Speaking in a debate on public concern about immigration levels, Brooks Newmark welcomes immigrants who wish to contribute to our society, but backs the Government’s initiatives to toughen up on those who seek only to take advantage.
Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I am delighted to be here on what I believe is the first occasion I have spoken on immigration. We do not have an immigration problem in Braintree, which is very much a British, white, working-class area, as are many in Essex. However, the fear of immigration seems to grab people’s attention. My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) hit the nail on the head in his many reasons why. I congratulate him on an excellent speech.
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—
Sir Gerald Howarth (Aldershot) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?
Mr Newmark: No.
Sir Gerald Howarth: Thank you.
Mr Newmark: —to 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.
This House has many sons and daughters of immigrants, including the hon. Members for Hackney North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott), for Birmingham, Ladywood (Shabana Mahmood) and for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz); my hon. Friends the Members for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), for East Surrey (Mr Gyimah), for Spelthorne (Kwasi Kwarteng), for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) and for Witham (Priti Patel); and Mr Speaker himself. We must not forget my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton South West (Paul Uppal), who now holds the seat of the late, great Enoch Powell.
Immigrants come here because they want to contribute to our society. They tend to fill a skills gap rather than simply replacing British workers. The City, the arts and sports are full of immigrants who contribute to our society, as is education and the health service. Our national dish today is as much curry as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or fish and chips. So what went wrong?
Unfortunately, at some stage during the previous Government’s tenure, we lost control of our borders. That resulted in the largest migration in our history and the system broke. There was huge pressure on housing, health care and even education. Something had to be done, and the present Government have grasped the nettle and cut immigration by one third. The Prime Minister announced recently that EU migrants will have to wait before claiming benefits and there will be tests for those who want to do so. Newly arrived jobseekers will not be able to claim housing benefit without a minimum period of residency.
We are tightening up on immigration not because we are little Britain, but because, in the words of the Minister:
“Hard-working people expect and deserve an immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants and tough on those who abuse the system and flout the law…We will continue to welcome the brightest and best migrants who…contribute to our economy and society and play by the rules.”
I say, “Hear, hear” to that.
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. Let us therefore continue to welcome those who wish to contribute to our society, but let us also toughen up on those who seek only to take advantage of our generous benefits system without giving anything back. This Government are seeking to get the balance right, and I welcome their initiatives on immigration.