Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Immigration levels to Britain need to be cut to avoid profound changes in British society, MPs have been told

BBC News:

Senior Conservative MP Nicholas Soames warned there were "dangerous shoals ahead" unless the UK took action.

In response the government said it was "phasing out" low-skilled migration from countries outside Europe.


Mid-Sussex MP Mr Soames, who initiated the debate, said numbers of immigrants entering the UK each year had quadrupled since 1997.

He added: "The present scale of immigration is absolutely without precedent in our history.

"This rate of migration cannot be sustained without the most profound changes taking place in our society."

He accused the government of failing to "get a grip" on the asylum system, trebling the number of work permits it issued since 1997, and changing the rules to make it easier for people to bring their husbands and wives in.

Mr Soames, a grandson of Winston Churchill and longtime friend of Prince Charles, said immigration from outside the EU should be limited to the numbers leaving the UK - about 100,000 a year.

He disputed government claims about the benefits to the general economy from immigration and said the public could "sense the falsehoods" in government claims.

Mr Soames proposed cutting work permits, tightening family reunion rules and also asylum applications.

He said any immigration system was only as good as its power to remove people, and if necessary human rights rules needed to be looked at again.

He said access to the welfare state should only come after people had contributed to it for five years to "defuse the very strong sense of grievance".

"Muddling on" would risk adding to the pressure building in society, he said.


During the Westminster Hall debate, ex-Labour minister Frank Field, said the "political classes" had failed to listen to people's legitimate concerns about the level of immigration.

He added: "If we do not change tack very quickly, very smartly on this issue then the sense of our national identity may be lost."

He questioned the free movement of people around Europe and said one million people coming in from eastern Europe was "unsustainable".

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