Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:57 pm on 2nd May 2018.

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Photo of Neil O'Brien Neil O'Brien Conservative, Harborough 5:57 pm, 2nd May 2018

It is a privilege to take part in this important debate, and to follow my hon. and gallant Friend Leo Docherty, who rightly reminded the House of the proud record of service and loyalty of people from the Commonwealth.

Let me start by taking a step back. In my constituency, I am proud to have a large number of people who came to this country from Uganda in the 1970s. They were given 90 days to leave by Idi Amin, and they came here with nothing but the shirts on their backs, but they have brought such a lot to my constituency, building fantastic businesses through their hard work and enterprise. They are just one community in which I see so much to admire in people who have come to this country. As I go around my constituency, I see a fantastic culture of effort and hard work in our schools, and communities that have a strong record of looking after older people in their homes. There is much to admire.

When I speak to people in those migrant communities in my constituency, I am also reminded that they feel very strongly that we must not lose sight of the distinction between legal and illegal migration. They feel that they have jumped through many hoops, done all the right things and played by the rules, and they do not want people who have not done the same simply to be allowed to come to this country illegally.

I would argue for balance. I feel very strongly that the Windrush generation have been very badly treated, and it is essential that the new Home Secretary puts that right. He should put in place a more humane system, in which we do more to help such people prove their right to be here. I also think there is more we could do to make our immigration system as a whole more humane. We could be quicker in processing asylum claims and make sure we are quicker with visa applications, so that people do not fear missing family occasions. I welcome the Government’s integration strategy, and I would like us to do more to ensure that everyone can take part in our society.

Even as we do all those things, we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. I believe that we need to control migration, which does put pressure on finite resources such as housing and our infrastructure. Even today, a new poll has shown that the great majority of people in this country want tighter control of migration, and I think it is right to bear down on illegal immigration. Most illegal immigration takes place not as a result of people sneaking across borders but because people overstay in this country. So it is right to have measures in place that make it more difficult to be an illegal immigrant and that help us to reduce illegal immigration, which is unfair immigration.

If the motion was in favour of more humane treatment of the Windrush generation, I would vote for it in a heartbeat. Sadly, it would absorb huge amounts of resource, pursuing an agenda that will not help the people I want to see helped. I would like to see a humane system in which we do everything we can to help people who may not have much in the way of resources to navigate a complex bureaucracy. I would like to see a system that was less bureaucratic, more humane and faster. However, I am unable to support the motion, because it would distract us, rather than help us, in that important task, and it would make it more difficult, rather than easier, for the new Home Secretary to get on with the important work he is doing in ensuring a fairer deal for the Windrush generation.