MP calls for positive outlook on UK immigration

22 Feb 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A Conservative MP has urged ministers to stop talking about UK immigration in a negative light or risk damaging the country's economic development by deterring investors.

MP Gavin Barwell, parliamentary aide to the Education Secretary and co-chair of Migration Matters, made the remark in specific reference to Indian companies after investment from India in British companies has declined to a “worrying” degree over the past two years.

Mr Barwell claimed in an article for The Telegraph that this drop was down to negative debate regarding government-imposed limits on UK visas. He encouraged ministers to take advantage of prime minister David Cameron's trade trip to India as an opportunity to change outlooks. In addition to negative attitudes, it appears that Indian migrants are also being put off by the complicated paperwork required to get hold of a UK visa.

“We are running the risk of sending very mixed messages because of the way in which we conduct the debate in this country about immigration and the way in which the UK Border Agency administers the system,” Mr Barwell remarked.

The reference to “mixed messages” concerns the fact that Mr Cameron has been pushing Britain as a country open to international business during his trade trip to India and yet national debate and the media in the UK suggest the opposite.

It's becoming clear from migration figures that more does need be done to encourage investment in and migration to the UK. Analysis by Migration Matters, for example, looked at the most recent figures from UK Trade & Investment and found that there were 97 projects in the UK funded by Indian investments in 2010-11, but this had fallen to just 81 projects by 2011-12.

“The prime minister’s visit will help build new bridges with India but unless we learn these two lessons, we won’t reap the full benefits of his hard work,” Mr Barwell concluded.