Around Westminster with Rob - Immigration
We still have a problem with immigration levels into the UK that are too high. My constituents ask me constantly what the Government is doing to deal with it. For years Labour had an 'open door' immigration system, partly to hide its problems with economic productivity and competitiveness but mainly because its leaders believed immigrants would in very large part vote Labour; so for years we absorbed unprecedented levels of immigration.
The rules were sometimes lax, confused in many areas and Labour avoided dealing with pressing changes needed to expel foreign criminals or people who, for other reasons, shouldn't be here. The result was huge change in some communities at a pace that was disconcerting to say the least. It caused pressure on schools, GP services, housing and other public services. It has caused consternation among the public.
Responding to public concern, the Government has pledged to reduce immigration from hundreds of thousands a year to tens of thousands. We recognise the importance of welcoming those who come here legally, through the proper channels, and abide by the rules. But getting on top of the wider problem is proving a challenge because we have to tackle the failure of the previous Government, and also the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR). We have had to close bogus colleges, increase skill levels of potential employees, and shut down all sorts of illegal backdoor routes into the country for economic migrants. Good progress has been made and in the years to come immigration will fall.
This week in Parliament we tried to deal with some of the issues around the ECHR. Rules under Article 8 have been interpreted by judges in a way that stop us deporting criminals and others with no right to be here. It is frustrating for the Government and it makes the public angry. We also, quite reasonably, believe those coming into the country should be financially supported by spouses or family and speak reasonable English. We are attempting to do something about it by raising the qualifying earning levels so anyone coming here won't be supported by the taxpayer.
I would have expected the Labour Party, after everything it did to cause the mess, to support our quite modest measures. I was aghast when Yvette Cooper backed away from supporting us. At heart the Labour Party doesn't really want to control immigration, it doesn't share the public's view of the problem. Indeed, it wants immigration to remain high because it sees that as a good thing. Some immigration clearly is welcome, but the free-for-all sponsored by Labour was, and is, wrong.