Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill

Charles outlines the need to restore public confidence in our immigration system as failing to do so enables extreme political parties, such as the BNP, to gain support

Mr. Charles Walker (Broxbourne) (Con): Thank you for calling me, Madam Deputy Speaker. I assure you that there will be no academic arguments from me—I leave those to my hon. Friends.

As hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, this country has a proud tradition of taking people in from abroad. We benefit from foreign doctors, nurses, teachers and, of course, bankers, so there are many positive aspects to immigration. However, many of the advantages that immigration brings to this country are being obscured by a system that is still widely perceived to be failing. It is incumbent on all elected politicians in the Chamber to find a way forward that restores public confidence in our immigration and asylum system.

I am worried that if we fail to fix the system, many more constituencies throughout the country will be faced with the problems that we currently experience in Broxbourne with the British National party.As many hon. Members are aware, the BNP uses the problems surrounding this country's immigration system as an active campaigning tool to recruit people to its standard. Whether appealing to Conservative or Labour voters, the BNP message is the same: "The established parties don't care who comes to this country. They want to create a free-for-all at your expense." Thankfully, most people still have nothing to do with that nonsense. Their concerns about immigration are far outweighed by their dislike for the BNP and its hateful policies, but we cannot rely indefinitely on the good sense of the British public to keep the BNP at bay. We must also do our bit as their elected representatives.

The BNP already has a councillor in Broxbourne and at the last general election it managed to double its vote to 2,000. It came within a whisker of saving its deposit. Our one major success was that we stopped it doubling its representation on Broxbourne council by taking the second seat in Rosedale ward. However, the BNP remains a threat. In my constituency, it is well organised, works hard on the ground and has the capacity to draw in activists from across the region. Its campaigning techniques are aggressive and at times intimidating. As one constituent said to me, "It's hard to slam the door in their face when they've got their bodies in the way."

The BNP message is deeply depressing and makes no concession to the truth. Every black or Asian face in the community belongs to an illegal immigrant, with no distinction made. We worked hard to beat the BNP in Rosedale. We had an excellent local candidate, Dave Lewis—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman should confine his remarks to the content of the Bill, interesting and important though his comments are.

Mr. Walker: My experiences of Broxbourne confirmed to me that the BNP must not and cannot be dismissed lightly. It has tapped into a seam of disquiet and will continue to mine it as long as we allow it to do so. Hon. Members can only imagine the collective cheer that went up from Nick Griffin and his mates when the Prime Minister was forced to admit that he had no real idea how many illegal immigrants currently reside in the UK. Statements like that are the stuff of BNP fantasies. They are the oxygen of its recruitment drives and provide a rich source of text for its leaflets. They allow Nick Griffin to say, "I was right. Your Government, your elected politicians are no longer in control. The things that matter to you don't matter to them."

If the House is genuinely committed to stemming the rise of the BNP, we must ensure that an immigration system is put in place that carries the confidence of the British people. It must be seen to be fair and transparent. The system must make room for genuine asylum seekers while rewarding those immigrants who follow our laws.

The next time there is a general election, I want to be able to look my constituents in the eye and reassure them that their Government, whoever it may be—but it will probably be this one—have taken control of this country's ports of entry, making it almost impossible for people to enter the UK illegally.

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): You heard it here first.

Mr. Walker: I assume that this Government are not going to give up and go home before the next general election is called.

I want to be able to tell my constituents that the Government will only allow people into this country who are in genuine fear of their life or who have applied through the correct legal channels, and that the emphasis is on quality not quantity, so that the people coming to this country bring with them scarce skills that can be put to immediate use. I also want to be able to tell them that those people who have entered this country illegally are being identified and removed swiftly. If I can tell my constituents those things, the BNP in Broxbourne will have reached its high watermark on 5 May 2005. If we beat the BNP and erode its support base, we will have done something meaningful to improve the lives of those people who are seeking to start afresh on our shores. We will draw the poison of racism from our communities, ensuring that the British traits of tolerance and compassion continue to carry the day.