Writing for the Evening Standard today, Dominic Grieve strongly criticises Labour’s approach to immigration since 1997, noting the problems it has created. He argues that if Labour has now finally come to a more realistic view, it is only through finally heeding Conservative arguments they have been ignoring for years. Labour has no credibility remaining on the issue.
It is notable that prior to joining the Shadow Cabinet this summer, Dominic Grieve worked as hard or harder than any Conservative MP (notably with Christina Dykes) to build a stronger relationship between the Conservatives and ethnic minority groups. His strong words on this issue therefore carry particular credibility.
Labour’s record of failure: "Net immigration has quadrupled under Labour, fuelled both by the lack of transitional controls on new EU member states and a failure to control economic migration from outside the EU. Britain is on course to have the largest population in the EU, with the Office for National Statistics predicting that half of this surge will come from immigration… A YouGov poll last year found that the public regarded the failure to control immigration as Tony Blair’s greatest failure in office."
Immigration makes only the most marginal contribution to GDP per head: "The Government has consistently overstated the economic advantages by emphasising only the contribution of newcomers to overall GDP, when, as the Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs points out, it is the impact on GDP per person that counts, and immigration has had only the most marginal impact on that measure."
The disadvantages of high levels of immigration:
- "The Governor of the Bank of England says uncertainty about immigration numbers makes the job of setting monetary policy more difficult."
- "The strain on public services is even more acute. Our schools face immense pressures caused by the different needs and languages of children from immigrant families, particularly in urban areas. Almost half-a-million primary school pupils do not speak English as a first language."
- "The failure to manage economic migration properly has put further pressure on transport and housing. The regular complaints about overcrowding on the Underground in London reflect the fact that our capital now has 800,000 more inhabitants than in 1997, with no adequate thought given to infrastructure development to keep pace with growth."
- "One chief constable has publicly complained that immigration has added to policing pressures and increased the requirement for translation services, without his force being provided with the requisite resources to cope."
- "A report published by the Communities and Local Government Select Committee last July warned that the pressure on resources as a result of immigration "increases the risk of community tensions escalating" and that the pace of change in some areas has resulted in migration becoming "the single greatest public concern in Britain, overtaking concerns on crime and terrorism"."
Conservatives have lead on this issue: "We have been calling for a points-based system for years. The Government is now trying to introduce one. However, we have also made clear that a points-based system is pointless without an overall limit on the numbers of people coming to the UK. Ministers roundly rejected that approach until now, it appears.
"If Mr Woolas is serious about putting proper limits on economic migration, then I welcome this volte-face. But to be credible, after more than a decade of uncontrolled immigration, ministers need to be crystal clear about what their policy now is and candid about their past mistakes, not just float ideas in newspaper interviews which they then row back on less then 24 hours later."
Conservatives alone can be trusted on immigration: "Is the Government that spent 12 years storing up the problems with a failed approach to immigration really capable of sorting the mess out? I doubt it. We need the kind of fundamental change in approach that cannot be delivered through spin but only by a change in government.
"A Conservative government will set immigration policy within a wider strategy that meets the changing demographic make-up of Britain, taking full account of its impact on our population and maximising the economic advantages while mitigating the costs and risks. We have pledged an annual limit on economic migration to Britain. We have set out policies to avoid the abuse of our rules by those promoting sham marriages from abroad. We have called for newcomers to be proficient in a basic level of English, because it is vital for cohesive communities. And we have set out detailed proposals for a dedicated Border Police Force, with the remit, powers and capacity to secure our border controls to stem the crime that thrives on porous borders."
3pm: Peter Whittle sees vindication for Sir Andrew Green and MigrationWatch in the changed political consensus.