[Mr. Edward O'Hara in the Chair] — Population and Immigration

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:24 am on 2nd February 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier Shadow Minister (Transport) 10:24 am, 2nd February 2010

The fact is that net migration was 180,000, even ignoring those who stayed illegally whom we do not know about. If examined closely, the figures for housing are actually much worse than they appear. In round terms, over the past five or six years, between 500,000 and 600,000 have arrived and between 300,000 and 400,000 have left. According to the Government's own figures, about one third of new housing is accounted for by net migration. It follows ineluctably that the whole requirement for new housing comes from gross migration: in other words, the natural growth in households is roughly balanced by emigration. Indeed, one of the reasons most frequently cited by people leaving this country is congestion and overcrowding.

I will make two other brief points; I hope to give my hon. Friend Mr. Turner a couple of minutes to speak. First, the courts have been no friend to this country in the matter. I have several excellent English language colleges in my constituency, as well as the highest concentration of higher education students in the country. If a series of court rulings absurdly makes it impossible for us speedily to deport students who overstay, we will find ourselves in a ridiculous position in which a Government of any shade will be bound to react with ever more restrictive curbs. Of course, curbing the number of people who learn English will rapidly knock on to curbing the number of people who can come here to enjoy degrees, which would be bad not only for our universities but for forming links with UK plc, as many such people go on to become opinion formers.

My grandfather was an officer in the Indian army, the largest volunteer army in human history. It fought loyally despite including people from almost every known religion and a range of different ethnic groups. I believe strongly that it is possible for Britain to be a happy, assimilated and hugely diverse country, but we must learn lessons from countries such as America and Australia, which have a long history of immigration.

Everybody who comes in legally should be able to speak English. We should insist on it for people who arrive for marriage. We should tighten language controls. As my right hon. Friend Mr. Cameron, my party's leader, pointed out early in his leadership campaign, it is absurd that vast numbers of benefits documents should be translated. We should be teaching people English. We must move away from the idea of multiculturalism and, as well as curbing overall immigration numbers, return to the idea that we should all be of one company.