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In April 1939, a 10-year-old Jewish boy from a place called Ostrava in what was then Czechoslovakia was put on a train by his mum and teenage sisters. He never saw them again; they were killed during the war.
He was the only member of his family able to leave. He arrived in the UK only able to speak three words of English but became the youngest grammar school head teacher in the country, and was honoured by the Queen with an MBE for his education and charity work. He adopted four children, of whom I am the second, so I know all about the benefits that immigration can bring to individuals, our communities and our country.
I also know that immigration is something many people are very worried about. Research from the Oxford Migration Observatory shows immigration has ranked in the top five issues for many years and has ranked as the top issue for our country in many of the most recent polls. There is no point in mainstream politicians trying to ignore this or refusing to listen to people. It is our job to listen to people on this and come up with fair and reasonable ways of addressing their concerns. It is when we fail to do so that reasonable people with legitimate concerns turn to UKIP or, in the past, the BNP.
So I have worked hard to listen to local people in Dudley and I have held dozens of community meetings over the last couple of years on this issue. The truth is that most people are reasonable, fair and pragmatic when it comes to immigration and other contentious issues. Detailed research from British Future shows most people wanting fair controls on immigration but not a closed border. Mainstream politicians should be working in their communities to come up with fair and reasonable solutions to tackle exploitation, the undercutting of wages or some of the other challenges presented by immigration.
That is not, as some have said, “trying to out-UKIP UKIP”. It is being part of a mainstream Labour party that takes the concerns and worries that ordinary people have seriously. The vast majority of the hundreds of people who came to my meetings on immigration and the many thousands who completed the detailed surveys I have distributed agree that we should welcome people who come to Britain and work hard and contribute, and they agree that Britain has always provided a safe haven for people fleeing persecution abroad.
Because of that, I welcome plans to help to train the next generation of skilled workers here in Britain instead of hiring from abroad. Our proposals at the election would have required large firms to take on a local apprentice every time they took on a skilled foreign worker, so I think this should go further, but it is good that some funding from skilled worker visas will now be put towards apprenticeships.