Whenever I go out doorknocking in Barnsley, the issue of immigration comes up more than any other. There is no doubt that large numbers of people have legitimate and very real concerns about our immigration system, which need to be addressed.
This country has a proud history of welcoming people who want to come to this country and contribute. However, there is growing concern among my constituents that we are unable to control the number of people coming into the country and that public services are suffering as a result. I do not believe that we should close ourselves off from the rest of the world, but instead we should have fair and reasonable controls on immigration.
There are a number of steps we should take to allay people’s concerns. Firstly, we should increase the penalties for companies who undercut British workers by paying overseas workers less than the minimum wage. We must also invest in our border force to ensure that illegal immigration is properly dealt with. We also need a migration fund which can put more resources into public services in those areas with the highest level of immigration.
However, I also believe that we need to set an enforceable cap on the number of people who can come into the country. For people to have confidence in our immigration system, they need to know that we can control the numbers of people coming to our country. We should accept the principle of a cap, and then engage in a robust public debate about the level it should be. This will form an important part of the negotiations as we leave the EU.