Tories call for immigration cap
Tuesday 21st October 2008 at 17:04
The Conservatives have called on the government to introduce a limit on economic migration from outside the EU.
The Tories used an opposition day debate to say that population growth had been “too fast” under Labour.
Shadow immigration minister Damien Green said the government was “full of contradictions” over whether there should be a cap on migrant numbers.
He drew attention to comments over the weekend by newly-appointed immigration minister Phil Woolas, who has been accused of backtracking after seeming to tell the Times that Britain's population would not be allowed to rise above 70 million.
Addressing home secretary Jacqui Smith, Green told the chamber: “She has spent two years saying any limit on immigration would be arbitrary and unworkable, her immigration now wants a limit.
“She has spent two years saying there are huge economic benefits in immigration at any level, he says it's been too easy to get into this country.”
Green went on: “There is a serious problem. He seems to be arguing on one hand that unlimited immigration was OK for the economic boom but won't work for the economic bust we're now in.
“At other times he argues that we need to treat this as a demographic problem. Now when he says that, he makes a lot more sense.
“We on this side believe population growth has been too fast and must be put on a more sustainable course.
“But to achieve that, you need properly controlled immigration numbers at all times, and not just in a recession.
“Without a limit you won't be able to plan your public services properly, you'll have little incentive to improve the training of unemployed people in this country, and most of all, you'll make it more difficult for new arrivals to integrate quickly and easily into British life.”
He suggested the home secretary, who moved the government's amendment to the Tory motion, could not trust Woolas to speak on the subject.
But Smith said it was a matter of how seriously home secretary Dominic Grieve took the matter that he “could not bring himself to the despatch box”.
She told MPs: “I think people in this country understand that migration can bring benefits to this country.
“But they also rightly demand that we have a robust system in place so that we can control who comes here and so that migrants abide by our laws and contribute to our society.
“And that is why we are completing the biggest overhaul to the immigration system in a generation,” he said.
Smith went on: “We're taking action to strengthen our borders, but also to introduce a system to ensure that we select only those who can be of benefit for Britain to come here, to ensure that newcomers speak English, pay their way and play by the rules and to manage the local impact of migration.”