The Prime Minister has now given his long-awaited speech on immigration, following his promise to address this issue during his speech at Conservative Party Conference. I welcome his readiness to tackle this issue head on and support the measures he set out.
On the doorstep in 2010, when I was campaigning to be your MP, many of you raised immigration as a concern. When I talk to constituents on the doorstep today, I know that it remains a major concern. That is why throughout my time in Parliament, I have represented these concerns at every opportunity. I am glad that the Prime Minister has addressed and acknowledged these concerns in his speech today.
For those who missed his speech the Prime Minister recognised that whilst immigration can have very positive benefits, he like you, knows that there is a problem which he would like to resolve.
The key message in the Prime Minister’s speech was that immigration does need to be controlled: quite simply the previous Government lost control of immigration and this Government has worked hard to address problems caused by the large numbers of migrants whom the previous Government actively encouraged to come here.
I welcome the tough measures he set out for in-work benefits. I think a four-year waiting period is a sensible length of time to expect migrants to wait and I think this is much longer than many people would have anticipated as possible; a year ago we were worrying that a 3 month period may contravene EU law and indeed the European Commission are still taking legal action against us on this point.
I hope when these rules come into force that this means we can call be confident that those seeking to comer here are coming to work and contribute and not to claim benefits
The reforms set out in the Prime Ministers speech will mean that in future:
EU workers will:
- Not get in work benefits until they have been in the UK for 4 years;
- Not get social housing until they have been here for 4 years; and
- Not get child benefits and tax credits for children living elsewhere in Europe no matter how long they have paid taxes in the UK.
EU jobseekers will:
- Not be supported by UK taxpayers; and
- Be removed if they are not in a job within six months.
The plans set out by the Prime Minister today also included measures to abolish the system where EU migrants can bring family members from outside the EU without any restrictions, introduce tougher and longer re-entry bans for rough sleepers, beggars and fraudsters, stronger arrangements for deporting EU criminals and stopping them coming back and no access to labour market for nationals of new Member States joining the EU until their economies have converged more closely with current members.
The Prime Minister said that these changes should apply to the whole of the EU, but should that not prove possible, he would negotiate them in a UK-only settlement.
I am encouraged by what the Prime Minister set out and would like to see these measures come into force as soon as possible. However, I would like to see an overall limit on numbers coming into this country. Imposing a limit would be the most effective response to the problem of too many people coming to the UK and would provide a much more comprehensible and speedy response to the real issues we saw last week with net migration reaching 260,000. If a cap on numbers can’t be negotiated within the EU, then this represents a clear choice for all of us in an In/Out referendum.
I spoke out these concerns in two interviews with World at One, which you can listen to here and here (On the second link, you can catch my contributions just after 15 minutes in.)