Nicholas Soames MP

9 Dec 2012 08:21:49

Boris Johnson and Michael Gove sign up to new Tory-led campaign for same-sex marriage

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2012-12-09 at 08.24.45

As reported widely in today's written and broadcast media a new Tory-led group has been formed to support equal marriage. You can read more about 'Freedom to Marry' on its website.

I should declare an interest. Some months ago I made a conservative case for gay marriage on this website and I've joined the group as one of its supporters. The other initial supporters are listed below:

  1. Gavin Barwell MP
  2. Lord Black of Brentwood    
  3. Alistair Burt MP
  4. Iain Dale, Publisher and LBC Radio Presenter
  5. Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservatives
  6. Jane Ellison MP
  7. The Rt Hon The Lord Fowler PC    
  8. The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
  9. The Rt Hon Nick Herbert MP (the driving force behind the group and author of an article for The Sunday Telegraph)
  10. Kris Hopkins MP
  11. Margot James MP
  12. Bernard Jenkin MP
  13. Boris Johnson
  14. The Rt Hon Patrick McLouglin MP
  15. The Baroness Noakes    
  16. Matthew Parris, Journalist
  17. The Rt Hon Nicholas Soames MP
  18. Paul Swaddle, President of the Conservative Party National Convention
  19. The Rt Hon Desmond Swayne TD MP

As media outlets have noted the support of evangelical Christians Alistair Burt and Desmond Swayne as well as the Catholic Cabinet minister Patrick McLoughlin is an indication of the group's broad base. More high-profile supporters will be announced in the coming days and weeks.

Continue reading "Boris Johnson and Michael Gove sign up to new Tory-led campaign for same-sex marriage" »

20 Nov 2012 11:04:57

Nicholas Soames and Baroness Morris warn against an Israeli ground invasion of Gaza

By Paul Goodman
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This site reported yesterday that 17 Conservative MP had written to the Daily Telegraph on behalf of Conservative Friends of Israel, urging the Government to maintain its position of not dealing with Hamas.

The Conservative Middle East Council has also released a statement from Nicholas Soames, CMEC's President, and Baroness Morris, its Chairman.  They support "the efforts of our Foreign Secretary in dealing with the tragic and escalating conflict in the Gaza strip and Israel", and say:

"We endorse our Foreign Secretary’s calls for a ceasefire and believe it is right for him to push for both sides to de-escalate, avoid civilian casualties and abide by international humanitarian law.

The conflict has already wreaked an appalling wave of violence upon many innocent civilians. Furthermore, it has also served to boost Hamas’ prominence, further weaken the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, and divert regional attention from the continuing bloodshed in Syria.

The people of Gaza still bear the scars and suffer the traumatic legacy of the Cast Lead operation in 2009. It is therefore imperative that another Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza strip must be averted: such an action would surely lead to an even greater civilian death toll, a significant loss of international sympathy and support for Israel, and a prolonged and deepening conflict across the occupied Palestinian territories."

17 Oct 2012 20:28:21

Mitchell: This evening's '22 meeting "was divided 50/50"

By Paul Goodman
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Michael Crick tweeted earlier this evening: "Four MPs at 1922 Committee critical of Andrew Mitchell - Andrew Percy, James Duddridge, Ann Main, Sarah Wollaston. 12-15 backed him."

I am told that the difference of view was more 50-50 than three or four to one. (Memories don't always tally, as I pointed out earlier this week in the context of the row itself.)

Robert Buckland, Bernard Jenkin, Edward Leigh, Penny Mordaunt, and Nicholas Soames were apparently supportive of Mr Mitchell (and Philip Davies rather critical).

I'm also informed that there is no mood in the '22 Executive for the Chief Whip to go now, though some of its members think that he should have departed after the original incident.

My guess earlier this week was that Mr Mitchell would attend the '22, and that any criticism of him would be muted.

For better or worse, he wasn't there - I presume it was decided that MPs present should be able to speak freely - and it can't fairly be claimed that they were constrained in what they said.

So we have the worst outcome for Cameron and the best outcome for Miliband: a wounded Conservative Chief Whip.  I don't think Mr Mitchell should go, but he is in a bad way.

21.45pm Update A very senior source insists that the Crick tally was correct. I am recording his view to reinforce the point that, as I note above, "memories don't always tally".


5 Jul 2012 14:47:02

Philip Hammond gets rough reception from some Tories as he announces historic cuts to the Army

By Matthew Barrett
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Hammond statement

Philip Hammond's statement to the House this afternoon announcing cuts to the Army was bound to be a challenging time for the Secretary of State for Defence. The announcement signals the beginning of a long transformation for the Army, and jobs will undoubtedly be lost as a result of the changes. Mr Hammond told the House that the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire regiment, 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh would all be "withdrawn" or disbanded. The Secretary of State said: 

"These withdrawals and mergers, unwelcome as I know they will be in the units affected, are fair and balanced, and have been carefully structure to minimise the impact of the regular manpower reduction and optimise the military effectiveness of the Army."

Continue reading "Philip Hammond gets rough reception from some Tories as he announces historic cuts to the Army" »

31 Jan 2012 18:15:43

Cameron today: Off the hook on the veto. On it over more IMF money.

By Paul Goodman
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Last year, the Prime Minister flew to Brussels amidst rumour of a leadership challenge if he didn't achieve at least a token repatriation of power.

Today, he faced the Commons not only with no such repatriation realised but with his veto - so rapturously greeted at the time by Conservative MPs - arguably valueless, since it's now clear that he won't challenge the principle of the EU institutions being used to enforce the F.U agreement.

Yet there was no mass revolt from his backbenches, and no revival to date of the leadership challenge rumours.  What explains this change in the Tory atmosphere?  I hope to explore the question in detail soon, but will for the moment rest with an answer I've cited before.

Continue reading "Cameron today: Off the hook on the veto. On it over more IMF money." »

20 Dec 2011 15:29:41

Phillip Hammond says women serve in submarines on the same terms as men

By Joseph Willits 
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Hammond_philipPhillip Hammond, the Defence Secretary has said in the Commons yesterday that "all submariner roles will be open to women" in response to questions from Tory MPs Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) and Harriet Baldwin (West Worcestershire). Hammond was asked by the MPs what the role of women would be on submarines, including on Vanguard and Astute class, after his 8th December announcement earlier this month that the Royal Navy submarine service would begin recruiting women.

Hammond said that as a result of this wider recruitment, there would be an increased talent pool for the Royal Navy, and that both males and females will endure the same training and be assessed using the same criteria. The Defence Secretary said he was "confident that there will be sufficient interest from female personnel to serve on board Royal Navy submarines."

Dinenage asked "when it is most likely that women will first be put into training and service on submarines?" Hammond replied:

"Female officers will serve on Vanguard class submarines from late 2013, followed by ratings in 2015, and that women will be able to serve on Astute class submarines as both officers and ratings from about 2016."

Continue reading "Phillip Hammond says women serve in submarines on the same terms as men" »

15 Nov 2011 13:58:28

Hammond hails Afghanistan "progress" - and the training of national security forces

By Joseph Willits 
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Screen shot 2011-11-15 at 12.00.59Yesterday was Phillip Hammond's first opportunity to answer defence questions. Hammond's address to Parliament also followed a recent, first trip to Afghanistan, where the Defence Secretary marked Armistice Day with 3,000 British troops at Camp Bastion. Whilst in Afghanistan, Hammond said: 

''British troops are making significant progress in Helmand to rid the country of a brutal insurgency that is a threat to our country and the people of Afghanistan."

In Parliament yesterday, Hammond echoed the remarks he made at Camp Bastion, describing the "fantastic job" and "progress" British troops are "making both in reversing the momentum of the insurgency and in training the Afghan security forces to defend their own country". Hammond's assessment was that "the security situation in central Helmand has improved" and that improvements had been made in the capability and numbers of British trained Afghan national security forces.

Hammond was asked by Nicholas Soames MP, if he had come to a decision about "which particular areas we will specialise in training Afghans after 2015". In response, the Defence Secretary reiterated Cameron's "commitment that Britain will take the lead role in the Afghan national officer training academy" just outside of Kabul, which hold responsibility for training the "bulk of officer recruits to the Afghan national security forces".

Continue reading "Hammond hails Afghanistan "progress" - and the training of national security forces" »

9 Nov 2011 13:57:25

William Hague tells the House Britain will abstain on UN Palestinian statehood vote

By Matthew Barrett
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Hague william palestine stment

In a statement to the House on North Africa and the Middle East this afternoon, William Hague announced the government's intention to abstain on the United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood. The Foreign Secretary said:

"Mr Speaker, the events in the Arab Spring and mounting concern over Iran's nuclear programme do not detract from the urgent need to make progress on the Middle East peace process. I repeat our calls for negotiations on a two-state solution without delay and without pre-conditions, based on the timetable set out in the Quartet statement of the 23rd of September. ... The UK judges that the Palestinian Authority largely fulfils criteria for UN membership, including statehood as far as the reality of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories allows, but its ability to function effectively as a State would be impeded by that situation. A negotiated end to the occupation is the best way to allow Palestinian aspirations to be met in reality and on the ground. ... We will not vote against the application because of the progress the Palestinian leadership has made towards meeting the criteria. But nor can we vote for it while our primary objective remains a return to negotiations through the Quartet process and the success of those negotiations. For these reasons in common with France and in consultation with our European partners, the United Kingdom will abstain on any vote on full Palestinian membership of the UN."

Continue reading "William Hague tells the House Britain will abstain on UN Palestinian statehood vote" »

16 Sep 2011 16:01:22

Alistair Burt refuses to be drawn on whether the Government would support a Palestinian statehood bid

By Joseph Willits 
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Burt In an over-subscribed Urgent Question debate in the Commons yesterday, on the Palestinian statehood bid, foreign office minister Alistair Burt (standing in for Hague who was in Libya) refused to be drawn on whether the government would officially support a Palestinian bid for UN membership.

On Tuesday, ConservativeHome reported that only 2 Tory MPs, Nicholas Soames and Sir Peter Bottomley had signed an Early Day Motion in favour of a Palestinian state.  Upon writing this, the number had increased to four Tory MPs, with Julian Brazier and Eleanor Laing adding their signatures.

The hesitancy with which Tory MPs are having putting their name to the EDM, bears resemblance to the government's caution, because of fears that the bid could ruin the peace process.  Alistair Burt stated that it would be "premature to speculate on what the Government’s response might be" before any proposal for membership had been published.  Burt also stressed it was "vital that any action in the UN does nothing to endanger the prospect of talks".

Following on from the Arab Spring "the world can no longer claim that change in the Middle East will come slowly and incrementally, or allow the middle east peace process to limp along indefinitely, as it has done", said Burt. Any resolution made between the Israelis and Palestinians, he said, is seemingly "more significant" in relation to events of the Arab Spring.

Continue reading "Alistair Burt refuses to be drawn on whether the Government would support a Palestinian statehood bid" »

14 Sep 2011 13:57:57

Nicholas Soames and Sir Peter Bottomley are the only Tory MPs to support EDM in favour of Palestinian statehood

By Joseph Willits 
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Nicholas Soames and Sir Peter Bottomley are the only Tory MPs who have signed an Early Day Motion supporting Palestinian membership of the United Nations. The EDM, tabled by Labour MP Ann Clywd on 5th September, has gained 79 signatures, mostly from within the Labour Party.

The premise of the EDM, supporting Palestinian statehood is that:

"the way forward is to recognise an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and support its admission to the UN because this will be the most effective guarantor of a resumption of negotiations and will also be the best protector of the rights not only of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, but also of Palestinians living in Israel and of Palestinian refugees abroad"

Former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has also added his name to the list - only the second time he has signed an EDM since leaving government, and his first this year.

Another Conservative MP, Robert Halfon, proposed an amendment to the EDM on the 7th September, calling for a "clear distinction" to "be drawn between moderate Palestinians such as those in the West Bank who are seeking a peaceful two state solution and terrorist groups in Gaza such as Hamas."

The amendment was proposed in light of comments by Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas in the Gaza strip, condemning the killing of Osama bin Laden, who he described as an "Arab holy warrior". Halfon's proposal states that only those areas of Palestine which "renounce terrorism, should be considered for statehood. Another Tory MP, David Amess, has signed in favour of such an amendment.

You can read the full details of the Early Day Motion, and list of signatures here.

7 Jul 2011 15:02:17

Tory MPs debate the News of the World phone-hacking scandal

By Matthew Barrett
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COMMONS-sittingRedoubtable Labour Member Chris Bryant managed to secure an emergency debate in the Commons yesterday, following Prime Minister's Questions and a statement by the Prime Minister on the situation in Afghanistan, to discuss the News of the World phone-hacking scandal. 

Although the debate was abused by some Members (Labour's Clive Efford, for example: "Only if ordinary people make a stand will we stop these rich people—rich people who have invaded the lives of ordinary people in the street—making themselves even richer and even more powerful."), Conservative members took a range of considered and serious positions in reaction to news of the scandal. 

Three Conservative Members called for a "pause" in the current News Corporation takeover of BSkyB (as, it appears, has now taken place):

  • Nicholas Soames pointed to "serious criminality" at News International: "Given that there is clear evidence of serious criminality on the part of some people at News International, would not due process also now include, in any event and without necessarily referring this to the Competition Commission, calling a pause pending further evidence?"
  • Anna Soubry called for the issue to be referred to Ofcom: "Such is my concern—I have been persuaded by much of what I have heard today—that I think there must now be a pause in the consideration of the matter that has been referred to and will be determined by Ofcom. I urge the Secretary of State to consider whethbryer we should pause things, given what has happened."
  • Zac Goldsmith said anything other than a pause would be "appalling" to the public: "That deal needs to be put on hold by the Government until the dust has settled and we know where we stand. Anything less than that will be viewed as appalling by the public and will be met with a nod of disapproval."

Continue reading "Tory MPs debate the News of the World phone-hacking scandal" »

29 Mar 2011 15:12:55

Nicholas Soames calls for Lord Young of Graffham to be reinstated as health and safety adviser

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 7 During yesterday's Budget debate, senior Tory backbencher Nicholas Soames (left) called for Lord Young of Graffham (right) to be reinstated as the Government's adviser on the operation of health and safety laws:

"I believe that greater authority and impetus should be given to the war on unnecessary, debilitating and grinding red tape, which holds back so many of our businesses and infuriates so many of our best people, who have great ambitions that they cannot fulfil because of the burden that the state places on enterprise."

"I call on the Chancellor and the Prime Minister to bring back Lord Young, who understands such matters well, knows the grislier ways of Whitehall and is ideally qualified to lead a tough, cross-departmental effort to enforce the measures needed to reduce onerous administrative burdens, particularly on our small and medium-sized businesses. I know that many Ministers are aware of the importance of doing that, but from the Back Benches making progress often feels like wading through very deep mud. The sometimes apparent weakness of the civil service, judicial activism, thickets of regulation, and an infantilised and often financially illiterate press can all make it impossible to progress. The Government need to make a big effort to move on the issue."

It was last October that Lord Young's report was published, but he was forced to resign in November after saying that most people had "never had it so good".

Nonetheless, the Government accepted his recommendations and just last week Chris Grayling announced a package of changes to Britain’s health and safety system.

19 Mar 2011 07:43:37

Conservative MPs line up to support Cameron on Libya - but he's probed about the arms embargo

by Paul Goodman

I list below every question asked by a Conservative MP yesterday in response to the Prime Minister's Commons statement about Libya.  For better or worse, I haven't cited his replies in every case, but his answers on regime change, the arms embargo and the International Criminal Court are of special interest, and are therefore quoted in full.

"Richard Ottaway (Croydon South) (Con): As one of the doubting Thomases of the past few weeks, I congratulate the Prime Minister on his success and leadership and offer him my full support. I also join him in paying tribute to Sir Mark Lyall Grant and his team at the UN for what is a remarkable diplomatic success, which hopefully will mark a turning point in the development of these issues at the UN.  I am sure the Prime Minister agrees that difficult questions remain. At this moment, however, it is incumbent on all of us to stand behind the armed forces, particularly our airmen, who have to implement the resolution.

Mr James Arbuthnot (North East Hampshire) (Con): Yet again, my right hon. Friend has shown a breathtaking degree of courage and leadership. I support what he has said and what he has done. Does he agree that, while regime change is not the aim of these resolutions, in practice there is little realistic chance of achieving their aims without regime change?"

Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): I join others in congratulating the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and all the others who have been involved in securing this very tough resolution, and indeed the building of a broad-based coalition to deal with Gaddafi. Does the Prime Minister agree, however, that in the weeks to come it will be important for the country to know that at the same time as trying to deal with Gaddafi, the Government are also intent on forging ahead, with our European partners, in keeping the middle east peace process revitalised and going, so that we can draw the poison from the well?

Continue reading "Conservative MPs line up to support Cameron on Libya - but he's probed about the arms embargo" »

2 Jun 2010 16:11:09

Hague attacks Israel's "unwise" blockade of Gaza

Highlights, not verbatim.

Screen shot 2010-06-02 at 15.39.02In a statement to the Commons, William Hague says it is vital for there to be "unfettered" access to Gaza. Hamas, he says, continues to pursue an ideology of violence. Hamas must cease their attacks immediately and back The Quartet principles. The only long-term hope is a Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel.

Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband calls Israel's attack on the flotilla "self-defeating". The blockade does nothing to weaken the grip of Hamas - in fact Hamas benefits from taxes on smuggling.

Responding to Miliband, Hague says support for the people of Gaza is "bipartisan" in the Commons. He agrees that Israel's policy on the blockade "tightens" Hamas' grip on Gaza.

William Hague responds to a request from Ming Campbell that Hamas be brought into the circle of talks. Addressing "his honourable friend" the Foreign Secretary says Hamas must first recognise Israel, honour past agreements and abandon violence.

Labour MP Louise Ellman becomes first MP to speak in sympathy with Israel. She invites William Hague to understand how Israel can be assured that its security won't be compromised if the blockade is lifted. Two questions later Sammy Wilson (DUP) invites the Foreign Secretary to say how Israel's security can be guaranteed - and arms shipments avoided - if the blockade is lifted. Hague replies that the international community must provide Israel with such assurance without saying 'how'.

Sir Nicholas Soames calls the blockade "cruel" and invites William Hague to agree that it is illegal. William Hague says that he think the blockade is unwise and the challenge is to persuade Israel that it is not in its interest. Anne Main attacks what she describes as Israel's use of "selective footage" of the flotilla incident in the media. Another Tory MP Julian Brazier describes the blockade as "brutal". He says that smuggling tunnels into Gaza can now accommodate 4x4 vehicles.

Screen shot 2010-06-02 at 16.05.45 Robert Halfon invites the Foreign Secretary to acknowledge that Israel is allowing millions of tonnes of humanitarian aid into Gaza and there is a risk that Iranian-supplied weapons could reach Hamas if the blockade is lifted. The Foreign Secretary says the comments bring balance to the discussion so far.

Ann Clywd calls on William Hague to adopt a hobnailed boot policy towards Israel. End the pussy footing she said and end the illegal settlements. William Hague replies that he still has faith in Israeli democracy and that the nation can be persuaded to change course.

Tim Montgomerie

3 Feb 2010 12:53:02

Britain and Holland are now most crowded nations in Europe, says Nicholas Soames

Nicholas Soames MP used a debate in Westminster Hall yesterday to highlight Britain's immigration challenge. Highlights of his speech are below.

Labour has buried its head in the sand on Britain's booming population: "The Office for National Statistics-the official body responsible for these matters-projects that the UK population will reach 70 million in 20 years' time. The Government's response is to wriggle; they say that projections are not forecasts. Of course they are not, but they do tell us what is likely to happen in the absence of a major change of policy. The Government also say, quite correctly, that some ONS projections have been wrong in the past. Of course they can be wrong, and the further ahead they look, the greater the risk of error. That is why the Government like regularly to quote a 1965 projection of the population in 2000-35 years ahead-which assumed that the baby boom would continue and which was therefore seriously wrong. However, on a 20-year time frame, the ONS has been accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 per cent. over the past half century. At the very least, that suggests that its projections should be taken seriously. It is absolutely intolerable, and an unedifying spectacle, to see Ministers attempting to rubbish the work of valued public servants just because it does not fit their political narrative."

The scale of immigration today is unprecedented: "Net foreign immigration into this country is now at 21,000 a month. That amounts to nearly 1 per cent. of our population every two years-25 times higher than at any time in the last 1,000 years. As a result, immigration now heavily outweighs the other two factors-births and deaths-in terms of population growth."

Immigration must be cut to 40,000pa if a population of 70 million is to be avoided: "The only way to limit our population is to bring immigration down substantially. Indeed, it must be reduced from last year's figure of 160,000 to 40,000 or less if we are to avoid a population of 70 million. It is also important to understand that failure to bring immigration under control will mean a continually growing population of well beyond 70 million, and even up to 80 million or 85 million, in the latter part of this century."

Immigration is undermining the quality of life: "Population growth is already impacting on our schools. There is a rush to build more primary school places. Maternity units are affected; in some places mothers have to be turned away. Housing is also affected-nearly 40 per cent. of new households will be the result of future immigration. Housing is an increasingly serious problem. There is already a grave shortage, particularly of social housing, the waiting list for which in England has risen by 70 per cent. in seven years. We are told that there are still plenty of green fields in England and that only 11 per cent. of our land is built over. It may be so, but it certainly does not feel like that. I want to offer one more, very important, quote: "Great parts of this country are already over populated, the transport system is a nightmare and some social services are barely able to function. Yet the government remains in denial about the massive social implications of unchecked immigration, a piece of social engineering that might yet stand as the only lasting legacy of new Labour". That comes from a lifelong supporter of the Labour party, a former editor of the Daily Mirror, Mike Molloy, writing in a newspaper last week. It is not a matter only of impressions. England as a whole is now, with Holland, the most crowded country in Europe. We are nearly twice as crowded as Germany and four times as crowded as France. One need only go to those two countries to see that that is the truth. The public understand very well that we simply cannot go on like this without a serious deterioration in our quality of life."

We need a plan of action: "What more should we do? First, there should be an overarching political commitment to take the measures necessary to get immigration down. No single measure will achieve that. There is no silver bullet. Secondly, there should be a serious effort to tighten the chaotic state of student visas. As I mentioned, some bogus colleges have been eliminated from the list of potential sponsors, and those that can still sponsor students now have some new responsibilities. That is welcome, but the universities and colleges that issue the key document-the confirmation of acceptance for studies-are the very same bodies that have a clear financial interest in the admission of foreign students to the UK. We must return to a situation in which there is also a check by a UK-based immigration officer before a visa is issued, especially in countries of immigration concern. Those highly trained and exceptional immigration officers have the local knowledge that will help them to detect bogus applications-something that an admissions tutor based in Britain is clearly incapable of doing. On work permits, we would like the bar to be raised in the points-based system, at least for as long as we have 2.5 million of our own people unemployed in Britain. That leaves marriage as the third major category. Clearly there can be no question of preventing genuine marriage by a British citizen to a foreign national, provided that both are of a suitable age-at present 21. However, the days when we could allow marriages to be arranged overseas for the purpose of immigration must now come to an end. It is not helpful to the individuals concerned, who can often come under the most severe and unhappy family pressure. Nor is it any help in integrating those communities into our society. It is time to move on-a view shared by many in the communities concerned."