Dudley MP Ian Austin: How we can curb rise in immigration
I've been listening to people in Dudley and raising their concerns about immigration since I became an MP nine years ago, writes Ian Austin.
I told the last Labour Government it was making mistakes – including on Eastern Europe – and that immigration was too high.
But this government is getting it wrong too.
David Cameron promised he'd get net immigration down to the tens of thousands but it's actually gone up to over 240,000.
The call came during Prime Minister's Questions from Labour MP Ian Austin, who said people in the Black Country wanted to see the Government tighten up on immigration. It followed an admission by Tory skills minister Nick Boles that Britain does not have control over immigration and may never be able to stem movement from within the European Union.
During the weekly Commons question time Mr Austin asked: "I've held a dozen public meetings on immigration over the past few weeks and it's absolutely clear that people in Dudley don't think it's fair people should be able to come to the UK to be unemployed, don't think people should be able to claim benefits as soon as they arrive, or as he proposes, after a few short months.
"They think people should have to work and contribute and pay into the system first and they certainly don't think it's fair that people should be able to claim child benefit for children living abroad. When will he be able to sort these things out." Some Tory MPs could be heard laughing as the Prime Minister got to his feet. The Conservatives blame the Labour party for allowing immigration to soar following the enlargement of the European Union. An amused Mr Cameron said: "I don't want to be uncharitable to the honourable gentleman who put his question in a reasonable way but I long remember the years when he sat behind the member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (former Prime Minister Gordon Brown) as his Parliamentary Private Secretary and I don't think he whispered any of those things into his ear. I absolutely think we have to deal with the issue of sending benefits home and we will.
"We've already lengthened the amount of time that people have to be here and we will go further than that.
"To be frank about this, the British people are our boss. They want this issue sorted. It's not simply about people coming to claim, to abuse the system, it's about the pressure on our education system, our schools and communities. They want it addressed and we will address it."
Earlier this month, reports emerged that Mr Cameron could limit the number of national insurance numbers issued to low-skilled migrants from EU countries in an effort to cut immigration from within the 28-member bloc, but senior figures in Brussels and Westminster said such a move would be illegal.
It's no wonder people in the Black Country think politicians in Westminster haven't been listening.
I've always said that if you want to live in Britain you must be prepared to work hard and pay your way, obey the law and speak English.
There's no other way to play a full part in British society.
Most people think that if you have the skills we need and are working and contributing you're welcome, but they also agree with me that people shouldn't be free to come and be unemployed or claim benefits without paying in first. That's just not fair to people working hard and paying taxes.
I've held a dozen meetings across Dudley to listen to local people's ideas. I promise that if elected next May I will push for these measures in a new Immigration Bill.
- Reform the benefits system. People must wait longer before claiming and should only get benefits after paying in first. No one should get Child Benefit for children living abroad.
- Tighter border controls. The border force has been cut so the number stopped and sent home has fallen by 45 per cent. They need more resources to count people in and out.
- Bring back fingerprinting at Calais. The Government scrapped fingerprinting at Calais so illegal immigrants cant be identified and turned round.
- Deport foreign criminals. It should be easier to deport criminals. People who are guilty of committing serious crimes abroad should be banned from coming into the country in the first place.
- Charge visitors for NHS care. Ive always said people who come to Britain should pay up front or their country should foot the bill. Now I want the NHS to have powers to make sure people coming here pay a fair price for care.
- Local people at the top of the list for new houses. Dudleys Labour Council introduced new rules this year so you can only get on the housing list if you have lived or worked locally for two years.
- Controls on cheap foreign labour. The minimum wage must be enforced to stop unscrupulous employers exploiting foreign labour and undercutting British workers. I want fines raised to £50,000, exploitative zero hours contracts banned and recruitment agencies stopped from hiring solely overseas.
- Train our young people instead of hiring from abroad. If a firm cant find a British worker to fill a vacancy and has to hire abroad they should have to train a British apprentice too.
I think these changes could be introduced and I've urged the government and the Labour Party to look at them. People in London might not like it, but it's my job to listen to people and speak up for them in the House of Commons.
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