By Matthew Barrett
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"The assurances and information that the Government has secured from Jordan mean that we can undertake deportation in full compliance with the law and with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. Deportation might still take time – the proper processes must be followed and the rule of law must take precedence – but today Qatada has been arrested and deportation is underway."
The Qatada problem has been a legal headache for May. When the ECHR ruled against Qatada's deportation in January, it did so on the unprecedented grounds that "evidence obtained from the torture of others might be used against him in future legal proceedings in Jordan". Since that time, May has had, crudely put, the right-wing press - in particular the Sun, which has campaigned almost daily on the matter - urging her to find a way around the ruling. Number 10 has also been keen for Qatada to be kicked back to Jordan, with the Prime Minister discussing Qatada’s deportation with the country's head of state, King Abdullah.
As well as being vigorously urged to take action by the press, May has faced calls from her backbenches to simply ignore the ECHR ruling and deport Qatada directly to Jordan. However, May has not done this: she has taken the route of comprehensively satisfying the conditions the ECHR ruling made clear. May described this process to the House:
"I have been to Jordan and held meetings with the King, the Prime Minister and several other ministers. My Honourable Friend the Minister for Crime and Security [James Brokenshire] has travelled to Jordan. And there have been several official delegations to follow up on ministerial negotiations. And these discussions are ongoing. The result is that we now have the material we need to satisfy the courts and to resume deportation."
By Tim Montgomerie
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In the Commons yesterday there was a debate on immigration. Pasted below I pick out highlights of the contribution made by the MP for Canterbury, Julian Brazier.
Immigration during the Labour years was at least two million: "It is curious, looking through one’s postbag, how many of the pressing issues facing Britain today—housing shortages, congestion on roads and public transport, water shortages, pressures on public infrastructure of every kind—derive largely from a single, common factor: population growth, to which my right hon. Friend referred. We are one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with 255 people per square kilometre. During the time of the last Labour Government, immigration policies encouraged an unprecedented influx from EU and non-EU countries, which has boosted populations in some urban areas to near crisis point. Between 1997 and 2009, after deducting the number of those leaving, more than 2 million extra people were recorded as settling in the UK, a surge that is unprecedented. However, for the first time, those figures were calculated without using embarkation records, so the true figure may be much higher."
Big business benefits from mass immigration at expense of ordinary workers: "There are powerful voices that welcome continued heavy immigration. Big business benefits from the arrival of large numbers of people willing to work, since they drive down the cost of labour at the expense of the living standards of the indigenous workforce; and the wives of the better-off are able to get help in the home at a fraction of a living wage for local people, but then they and their families are not usually struggling to pay their mortgages and watching their children’s education being destroyed in schools with dozens of languages."
The impact of immigration on UK infrastucture: "Middle-income and lower middle-income Britain is hurting: with long working hours, high levels of debt and rising prices in so many sectors, people struggle to meet their mortgages and rent payments and they see their standard of living eroded. There is a severe shortage of homes, and overcrowding in many schools, hospitals and prisons, too. We are trying to cope with the strains of a growing population. Infrastructure is also desperately overstretched in so many ways, with issues of flooding, water supplies, roads and land preservation looming.
Action on immigration must be stronger: "We all recognise the huge contribution that moderate levels of immigration have made to this country in the past. I welcome the measures that Ministers and the Government have taken. I would argue, however, that the Coalition has a long way to go on this issue. The heavy criticism from big business and elements from the left must not put them off. It is time to recognise that we must take much stronger action if we want to head off the most severe social consequences and a backlash orchestrated by some unattractive people in the extremes—not just from indigenous people, but increasingly from many concerned people in our settled ethnic minority communities."
> James Clappison MP: Five steps towards proper control of immigration
By Joseph Willits
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Yesterday in Parliament a debate was motioned, and passed unopposed without a vote, to approve a European document related to Croatia's joining of the European Union. Europe Minister David Lidington began the debate by speaking of enlargement more generally, saying that the Government has long been "a strong supporter of EU enlargement as an effective and dynamic agent of change ... the European Union will remain strong only if it is outward-looking and continues to grow".
EU accession, he said, "has helped to entrench democracy, the rule of law and human rights in parts of our continent where those values and traditions were crushed for most of the 20th century." Enlargement would "create stability, security and prosperity across Europe".
Lidington said that providing accession criteria had been met, it was important that EU membership should be available to any European country, whether it be Spain or Portugal, or a Balkan or eastern European nation. The Minister made reference to Margaret Thatcher's Bruges speech of 1988:
In contrast to the Government in recent days (and indeed years), Damian Green has outlined a clear strategy on immigration on behalf of the Conservatives. Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday in an Opposition Day debate, he highlighted the confusion caused by Phil Woolas over the weekend. He also made some specific proposals:
"A Conservative Government would set an annual limit on the number of people from outside the EU who are allowed to come here to work. Such a limit would aim at a substantially lower inflow than we have had in recent years. Economic benefit would be the key test on which individuals would be admitted and the limit would take account of wider societal effects such as housing, public service provision and community cohesion. Most years, we would expect there to be a positive level of migration into the UK, but it would be substantially lower than current levels. The limit would be set after consultation with employers, local authorities and major public service providers— [Interruption.] Ministers sat on the Front Bench are chuntering hard about consultation. I appreciate that they do not like listening to other people, but if they knew their own policies, they would know that they set up the migration advisory committee and the Migration Impacts Forum precisely to get the information—it is useful to have it—that would allow us to set a limit. Our policy is very similar to what happens in Australia, which has a points-based system, but also a limit."
This willingness to address a such a sensitive issue is commendable. As Mr Green pointed out later on, if mainstream politicians will not tackle difficult issues, less agreeable people will.
Personal remark from Tom Greeves:
"As I indicated in my last post on immigration, I think the time will come when we will need to ask ourselves whether it makes sense to prioritise immigration from European Union member states over allowing in people from countries with which we have closer historical ties, or people who speak English, or people with specific skills. Nonetheless, it is encouraging to see the Conservatives using some of their Parliamentary time to raise what is beyond a pressing issue."
Nicholas Soames, the mighty MP for Mid-Sussex, elicited an interesting reponse from Work and Pensions Secretary Tony McNulty yesterday, when Mr Soames raised the issue of a cap on immigrants during oral questions in the Commons:
"Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): Does the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that there is a good deal still to be done in respect of training the United Kingdom work force? Does he agree that what we really need to do is cap the number of people who come here as immigrants in each year?
Mr. McNulty: I certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman’s first point about training more UK nationals. That is perfectly fair. Central to the points-based system is a sector by sector assessment of exactly what the United Kingdom’s economy needs at any given time from those outside the European Union. We might approach this issue from different ways, but we achieve the same end."
In an interview with The Times published on Saturday, new Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
“We have to have a population policy and that means at some point we will be able to set a limit on migration. This Government isn't going to allow the population of this country to go up to 70 million. There has to be a balance between the number of people coming in and the number of people leaving.”
He has subsequently been accused of backtracking on this commitment.
Will the Government entertain the notion of a cap on immigration or not? When will they be able to tell us how many foreign nationals are living in Britain? Why should we prioritise immigration from European Union countries over Commonwealth or other nationals? Are we finally edging closer to the day when we discuss these matters freely?