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I think that jobs should be advertised in Britain before they are advertised abroad. I also think that if large firms or public sector organisations cannot find people in Britain with the necessary skills and have to employ someone from abroad, they should also have to provide an apprenticeship for a British youngster so that we can train up the next generation of British people as well.
At the last election, we also proposed tougher measures to tackle the illegal exploitation of foreign workers, and the creation of a new Home Office unit to enforce the law, so I support the Bill’s proposals for a director of labour market enforcement and for stronger sanctions against those who employ illegal workers. I have always thought that if you want to live in Britain you must be prepared to work hard and pay your way, obey the law and learn to speak English, because there is no other way to play a full role in British society, so it is right that the Bill will make it easier to monitor foreign nationals who have broken the law and to ensure that customer-facing public workers speak fluent English. Most people will think it is also completely right that the Bill proposes to tackle illegal immigration and its links with organised crime, people trafficking and exploitation, which have a knock-on effect on our communities, on wages and on public services.
As we heard earlier, however, the Government have not yet provided any evidence that the trial of plans to intensify the right to rent scheme, which requires landlords to check the immigration status of prospective tenants, has cut illegal migration. Indeed, there are worrying signs that it has made it much harder for British people from other backgrounds to find a home. I do not think that reasonable people would support a measure that could prevent British people who have worked and contributed to this country for decades from finding a home just because they have a foreign-sounding name or a different accent.
The Government must go much further to enforce the minimum wage so that unscrupulous employers cannot exploit foreign labour to cut costs and drive down wages. I want bigger fines for breaking the rules, and a ban on recruitment agencies hiring solely from overseas. We should also introduce changes to benefit entitlement right now, instead of waiting for the outcome of the Prime Minister’s negotiations with the EU. There should be a much clearer relationship between benefits and contributions so that people receive benefits if they have worked and paid in for at least two years. Furthermore, there is absolutely no reason why people should be able to claim child benefit for children who are living abroad. People in Dudley also want to see tighter border controls. We proposed to introduce a levy on US visitors to pay for 1,000 extra border guards and to do more to strengthen checks for illegal immigrants in Calais.
I would like to see the Government acknowledge that the costs and benefits of immigration are not shared equally across the United Kingdom. Lots of people have moved to places such as Dudley in search of work and a better life, and they are making a contribution. However, immigration can clearly put pressure on public services such as housing, schools and the NHS. The answer, of course, is to build more housing, stop cutting the NHS and ensure that schools have the teachers and staff that they need in order to cope. That could be funded by the benefits of immigration in other parts of the country. We do not get many millionaire American bankers, German city traders or French hedge fund managers moving to the black country. I would like to see an immigration Bill that ensures that the benefits migration brings to some parts of Britain help to fund the extra housing, NHS staff and teachers necessary to reduce the pressures in communities like mine.
I support some measures in the Bill, but I can think of other measures that would address mainstream concerns about immigration while providing fair, reasonable and progressive ways of doing so. Let us focus our efforts on the unscrupulous employers and organised gangs that bring people to this country illegally. Let us strengthen our border force so that Britain can have confidence that the rules are being enforced, and let us ensure that the costs and benefits of immigration are shared across the country.