Conservative Diary

Immigration and asylum

11 May 2013 08:05:52

The Government is wary about the Abu Qatada situation – it’s right to be

By Peter Hoskin
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Could it really be that simple? After years of political and legal struggle, could Abu Qatada really just leave the UK voluntarily? That, after all, is what his legal team suggested in court yesterday. Their client, they claimed, would be happy leaving on a jet-plane for Jordan so long as he could be guaranteed a fair trial there. If our Parliament and Jordan’s ratify the treaty that Theresa May recently arranged, he’d hightail it out of here – and that could happen within months. Like I said, could it really be that simple?

It would be nice were it so, and not least because it would erase a particularly troublesome and persistent item from the Government’s to-do list. David Cameron could barely contain his enthusiasm for the idea yesterday, as he exclaimed “if he goes of his own accord, frankly, I’ll be one of the happiest people in Britain.”

Continue reading "The Government is wary about the Abu Qatada situation – it’s right to be" »

27 Mar 2013 07:48:10

The once-cautious Theresa May is turning into a risk-taker

By Paul Goodman

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My old friend and former Premier league triallist Daniel Hannan has a party piece in which he reels off the names of quangoes with indignant horror: the proliferation of the quangocracy was a theme of his and Douglas Carswell's The Plan.  And despite Francis Maude's campaign to curb the quangoes, which has had some successes, it's been very hard to get rid of them.  Indeed, in some cases the Government has created more.  Consider the NHS Commissioning Board, created by Andrew Lansley specifically to distance Ministers from the day-to-day management of the NHS: the scheme was dreamed up during the halcyon days of opposition, when it was stressed that if we won the election he and his successors would be Secretaries of State for Public Health - policy-makers rather than administrators.

Theresa May's sudden abolition of the Border Agency is thus against the trend. Shock horror: Cabinet Minister to take more responsibility if things go wrong.  The Guardian's experienced Home Affairs Editor, Alan Travis, suggests that Downing Street may have set the timing of the move.  It is certainly the right one: the Home Affairs Select Committee's shredding of the Agency earlier this week was only the latest staging-post in its lurching journey.  But it is none the less a big risk for Mrs May, and one that other Home Secretaries would have found a way of avoiding.  It's thus striking and rather admirable that she has placed her neck on the block.  Most politicians get more risk-averse in office.  A smaller number, as they grow exasperated with the ways of Westminster and Whitehall, get less.  Both this decision and her speech to ConservativeHome's recent conference are signs that the Home Secretary may now be among their number.

26 Mar 2013 15:11:25

Theresa May splits up the UK Border Agency

By Peter Hoskin
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Forget what your calendars say, this has been the month of May. It began with Theresa May’s department boasting that net migration has fallen by a third. It continued with her speech to ConservativeHome’s Victory 2015 conference. And now, today, it sees her make an important announcement in the Commons. The dysfunctional UK Border Agency is effectively going to be abolished, and two new organisations will take its place. One will deal with immigration and visas. The other will deal with law enforcement.

The timing of this announcement is rather opportune: only yesterday, the Home Affairs select committee released a report that was damning about UKBA’s performance – particularly in building up a backlog of cases that could take up to 24 years to clear – and about Lin Homer, its former boss. But that’s just a coincidence. In her statement and the discussion that followed, Theresa May emphasised that this decision had been taken over many months, and because of longstanding concerns. How longstanding? “In truth, the Agency was not set up to absorb the level of mass immigration that we saw under the last government,” she said. 

Yvette Cooper half-welcomed Theresa May’s announcement and half-attacked it. Her point was that May herself should take some of the blame for the UKBA’s failings, thanks to the 30 per cent cuts, etc, etc. But here's the thing: May will take more of the blame – or praise, as the case may be – under the new system. The new organisations aren’t being set up as agencies but will report directly to Home Office ministers, and that’s before we get onto the work the department will now undertake to “modernise IT across the whole immigration system”. In future, the chain of accountability will stop at the Home Secretary.

25 Mar 2013 14:25:32

Highlights from David Cameron’s immigration speech

By Peter Hoskin
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Tim blogged David Cameron’s immigration speech once, twice in advance of its delivery – so this is just a selection of its key passages, with headlines to provide context. You can read the full thing here.

A positive start

“Our migrant communities are a fundamental part of who we are ... and Britain is a far richer and stronger society because of them. ... Whether it’s great scientists, doctors and medical practitioners, artists, musicians, and sports stars ... or business leaders, entrepreneurs and hard-working small business men and women ... so many great Britons today have family histories that have brought them to these shores. ... That is our island story – open, diverse and welcoming. ... And I am immensely proud of it.”

From the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands – an aspiration reaffirmed

“While I have always believed in the benefits of immigration ... I have also always believed that immigration has to be properly controlled. ... As I have long argued, under the previous government immigration was far too high and badly out of control. ... Net migration needs to come down radically ... from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands.”

Continue reading "Highlights from David Cameron’s immigration speech" »

25 Mar 2013 00:01:00

Cameron promises three-fold crackdown on immigration

By Tim Montgomerie
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Screen Shot 2013-03-24 at 19.31.27

Yesterday morning I blogged some general thoughts on Cameron's immigration speech that he'll give later today. We now have some more detail on the PM's prepared remarks.

His speech will have three themes overall: (i) Cutting immigrants' access to benefits; (ii) ending 'something for nothing' benefits'; and (iii) cracking down on illegal immigration.

Continue reading "Cameron promises three-fold crackdown on immigration" »

24 Mar 2013 08:48:36

Cameron toughens his position on immigration but is he serious about the issue?

By Tim Montgomerie
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Tighter and tighter caps on welfare.

An In/Out referendum.

A penny off the price of beer.

A review of Britain's membership of the ECHR.

And, today, no council houses for new immigrants.

You'd almost think the Tory Party was in election mode. In fact it is. Read Grant Shapps on ConservativeHome this morning.

Today's latest attempt by the Prime Minister to tackle the disillusionment of his party's base vote comes with a pledge to get tougher still on immigration. Theresa May has so far delivered a one-third reduction in net immigration but Number 10 is worried that voters will not remember that achievement if there is a new influx of immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria. Concerns about immigration were the number one policy area - not Europe - that drove Eastleigh's voters into UKIP's hands.

Continue reading "Cameron toughens his position on immigration but is he serious about the issue?" »

12 Mar 2013 08:26:09

The Guardian discovers that "right-wing" views on Europe and immigration are quite popular

By Tim Montgomerie
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On a whole range of issues - including immigration - very few voters hold 'centrist' positions

On Saturday at the Victory 2015 Conference Stephan Shakespeare of YouGov published fascinating polling that disproved the nonsense idea that most voters inhabit a mythical centre ground. The reality is that voters have strong views on most subjects - strongly opposed, for example, to NHS privatisation and more immigration but very supportive of repatriation of powers from Europe and making the rich pay more into the national coffers.

Continue reading "The Guardian discovers that "right-wing" views on Europe and immigration are quite popular" »

1 Mar 2013 07:37:34

Net immigration falls by a third. Theresa May is delivering.

By Tim Montgomerie
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Immigration Papers

Some good news this morning on an otherwise disappointing day. The Coalition's immigration policies are beginning to work. The numbers coming into Britain are the lowest for a decade and are down by a third on last year. In an email to Tory supporters Theresa May celebrated the news:

"Today's figures show that we're cutting out abuse and making our immigration system much more robust. We are putting a stop to the uncontrolled immigration we saw under the last Labour government and creating an immigration system which truly works in our national interest."

The Sun was quick to welcome the news AND to praise the Home Secretary:

"There are plenty of areas where the Coalition is failing. But immigration isn’t one of them... The Coalition has a way to go before the annual increase is down to the “tens of thousands” the Tories committed to. But the trend is at long last in the right direction. Hats off to Ms May for that."

Continue reading "Net immigration falls by a third. Theresa May is delivering." »

17 Feb 2013 09:02:26

A crackdown on immigration and on benefits abuse? The Tory leadership ought to be careful…

By Peter Hoskin
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Take a run through this morning’s papers, and you’ll clatter into this story in the Mail on Sunday. It details a ‘secret Chequers summit’ that will be attended, later this week, by the ‘Fab four’ of David Cameron, George Osborne, Ed Llewellyn and Lynton Crosby. Apparently, this summit will focus on party strategy for 2015 – in particular, Mr Crosby’s notion that ‘curbing immigration and abuse of state hand-outs is key to winning the Election’.

Mr Crosby, it should be admitted, is no slouch when it comes to winning elections – and there are reasons, both practical and political, to curb immigration and benefits abuse. I won’t rattle off all of the problems with the welfare and immigration systems here, except to say that many of them are encapsulated by the report in today’s Sun about Anjem Choudary and his exhortation to claim “Jihad Seeker’s Allowance”. And then there are all the column inches expended on migration from Romania and Bulgaria, which is set to be one of the fiercest political issues of the year.

Besides, opinion polls suggest that some Crosby-approved policies go down well with the public. A recent digest by the Migration Observatory revealed that three-quarters of people want to see immigration cut. Measures such as the benefits cap remain soaringly popular.

Continue reading "A crackdown on immigration and on benefits abuse? The Tory leadership ought to be careful…" »

27 Jan 2013 19:34:37

Cameron won't say what he wants to renegotiate but The Sun claims to know...

By Tim Montgomerie
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Roger Scruton wants tighter border control from renegotiations.

50% of the British people also name immigration as one of top three powers that they want repatriated - according to a Survation poll for the Mail on Sunday.

Andrew Lilico has a longer list of repatriation hopes.

According to today's Sun David Cameron has five main ambitions.

Top5AimsThe Sun's David Wooding sets them out:

  1. "Power to deport criminals & terror suspects
  2. Lifting cap on working hours
  3. Claw back immigration & crime powers [which is essentially two ambitions]
  4. Tighten controls on cash given to poorer countries
  5. Scrap charter which can force changes to UK law".

If Cameron could repatriate those powers would you be happy?