25 days to go: Time to set an annual limit on immigration

Michael Howard has thrust immigration to the forefront of the election campaign with a pledge to set an annual limit on the number of foreigners allowed to settle in the UK.



In his first big set piece speech since the May 5th contest was officially declared, the Conservative Leader ripped into Labour's lamentable record, warned that the Government's shambolic lack of control undermines national security, and offered a new approach to the issue if the party wins power at the polls.

Addressing a rally of party activists at Telford, Shropshire, Mr Howard said that instead of "pussy footing" around like Tony Blair, he would introduce an annual limit on immigration set by Parliament; impose 24 hour security at ports to prevent illegal immigration; set up a dedicated border police; introduce an Australian-style points system for work permits giving priority to people with the skills; and take in genuine refugees from the United Nations - rather than simply accepting those who are smuggled in.

Acknowledging wide public concern over the issue, he said: "Unlike Mr Blair, I believe in action not words. The Conservative Party has a detailed plan to get to grips with immigration and the abuse of our asylum system. And it's fair and effective." And Mr Howard added: "Taken together our plans will substantially reduce the number of people coming to the UK."

Insisting that immigration should not be a taboo subject, and that it was not racist to openly discuss and tackle the issue, he said everyone who cares about Britain and values fair play would support the party's proposals. "They are based not on dogma but on reason, common sense, and what has worked round the world."

He declared: "I'm not going to let the Government sweep this under the carpet anymore. Britain has reached a turning point. We need to control and limit immigration", adding "people have a very clear choice at this election. Vote Conservative to limit and control immigration, or vote Mr Blair or the Liberal Democrats for no limits to immigration and an increase in the population by five million over the next three decades."

Mr Howard specifically denounced Labour's "lack of grip" and poured scorn on the Prime Minister's refusal to set an upper limit on immigration. "Mr Blair may want to pussyfoot around this issue, but I don't. The majority of British people, whatever their background, are united on this issue. They want immigration to be limited and controlled. We all pay taxes. We all use the public services. And we're all entitled to expect fair play," he said.

Citing his own background as the son of an immigrant, Mr Howard hailed the economic and cultural benefits which immigrants had brought to Britain. "They are a credit to our community," he said.

But asserting that numbers were now out of control, he reeled off a list of alarming statistics showing how controls had broken down under Labour. Immigration has tripled, over 150,000 people now settle annually, while Whitehall's own predictions show that the population will grow by six million over the next thirty years. "Five million of that will be due to immigration - that's five times the population of Birmingham. Our asylum system is being abused - and with it Britain's generosity. And there are over a quarter of a million failed asylum seekers living in Britain today," he protested.

Mr Howard said: "Mr Blair has had eight years to sort out these problems, but he still hasn't got a grip on immigration and asylum…and this is also playing fast and loose with our security. We face a real terrorist threat in Britain today - a threat to our way of life, to our liberties. Yet we have absolutely no idea who is coming into or leaving our country. And why? Because the government, in its wisdom, abolished embarkation controls for non-EU countries and many of Britain's ports don't have 24-hour security. In an age of global terrorism we have no control over our borders. What a farce."


story from www.conservatives.com