Immigration is a highly emotive subject, but we must not forget that we are a nation of immigrants. Since Roman times we have had wave after wave of immigrants: from Angles, Jutes and Norsemen in the dark ages to Normans, Jews and Huguenots in the middle ages, to Italians and Irishmen in the 1800s, to West Indians, Ugandan Asians, Indians and Pakistanis in the 1900s, to north Africans and others in the past decade. Indeed, the star of the London Olympics was Mo Farah, a Somali immigrant.
Immigrants come here because they want to contribute to our society. They tend to fill a skills gap rather than simply replace British workers. The City, the arts and sports are full of immigrants who contribute to our society, as are the education and the health sectors. Our national dish today is as much curry as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or fish and chips.
I am an immigrant. I moved here with my family when I was nine years old. I have always contributed more to society than I have taken. I have built up a successful business, paid my taxes, raised my family and now have the privilege of representing my country and my community in Parliament. The vast majority of individuals who come to the United Kingdom do so, like me, because they want a better life for themselves and their families. They want to make a contribution to society. That is why I have decided to join a new group, set up by my colleague Mark Field MP, Conservatives for Managed Migration, to try to kick start a calm and reasoned discussion about immigration.
I believe this discussion is necessary because currently there is a race to the bottom by almost all the political parties that sends a message to the electorate that we are fundamentally hostile to those who were not born here. In fact, we should all acknowledge and recognise the huge socio-economic contribution to our economy and country by immigration.
Nevertheless, it is understandable why there has been a public outcry on immigration. The last government lost control over our borders and immigration rose exponentially compared to previous years. Many people found they couldn’t get housing, had to wait longer in waiting rooms at their GP and couldn’t get their children into the school of their choice. So the government was quite right to tighten up on a dysfunctional immigration system and to crack down on abuses such as sham marriages, fake students and health tourists.
However, setting an arbitrary cap on the number of people coming into our country has the potential of damaging our economy as we begin to recover. There is a skills gap in our country in healthcare, education and the financial service sector amongst others. We should welcome anyone that wants to come here, work hard, pay their taxes and make a contribution to our society. Indeed, as Conservatives we should encourage those immigrants who share our values of enterprise, hard work and family. They are natural Conservative voters. That is why I joined Conservatives for Managed Migration.
As a group we will be promoting the argument for welcoming people into our country in order to strengthen our skills pool and our economy. Yes, we need a robust system of controls in place to regain public trust. This, I believe, the government is doing. But at the same time we must and should have a more balanced debate on immigration in order to make our country stronger in an increasingly competitive world.
| First published on the HuffingtonPost website