and how it might better serve the interests of the United Kingdom,
the immigration minister, Barbara Roche, said. Speaking yesterday at an Institute of Public Policy Research conference, 'UK Migration in a
Global Economy, Mrs Roche said:
both economically and socially. It cannot be static and must respond
to changes in the world around us. Our economy is part of a global
system that is becoming ever more tightly integrated. Increasingly,
the global economy is driven by knowledge, and our future within it
is determined by the skills of our people. Transport is cheap and
accessible. An increasingly global culture raises expectations and
ambitions. And international migration is a central feature of this
'As with other aspects of globalisation, there are potentially huge
economic benefits for Britain if it is able to adapt to the new
environment. We are in competition for the brightest and best
talents, the entrepreneurs, the scientists, the high technology
specialists who make the global economy tick. In order to seize the
opportunities of the knowledge economy, and to play a constructive
part in shaping these huge changes, we need to explore carefully
their implications for immigration policy.
'The evidence shows that economically driven migration can bring
substantial overall benefits both for growth and the economy. In the
United States, as Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan has
commented, the huge recent inflow of migrants, 11 million in the
1990s, has been key to sustaining America's longest-ever economic
'In the UK we are now seeing the emergence of labour shortages in key
areas of the economy.
'Many will be familiar with the shortage of skilled workers in the IT
sector, where there is an international scramble to attract experts
and wealth creators, and I am pleased that many choose to come to the
UK above other countries. But there are also major shortfalls
elsewhere, for example in parts of the health sector. Nearly a third
of doctors nationally are non-UK born, and nearly a third of all
nurses in inner London are non-UK trained.
'There were even reports this summer that fruit was being left in the
fields to rot because farmers could not find workers to pick it.
'We have already made some changes to ensure that our policies and
practices are meeting the needs of business. The recent work permit
review has led to some welcome improvements. And we have just begun a
pilot scheme to attract more business innovators to the UK. Under the
new scheme, people with business experience and ideas will be able to
apply to set up business in the UK. It will relax existing
arrangements - they will no longer be required to use personal funds
to start up their business.
'And last summer the prime minister announced a long-term strategy to
attract more international students to the UK. Overseas students make
a huge financial contribution - more than£700m a year - to
the British university system. And their presence creates a huge and
invaluable source of goodwill for Britain abroad, as well as
enriching our culture.
'But we need to be sure that our policies are in tune with the
realities of the 21st century. We must learn from experience from
around the world as well as looking at new ideas.
'We do not yet have the answers for Britain. What we need now is a
genuine debate on the benefits and challenges of managed migration.
We want to hear a wide range of views contributing to the debate. I
am particularly keen to hear from members of the business community
about how they think the government can help to attract those with
the skills and expertise they need.
'And to inform the debate, we need more research on migration - to
find out what brings people here, what their skills are, where in the
UK migrants settle, how they integrate with British society, and how
we can balance legal migration with social stability. Work is already
underway, but there is clearly much more to be done.
'We must have effective immigration controls. We must have a firm,
fair and credible asylum system which honours our international
obligations and which cannot be exploited by the racketeers. But our
immigration policy must also meet real expectations and emerging
needs. And if we ensure that it does, then I believe that we can face
a new century of migration with confidence.'
A text of Mrs Roche's speech is available.