Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day]
Phil Woolas (Minister of State (Borders and Immigration);), Home Office; Oldham East and Saddleworth, Labour)
I thank right hon. and hon. Members for kindly welcoming me to my new job; I am especially grateful to those on the Conservative Benches for their kind words. I pay full tribute to my right hon. Friend Mr. Byrne, my predecessor in this portfolio, who has, with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, put into place the architecture of an immigration policy that will introduce the biggest changes and shake-up to United Kingdom immigration since the arrival of the Windrush in the 1950s.
As the Home Secretary has already said, Britain's migration policy needs to strike the correct balance, weighing the economic benefits with the impacts on communities and public services. This afternoon we have had a good and serious debate. The most important point to come out of it has also been a passionately held view of mine for years: that the worst thing to do is not to talk about the issue.
The second point to come out of the debate is that the House must show that it does not cast doubt on the motives of right hon. and hon. Members in making their policy changes. That is important, and I welcome the point made strongly by Mr. Lilley. People understand that migration can bring benefits to our country, but they also rightly demand robust systems so that we can control who comes here and so that migrants abide by our laws and contribute to our society. My experience in my constituency is that the migrants themselves believe that most strongly; in that respect, there is a misunderstanding in this debate.
It is critical not only that we talk about immigration, and without questioning each other's motives, but that this House is seen to be debating the issue. That is why I am pleased by the turnout this afternoon. I suspect that the debate will not receive as many column inches as short interviews over the weekend, but that is just the nature of the beast.