Speaking in a debate on Romanian and Bulgarian migration, Brooks Newmark highlights the skills gap at the lower end where local people do not want to work for such pay or in those particular roles.
Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I realise that my hon. Friend is trying to make progress, but he makes an important point about the contradiction between people coming from Europe, eastern Europe in particular, because they believe jobs are here, and the perception of people locally that they are taking jobs. The reality is that many local people simply will not take those jobs; that is why they are being filled by eastern Europeans. That is the skills gap at the low end. It is not that there are no jobs; many people locally will simply not take the jobs, because they do not want to work for such pay or in those particular roles. That is the issue.
Nigel Mills: My hon. Friend raises an important point. One of the drivers of the Government’s welfare reforms is to encourage people to take work if they are offered it; if they choose not to take work that is available, they do not get the benefits that they would presumably like to keep.
Mr Newmark: I respect the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is here, but I find it strange that an enormous amount of Conservative Members are here to discuss this important issue. I cannot believe that the issue is of concern only to those Members of Parliament who happen to be Conservatives or to their constituents. Surely there are Labour MPs with the same concerns, so why have they not joined him here today?
Keith Vaz: The remit of the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee does not extend to controlling the diaries of members of the parliamentary Labour party, but it is their loss: I think it is important that we should be here participating in this debate.
Mr Newmark: I have been listening carefully to what the right hon. Gentleman is saying, and I am still not sure of his direction of travel, if I may say that. I am not sure whether he is saying that Romanians and Bulgarians will suddenly buy tickets to get on a plane to come here and live off our exceedingly generous benefits system, and if so, we have heard what the Government are doing, which is to put far greater restrictions on the ability of those to come here, before they can claim benefits or even housing or anything like that—the Government are trying to deal with that issue; the longest period of time that somebody can claim will be six months, and they have to wait three months—or is he saying that they are coming here because there are lots of jobs?
Nadine Dorries (in the Chair): Order. Mr Newmark, interventions should be brief.
Keith Vaz: Let us be clear: I do not think that they are going to come here to go on benefits; I think that people who come to this country from those countries are coming to get jobs. I do not think they are coming here to be part of the benefits system.
Mr Newmark: Will my hon. Friend at least acknowledge that the Government’s policy, in the autumn statement, of abolishing the jobs tax for under-21s will encourage many small businesses, especially retailers, to hire young people? I go back to the question that I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills): there is a skills gap at the lower end, so who will fill that skills gap if we do not have people coming in from eastern Europe to plug that hole?
Mr Bone: I am grateful for that intervention. No one in this Chamber is prouder than me of what this Government are doing to lower unemployment, and of the great efforts that the Prime Minister is making, but my hon. Friend is completely wrong on the second bit of the argument. We should not be paying jobseeker’s allowance to people who have the opportunity to work, but do not want to work. That is how those jobs will be filled—not by bringing people in from central Europe. Gosh, I got quite cross about that.