Immigration Reform - Worcester News

In every election campaign I have fought my Party has had clear policies on immigration.

In 2001 the Conservatives warned about chaos in the asylum system and in 2005 we talked loudly about the need for secure borders and controls on immigration.

But the Labour Party cynically painted those who questioned the Government's policy on immigration as hiding a racist agenda. So it became far too difficult to have the open debate on this vital subject that we needed then and still need now – and it was the BNP who benefited, a party that had no fear of being viewed as racist.

Immigration deserves calm and serious treatment. On the one hand, there must be limits to the number of people a small island like ours - and its public services - can cope with. On the other, over the centuries Britain has benefited enormously from the skills and enterprise of wave after wave of immigrants, and we continue to do so now. Getting the balance right is a vital political task.

Last week, Worcester MP Michael Foster wrote in this paper about the tough action the Government is taking to control immigration and reduce the number of illegal migrants. I wish he was right.

Immigration has quadrupled since 1997. The new government lost control of the asylum system, and it's still dealing, very badly, with the backlog. When the European Union was enlarged to the East, it was warned that huge numbers of migrants would come here - but it refused to cap the numbers.

Its attempts to sort things out have been half-hearted. Even when they do the right thing, they do it badly. For example, Gordon Brown announced he would create a new border force. Only later did it emerge that there would be no extra officers, no increased powers and no involvement of the police - just new uniforms and a new logo.

What we need are annual limits on economic migrants, a proper border police force, transitional controls for migrants from new EU countries and changes to the rules on marriages across borders. Only the Conservatives are offering this sensible, reasoned approach to immigration.

Failure to deal with these issues hurts all of us. Asylum seekers don't know where they stand. Criminal gangs exploit illegal migrants. Public services - especially our schools - are stretched to breaking point. Yes, we need to debate immigration, but we need effective action too.

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