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Immigration Control

Volume 503: debated on Wednesday 6 January 2010

[Mr. John Cummings in the Chair]

I thank Mr. Speaker for giving me permission to hold this debate today. I welcome the Minister—I very much appreciate the contact from his office prior to today—and the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Front Benchers to the debate. I also welcome my hon. Friends on the Back Benches.

Immigration is the most important issue for my constituents. I get more complaints, comments and suggestions about immigration than about anything else. In the Kettering constituency, the number of immigrants is actually very low. There is a well-settled Sikh community in the middle of Kettering town itself, which has been in Kettering for some 40 or 50 years and is very much part of the local community and of the fabric of local life. There are other very small migrant groups in my constituency, but it is predominantly made up of indigenous British people. However, there is huge concern among my constituents about the level of immigration into our country.

I believe that I am right in saying that, in recent years, net immigration into the United Kingdom is the largest wave of immigration that our country has ever known and, proportionately, is probably the biggest wave of immigration since the Norman conquest. My contention is that our country simply cannot cope with immigration on that scale—to coin a phrase, we simply cannot go on like this.

It is about time that mainstream politicians started airing the views of their constituents, because for too long people have muttered under their breath that they are concerned about immigration. They have been frightened to speak out about it because they are frightened of being accused of being racist. My contention is that immigration is not a racist issue; it is a question of numbers. I personally could not care tuppence about the ethnicity of the immigrants concerned, the colour of their skin or the language that they speak. What I am concerned about is the very large numbers of new arrivals to our country. My contention is that the United Kingdom simply cannot cope with them.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. Like me, will he pay tribute to the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who has had the courage to make the point and elucidate clearly today that dealing with immigration in an honest, straightforward and reasonable way is not just a political but a moral imperative for the political parties in this country?

I am most grateful for the helpful contribution from my hon. Friend who, as always, is speaking up for the genuine concerns of his constituents. As usual, he has hit the nail on the head. I am delighted that today the cross-party group on balanced migration has published a clear declaration stating that the UK’s population must be stopped from rising to 70 million people. I have signed up to that pledge today, and I invite all hon. Members in this Chamber to do likewise, because my view and that of the cross-party group is that the UK cannot cope with a population of 70 million.

Will my hon. Friend assist us by saying what the current level of migration and residence in this country is compared with the 70 million that it is planned to rise to? When are we expected to reach that figure of 70 million?

I am most grateful for that helpful contribution from my hon. Friend, who is a fastidious champion of his constituents’ interests; they are also concerned about the level of immigration into this country. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us the official statistics during his remarks, but my understanding is that the United Kingdom’s population is currently some 61 million. Net immigration is about 160,000 or 170,000 a year. Unless that is cut by 75 per cent., we will not be able to prevent the UK’s population from rising to 70 million by 2029. That would be the biggest population our country has ever had. Indeed, we already have the biggest population that our country has ever experienced. We are the most crowded country in Europe, apart from Malta, and one of the most crowded countries in the world, yet a further 9 million people are scheduled to arrive on our shores within the next 20 years.

Is it not a sad indictment of this country’s political system that the reason why we have not been able to have an honest and accurate debate on immigration is that the party in government for the past 13 years has deliberately and systematically smeared those who have raised immigration as an issue? Incidentally, that has had an impact on people who are not well off—for example, those who live in social housing in places such as Barking and Dagenham. There should have been a legitimate cross-party debate precisely to stop the rise of people such as those in the British National party who exploit people’s fears. The Government have not done that. They have chosen to smear their opponents, principally the Conservative party and particularly my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard).

I am most grateful for that contribution. I will certainly take interventions from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) and the hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt), but first I want to address the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson). The cross-party group on balanced migration recognises that point entirely and has stated in a press release issued today:

“We are convinced that failure to take action would be seriously damaging to the future harmony of our society. Nearly a million votes by our fellow citizens for an extremist party amount to a danger sign which must not be ignored. For too long the major political parties have failed to address these issues and the intense, if largely private, concern that they generate throughout our country. If politicians want to rebuild the public’s trust in the political system, they cannot continue to ignore this issue which matters so much to so many people. The time has come for action.”

In responding to my hon. Friend, most unusually for me, I also want to pray in aid the Prime Minister. In November, in a speech on immigration, the Prime Minister said:

“I have never agreed with the lazy elitism that dismisses immigration as an issue, or portrays anyone who has concerns about immigration as a racist. Immigration is not an issue for fringe parties nor a taboo subject - it is a question to be dealt with at the heart of our politics, a question about what it means to be British.”

I would certainly like to congratulate my hon. Friend on once again raising an issue that is hugely important to not just his and my constituents, but people right across the country. Returning to his theme of how we are an overcrowded nation already, would he like to comment on the fact that when the Government launched the ambitious house building target of 3 million by 2020—it seems that target will be missed anyway—they said by their own admission that 1 million new homes out of those 3 million will be needed for future immigration into this country? Does that alone not highlight how unsustainable the level of immigration into this country is and its effect on infrastructure and public services?

As usual, my hon. Friend is spot on. That is a real concern for my constituents in Kettering, because under the Government’s house building plans, the number of dwellings in the borough of Kettering are due to increase by one third by 2021. I am not saying that one third of the new houses in Kettering will be occupied by immigrants, but such net immigration into our country inevitably means that a large number of the new houses built will be occupied by new arrivals. In some places that number will be very large and in others it will be very small. The latest figures from the excellent organisation, Migrationwatch UK, show that the Government’s most recent household projections indicate that immigration will account for 39 per cent. of all new households in the next 20 years.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate and do not want to belittle what he is saying, because people are saying exactly the same thing to me on the doorsteps in Solihull. On his point about population density in the UK compared to other countries, other northern European countries have a greater population density than ours, such as the Netherlands and Denmark. However, we need to take account of people’s perception that this is an overcrowded island and that we cannot fit anyone else, which I hear all the time on the doorsteps. That is more to do with how we perceive our population and its density. Does he agree that many of the problems relating to lack of resources are the result of the Government’s misguided lack of planning for immigrant populations when they come to this country?

I am grateful for that helpful contribution—[Interruption.] There is quite a lot of sedentary chuntering from the Government Front Bench. The Minister is welcome to intervene at any time.

The hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) made an important point. The Migrationwatch UK press release that the hon. Gentleman mentioned cleverly refers to England, rather than to the UK.

The Minister has the statistics, so if he would like to furnish Members with that information, I am sure that we would all be most grateful, but all my constituents actually live in England, so that is what they are concerned about—[Interruption.]

I am grateful to you, Mr. Cummings, because this is a good debate on an important matter. The serious point is that the propaganda that is put out refers to the population density in England and compares that with other EU nation states. I simply point out, as did the hon. Member for Solihull, that the figures are different for the UK and provide a fairer comparison.

I am sure that that is right, but the fact is that, whether we are talking about the UK or England, we are still one of the most crowded countries in Europe and the world. Whether we are a couple of places below or above Denmark, Holland or Malta is of no particular consequence to my constituents or, I suggest, the Minister’s. What people in this country do know is that we are already far too crowded and that we are likely to have 9 million more people in our country by 2029, unless his Government change their policy or, I hope, my Government do so.

The hon. Gentleman is asserting that the population will be 70 million by 2030. How much of that figure is built on the extrapolation of the net migration of recent years, and how much is based on the extrapolation of birth and death rates?

The statistics are not mine. They come from the independent Office for National Statistics. I suggest that the Government need to take them far more seriously than they have heretofore.

On the figure of 70 million, does the hon. Gentleman think that that should never be surpassed, and if so, what would he do if, for instance, there was a sudden spurt in births among the indigenous population that leads to the overall population rising above 70 million?

That is a perfectly legitimate question, which I am grateful for. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s point and to that of the chuntering Minister is that 70 per cent. of that increase in population, according to the ONS, is due to—

I will do so when I have finished answering the previous intervention. The answer is that 70 per cent. of that increase is due to immigration, so effective measures could be taken to reduce immigration before we reach the situation, highlighted by the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake), in which the population passes 70 million.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because that is an important point, and we all agree that the far right is a problem. The figures show that 45 per cent. of the extrapolated population increase, which is based on figures for 2006-08 and includes net migration from the EU accession countries such as Poland—it is an extrapolation and not a forecast, as the ONS states—will have been the result of migration, not the 70 per cent. that he has stated. The figure he referred to is actually 65 per cent, which is what the ONS describes as the indirect implication of net migration, meaning the sons and daughters of immigrants and their sons and daughters. So the figure is 45 per cent. Furthermore, as that is an extrapolation and not a forecast, the result of the fall from 233,000 to 163,000 in net migration, because of the Polish people who did not come to this country, is that the fear of 70 million that he mentioned is not founded on the statistics.

If my fear is not founded on the statistics, the Minister will have no problem signing up to a manifesto pledge that the UK’s population will not reach 70 million by 2029.

When I was appointed to this job, I gave an interview to The Times in which I said that I could assure the people of this country that the population, as a result of migration policies, would not reach 70 million.

That is great, so the Minister can sign up to that pledge tomorrow. I think that he is playing with statistics, because as far as my constituents are concerned, whether the increase in population is due to new arrivals each year or to their children after they have arrived in the country are related issues—[Interruption.]

The Minister is trying to get away with saying that once immigrants are here the increase in population is not due to net immigration, and that is playing with words in a way my constituents would not appreciate. I do not know why he is looking so pleased with himself.

That is because we have exposed the hon. Gentleman’s policy. If he is saying that that is indirect net population—the result of previous immigration—there are two questions he must answer. First, what is he going to do about it? Is his policy to stop the previous immigrants to the country having children? Secondly, will he say that the net population increase is a function not just of immigration, present and past, but, as the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) said, of the birth and death rate? What will he do about it?

To repeat my answer to the Minister’s point, net immigration from this point on needs to be cut by 75 per cent.

In which case the hon. Gentleman must concede that his 70 per cent. figure—it is in fact 65 per cent.—is about the sons and daughters of previous migrants and their sons and daughters. What is he to do about that?

One cannot do anything about that. If we are to stop the UK’s population rising from 61 million today to 70 million in 2029, we will have to cut net immigration every year by 75 per cent.

One thing that the Minister clearly does not think is important at all is the need to deal with the illegal immigrants already in this country, whom the Government do absolutely nothing about. Does my hon. Friend share my concern that when people come to constituency surgeries with immigration cases, it often transpires, from the Home Office reply that their application for leave to remain expired in 2001 or 2002, yet they are still in the country and the Government do absolutely nothing to remove them?

My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on and I agree with that 100 per cent. I see cases most weeks from constituents—I use the word loosely—who are clearly here illegally and complaining that their cases have not been dealt with. In some instances, I have basically told the authorities the names, addresses and mobile phone numbers of people I know to be in this country illegally, but nothing has been done.

Is my hon. Friend as surprised as me about the rather cocky attitude of the Minister, given that when the Conservative party promised in its manifesto for the May 2005 election an Australian-style points system to deal with immigration from outside the EU, it was comprehensively rubbished as racist by the Minister’s party? Lo and behold, within three years, the same policy has become the official policy of the Government. Is my hon. Friend surprised that this Government lack any credibility whatsoever, given that kind of disgraceful behaviour?

I am a little surprised by the Minister’s attitude, because he is normally a nice fellow who takes part in well-reasoned debate. I can only assume that his colleagues in the Home Office have got to him and told him to start playing rough today. Nevertheless, we have a long way to go before the close of this debate, and his tone might well change.

I wonder what the hon. Gentleman thinks of Boris Johnson’s proposal that there should be an amnesty for irregular migrants.

It is a load of rubbish. Under no circumstances whatsoever should this country ever contemplate any kind of amnesty for those who are here illegally. I have some statistics about that that I shall draw on later.

For the avoidance of doubt, as they say, an incoming Conservative Government would not introduce an amnesty. This is a matter on which we disagree with the Mayor of London.

I am reassured to hear those remarks, and as we are on that subject, I shall deal with it now. Countries such as Italy, Spain and Belgium have had amnesties. I am sure that the Minister has more statistics, but I believe that Italy, for example, has had five such programmes. In 1987-88, 119,000 illegal immigrants were regularised. The figure increased at subsequent stages to 235,000 in 1990, 259,000 in 1996, 308,000 in 1998, and 700,000 in 2002. The point is that once one starts to regularise illegal immigrants, further illegal immigration is encouraged. That is why the Mayor of London is wrong-headed on this issue, and why no UK Government of whatever colour should ever consider an amnesty for illegal immigrants.

On the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley about the removal of illegal immigrants, in reply to a question that I asked the Minister in May 2009—he will not be able to dispute these statistics—he told me that 66,275 people were removed or departed voluntarily from the UK in 2008, and 63,365 in 2007. The estimate of the number of illegal immigrants in this country varies, and I would be interested to hear in the Minister’s closing remarks, as we have lots of time before the end of the debate, the Government’s latest estimate of the number of illegal immigrants still in the UK.

I have been able to ascertain from the figures that that number is somewhere between 600,000 and 750,000. With a removal rate of 66,000 a year, it will take the best part of a decade to remove all those people from this country. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty), the then Minister responsible for immigration, said on BBC 2’s “Newsnight” programme in May 2006 that it would take at least 10 years to clear the backlog of illegal immigrants in this country. My constituents want that to happen, and while I very much doubt the present Government’s determination to see it through, I would welcome the Minister’s comments about the strength of his determination to remove from our shores those who have entered our country illegally. The situation concerns not just my constituents in Kettering, but legal migrants to this country who have gone through all the hoops, who have done their best to abide by all the rules and who are furious at those who have crossed the seas to come to our country without permission.

I can sympathise with the view that we need to get rid of illegal immigrants, but the problem is how. I do not know of any country in the world that has a successful programme, other than a programme involving voluntary acquiescence on the part of those who might wish to go home with support. Would the hon. Gentleman agree that this is a massive undertaking?

It is difficult, but even this Government are making some progress on it. If they are removing 66,000 people a year, it shows that they are being at least a little bit effective in dealing with the issue. They can do it if they carry on at that rate, but they need to be determined. I hope that we will hear later that that is their intention.

There is another group of people in this country who are here illegally and in a very difficult situation. They have applied for asylum in this country and have, quite rightly, been turned down. However, they are, in effect, left in limbo. Often they are not able to go back to the countries from which they have come. Under our rules, we are not able to support them, and theirs is a dreadful existence. Any properly humanitarian approach to people crossing borders would include an effective policy to deal with them.

I do not know how many people fall into that category. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell us how many people have failed to secure asylum in this country—I am not disputing whether they have a right to be here—but are still here because they have nowhere else to go. We are not able to support those individuals, and we must come up with a policy to deal with their human needs.

Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the Red Cross, which does fantastic work to help people in that situation? In my constituency, we have had significant problems over the past three years with Darfuri asylum seekers and Zimbabweans. They are literally living on sofas and existing on tins of soup under the auspices of the Red Cross, which does its best. It simply is not good enough, in the fourth or fifth richest economy in the world, that people are in that situation while others are treated much more generously.

My hon. Friend is right. This is an example of how a tough immigration policy is fairer and kinder. If we make it clear to people that they cannot come into this country and claim asylum, if they have crossed many other safe countries before they get here, we will reduce the number of people who try to do so. I do not believe that we should offer asylum to people who have crossed other safe countries before they get to the UK.

I agree with that point—the hon. Gentleman is right. Under the European Union rules, of course, the Dublin agreement allows us to do exactly that. If somebody has claimed in Greece, for example, we can return them to Greece. However, does he recognise the difficulty involved if people claim to be Zimbabwean, for example, but it turns out that they are actually not Zimbabwean?

We need a system whereby people’s nationality and entry status are determined before they get here.

I agree with that instinct. The difficulty, of course, is the Geneva convention. Does the hon. Gentleman support the idea that we should reform it so that asylum claims are allowed only in the first few hours or days after arrival in this country?

My understanding is that the Geneva convention does not allow people to flit from one safe country to another. Clearly, the UK does not border any unsafe countries. Unless people fly directly to this country, by definition they must have crossed a safe country.

I agree with the intent, but how would the hon. Gentleman determine that? How would he know if somebody claiming asylum as a Zimbabwean were not Zimbabwean or whether they had arrived through an unknown route? How would he cope with that?

If somebody came on a cross-channel ferry from the north coast of France and claimed asylum in this country, that should not be permitted. They should be sent back across the channel.

The hon. Gentleman is saying that if somebody arrives on the shore of the UK and claims asylum they should be sent back to France. Is that compatible with the Geneva convention? Does he think that the Geneva convention needs reform?

That is compatible with the Geneva convention and that always used to be the case. The problem with not applying these rules correctly is that asylum seekers are encouraged to chance their arm to come to these shores. That is why the French are all too happy for these people to live on the north coast of France, chancing their arm and jumping on the nearest lorry or ferry to get here. It is a humanitarian catastrophe that is the result of a weak, feeble-minded immigration policy. The tougher a nation is on such issues, the fairer and kinder it is.

This is a good debate and the hon. Gentleman is giving way generously. I am not trying to score points; I am trying to get to the practicalities. I agree with his proposition that sometimes the kindest thing to do is to be tough. I have said that before and have been pilloried for saying it by members of the press who support the hon. Gentleman’s party. But the reality is that Calais is an example of the UK having tough border control. Does the hon. Gentleman not agree with that?

Well, yes, it is good that we are stopping people crossing the channel, but sadly lots are still crossing it. If they were not, there would not be people on the north coast of France. If we were stopping people crossing the channel illegally, there would not be a camp on the north coast of France. [Hon. Members: “There is not.”] Well, there are certainly lots of people hanging around the ports. Whether they are in a formal camp or not is of no particular concern to my constituents.

I agree with my hon. Friend that mostly the problem is that, across the world, Britain is regarded as having weakly defended borders. But there are also problems on the French side. I visited Calais fairly recently, where they have expensive pieces of kit that lorries have to drive through, with monitors that can see whether living bodies are inside. I asked the French operatives how effective they were and was told, “They’re very effective. We catch several hundred people every month.” I asked what happens to them and the operatives said that they are taken to the edge of the port and released to the police. I asked what the police then do with them and they said, “Oh, they let them go.” It is not surprising that they keep trying. I was told that 70 per cent. are caught, so people just keep going until they are in a particular week’s 30 per cent. That is what happens.

I do not know which international body is responsible for enforcing the Geneva convention—presumably it is the United Nations. The Secretary-General of the UN ought to have a word with the President of France about why so many people are being left in limbo in that country.

I can see why people want to come to our shores: we are an English-speaking nation and we are prosperous. But my constituents are concerned that, at a time when we are sending our young men and women to die in Afghanistan in defence of ours and other people’s freedoms, refugees are making their way halfway across the world to claim asylum in this country from the very country that we are trying to sort out.

My hon. Friend is right about people’s motivation and why they might want to come to Britain, but would he add to his list another motivation, which is that many of them know that if they get here the chances of their ever being removed are slim? Once they are in they are in, which is why they want to get to the UK.

My hon. Friend is right. One of the big magnets is London. It may surprise lots of people to learn that London is the biggest city in Europe and the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Some 40 per cent. of the population in Greater London were born overseas. It is a huge magnet for illegal immigration. There are many good things about the diverse population in our capital city, but there are many bad things as well, one of which is the large number of illegal immigrants here who attract further illegal immigrants from other countries.

It is a disgrace to the European Union that so many refugees from across the world are making their way across countries in the EU to try to claim asylum in the UK.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s point: the pull factor is a real problem. Diaspora communities attract people. Illegal operatives and agents charge money and promise people things. However, France has more asylum claims than the UK does. This is a global or a western problem, not just a UK problem. I think that the hon. Gentleman agrees with that point.

I am not particularly concerned about how many asylum claims France has. It needs to speak to its European partners about that. But clearly there is a problem with the external border of the EU if so many are coming in in the first place.

Britain is almost the last country that people can get to, apart from the Republic of Ireland, if they are coming from Africa or Asia, and they will have had to cross so many other safe countries before they get here. So in a way France’s problem is a bit like ours, and the EU countries closer to the external border on the east and the south need to do more about it. I strongly suspect that Spain, through the Canaries, Italy, Malta, Greece and other countries are not being tough enough on the people coming across the Mediterranean.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. In fact, within the EU the Italians are criticised the most for being the toughest.

That is not a complaint that I would make, because lots of people who pass through Italy clearly end up on our shores.

Will my hon. Friend give me some information? Is not the point that if people come to this country, there are no circumstances in which they can claim asylum legally, except for those who have come in a boat from an unknown source? Nobody else who comes can legally claim asylum.

That is an important point. I should say, factually—for information, not to make a point—that until 2006 17 per cent. of asylum claims within the EU member states were duplicate claims: people had claimed in Greece and Ireland, for example, or France and Germany. The Dublin agreement and Dublin II allow us to return people to the country of first claim. The problem with that is that it could be argued that it encourages routes. The truth is that there are different routes within the EU. For example, Germany is a destination for people from some colonial countries, as are Denmark, Sweden, the UK and France, so this is a European Union problem. But I respect that point.

I am grateful to the Minister for that most helpful intervention.

Perhaps I should bring us back on track. Although asylum is an important issue for all hon. Members and our constituents, the number of asylum claims is small compared with immigration as a whole. I believe that asylum claims are now running at a rate of about 30,000 a year, which is only 10 per cent. of net foreign migration. The big problem in this country is legal immigration, which brings us back to the population projections of 70 million.

I understand that a migrant now arrives on our shores every minute. We must build a new home every six minutes for new migrants. Immigration will add 7 million to the population of England in the next 15 to 20 years, which is seven times the population of Birmingham. Immigration directly added a million people to the UK’s population in the years 2003 to 2007. There was a net inflow of 2.3 million people to the UK between 1991 and 2006, and 8 per cent. came from the new east European members of the EU.

I differ from my party in not agreeing with the free movement of people across EU borders. Effectively, we have, by agreement of our Government, uncontrolled immigration within the EU. The Government told us that there would be 13,000 new arrivals from the new entrant eastern European EU countries, but the figure was approaching 1 million at its peak—perhaps the Minister will confirm what the figure was—which was a world apart from the 13,000 that we were told about, and it has placed huge strain on local infrastructure.

My hon. Friend touches on an important point about EU migration. Is it not a disgrace that the Government took four years to establish a Migration Impact Forum to look at the impact of migration on housing, policing, the health service and education, when dozens of local authorities, including my own in Peterborough, were advising them that they simply could not discharge their responsibilities with regard to those public services?

My hon. Friend is right—it is an absolute disgrace. The issue has been completely mismanaged. While other major EU countries took up their rights to defer migration from the new EU entrant countries, Britain deliberately did not. That was a major policy error, given the difference between the Government’s estimate of 13,000 and the 1 million people who actually came here.

The hon. Gentleman argued 10 minutes ago that Spain had to give an amnesty because of the large numbers of immigrants. What is his point?

My point was that Spain gave an amnesty to illegal immigrants who were already in the country but it at least had the good sense to block new arrivals from the new east European entrant countries, while Britain—almost alone—did not. There will be frightening consequences for this country should Turkey become a member of the EU and should the UK Government at the time not defer the arrival into this country of what could be millions of Turkish people.

I have nothing against Polish people, people from other east European countries or people from Turkey, but this country simply cannot cope with the number of people arriving here all at one time. An article in the Daily Mail on 22 December said that more than one immigrant a minute is registering with a GP for free health care. It said:

“Analysis of NHS research shows that 605,000 people who arrived from overseas registered with a doctor in England and Wales last year—up by 50 per cent. in only seven years.

Campaigners say this places a significant ‘strain’ on services and could force patients to wait longer for appointments and treatment.

While the number of GPs has increased over the past seven years it has not kept pace with the increase in registrations.”

That is causing genuine problems for well-meaning GPs, who are having to spend far longer on consultant episodes with new patients, often because of language difficulties. They are having to draw diagrams to explain medical conditions because they cannot converse in English with patients.

On policing, half the people processed through the custody suite at Thorpe Wood police station in Peterborough do not speak English. It takes an enormous amount of time to process people whose first language is Lithuanian or Polish, and that has a massive impact on front-line policing. Does my hon. Friend, like me, also deprecate the fact that the Government specifically opted out of the sharing of criminal records, which seven other EU countries introduced post-2004? The Government set their face against that, which means that our law enforcement agencies have their hands tied behind their back. [Interruption.] I am glad that the Minister thinks that is amusing.

That is an important point, but I simply reflect on the fact that the hon. Gentleman’s local authority and others in his part of the country lobbied me to increase the seasonal agricultural workers scheme.

Well, I had a debate in this hall—it happened to be with Conservative Members, but they were genuinely representing their constituents—on how to cope with the skills shortage. I do not deny the important points that the hon. Gentleman makes about the impact of migration, but the Migration Impact Forum was set up after representations from areas such as his.

There have been lots of problems as a result of lots of people from eastern European coming here all at once. One example involves motor vehicles. Someone who drives their motor car over to this country from Poland is allowed to run it on the roads for six months before being required to take it for an MOT to ensure that it meets British standards. As far as I can tell from questions that I have asked in the House, there is no effective monitoring of the time that people take to put their cars through an MOT. I strongly suspect that tens of thousands of effectively illegal motor vehicles from eastern Europe, which have not had the required MOT, are being driven on British streets. That is just one example of the problem. If we had a controlled migration system, we could have tackled the issue in a sensible and controlled way. Given that we effectively flung open our borders to all and sundry from eastern Europe, however, the danger posed by vehicles on British roads has increased.

The Government are not taking the population projections of up to 70 million seriously; indeed, as we have heard today, they do not believe them. However, all sorts of statistics show the effect on our country. The Department for Transport’s 2008 road transport forecast predicts a one-third increase in vehicle traffic by 2025. Quite reasonably, I asked the Minister of State, Department for Transport, how much of that increase was driven by unacceptably high levels of immigration. His reply on the Floor of the House was:

“I have seen lots of tenuous causal links, although not one involving immigration”—[Official Report, 25 June 2009; Vol. 494, c. 932.]

If important Departments of State such as the Department for Transport are not taking the impact of immigration seriously, the country will be heading for the buffers. We already know that our roads are far too congested. On many routes on our rail network, there is often only standing room at peak times. The idea that our roads can absorb a one-third increase in traffic by 2025 fills me with absolute horror—I have no idea how on earth this country will absorb that traffic. If the 70 million estimate is wrong—if it is on the downside, and the number is actually higher—we are heading for even more trouble.

Immigration is an important concern for my constituents, as I am sure it is for many constituents around the country. Those of us who express concerns about immigration are not racist and we will have our say because it is important that the issue is taken up by mainstream politicians; if it is not, the extremists will have their day.

I very much support the efforts of the all-party group on balanced migration, because we must tackle the issue of net immigration. We must cut it by 75 per cent., from 168,000 a year to 40,000 a year. The Government should have an explicit and reasoned target for net immigration, as recommended by the House of Lords, and they should adjust their immigration policies in line with that objective.

That mention of the House of Lords brings me to the economic benefit of immigration. In a major report in April 2008, the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee said,

“we have found no evidence for the argument, made by the Government, business and many others, that net immigration—immigration minus emigration—generates significant economic benefits for the existing UK population…The overall fiscal impact of immigration is likely to be small, though this masks significant variations across different immigrant groups.”

I simply do not accept the Government’s argument that immigration is of net economic benefit to our country. I forecast that there will be grave problems for England and the United Kingdom unless this Government or the next Government take balanced migration seriously. If they do not, we will be heading for an unsustainable population of 70 million.

In that case, I shall do my best to share the time equitably.

As for the concerns of the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) and those expressed by his constituents when he meets them on the doorstep, the situation in Solihull is very similar. In Solihull, as in Kettering, the number of ethnic minority people is low—about 8 per cent. However, the perception in this country is damaging. Many people whom I speak to on the doorstep see the country as full—bursting to the seams, with immigrants coming and taking jobs and social housing and pushing the indigenous whites to the back of the queue for health, housing and other services. We ignore that perception at our peril. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that that is the elephant in the room.

We cannot ignore the perceptions of the people of the United Kingdom. Much of what they believe is not factually accurate. Tabloid newspapers—I name and shame the Daily Mail—feed on people’s worst fears and paint a picture that is so exaggerated that the vast majority of people in Parliament could not, I am sure, recognise it. However, it is a real fear, and so we must address it and do whatever is necessary to reassure the British people that that is not the situation. We must address the real concerns, many of which the hon. Gentleman has outlined today.

We have had quite a discussion about Europe. More British people work in other parts of Europe than there are Europeans in the United Kingdom, but most people, certainly in the west midlands, where I come from, see immigrants as people with a different skin colour from theirs. In the west midlands, they are seen as mostly emanating from the Indian subcontinent. The Government have made a number of mistakes, some of which were outlined by the hon. Gentleman, but the first was made by a Conservative Government, when the then Mrs. Thatcher abolished exit checks. That situation was not redressed by the Labour Government. How can we know how many people we have here when we do not count them out? The hon. Gentleman mentioned the prediction of 52,000 people coming over four years when the EU eastern European borders were opened. The actual figure was 766,000. I wonder whether that was the worst Government forecast in history. [Interruption.] It must be close.

Many areas have been left without resources. That has fuelled the sense of resentment of indigenous white people, and we need to deal with that where resources are scarce. We need to look at where the people are going and whether those are the appropriate places for them. We need to reintroduce exit checks, first and foremost, and to know who is actually here. We need hard-headed assessments of need in different regions and different parts of the economy. In the south, there is not even enough water, but areas such as Scotland need more migrants. We would propose a points system to match the need with the area. New migrants should be permitted to settle only in the appropriate areas, as opposed to congregating in areas such as Sparkhill in Birmingham, where it is difficult even to see a white face as one goes through.

We also need to reassert control over our borders, with a national border force with police powers of arrest. We should not join the EU open borders scheme, but we should co-operate on cross-border crime across the EU. We need more employment checks on rogue employers. In nearly 12 years up to 2008, there were only 114 such prosecutions, and certainty of detection in all areas of crime is the highest guarantee of compliance with the law. Often, the lack not of rules, but of enforcement causes disregard of the rules and laws of this country. Immigrants must tolerate and respect British values, which is why a reduction in the availability of language lessons is a short-sighted and mean-spirited action by the Government. The numbers were reduced by 39 per cent. between 2005-06 and 2006-07.

The Conservative policy of annual immigration limits is not, however, the answer, because economies are flexible and needs vary in unplanned ways. If the set level was reached, would the Conservatives block Robinho from joining Manchester City?

I hear mutterings from a sedentary position that that might not be such a bad thing.

Would the Conservatives stop Japanese sushi chefs from coming over, bringing their skills and contributing to the diversity of the British restaurant industry? An amnesty for illegal immigrants, as proposed by Boris Johnson, is not the answer either, and the hon. Member for Kettering has already said that it has been tried in southern Europe and it merely encourages more migrants to come. The Liberal Democrats would instead propose a tough, earned route to citizenship, only for those who have been here 10 years, who make amends through community service and who speak English. They would be given a work permit for two years before citizenship was awarded.

The Government’s plan to deport all illegals—the median number estimated in a London School of Economics study was 720,000—would cost £8 billion. We cannot afford that sort of figure in these times. The difficulties of implementation have already been discussed at length. I wonder whether the Minister can give us a more sensible plan, because, my goodness me, we need it.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) on securing the debate. I agree with him on at least one point: we should certainly not be scared of discussing this matter. It is not to anyone’s benefit to pretend that it is not an issue. We need to discuss the benefits and disbenefits of immigration in an open and frank manner, because we will all benefit from that and it will help to put down the extremist parties who want to use it to their advantage.

What is important about the debate is the way in which we conduct it and the tone that we use. A couple of comments made by hon. Members fell into the category of being unhelpful in tone, such as the remark by the hon. Member for Kettering that we have flung open our borders to all and sundry. He cannot substantiate that statement, and it is clear that we have not thrown them open to all and sundry. The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Jackson) referred to the fact that half the people in police custody in his area do not speak English. That might be something that he can substantiate statistically, or it could be a throwaway comment with no factual basis.

I am happy to disabuse the hon. Gentleman of the notion that I made up that fact. It is contained in a periodical report by the Cambridgeshire constabulary as part of its ongoing campaign for better funding from the Government to deal with these issues—it is a matter of public record.

I welcome the fact that I have given the hon. Gentleman the opportunity to confirm that he can prove that point. However, I am afraid that the hon. Member for Kettering cannot prove that we have opened our borders to all and sundry.

We could get into a long discussion about that. Presumably, “all and sundry” would apply to people from all over the world, not just to the Polish people to whom the hon. Gentleman refers. My point is that we must be careful about the terms and tone that we use so that we have an open and frank debate that is based on fact, rather than people’s perceptions—or, occasionally, their prejudices.

Immigration is clearly an issue, however. We have heard lots of statistics, but it would be useful to cite other figures in this debate—perhaps the Minister will refer to them. We often believe that immigration is a problem for the UK alone, but it would be interesting if the Minister referred, for example, to the number of asylum seekers, refugees and illegal immigrants in South Africa, Chad and Kenya.

I accept that, but it is helpful to have such facts and figures in the public domain so that the British public can appreciate that immigration is an issue across the world and not just something that the UK—the fourth richest country in the world—has to deal with. It is often something that very poor countries have to deal with, to a much greater extent and at much greater cost than we do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) spoke about Britons who work in the EU, and there are more Britons living abroad than there are foreigners living in the United Kingdom. One in 10 British nationals lives abroad for part of or all the year—that is 6 million people, including about 1 million pensioners. When debating whether there should be tighter restrictions in the EU, for example, or whether we are being too generous, perhaps we should talk to Spanish politicians about how generous the Spaniards are towards those British pensioners who retire to the Costa del Sol and use the country’s excellent health services. Clearly, there is a quid pro quo. The UK receives many immigrants from other EU countries, which puts pressure on our system. Equally, however, there are other European Union countries that are not as enamoured as we feel that they should be about receiving British citizens who make use of their services. This cuts both ways, so it would be useful to have some of those facts in this debate.

Public perception is obviously that immigration is an issue. A recent poll found that more than 60 per cent. of the population believed that there were too many immigrants living in Britain. What can we do to address that? A degree of incompetence and underinvestment in the system has threatened the historically progressive approach that we in this country have had to immigration. It is not the Labour party that is responsible for that, but rather parties or Governments of the past. Before I was elected in 1997, there was a Conservative Government. I remember seeing asylum seekers in my surgery who had been trying to get their cases dealt with for eight, nine or 10 years. There is a historical legacy on immigration and asylum that recent Governments have failed to address.

I am fortunate in that my hon. Friend has outlined all the Liberal Democrat policies that have been proposed to tackle problems involving immigration, such as exit controls, a national border force and a regional points-based system. The only initiative that she did not mention was that of ensuring that employers pay more for permits to employ immigrant workers coming to the UK, so that that money can be used to train British workers to do the jobs that those immigrants have taken.

Before I conclude, I will touch briefly on the issue of amnesty. There is clearly a split within the Conservative party on that issue. Research conducted by Boris Johnson identified that there were about 750,000 irregular migrants in London. It is our view that under certain strictly controlled circumstances, as outlined by my hon. Friend, there is a case for dealing with those people in a compassionate way. How many Labour and Conservative Members have campaigned publically in their local papers in support of families in their constituencies who might have been in an irregular position but perhaps have children at local schools? Perhaps an exception should be made in such circumstances. Perhaps an amnesty could apply to a particular individual or family. We must be compassionate if there are strict controls in place, such as a 10-year period, no criminal record, the ability to speak English and so on.

I shall conclude on that point to allow the official Opposition spokesman to make his remarks. I believe that it is possible to have a fair and firm immigration policy that is beneficial to the country as a whole, and we are moving slowly in that direction. We should not be afraid of saying that immigration provides benefits to the UK, providing that it takes place in a controlled manner.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) for sitting down a little early. As he mentioned, a lot has been said today, and I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) on securing this debate on what we all agree is an important topic. I believe—as I know my hon. Friend believes—that the country needs a significant change in policy.

I would like to correct one factual error. Things have been said with which some of us agree and others disagree, but the factual error was made when the hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) repeated the Government’s canard that all exit controls were taken off by the Conservative Government. In fact, the main exit controls were taken off in 1998 by the current Government. Some controls were taken off in 1994, but the final abolition of exit controls was in 1998 under this Government. I know that the Minister dislikes me pointing out that fact, but I feel the need to do so.

A lot of the good, detailed debate between my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering and the Minister attempted to establish what lies at the root of the projection of a population of 70 million in 20 years’ time. At the root of that projection lies the sheer scale of the rate of change in our population over the past decade. The current Government’s immigration policy has seen the largest and most sustained rise in immigration in the UK’s history. There has been a fivefold increase in the 10 years between 1997—when this Government came to power—and 2007. Even after that, our most recent figures show that 512,000 people came to the UK as immigrants in the year ending December 2008. That is a pretty small change from the 527,000 from the year ending December 2007. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the sheer scale of those numbers puts pressure on the public services. We have heard about GPs, police and housing, which are vital public services that lie at the core of what many people—particularly the most disadvantaged—demand from the political system. When people feel that they are not getting a decent service in those essential public services, they are turned off from mainstream politics, and that is what lies at the root of the problems. It is about the scale of change.

It is also worth noting that grants of settlement—those who are staying here permanently—rose by 19 per cent. between 2007 and 2008 from just under 125,000 to 149,000. That suggests that the pressure on public resources imposed by these high immigration numbers will be permanent. The problem with the solution that the Minister is no doubt about to commend to us—the points-based system—is that it does not work without other measures, which need to be introduced, not least because the immigration system itself is still in chaos.

Over the years, we have seen a series of Home Office scandals. The latest is the student visa scandal. For many years, the Minister’s predecessors—I will exempt him from this because he has taken some action, but for many years the Government ignored warnings about abuse of the student visa system, and the consequence was tens of thousands of bogus students in the UK and hundreds of unregulated colleges providing student visas but little education. That has been extremely dangerous, as we have seen recently, but it has also been a significant contributor to the collapse of public confidence in our immigration system.

What does my hon. Friend make of the comments of Andrew Neather, the former speechwriter to the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair? Andrew Neather let the cat out of the bag in the media a few weeks ago by saying that the policy of uncontrolled immigration was in fact a systematic and pre-planned policy to teach the right a lesson, rather than some accident that happened to this Government.

As my hon. Friend can imagine, I was fascinated by those comments. I do not know whether the long-term really serious policy failure by this Government was a result of a cock-up—I normally subscribe to cock-up rather than conspiracy theories—or whether, as Mr. Neather said, it was a conspiracy from the start. Only those who were there at the time can answer that. Either way, it has been a disaster for this country. To some extent, it is interesting historically, but in the time available, I do not particularly want to go into the history, not least because, bringing this right up to date, the current Home Secretary is the first in a long line of Labour Home Secretaries to begin to show welcome signs of admitting that we have had a disastrous decade in immigration policy. He says:

“I accept that governments of both persuasions, including this one, have been maladroit”—

good word—

“in their handling of this issue”.

In an interview with the New Statesman, he described the Conservative party as having a

“decent, centre-ground debate on immigration”

and he said that debate on a migration limit was “legitimate”. That is the first time any Labour Home Secretary has admitted that.

I urge the Minister today, in this new phase of the Government groping towards an honest assessment of their immigration policy, to go further and admit openly that significant mistakes—really serious mistakes—have been made in the past 10 years on immigration.

There are those who argue that simply the act of having a big national debate about immigration will somehow solve the problem of political extremism. I do not agree, because I think that what is needed to lance this boil is a change in policy, so that the British people can see that immigration is once again under control and therefore not a source of significant worry to many of them.

The history of the past 60 years tells us that that is possible. Immigration has moved up and down the league table of political salience. In eras such as the 1980s and ’90s, when broadly speaking it was under control, it was not seen as a difficult and contentious issue at the top of the political agenda in the way it certainly is now and it certainly was in the ’60s and ’70s, so we should not despair about the impossibility of having a successful immigration policy. This country has within living memory had successful immigration policies. What is clear is that we cannot go on like this. We need a change in immigration policy, and this is the year for change, so let me set out what a Conservative Government will do if we are given the chance.

We believe that Britain can benefit from immigration, from attracting the brightest and the best from around the world to this country, but we do not think that we benefit from uncontrolled immigration. We want to see net migration running at the levels of the 1990s—tens of thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands that we have had in recent years—and we have developed a range of policies to enable us to achieve that. Those include: placing an annual limit on non-EU economic migration; preventing illegal immigration through the creation of a national border police force—I was delighted to be reminded that the Liberal Democrats support that—and reducing the numbers of what are called family reunions through an English language requirement before people come to this country to get married.

Let me briefly run through each area of policy, because they will all be needed to reduce the numbers and establish control. I shall start with legal economic migration. That area of policy has several key elements. As I said, we need to set an annual limit on non-EU immigration according to labour market needs. We should impose transitional arrangements on any new EU entrants.

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I have only a few more minutes.

We are not being wise after the event. The Conservative party said to the Government before the A8 countries joined the EU that we should have transitional arrangements, just as all the other big western European economies did at the time. The Germans, the French and the Spanish established transitional arrangements. The result of that was of course that far more people came to this country, because this was the only labour market opened to them.

This is outside the scope of this debate, but of course we need to reform our welfare system and skills training for British workers, because if we are to limit, in particular, unskilled people coming to this country, we need to ensure that at all levels the skills necessary in the British work force are there in a way that they are not at the moment. I am sorry; I cannot leave my old friend looking forlorn, so I shall give way to him.

I intended to ask my hon. Friend about another issue—immigration from the EU. Although we have to provide for those who wish to work here, does he accept that some people are hanging around and trying to find work beyond the 31 days to which they are supposed to restrict themselves?

I dare say that some are. There are a number of problems and there is clearly a wider issue of benefit claiming across borders within the EU, which is done by British citizens as well. I recognise that that is a problem, but what we can control is the numbers coming from outside the EU and we can have the transitional arrangements within the EU, which in terms of that economic migration are what are needed to bring us down to levels that people will find acceptable.

As has been said by many, we need to be much better at stopping illegal immigration as well, so we would set up a border police force that would not only crack down on organised immigration crime but, in particular, enforce laws on illegal employment. One of the often unsaid reasons why Britain is such a magnet for illegal immigration is that around the world, it is believed that it is easier to get and keep an illegal job in this country than it is in most other western European countries—and the reason why people believe that is that it is true. We are not good enough at cracking down on illegal employment, and one of the roles of a border police force would be to do precisely that.

The force would also have the extremely important job of combating more effectively than we do now the modern slave trade that is human trafficking. I am conscious that the Government have taken action on that. There is nothing between us on that. We all want to be more effective at fighting it.

We also need to do better at promoting integration among those who come here to settle. Again, we have a range of proposals. We would introduce an English language requirement to ensure better integration. We would want to tighten the family reunion rules. Again, that is outside the narrow scope of this debate, but we think that devolving power and funding to local authorities will enable them to take more decisions about their local communities. That will allow them to identify much more effectively the individual problems of integration that many hon. Members have mentioned.

The biggest of the measures will be the English language test. In its interim report, the Government’s own commission on integration and cohesion stated:

“The most commonly identified barrier to ‘being English’ in our polling was not speaking English—with 60 per cent. of respondents identifying language as a key issue.”

Figures show that not having proficiency in English results in lower wages and higher chances of being unemployed, and that deprivation tends to go from generation to generation. Everyone coming to this country should espouse the core values of our society. We will have an English language test for spouses to ensure that only those with a reasonable command of English can come here to get married.

There are measures we need to take on economic migration, on illegal immigration and on cohesion, but above all, we need to get control of the numbers to reassure people. I hope that the measures I have briefly set out reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering and others that a Conservative Government would make significant radical changes to how this country deals with immigration, with the aim of establishing better controls and greater confidence in the system, thereby capturing the economic, as well as the social, benefits of immigration, while reducing pressures on our public services, which too often cause tension between communities.

In commending my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering for securing this debate, I say that getting immigration right is one of the hugely important tasks facing any incoming Government after the next election.

Thank you for your chairmanship of this extremely important debate, Mr. Cummings. Congratulations to the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone) on securing the debate. Its title, “Immigration Control”, filled me with horror because it covers such a broad range of issues, but the hon. Gentleman has been very specific. I am grateful to hon. Members for the way in which the debate has been conducted.

Let me say from the start that I have never said that anybody who raises the issue of immigration should be accused of racism. My primary strategic objective when I took this job was to separate the debate on immigration from ethnicity, and I told the Prime Minister that. The issue has bedevilled this country for 30 or 40 years, but I believe that we have achieved that separation. I say that clearly and on a non-partisan basis.

The hon. Member for Kettering raised important points that I want to address. The hon. Member for Solihull (Lorely Burt) said that this is a real issue on doorsteps. I do not see this as something about which we have to persuade the public that they are wrong. As the hon. Lady said, we have to give them the facts and put forward our arguments.

I want to start with the matter of the 70 million. I have said on the record, and have been backed by the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister, that our policies are reducing net migration and that is a deliberate policy. Let us establish where the 70 million figure comes from. It is an extrapolation of net population, which is different from net migration. Population is a function of birth and death rates, as well as net migration. In the Office for National Statistics’s own words, it is not a forecast. It is an extrapolation from previous years’ net migration. The years chosen were the calendar years 2006, 2007 and 2008, which saw the significant increase in migration to this country from accession countries, particularly Poland—what the hon. Member for Kettering was complaining about. It is unfair to extrapolate from the experience of those three years and say that that is a realistic forecast of what our population will be in 2030. Incidentally, the ONS put that figure back from 2029 as the prospect of it diminishes.

Governments cannot control birth and death rates, and I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was suggesting that they should. That is not his policy; he is against the nanny state and, as far as I know, he is against euthanasia and compulsory birth control. It is very revealing that part of the increase in net population is a result of the birth rate of previous immigrants. What is his policy to deal with that? History shows that the birth rate among migrant communities diminishes over the years. That has been true of Irish migrants and other populations.

I do not accept that the 70 million is a forecast. I got into a lot of hot water a year ago when I controversially said in my interview in The Times that Government policy was that we would not allow the population to reach 70 million, as far as it is possible to prevent that through migration policies. I accept and agree with the hon. Gentleman’s premise but I disagree with him on the validity of his fears.

As the Home Secretary pointed out, previous population projections—extrapolations, not forecasts—have been wholly wrong. In 1965, the population in 2000 was anticipated to be 76 million, based on an extrapolation from previous periods. In fact, attempts by Governments of both persuasions to control migration, such as the 1961 Bill that led to the Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962, the Immigration Act 1971 and the British Nationality Act 1981, have led to increases in net migration because of the “closing down sale” phenomena.

In the brief time that I have available I shall turn to policy issues. I think there is much more agreement among the parties than the public debate perhaps recognises. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) spoke very well for the Liberal Democrats, as did the hon. Member for Solihull. He accepted the case for controlled migration within the context of the net benefit to our country of immigrants. I agree with him on that point, as I believe does the hon. Member for Kettering, and I do not think there is much between us but I disagree with the idea of a cap. We know, following the debate at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturer and Commerce, that the figure would be in the tens of thousands. I think that the cap is only on the tier 1 and tier 2; that arbitrary figure is not on general migration.

We should bear in mind that the ONS definition of a migrant is somebody who stays in this country for 12 months or more. Interestingly, the biggest single group of immigrants into this country in 2008, according to the ONS definition, were returning British people—85,000, which is more than any other nationality. They are defined as immigrants. Within that figure are overseas students. Many Members, on both sides of the House, put me under intense pressure not to restrict tier 4 immigration. I hope that those Members support the hon. Gentleman’s policy but I suspect that they will not.

It is not a simple issue. A key policy point in the press release from the cross-party group on balanced migration is that we need to end the assumed automatic jump from presence in our country to settlement. That is a key policy issue that the Government and the official Opposition support, and it is what we are intent on doing. The points-based system is a huge shift forward in achieving that. There have been teething troubles, which I recognise.

On the marriage proposals and the English language test, I was one of the first politicians to suggest that English language teaching rather than translation services should be the priority. I said that in 2001 and I was pilloried by all sides and accused of being a racist. There is now a competition to see how much we can spend on English language lessons. The 39 per cent. reduction mentioned by the hon. Member for Solihull is on NVQ work-related English language teaching; the overall budget for English language teaching has gone up.

The hon. Member for Ashford (Damian Green) mentioned marriage policy. We accept that there should be a basic English language requirement. He and I debated that in the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Bill Committee. The issue of student visas has also been raised. We have introduced tier 4 and closed around 2,000 bogus colleges, but there is a cat and mouse game, which we are addressing.

My basic point in response to the debate, and I thank the hon. Member for Kettering for securing it, is that controlled migration is necessary, beneficial to the country and provides the public with the reassurance that the hon. Member for Solihull was concerned about, but the devil is in the detail. The measures that we have put forward have brought about the biggest shake-up in migration controls since the exit control changes in 1994 or 1997. The fact is that this country has never had as strong migration controls at its borders as it has now. That is recognised in the debate in the United States, where the call from all sides of Congress and the Senate is, “Let’s do what the Brits are doing.” That is good advice, Mr. Cummings.