Gales View - 15th May 2013
I yield to nobody in my desire to see illegal immigration brought to an end and to see those who have entered this country unlawfully returned to their rightful homelands. It was this Member of Parliament who, in the August of 1997, warned of the likelihood of a tide of asylum seekers from Eastern Europe and beyond arriving in the wake of the relaxation of Michael Howard`s immigration controls by the then new Labour Home Secretary, Jack Straw. At that time my caution was dismissed, by the Minister responsible for immigration, as the sort of thing that MPs like Roger Gale say during the `silly season`”. Sadly, my prediction became a reality and throughout the Blair/Brown years immigration rocketed and was exacerbated by the government`s failure, acknowledged by the Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, at the weekend, to put in place controls over the number of EU nationals arriving from the new Member States of Eastern Europe.
It is against that background that the coalition government has succeeded in reducing net immigration by a third since 2010. Nobody would claim that the task is anything like complete and the forthcoming Immigration Bill, drafted many months ago and announced in the Queen`s Speech last week, will take a further step to exercise greater controls.
None of that, however, should be allowed to justify an undercurrent of closet racism and xenophobia that I find just as abhorrent as the exploitation of the United Kingdom by those with no right to be in this country. I have no time for those, of any political party, who say to me I`m not a racist Mr. Gale but.........” and then proceed to illustrate precisely that they are hostile not only to illegal immigrants but to those who come to our country , lawfully, to study or to work with all of the correct consents.
For centuries this Nation has not only proudly offered a safe haven to those in need but has extracted enormous benefit from the cultures and the skills of those who, from across the globe, have gravitated towards the United Kingdom with their talents to settle, to work industriously and to pay their due taxes. Far from being spongers on the state” many of those from overseas have been, and remain, vital to many of the services and industries that we enjoy. Most of the hospitals in Kent, for example, would close without the supply of those who bring their medical qualifications with them to the benefit of the NHS. Our transport services, likewise, rely heavily on overseas, or immigrant” if you wish, labour as does our agriculture. In East Kent our language schools teach people not just the English language, and in so doing create considerable employment, but also generate a high regard and friendship for our country that is of huge value to the future of overseas trade. Kill the goose that lays that golden egg and it will be Australia and the United States that benefit at the expense of our vital exports.
There remains the cause of concern , though, that is felt and expressed by ordinary and decent people and that has to be addressed. For too long, under the last administration, those who should not be here have been allowed to exploit our benefit systems and our health services. We know that health tourism” has cost the United Kingdom millions of pounds that the Health Service cannot afford and there is an entirely understandable resentment that some, whether from within or from outside of the European Union, who have made no personal or financial contribution to our society through either endeavour or through taxation, should be allowed to walk into housing, healthcare, education and cash support that those who have paid their dues sometimes cannot themselves enjoy.
The Immigration Bill addresses very many of these issues. Significantly, it will prevent immigrants from accessing public services to which they are not entitled and to which they have not contributed financially. With effect from January 2014, once the Bill is an Act of Parliament, even European nationals will not be able to maintain their status and remain as job-seekers unless they can demonstrate that they have a realistic prospect of obtaining work. The legislation will also prevent those with no right to be in the United Kingdom from claiming contributory benefits and it will require local authorities, such as Thanet and Canterbury, to introduce a local residential qualification to determine who is entitled to social housing in the area. Something for nothing” will be off the agenda. The change in the law will also make it easier to remove those who should not be here by ensuring in law that Article 8 of the Convention on Human Rights (the right to a family life) is not abused.
We must, however, continue to recognise the value and the importance of those from overseas to our economy and to our daily way of life and we must ensure that they remain as welcome as we would wish to be made welcome when we travel to work or to live in other countries. There is no place, except in the minds of bigots, for Little England”. It is Great Britain – and a Britain that we are working to make great once again - that has to regain its place not in a narrow Europe but in a wide and developing and cosmopolitan world.