Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, asked the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, whether he thought the lawful net immigration into Britain during this Parliament of 150,000 people was too high, too low, or about right. The Home Secretary admitted that he didn?t have a view and had no aim to reduce the current unprecedented level of immigration.
Peter Lilley said: “Yesterday?s pre-election announcement by the Home Secretary was trailed as a tough programme to curb immigration. It now emerges that it was simply a smokescreen. Clarke has admitted that there is still no upper limit on immigration and that the level of immigration should be determined by the number of people businesses want to bring in.
“What is more, Clarke suggested that setting an upper limit would be ?Stalinist?. It is breathtaking that he should suggest that the Australian government is ?Stalinist? for introducing just such a policy.
“Moreover, as long as British rates of pay for all levels of skill are far above those in developing countries, employers are bound to want to bring in cheaper staff from abroad of whom there is an almost limitless supply. That is why we need a sensible annual limit on immigration as Michael Howard has promised.?
Note to Editors: Extract from Hansard:
Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): During this Parliament, lawful net immigration to this country has averaged more than 150,000 a year. Does the Home Secretary think that that level of lawful immigration is too high, too low or about right?
Mr. Clarke: I do not really have a view on that?[Hon. Members: “Ah!”] That is for a very good reason; I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why. I am not one of those who, like the right hon. Gentleman, takes the Stalinist view that the best way to proceed is for the Government to decide exactly how many people will work in each sector of the economy, how many students will come to the country and how many visitors we will have. That is a very silly way to proceed. What has to happen?perhaps, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, in a more free market way?is that
companies and organisations in each sector of the economy, universities that recruit students from south-east Asia, or whatever it might be, should come to their views about what is the right thing to do. Our system would then facilitate that. I think that that is a good way to proceed.