Immigration — [Sir Alan Meale in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:00 pm on 9th July 2015.

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Photo of Andrew Turner Andrew Turner Conservative, Isle of Wight 3:00 pm, 9th July 2015

That happened because we had a coalition. A coalition cannot deliver what one party the other wants.

No system is in place to ensure that the UK can cope with the number of people moving here. People are coming from Europe and the rest of the world. Our relationship with the EU has effectively taken away our ability to decide who lives in this country. EU migration inflow is considerably larger than our outflow. In 2013, net EU immigration was, according to the Library, 123,000.

The second aspect of our border controls is how we deal people from the rest of the world. That is something that we should be able to control in pretty quick order, yet in 2013, a net number of 143,000 people came to live here from outside the EU. Until recently, those figures were much larger. Throughout the years of Blair’s Labour Government, around 200,000 non-EU citizens came to live in the UK each and every year. It is only since 2012, under a Conservative-led Government, that have we seen any drop in numbers at all. We still have over 250,000 people in total settling here every year. That is far too high.

From 1997 to 2009, enough people to fill Birmingham two and a half times over arrived on our shores to live here permanently. Now, in 2015, it looks as if we will need three and a half new Birminghams. We have seen the rise of parties such as UKIP, which won 3.5 million votes, even if only one seat. That is evidence of how important the electorate consider this issue to be.

So far, there is no clear plan on how to reduce net EU migration. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister’s hopes of achieving meaningful change in the EU appear optimistic at best, although we certainly wish him success. Under the last, Conservative-led Government, there were notable successes, as well as one or two notable failures, on non-EU migration. The number of skilled economic migrants from outside Europe was capped at 20,000 per year, but what is happening about others from outside Europe, whose numbers amounted to more than 120,000 in 2013?

There was an outcry when the tier 1 post-study work visa was scrapped. It was said that businesses would not cope, but the sky has not actually fallen in. Foreign graduates must now simply find a graduate-level job to stay here. Before 2012, 50,000 foreign graduates were working in shops and bars and doing other non-graduate work every year. In the first full year after the rules changed, however, only 4,000 found work that qualified them to stay. It was a complete myth that businesses were desperate to employ them all. We also need to clamp down much harder on benefit and health tourism, for EU and non-EU nationals alike.

I have not called the debate simply to complain about the past or to call for the Government to do more. While I applaud the successful efforts of the coalition, and now the Conservative Government, to reduce the number of people coming here from outside Europe, there is still a long way to go. As for EU migrants, little can be done without major constitutional change—and that must come. If it does not, I fear that the numbers coming from the EU will rise inexorably year after year, confounding all efforts to cap immigration at the tens of thousands, which is our aim. That was our manifesto commitment, and now that we are not yoked to the Liberal Democrats, we must act on it.

I know the Government recognise the problem. Putting right years of Labour failure is not easy, but I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister will take this opportunity to tell my constituents, and indeed people across the country, what plans he has to make our ambitions a reality.