines a new approach to immigration policy

New video: International student and net migration

14 May 2012

To coincide with the release of the latest IPPR report on international student and net migration we spoke to IPPR's Alex Glennie about the government's commitment to cutting net migration from the 100,000s to the 10,000s and what IPPR suggests the government should do.

The government needs to rethink its policy of cutting student visas in order to reduce overall net migration. IPPR suggests that that government should count students as temporary migrants, which would reduce overall net migration numbers. This would allow more students to study here and in turn bring more economic benefits to the UK.

IPPR's Alex Glennie debates the effects of international student migration on UK net migration

Matt Cavanagh analyses 'temporary migration' proposals

31 Oct 2011

Matt Cavanagh, author of the report Guest workers: Settlement, temporary economic migration and a critique of the government's plans, outlines why the Coalition's proposals threaten to create economic and social problems without really addressing the public's immigration concerns.

Matt Cavanagh: New immigration rules could damage the economy