23 May 2024

Is Labour’s immigration plan really different from the Conservatives’?


Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper accused the Conservatives of total failure over their immigration numbers policy saying they couldn’t clear up their own chaos.

According to the Austrian chancellor, 15 EU member states back the government’s Rwanda policy.

Cathy Newman began by asking her if the Tories were actually leading on the issue.

Yvette Cooper: In fact, what other European countries are saying is that we should be working in partnerships, a very different way to the Rwanda scheme. What we heard from the prime minister was in fact an admission that the Rwanda scheme is a con. They knew it was going to unravel over the summer. It’s costing half a billion pounds for just around 300 people, and that is only 1% of asylum seekers. So that is not a working or workable plan. And instead what we need to do is put that money into border security instead.

Cathy Newman: Isn’t the truth, on small boats, and also you talk about work visas, you don’t have a policy, as we know, on reducing student visas , on reducing health and social care visas, for example. Unless there’s something you’re not telling us. It seems to be that you’re trying to give the impression you’re going to dramatically cut numbers. You don’t have the policies to back it up. You haven’t unveiled them.

Yvette Cooper: We set out some proposals last year around getting rid of the 20% unfair discount on overseas recruitment. The government has adopted that. Now that’s welcome. And there are some other measures that they’ve put in place that we do support. But unless you deal with the proper skills shortages, this isn’t going to be solved. For example, engineering visas have gone up at the same time as engineering apprenticeships have halved. Those things are related. And that’s why what we would do is properly link the points-based system to plans on tackling skills shortages and tackling the need for the skills that we’ve got in the economy, so that there’s not continually the overseas recruitment as an alternative to investing and training.

Cathy Newman: You as a party, Rachel Reeves, your shadow chancellor, has copied and pasted a lot of the Tory tax and spend commitments. For example, the national insurance cut, the debt rule and so on. That implies then pretty eye-watering cuts to your patch, law and order. Is that the case?

Yvette Cooper: We’ve identified on policing areas where we believe that you can make savings that can then be put back into frontline policing. So, for example, the Police Foundation, based on the work of the independent Police Foundation, they estimated between £700-800 million of savings could be achieved by doing new joint procurement arrangements, instead of having 43 forces all doing their own multiple contracts. We’ve been much more cautious. We’ve estimated around half of that would go into frontline policing, and that would fund around 13,000 additional police PCSOs, specials, to be able to work in our communities.

Cathy Newman: Savings, as you and I both know, they very rarely materialise in the amount promised by politicians going into an election. If you don’t get those savings, would you be prepared to borrow to fund the police more effectively? Would you be prepared to raise taxes to fund the police more effectively?

Yvette Cooper: I’ve been a former chief secretary to the Treasury, so I know that it is possible to put in place programmes that deliver procurement savings. I’ve seen that done before from government and worked on that in government as well.

Cathy Newman: Really, even with the court service on its knees, the prison service?

Yvette Cooper: Don’t get me wrong, there are totally areas where the courts, the prison service, is a huge problem. And that’s partly because the government, although they allocated the money, the funding was there, they just failed to actually deliver the prison places that they promised.

Cathy Newman: As things stand, you following their spending plans on that, so that implies massive cuts to a service that’s already on its knees.

Yvette Cooper: Except that on policing, what we’re saying is we’ve identified where the savings would be, and we’ve been much more cautious than the Police Foundation. It’s based on independent work. We think we can make sure we can get that investment.

Cathy Newman: Your former leader, Jeremy Corbyn, looks like he’s going to stand as an independent against your party. What’s your message to him?

Cathy Newman: We’re campaigning for a Labour government. This is a chance to change the country. The Labour Party has changed under Keir Starmer’s leadership, and he was right to do that.

Cathy Newman: Does his friend Diane Abbott get the whip back?

Yvette Cooper: I hope that that situation can be sorted out as rapidly as possible, and I’ve said so before.

Cathy Newman: So that’s a yes, in the next 24 hours she gets the whip back?

Yvette Cooper: I hope this is going to be sorted out as soon as possible. But as a shadow cabinet member, I can’t comment on an independent process, and I’m sorry about that.

Cathy Newman: That independent process has got to complete within 24 hours because of the dissolution of parliament, isn’t it?

Yvette Cooper: I do hope it’s going to be sorted as swiftly as possible, but I can’t comment on it as an independent process.