Home Secretary confirms that there is to be no limit to immigration.

Home Secretary confirms that there is to be no limit to immigration.

In a debate on the new work permit system on 7 March, the Home Secretary made it clear that there is to be no limit to immigration. Yet again the government are ignoring the views of the vast majority of the British people. Successive polls have shown that 75% of the public think that there are too many immigrants coming into the country. The exchanges in Parliament were as follows:

Mr. Julian Brazier (Canterbury) (Con): The House, I am sure, applauded the Home Secretary's comment about the need, in the first case, to train people locally. In the light of the quadrupling of the number of work permits since the Government took office, from approximately 40,000 a year to about 160,000, will he answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Damian Green) about what that means for overall numbers?

Mr. Clarke: I am delighted to have eye contact with the hon. Gentleman. I cannot and will not answer the question because it derives from a proposition that, somehow, migration to work and study here is undesirable. I do not accept that. If one were to talk to people from many sectors of the economy, they would say that they welcome and need migration. I accept that it is necessary to tackle illegal migration and people who try to evade the system in various ways. The new system is designed to address that. It does not signpost a specific number—up or down—of people who migrate here to work or study. One of the reasons for the country's opposition to Conservative party policy at the general election was that people clearly understood that one could not simply pick some arbitrary number, but that the system had to be run well and effectively. The proposals are designed to achieve that.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Does the Home Secretary accept that there must be some limit on the overall number of economic migrants every year because of the pressure on water resources, transport capacity, housing and land, or will he tell us how those problems can be solved so that we can have unlimited economic migration?

Mr. Clarke: A similar argument could be made for limiting by state diktat the number of people born every year. The country will operate on the basis of the number of economically active people who are in this country. Migrants fall into that category and they should and will contribute to the country's economic development, rather than the opposite. I know that the right hon. Gentleman acknowledges that that is the case in general. I hope that he agrees that our focus should be to stamp out abuse of the system rather than simply stopping people migrating here.

Hansard 7 March 2006 Columns 728 and 729.

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