Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Speaking in the Immigration Debate initiated by the Conservative Party, Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, accused the Immigration Minister, Beverley Hughes, of transforming the Immigration Service from one which restricts the number of people coming to settle here to the number we need and can cope with to a Department which actively facilitates and encourages immigration. His revelation that the government was writing to firms encouraging them to bring in people from outside Europe helped speed her resignation today.

    He said that for a Minister to blame officials is despicable, to claim ignorance is culpable and to deny responsibility is intolerable.

    Peter Lilley said: “The government has set a target to increase the number of work permits and is actively encouraging people to apply for them. I have a letter that was sent out by the Home Office Work Permits (UK) to small businesses in this country, which reads:

    “Dear Sir or Madam: Are you struggling to find the quality of staff you need to run your business effectively? Do you want to employ an individual from outside Europe but are not sure how?”

    “The unit says that it can get help from the Department in bringing in high, medium and low-skilled people to fill vacancies. The letter continues:

    “Work Permits (UK) is a department of the Home Office and is based in Sheffield. We have set up a Small Business Unit with the specific aim of raising awareness of the work permit arrangements amongst small and medium sized businesses…”

    “My constituents, by and large, want a restrictive immigration policy, and that includes people of all ethnic groups. I have had representations from ethnic minorities in my constituency to the effect that they would prefer a stricter and firmer immigration policy. The reason my constituents want that is certainly not because they hold racist views. They accept it when I say that the bulk of people who want to come to this country, be they asylum seekers, economic migrants or even illegal immigrants, are basically decent people who want to better the lot of themselves and their families. But they know, as we surely all know, that this country is too crowded to be a country of net immigration.

    “Apart from the Netherlands, England is the most densely populated country in western Europe, yet for the first time in our history we have one of the highest rates of net immigration and it is being deliberately encouraged by this government. We see the consequences in our constituents. The bulk of the people who come to this country come to London and the south east. Accommodation has to be provided for them. The government admitted in response to a question that I tabled that 85% of the growth in population that they expect over the next 30 years – 5.6 million extra people – is the result of net immigration. That is one of the major reasons that there is pressure on housing accommodation and public services in the south-east.”