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.