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, 28 November 2013


The prospect of thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians coming to the UK after 1st January 2014 looms large on the horizon. I receive many e-mails about it. I share the concerns of those who contact me.

I get more e-mails about immigration than any other subject. We are still reeling from the now well documented policy of the previous government to allow mass inward migration, resulting in 3.2 million people between 1997 and 2010 coming to these shores to live.

To make matters worse migrants were encouraged to come with no pressure to integrate or learn our language. No thought was given to the impact on our welfare systems or jobs, or social cohesion.

Immigration can bring huge benefits and has, both to our culture and to our economy. Most immigrants work hard and pay taxes and bring new energy to our shores. But it has to be on a scale and over a period that can be readily absorbed. 

We have started to get immigration under control, with a tough target of reducing net immigration dramatically by 2015 and we are on track. However, we are members of a club called the European Union and club rules stipulate that people from all member states have the right to live and work, and in certain circumstances, claim benefits in any other member state. We obtained a derogation from this responsibility when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU way back in 2007, but that comes to an end in 2014. We are told that they are preparing to come here in great numbers, although we do not know if this will happen. Many Eastern Europeans have already left their country of birth to settle in other EU countries.

Challenges like this are undermining public confidence in the EU. It is one reason why so many people now want a referendum on EU membership. There is a bill going through the House right now to write into our law that there must be a referendum before December 2017. That is one way of solving the problem, but it is a drastic one.

In the meantime the government is urgently looking at extending the period of time for immigrants before which benefits can be claimed from three months to twelve months. Our coalition partners do not agree with this approach and it would mean a big punch up with Brussels, but I think this is a fight worth having.

posted by Gary @ 09:06