Much was made in the recent General Election of the impending shortage of housing in both our area and England as a whole.
In Hillingdon, we have seen an 82% increase in population since 1939 (From 159,000 to 289,000) with the GLA estimating that we will see 316,000 people resident in our borough by 2039. Between 2001 and 2011 alone, the population grew by 30,000, three times the amount that was predicted.
Despite the building of new estates in Ruislip and West Drayton, with another currently underway on the old RAF site in Uxbridge, the shortfall in supply has seen prices to both buy and rent spiral to such a degree that the average age of a first time buyer is now nearly 40 and many of our children are unable to afford to leave home.
During the recent General Election campaign, I was asked a very good question at the Hayes & Harlington hustings – “With the debate on immigration being driven by negativity, how can we turn immigration from a negative back to being a positive?”
My answer was fairly detailed, but a part of it was reported in some media quarters as ‘silencing the room’ and by some on Twitter as being ‘disgusting’, so with the events of the last week I wish to put the record straight.
The answer, quite simply, is by regaining control of our borders so we can monitor both the quality and quantity of those wishing to come to the UK.
When I was growing up in the seventies and eighties, immigration was running at levels far below those of today. Moreover, before the advent of the European Union in its current form, we had the ability to say who we would and wouldn’t accept in to our country. Because of this, those coming here were predominantly looking to build a better life for themselves through hard work, skill set and integration. In my reply, I pointed to the Ugandan Asians who fled from Idi Amin as a great example of positive immigration, people who have settled and brought with them a tremendous work ethic that has benefitted both our country and their families who are now second and third generation Britons.
The NHS also benefited from immigration in the seventies, with gaps in the service being filled by newcomers taking up positions that we couldn’t fill from our own pool of workers.