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Volume 586: debated on Monday 13 October 2014

11. What assessment she has made of the reasons for the rise in immigration from (a) EU and (b) non-EU countries between March 2013 and March 2014. (905434)

Our reforms have cut net migration by a quarter since the peak under the previous Government and have led to net migration from outside the EU falling to levels close to those last seen in the 1990s. However, the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics show a rise in long-term immigration from EU nationals coming to the UK for work-related reasons.

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge that all immigrants to the United Kingdom, from countries within and outside the EU, must get approval in future from the Home Secretary? Anything else will cause us to be regarded as a soft touch.

I underline the reforms that the Government have made, which have been effective in cutting net migration from outside the EU. My hon. Friend raises the issue of EU migration and free movement. It is absolutely right that the Prime Minister has underlined the need for reform of free movement, and how, if we are elected as the next Government, that will be at the heart of our renegotiation with the EU.

The Minister said in an article on 6 September—he has said again just now—that the Government have cut net migration by a quarter. Has he had a chance to see the letter to me, dated 9 October, from the chair of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir Andrew Dilnot? It says that net migration was 244,000 in June 2010 and is now, four years later, 243,000—just 1,000 lower. Will he explain to the House how he came to that conclusion and, while he is at it, does he expect to meet the Government’s manifesto commitment made at the last election?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for highlighting the poor record of the previous Labour Government. On their watch, 2.5 million people were allowed to come into this country. It is absolutely right that our focus should remain on returning net migration to sustainable levels, from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. I know that the shadow Home Secretary has said that she wants to talk more about immigration, but the Labour party’s record says it all.

Our membership of the European Union brings with it a right to free movement into this country for people from other EU countries, and that brings with it a feeling that our friends in Commonwealth countries are being completely discriminated against. Is not the only solution to that problem for us to leave the European Union and be free of these rules once and for all?

My hon. Friend makes his clear point, which he has made consistently over the years. He is right to say that we need to focus on net migration from outside the EU, as well as the implications of free movement. That is why we made the changes that we have made to reform benefit entitlements. I say again that free movement is absolutely one of the aspects on which we will want renegotiation to take place.