Is a pleasure to be back in the Chamber to speak on Second Reading of this Bill, which will end the EU freedom of movement and pave the way for a new points-based immigration system that treats everyone equally. Let me say at the outside that the Bill has my full support. Taking back control of our borders was one of the central reasons, if not the main reason, why millions of people up and down the country voted to leave the European Union almost four years ago. The Bill brings us one step closer to finally delivering on that historic verdict.
The desire to take back control of our borders is not to deny the immense contribution made by many people who have come here from overseas and will continue to do so in future; in fact, ending freedom of movement and building a points-based immigration system based on equality and individual merit will allow us to welcome more people from around the world who have so much to offer this country, On the contrary, taking back control is about ending the uncontrolled mass immigration that has disproportionately affected our working-class communities in recent decades. These communities have seen the increased pressure on their schools and hospitals, their wages have remained low, and there have been rapid cultural changes in the towns in which they live.
Although it is undoubtedly clear that the vast majority of those who have moved to our country under EU freedom of movement rules have made a positive contribution and integrated fully, the simple truth is that that has not been the case for everyone who has taken advantage of those rules, and many of our communities have been adversely affected because of that.
Today’s Bill gives us a power to continue to welcome into our country all those who wish to make a positive contribution to not just our economy but our society, while allowing us to say, “No,” to those whose impact is likely to be more dubious. That is the reality of the Bill, and it is a reality to be welcomed. For too long, those issues were known but locked inside the EU treaties. There was no way to address them through our traditional democratic process. Immigration was an issue snatched out of people’s democratic control, undermining their confidence in our political system, as well as in our ability to execute our fundamental responsibility as a nation to decide who enters our country.
We have an unmissable opportunity to restore the public’s confidence by building an immigration system that welcomes the best and the brightest from around the world while retaining democratic control and the consent of the people. Despite the clear support in the country for such reforms, the Labour party of today remains wedded to open borders and uncontrolled, mass immigration. During his leadership campaign, Keir Starmer set out his full support for bringing back freedom of movement in the future, clearly disappointed that his attempts to reverse the decision of the 2016 referendum were not successful. If given the chance, it appears that he would do everything in his power to dilute and frustrate the decision instead. In other words, why set yourself against many of your party’s traditional supporters once when you can do it twice? By voting against the Bill tonight, the Labour party takes yet another step in its long march away from the people it once faithfully represented.
When we debate the future of our immigration system, we need to touch on illegal immigration, although I appreciate that that will be dealt with in a separate Bill. For public confidence in the system today, tackling illegal immigration must be one of the key issues that we confront. While thousands of people continue to break our laws by operating outside of our legal immigration system, the public will not have full faith that we have control of our borders. I urge the Government to build on the important work in this Bill by giving further consideration to how we tackle illegal immigration over the coming weeks and months.
As I said at the start of my speech, the Bill has my full support because it ends freedom of movement, gets us ready for a new global immigration system and helps to restore public confidence in the integrity of our borders. There is still more work to be done, and we cannot count on the Labour party’s support in doing it, but the era of uncontrolled and undemocratic mass immigration is certainly coming to an end, and that should be welcomed.