Westminster Column 17 March 2010
After such an overwhelming response to the Residents Survey that I recently sent out it is clear that people in Sutton Coldfield are deeply concerned about the issue of immigration.
Britain can benefit from immigration, but not uncontrolled immigration. Look at any aspect of life today and you can see the contribution that migrants have brought – and not just to the economy. We want to continue to attract the brightest and the best people to the UK - but with control on the overall numbers coming here.
Since 1997, Labour's open-door immigration policy has seen the largest and most sustained rise in immigration in our history. In 1997 net migration - the number of people who come to settle here, minus the number who leave - was 48,000. In 2008 it was 163,000.
The Home Office’s latest figures show that even in a recession, with more than two million unemployed, the number of work visas issued is going up. So much for Gordon Brown’s ‘British jobs for British workers.’
A Conservative government will reduce immigration to the levels of the 1990s - tens of thousands a year, instead of the hundreds of thousands a year under Labour.
Our immigration policy is based on three strands:
First, we will introduce an explicit annual limit on the numbers of non-EU economic migrants allowed to work here, taking into consideration the effects a rising population has on our public services, transport infrastructure and local communities.
Secondly, to prevent illegal migration a Conservative Government will introduce important new rules to tighten up the student visa system - the biggest hole in our border controls and about which I recently wrote in this column – as well as ensure our borders are properly policed by a dedicated national Border Police Force to crack down on illegal immigration and people trafficking.
Finally, to promote integration into British society we believe that everyone coming to this country must be ready to embrace core British values and become a part of their local community. For this reason we will introduce an English language test for anyone coming here to get married.
Immigration has been running out of control throughout the lifetime of this Government and Labour have failed to get a grip on it. I hope the steps outlined above will be of interest to Sutton Coldfield residents concerned about this issue.