The public are fed up with mass immigration. That was the message of the public petition on the Downing Street website launched last autumn.
Only 11 of the 36,000 petitions on that site have reached the 100,000 signatures required to trigger a House of Commons debate.
This petition reached that 100,000 within a week, with the resulting debate in the House of Commons today taking place. We will at last be giving voice to the widespread public concern.
The fact is that the public do not believe the claims of the immigration lobby and they are right. Nor do they think that enough attention has been paid to the impact of such huge numbers on the lives of ordinary people – particularly not by the BBC.
The reality is that we are experiencing by far the largest wave of immigration for nearly 1,000 years.
Certainly, there has been some limited immigration over the centuries and many immigrants and their children have made a positive contribution to this country. But mass immigration is entirely new.
This really is the last chance saloon. If the Government were to lose its nerve and fail to press on with reform we would be saying goodbye to the country we inherited.
The Office for National Statistics recently published the immigration figures back to 1964. It is very interesting to see that, until the early 1980s, more people left Britain than came here. From then until the mid 1990s net migration was never more than about 50,000 a year, and often much less. It took off in 1998 and by 2010 had risen to 250,000 a year – five times higher than in 1997.
There has never been a declared government policy. Nor any planning. And certainly no public support – quite the opposite. By 2008, about three quarters of us wanted to see immigration reduced; half the public wanted it reduced ‘by a lot’.
Their wishes are yet to be met.
The impact of these numbers is already being felt throughout the country and the big cuts to public expenditure are still to come.
Maternity units are struggling. Primary schools are running out of places. And pressure on housing is getting worse, especially given that housing construction has plummeted.
This pressure on services is nothing when compared to what we will face if the government does not succeed in reducing future net immigration.
For the last ten years net immigration has averaged about 200,000 a year.
If that is allowed to continue our population will climb from 62.3 million to 70 million in just 15 years time. About 2.5 million of that will be natural increase – more births than deaths. The other five million will be down to new immigrants and their children.
What that means in practice is that we will have to build the equivalent of our eight major cities outside the capital – that is to say a Birmingham plus a Leeds, a Glasgow, a Sheffield, a Bradford, a Manchester, a Liverpool and a Bristol.
All this in just 15 years! Where will the money come from when the Government is already borrowing £1 for every £4 that it spends?
This is obviously unsustainable. That is why the petition, launched by MigrationWatch UK, an independent think-tank, called for the Government to take all necessary measures to stabilise our population, below 70million.
Can they do it? They have promised to get the net immigration figure down to the tens of thousands by 2015. In later years they will need to get it down further to about 50,000 to stabilise our population.
It is proving slow going.
The latest figures, published last week, show a reduction from 252,000 in 2010 to 216,000 in 2011.
These numbers are not precise but they do show the scale of the challenge to the Government.
They will have to hold their nerve in the face of pressure from the immigration lobby.
Foreign students will be a test case. Of course they are valuable if they are genuine in the first place and don’t overstay their visas. But we are currently admitting a quarter of a million every year with no checks on their departure.
The Government must press on with face-to-face interviews before they come and creating some means of recording their departure. Otherwise the student route will remain a back door to Britain and the reputation of our colleges and universities will be dragged through the mud.
To be fair to the Government, they have taken up the proposals by the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, and these are now policy.
With a new Immigration Minister, these policies must be vigorously implemented. We intend to see that they are.