Asylum and Immigration
interests of genuine asylum seekers and those quite properly seeking gainful and lawful employment in the United Kingdom and has undermined our tradition of tolerance to the point where extremism is finding fertile ground.
Great Britain has benefitted hugely from immigration. Our local and national hospitals are staffed, at every level from ancillary personnel through nurses to consultants, with qualified people from overseas. Tourist-related, hospitality and agricultural businesses all rely heavily upon imported labour and are likely to have to do so for the foreseeable future. Our transport and retail services engage large numbers of foreign employees and the entrepreneurial skills and the industrious nature of investors from other countries is not only legendary but of very great benefit to our own economy. A diversity of cultures has, over many centuries, enriched our own way of life, not just through business but through music and art and literature and theatre also. We should not overlook, either, the contribution made and long-term goodwill generated by those who come to Britain to study at university, to graduate, to return to their own homelands and, subsequently, to do business with UK firms.
What we cannot do, though, is maintain an `open door` policy that allows all-comers to exploit the services provided by British taxpayers to meet, first and foremost, our own needs. There are literally millions of people in other countries who would like to settle here and Britain quite simply cannot take them all. Immigration has to be brought under firm and fair control and applications for residence, nationality and naturalisation processed efficiently without our administration being overwhelmed with a mountain of paperwork.
Firm but fair immigration controls are essential for good community relations as is the requirement placed upon those now coming to Britain to contribute to our economy and through taxes before becoming eligible for benefits.
More needs to be done to maintain net immigration, both from within the European Union and from further afield, at manageable, safe and realistic levels. We must not, though, resort to a thinly-veiled racism and xenophobia that is so alien to our British traditions.
Since the summer of 1997, when I and other Conservative Kent colleagues warned Blair`s Home Office Ministers of an impending tide of illegal immigrants seeking to enter the United Kingdom, a Labour administration both failed to take robust and appropriate action to stem this human traffic and also failed to secure adequate transitional measures to regulate the influx of legal immigrants from new Member States of the European Union.
Britain has, historically, had a proud and honourable record of affording asylum to those genuine seeking refuge from oppressive regimes (the admission of hundreds of Asians fleeing the regime of the dictator Idi Amin in Uganda in fear for their lives is an example). The effect, over thirteen years of Labour government, of an unfair and chaotic policy has damaged the