Immigration and Social Security Co-Ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 28th January 2019.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Conservative, South Holland and The Deepings 6:18 pm, 28th January 2019

The hon. Gentleman is right that growing the population significantly creates great pressures on health, housing, roads and schools. He is right that public services struggle to respond to population growth of the kind that I have outlined, and it is time that we had what was described earlier as a grown-up debate about population growth, and its effect on the provision of public services and how they are funded.

However, the point that I really want to make is that the Government have only partly responded to that public call for tougher action. Returning to the figures that I quoted earlier when I challenged the Home Secretary, the number of failed asylum seekers removed from this country has fallen from 16,000 in 2005 to just 5,000—despite what the Home Secretary said, that figure does not include the returns of foreign criminals, although I understand that he made a genuine mistake in that respect—and the number of overstayers returned has dropped from 31,000 per annum to about 21,000 per annum. We are perpetually failing to deal with such matters as effectively and efficiently as we ought to, and that is actually rather unfair to the individuals concerned, because they sometimes end up in unacceptable conditions, whether in housing, in detention centres or wherever. It is actually fairer to deal with these things quickly, as previous Governments clearly did to a greater extent—I do not say that with any great relish.

It is also important to understand what this new White Paper is likely to lead to. There is a real risk that the focus on low-skilled migrants, and certainly on the one-year limit, may mask immigration figures. There is an argument for seasonal workers. The seasonal agricultural workers scheme is to be welcomed, and we should extend it to horticulture, but those workers tend to go home. They do not settle and they are not migrants; they are people who simply come to work.

Let us build an immigration system that is fair and that reflects public understanding of the need to build communities that cohere. And let us build a shared sense of Britishness; that should be at the heart of what the Government do.