Immigration Controls

Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:29 pm on 21st October 2008.

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Photo of Christopher Huhne Christopher Huhne Shadow Secretary of State for Home Affairs, Home Affairs, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice & Lord Chancellor, Ministry of Justice 4:29 pm, 21st October 2008

We welcome this debate; the motion is right to highlight the chaos of the Government's immigration policy. There is a widespread crisis of confidence over not just what we are aiming to do, but whether we can do it. The debate raises issues of Government policy concerning both the fairness and the integrity of the system.

There are three elements to what has been epic mismanagement. The first is the sheer scale of the mistakes, judged by the difference between projections by the Home Office and the outcome; the second is the clear lack of control at our frontiers and within them; and the third is the lack of preparedness in local communities that have been affected by unplanned and unexpected increases in population. I shall deal with each in turn.

First, if we look at immigration from the A8 countries—the central and eastern European transition member states—we can see that the UK, Ireland and Sweden were alone in agreeing to immediate freedom of movement without transitional provisions. The Home Office predicted—and the House took the decision on the basis of that prediction—that there would be 13,000 EU migrants a year, or 52,000 by the end of last year. The outcome was 766,000—1,373 per cent. higher than the Home Office's forecast. In all the history of Government projections, I doubt that there is a single other number of such importance that has been proved so extraordinarily wrong.

In retrospect, we should have had transitional arrangements too. The Liberal Democrats backed the Government's policy on the basis of the Home Office forecast, and no one can have imagined that it would be out by such an order of magnitude. However, we must remember the substantial benefits of free movement —[ Interruption. ] I am happy to give way to the immigration Minister. I am unable to make head or tail of what he is saying from a sedentary position. More British people live in the rest of the European Union than citizens from the rest of the EU live here. Mr. MacShane is right to point that out.

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