Britain's points based migration system

Alasdair Murray
January 2011

Over the last two decades the UK has experienced substantial net immigration, sparking a fierce political debate over the perceived economic and social costs and benefits. The outgoing Labour government responded to rising concerns by creating a 'points based migration system' (PBS) for selecting non-EU economic migrants. The system was designed to admit only those perceived as economically beneficial to the UK economy.

This report examines the operation of the PBS to date. It explores the likely impact of successive government reforms - most recently the migration cap introduced by the Coalition government. It concludes by outlining a number of ways in which the government could restore flexibility to the system and ensure it continues to attract the 'best and the brightest'.

Download the full report.

Safe as houses? Security of tenure for social housing tenants in England

Tom Gibson with Chris Nicholson
October 2010
'Safe as houses? Security of tenure for social housing tenants in England' argues that the Government's plans to restrict security of tenure would change the understanding which has historically been at the heart of social housing, forcing families to move out of their homes and removing tenants who often serve as the 'social glue' which helps bind communities together. Instead it proposes that greater flexibility could be introduced into the existing social housing stock by periodically reassessing the circumstances of social tenants, with those who can afford to do so paying a market rent, with the additional revenue ringfenced for reinvestment in the housing supply.


Commenting, Chris Nicholson said:
"Whilst I can understand the Government wishing to ensure best use is made of the social housing stock this is not the way to do it. It risks further concentrating social deprivation on estates and driving out those who are local community leaders. We believe our proposal to increase rents towards market levels for those whose circumstances improve is a fairer approach and one which helps to maintain community cohesion."

Download the full briefing note.

Dealing with debt: lessons from abroad

Dealing with debt coverEdited by John Springford
June 2010

The UK’s new coalition government is performing the first incisions in some drastic surgery to the state. The fiscal consolidation, which will take several years, will require a delicate - and highly political - balancing of competing interests, as it entails a transfer of wealth from taxpayers, government workers, welfare recipients, to debt markets, but in a way that prevents any party from walking out on the deal.
Other countries have been here before. 'Dealing with debt: lessons from abroad' brings together four authors, from Canada, Ireland, Sweden, and Australia, to discuss how their governments cut and reshaped the state in recent years, and what social and economic costs and benefits ensued.


This publication includes chapters by:
  • David Herle, political advisor to finance minister and prime minister Paul Martin, on the politics of the Canadian cuts of the 1990s
  • Pär Nuder, former Swedish finance minister, on a social democratic consolidation
  • Colm McCarthy, chair of Ireland’s 2009 expenditure review, on dealing with two Irish fiscal crises
  • Chris Aulich, specialist on John Howard’s privatisations and public services reforms, which reshaped the Australian state.
  • Download the full report
    Press Coverage:
    The Guardian: Comment is Free, 'The four ways we can cut spending', John Springford, 22 June 2010
    The Observer, 'There is no logic to the brutish cut George Osborne is proposing', Will Hutton, 20 June 2010
    Financial Times, 'Prairie wisdom from Britain's age of austerity', David Herle and John Springford,10 June 2010

    Making ends meet: challenges for the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review for the United Kingdom

    David Kirkpatrick
    September 2010

    In recent years, a worrying gap has emerged between the military ambitions of the UK armed forces, and the financial resources allocated to them. The gap is likely to widen further in the coming years as the coalition government starts to cut public spending to eliminate the government budget deficit.

    This is the context for the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), charged with making recommendations about the UK's future role in world affairs and about the financial resources which that role would require. In practice the SDSR must try to reduce the defence budget without incurring an unacceptable increase in the risks to national security.

    In 'Making ends meet', Professor David Kirkpatrick explains the many particular problems of defence management, and emphasises that the SDSR's recommendations for UK defence policy, military capabilities and defence expenditure must be completely coherent and consistent (unlike those in the 1998 review). He suggests how the UK defence budget might be reduced by 10 per cent, in addition to savings from internal reforms and reorganisation, without the irreversible loss of any of the UK's present military and industrial capabilities.

    Download the full report.

    Credit where it's due: making QE work for the real economy


    Giles Wilkes
    March 2010

    ‘Quantitative easing’ was meant to boost private spending by pumping billions of pounds into the economy. But CentreForum argues that it has done little for ordinary people and businesses. Without serious reform, it will prove powerless in the face of a second dip into recession.

    In early 2009, with interest rates at 0.5 per cent and the deficit hitting record levels, ‘QE’ was the only policy left for fighting the recession. By trying to increase the money supply directly, the Bank of England aimed to increase bank lending, lift up asset prices and restore confidence. In many ways it worked. Banks that were almost insolvent are now recording large profits, the equity market has soared, and house prices have reversed a frightening decline. It has clearly helped the government to issue a huge amount of debt relatively cheaply.

    But while the policy may have prevented financial collapse, it has done little to make life easier for small companies and households. Now, with the real possibility of a second dip into recession, CentreForum argue that QE needs urgently to be redirected towards the thousands of firms up and down the country for whom the ‘credit crunch’ is an ongoing problem.