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By Jonathan Isaby

Yesterday the Commons used the time allocated by the Backbench Business Committee to debate the issue of immigration. Here is a selection of excerpts from the contributions of Conservative backbenchers…

Skidmore Chris Chris Skidmore set out why it was important to discuss the issue of immigration:

"People have been afraid to discuss this crucial issue, which, happily, we are now beginning to address. Why is that? It is because people have been concerned about being viewed as intolerant-as bigots, even-if they raise the issue of immigration publicly. We all know that Britain is not a bigoted nation. The British people are not and have never been bigots.

"It is not bigoted to be genuinely concerned about how our local schools might cope with increasing school rolls or about how teachers can keep discipline with several different languages being spoken in the classroom. It is not bigoted to be genuinely concerned about the pressures being placed on the NHS by population expansion and how local hospital services will cope with the increased demands placed on them. Nor is it bigoted to be genuinely concerned about how all our local services-our infrastructure-might be able to cope with an increased population."

"The lesson that all three parties learned from the general election was that the issue needed to be debated. Happily, it was debated at the end of the general election, although it should have been brought forward sooner. It is clear to me that it is only right and responsible for us to act now to protect our public services and local infrastructure. It is clear that we can no longer go on as we were, with a policy of uncontrolled immigration and net migration reaching almost 200,000."


Peter Lilley Commons Peter Lilley considered the issue of skilled workers:

"The debate in this area is particularly superficial. It is widely assumed that allowing any skilled workers into the country must always be beneficial to the well-being of those already here, but that is not necessarily so. The only way to raise the living standards of our existing population over time is to increase the level of skills and the proportion of our population that has those skills, expertise and experience. Importing skills from abroad is often a substitute for doing that and discourages it. This is not the only reason, but it has contributed to the fact that this country has a less skilled population than many of our competitors, including Germany, France, Japan and America. A smaller proportion of our population has qualifications below degree level than almost any of our competitors.

"We pretend that we can make do by importing skilled people instead, thereby simply leaving large swathes of our population unskilled, with reduced incentives to acquire skills, depression of the wages of people with skills and reduction of the differentials that can be gained from acquiring a skill. That cannot be right. Employers might say, "Ah, I would like to employ some skilled workers from abroad," but we should be wary of saying that this is a good thing."

"The debate in this area is particularly superficial. It is widely assumed that allowing any skilled workers into the country must always be beneficial to the well-being of those already here, but that is not necessarily so. The only way to raise the living standards of our existing population over time is to increase the level of skills and the proportion of our population that has those skills, expertise and experience. Importing skills from abroad is often a substitute for doing that and discourages it. This is not the only reason, but it has contributed to the fact that this country has a less skilled population than many of our competitors, including Germany, France, Japan and America. A smaller proportion of our population has qualifications below degree level than almost any of our competitors.

"We pretend that we can make do by importing skilled people instead, thereby simply leaving large swathes of our population unskilled, with reduced incentives to acquire skills, depression of the wages of people with skills and reduction of the differentials that can be gained from acquiring a skill. That cannot be right. Employers might say, "Ah, I would like to employ some skilled workers from abroad," but we should be wary of saying that this is a good thing… However, because the people who have transferred the skills invariably return, the transfer does not result in net migration. That is very different from allowing cheap skills into this country."

Julian Brazier Julian Brazier raised concerns about the impact on immigration of housing:

"Eight years ago the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimated that Britain would need 4 million new houses by 2022. If we rework the calculations based on how the numbers have moved on since then, we can see that that was almost certainly a substantial underestimate. In an area such as mine, where there are extreme housing shortages, that should give us all pause for thought.

"Forty per cent. of housing need is accounted for by net immigration, but we easily forget that one of the most common reasons given by people for leaving this country-it is second or third in most of the recent surveys-is that they feel that it is overcrowded. In many cases, they want to move to places that are less congested. Ironically, even by balancing the numbers we are keeping up levels of pressure that are already felt."

Crouch Tracey Tracey Crouch noted the need for immigrants to integrate into British society:

"Integration is viewed by some immigrants as a scheme from which they can opt out, which is quite simply not good enough. We cannot aspire to cohesive communities without wilful integration, and we must do more to ensure that it happens. One of the EU's common basic principles on integration states: "Basic knowledge of the host society's language, history, and institutions is indispensable to integration; enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge is essential to successful integration."

"As the host nation, we have a duty to enable migrants to acquire the basic knowledge to integrate successfully, but we must stress that that is very much a two-way relationship. Far too often, immigrants have arrived with no intention of learning the basic tenets of our society, despite our attempts to allow that to happen. That reflects the majority of views that have been expressed to me on the doorstep and in local resident association meetings in my constituency, where communities in deprived areas are characterised-sadly-by an us-and-them approach."

Robert Halfon Commons Robert Halfon took the opportunity to raise comments made by former Home Office minister Fiona MacTaggart in 2008, which he wrote about at the time on ConHome:

"Under the last Government, the immigration service was at best neglected by Ministers, but at worst it was treated with contempt. It was only two years ago that a Labour Home Office Minister, the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), who was in the Chamber earlier, described immigration officers in somewhat unparliamentary language. This was reported online by the BBC on 29 November 2008:

"UK immigration officials have been on the receiving end of a four-letter outburst by former Home Office minister", the hon. Member for Slough, who "told a conference of a Labour think tank that the job could corrupt 'even quite good and moral' people."

"She apparently then said: "One of the reasons immigration officers are" s***s- "is actually because some people cheat and they decide everyone is like that". That is wrong, wrong, wrong. It seems astonishing that senior Labour figures could trash immigration officers when it was their Government who caused the immigration chaos in the first place."

Christopher Pincher Commons Chris Pincher suggested that immigration keeps a lid on productivity:

"Over the past 15 or so years, however, the myth has developed that uncontrolled immigration has been an unalloyed economic benefit to this country. That myth needs to be exploded. We are told that cheap labour is good for us, and migrants tend to be cheap. They come here and they do jobs that other people do not want to do, and they accept wages that other people will not accept. They provide a service at low cost and everyone is happy, but that masks the price of immigration, and we need to recognise that price. It is undoubtedly true that immigration keeps wage inflation down, but it also keeps a lid on productivity. If employers can import more and more cheap labour into this country, they will have less and less incentive to be more productive in their business. As a competitive model, that is unsustainable.

"It is therefore incumbent on the Government not to turn a blind eye to businesses that are importing large-scale cheap labour. Those businesses that import illegal immigrants should be fined and the illegal immigrants sent home. We need to send a message to businesses and to the people who should not be here that they cannot profit by getting around the law. That is a very important message to send. Unless we do that, we will inspire slackness in business and resentment among hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding people."

Barwell Gavin And Gavin Barwell had a particular constituency interest to raise since those wanting to claim asylum have to visit the UK Border Agency in his Croydon Central constituency:

"First, there is a financial impact on the council. The council receives funding from the Home Office to pay for the costs that it has to meet in relation to these issues, but that funding does not adequately compensate council tax payers. It does not cover any of the legal costs, and significant numbers of applicants appeal if they are denied leave to remain. While they are appealing, the council has an ongoing obligation to them, and those costs, and the council's legal costs, are not covered.

"Secondly, the funding does not cover costs in relation to certain people who have no access to public funds but to whom the council has an ongoing duty in relation to providing destitution support, nor does it cover many of the indirect costs. The council is supporting significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who do not have English as a second language and require additional support in schools. The shadow Minister nods, but under his Government, and under this Government, we have not yet made the case to the Home Office that Croydon council tax payers should not be asked to shoulder the cost of a national obligation.

"The Minister will no doubt respond that because of the work he is doing, which I entirely applaud, the numbers of such people have been reducing. However, this involves a twofold issue of principle. First, the next time there is a major conflict abroad, those numbers will undoubtedly increase again, and we will be back where we were a year or two ago. Secondly, there is a more important point of principle, which is that our obligation to provide sanctuary for those who are fleeing persecution is a very important national obligation, and we should not be trying to drive down the numbers of people seeking asylum by making it as difficult as possible for them to do so."

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