Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con):
Although this dispute relates to the employment of European workers under European law, about which little can be done-at least in the short term-does the Minister accept that the reason why it has had such tremendous resonance across the country is people’s concern about the huge flux of immigration into the UK in recent years, a large part of it from outside the EU, which has accounted for a majority of the new jobs of people of working age? Last year, the total number of work permits issued was a record, at about four or five times the level when the Government were elected, so can he assure us that from now onwards far fewer work permits will be issued and, in particular, that people for whom no job is immediately available will not be issued with work permits allowing them to come to the UK just looking for jobs as, extraordinarily, the Government now permit?
The issue at the Lindsey oil refinery, of course, involves European workers coming here, as I said, under the rules of labour mobility that have existed for some decades. The right hon. Gentleman asks about non-EU immigration; on that issue, the Home Secretary and my colleagues at the Home Office have set out the new points-based immigration system, which is intended precisely to gear our needs more closely to immigration from outwith the EU. I would also say to the right hon. Gentleman that immigration from outwith the EU has made a tremendous contribution to this country. That is true of my constituency, and I am sure it is true of many others.