Salter Spaks in Prliament, first time since July!

I rose, I spoke about immigration, I bore the pants of anyone listening, and I misrepresented my true position. Im bascially a follower of Enoch Powell, blame the immigrants for all  sorts of problems, doest matter if its true, there are votes in it,. askl the BNP. I refer to poles as thieves because they eat fish.

6:18 pm

I see that the immigration Minister has returned to the Chamber, and I welcome him back to his place, as many of the comments that I intend to make will be aimed in his direction. I and many of my colleagues support his intervention in the debate over the weekend—certainly his first intervention, anyway.

I rise to speak against the rather negative motion tabled by the Conservative Opposition. In my short contribution, I shall draw on my own experience of representing the multi-ethnic and multicultural town of Reading for the best part of 25 years—first as a councillor and then, for the past 11 years or so, as its Member of Parliament. I will also draw on the evidence given to the Home Affairs Committee about the Government’s new points-based immigration system and the advantages that it will bring.

We all, if all too rarely, get moments of stunning clarity—others might call them flashes of inspiration—in our busy lives as Members of Parliament. Luckily for me, I was uncharacteristically inspired at an event one Saturday in the summer of 2004 in helping to produce a piece of work of which I am immensely proud. It became a book celebrating the contribution to Reading made by the people who came to our town from all over the world in search of a better life. Two years later, with the help of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Reading borough council and local charities and volunteers, our book, “Routes to Reading”, was published, chronicling the stories of 19 people—from Bosnia to Barbados, from Italy to Ireland, from Uganda to Ukraine—who now make up the rich and diverse community of Reading. I urge other hon. Members to set up similar projects in their constituencies, particularly if, like me, they are sick to the back teeth of immigrant communities being regularly trashed by sections of the media who seem happy to do the hate-filled work of the British National party for them.

I will read into the record the background to the Reading immigrants project, as it gives a useful insight into the patterns of immigration to my town:

“The event was held at St. Giles church in Southampton Street and I was invited along in my capacity as a local MP with my predecessor Sir Anthony Durant”—

who some Conservative Members will remember with affection.

“Sitting at the front of the church I looked out on the sea of faces, many of whom I had known for most of the 20 years that I had spent in public life in Reading. There were people from St. Vincent, Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, Grenada and elsewhere. Somewhat morbidly I recalled how we were all aging fast and then I realised that unless steps were taken soon all these people’s memories and stories would be lost and an important part of the history of our town would never be told.

You see, Reading is a town based on immigration. Initially from rural areas in the south of England in the 19th century as people moved off the land to work in the factories, brick kilns and mills which sprang up as part of the industrial revolution. There followed further immigration from Wales, Scotland and Ireland as workers sought new opportunities not available to them in more economically depressed areas.

The stories collected by this project, of which a selection are reproduced here, tell of people fleeing war-torn Europe following the Second World War, Bosnia in the 1990’s, and political persecution in Zimbabwe. They tell of people seeking security and freedom, a new life to overcome poverty or a desperate situation at home. They tell of separation and romance, some coming to join their partners, or to seek out new opportunities.”

My town is a diverse community with a proud record of good race relations. While it is legitimate for us to talk about community cohesion and the impact of large-scale migration, let us never fall into the trap of using language so intemperate that we demonise people who have made such a contribution to the country and communities in which we live.

Having celebrated the contribution made by the majority of hard-working members of our immigrant communities, I turn to the policies designed to ensure that migration is properly managed and that our systems are fair and transparent. I support the introduction of the points-based immigration system; indeed, my only regret is that the Government failed to introduce it much earlier. I have just returned from a Home Affairs Committee visit to India and Bangladesh, where we saw the points-based system in operation. It became clear to members of the Committee that it was working pretty well in the visa centres that we visited in Dhaka and Delhi. However, concerns were expressed in three areas. First, should there be an independent review of decisions, not just the administrative case review that takes place at the moment? Secondly, will global companies, many of which are based in India, be able to obtain the work permits that they need to enable their businesses to prosper? Thirdly—we have all read about this in the press—Bangladeshi restaurateurs were worried about potential shortages of trained curry chefs and their inability to qualify through the tier 2 process.

Having taken evidence—unlike Anne Main, I was actually at the various meetings in Bangladesh—my personal view is that those concerns are unfounded or resolvable. For example, it would be perfectly possible to introduce a more transparent system into refusal decisions, but I do not think that anyone would want us to take the route of allowing for a judicial review and the inevitable delays that that would trigger. A judicial review in such circumstances would only jam up the process; and after all, a work permit is not an inalienable human right.

As my hon. Friend Margaret Moran said, we had an excellent meeting with the trade association, the National Association of Services and Software Companies, or NASSCOM—a body with more than 1,200 members, of which more than 250 are global companies from the UK, the United States, the European Union, Japan and China. It was clear from talking to the people at NASSCOM that on the whole the points-based system was working well, and that many of their initial fears were unfounded. Based on a study carried out in 2007, NASSCOM found that the average stay of employees of its member companies in the UK was 18 months, so the pattern of migration was short-term working rather than longer-term settlement.

Response from Tory Andrew Pelling
‘Given the hon. Gentleman’s expertise having served on the Select Committee, does he feel that the points-based system could be used at times of economic downturn, as I would like, to bring about a net reduction in population, taking advantage of overall emigration from this country?’

The hon. Gentleman is inviting me to bring my conclusions into the middle of my speech. I think that my hon. Friend the Minister would say that the points-based system, as opposed to a crude cap, gives us levers and valves that can be turned within the existing five tiers to manage the flow of numbers, but based against the needs of communities, public services and the economy. That is the difference between the two approaches.

The Conservative motion is somewhat incoherent. We have heard good contributions from Conservative Members that make the case for an overall cap in numbers. However, the motion recognises that nothing can be done about the flow of workers in and out of the EU. In that context, a cap would be fairly meaningless, and Conservative Members should reflect on that.

There is another reason why a crude cap should be approached very carefully. We heard from NASSCOM that the US quota system issues about 65,000 work permit visas annually. The quota opens on 1 April. By 6 April, there are about 150,000 applications, which are then dished out on a lottery basis. That hardly takes into account the needs of business or the changing needs of the economy over a 12-month cycle.

The Committee also considered what would be the likely impact on our economy if Britain were to introduce such a crude cap. We asked British high commission staff to estimate the impact on UK business of a quota on UK immigration. Overall, the value of bilateral UK-India trade alone is £9 billion annually. The staff considered that the Indian IT sector in the UK is worth £3 billion to £4 billion annually. It was made clear to us that if we took the approach of a crude cap, as proposed in the motion and elsewhere, much of that business would transfer to eastern European countries and the British economy stood to be the net loser. The points-based system is the right approach, but it will need Ministers who are forthright enough to say no, and who will turn the taps, pull the levers and use the mechanisms that the system delivers to control and manage migration.

I have worked with Miss Widdecombe and with parties across the House in trying to get justice for Gurkhas. How would that fit with the Conservatives’ proposed cap? If a quota system were introduced tomorrow, would they breach it if we got the right policy decision from the Home Secretary, as I hope we will in a few weeks’ time, to allow in a few Gurkhas each month—people who are prepared to put themselves in the way of a bullet to defend this country, and who we all want, in our heart of hearts, to be given settlement rights in this country? I am afraid that the Conservatives have not thought through their policies, despite the fact that they have made some good contributions.

Finally, I want to turn to what occurred in Sylhet as regards the concerns of the Bangladeshi restaurateurs. We have between 300,000 and 400,000 people of Bangladeshi origin in Britain, some of whom are in the most deprived communities. I do not accept the argument that it is only possible to recruit a trained Bangladeshi curry chef from people who are already living in Bangladesh. Nor do I accept the absurd contention in the latest edition of Curry Life—a magazine that I commend to all hon. Members—that the points-based system is completely racist. A system that applies equally to a white Russian, a black Jamaican or someone from south Asia is not racially motivated. It is about meeting the needs of the economy, and the needs of the restaurant sector can be met by internal UK recruitment or the establishment of a college in Sylhet, part-funded by the Department for International Development, which will allow the training of chefs to enable them to acquire the tier 2 qualification.

This is an important debate, if not a coherent motion. It is right and proper that we have a new approach to migration, but it is equally right and proper that we clearly acknowledge the massive contribution of immigrant communities to all our communities and to making Britain the liberal, tolerant society that we should all be proud of.
6:30 pm

So it was only 12 minutes, but it felt like an eternity to all listeners.

Still yhats my work done for the next 3 months.  And an index linked pension when I retire at the next election, after loosing to the Tories I doubt I will stand again. And I have no qualifications for any other work, unless the local media would like a new reporter?

Published in: on October 28, 2008 at 12:40 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Well said Great information, keep up the great work!

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