Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 11 March 2010

I hope that immigration becomes an election issue this time around, for two reasons. First, if it is not discussed by mainstream political parties, it becomes the preserve of the extremists and that is calamitous. Secondly, it is a serious issue and a healthy public debate can only help us reach the right conclusions.
We keep a track on so-called salient issues – ie the things people really care about. At the moment, for obvious reasons, most people cite the economy and jobs as their number one worry, with the NHS coming in second. For some time now immigration has been hovering third in the list of voter concerns. (Compare this with Europe which dangles all the way down at twelfth!)
If people are bothered about it, we should discuss it. In the 2005 election, when immigration policy was raised, the predictable scream went up: racist! We have to get beyond this shrill reaction. It is not racist to be concerned about the number of people coming to live in this country, the impact on our way of life and the future size of our population. Indeed it is negligent not to address these concerns. The drift from the developing world to more prosperous European countries is not going to end anytime soon, so we must have clear and robust policies in place.
At the moment, we experience net migration into this country of about 200,000. As about 200,000 Brits are emigrating every year, this means we have 400,000 new people coming to settle here. If they come from a different culture, you do not have to be Einstein to see that this will inevitably have an impact on the British way of life.
I believe that net migration is currently far too high and should be restricted to be tens of thousands only. I am also concerned about predictions that the population of the UK might rise to 70 million plus in the near future – this would place unbearable pressures on our infrastructure.
It should be legitimate to debate these matters in the election campaign and find out what voters actually think without being branded a racist.  Since the Romans onwards immigrants from all corners of the globe have brought tremendous benefits to this country – imagine our music, cuisine, economy and culture without these positive influences. But now would be a good time to draw breath and conduct a healthy debate about where we go from here.

posted by Gary @ 14:49