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Immigration Bill

Part of Bills Presented – in the House of Commons at 3:06 pm on 13th October 2015.

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Photo of Stewart Jackson Stewart Jackson Conservative, Peterborough 3:06 pm, 13th October 2015

That is a fair question, but it is way above my pay grade, so I will move swiftly on. I will, however, touch on those issues later.

The fact is that the Labour party has not learned any lessons. It has collective amnesia about what happened on 7 May. The reason it got only 232 seats is that very many of its bedrock, blue-collar supporters did not trust it on immigration and decided to elect other people—or, indeed, to vote for a party such as UKIP—because they trusted them more. That is lamentable, but that is what happened to the Labour party, although you would not think it to listen to them.

The Government also have a very strong mandate to introduce this Bill, as a result of an overall majority. It is certainly the case that, for the first time in probably 25 years, immigration is the No. 1 issue for voters. According to an Ipsos MORI poll at the end of September, it is more important than the health service, the economy, jobs and the environment—56% of people said that the No. 1 issue was immigration.

At least the former shadow Chancellor had the good grace, at the 2014 Labour conference, to apologise for the big errors that were made under the Labour Government, particularly in respect of the free movement directive. What I found positive in the speech of the right hon. Member for Leigh is that he is prepared to look at the directive’s impact on certain areas, whether Leigh, Dudley North, Peterborough or other parts of the country.

Goodness knows, we have to address this matter because it is a major issue of concern. In my constituency, unrestricted immigration, largely under the Labour party—to the extent that 34,000 national insurance numbers were issued to EU migrants between 2004 and 2011 in a city of 156,000 people—has had a big impact on the delivery of core public services such as housing and health. We have a primary school places crisis in my constituency because of the sheer weight of the number of people coming from the European Union. Yes, we welcome people who are hard-working, decent, civic-minded and law-abiding and who will accept our British values, but we cannot cope with unrestricted immigration. In that respect, this Government are doing exactly the right thing.

As the right hon. Gentleman and the House may know, on 31 October 2012 I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill to disapply the European Union free movement directive 2004. That was not a Europhobic response of closing the doors; it was about nuancing and finessing the free movement directive—the pull factors—as has been done in places such as Spain, which has suffered from the problem of 50% youth unemployment. Unfortunately, the Government did not take on board those arguments at the time. I commend them for now doing so. We should establish the fact that we believe in the free movement of labour and people; yet I do not think that it is unreasonable for us to make a value judgment on the people we want to come to our country. The free movement directive has not been nuanced in the way it should have been.

No evidence has ever been produced—both Migration Watch and Balanced Migration have made this point several times—that immigration is necessarily “a good thing”. There is no evidence for that. There is perhaps no evidence that it is a pernicious or bad thing, but there is certainly no cumulative evidence, in terms of the delivery of public services, that it is a good thing. If I take only the issue of low wages, it is obviously the case, as is proved by what data there are, that although immigration may not drive down wages, it certainly restrains wages at a certain level for indigenous workers, particularly low-skilled people or those with no skills and young people.