Stewart Jackson MP talks to the BBC’s Andy Gall about the economic impact that recent high levels of EU immigration have had in Peterborough, and how he intends to lobby Government for extra funding to cope with the true extent of the problem. Broadcast at 08:05 on Friday 4th June 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
GALL: Six minutes past eight. There’s calls this morning for a city-wide audit to discover the true impact that migration has had on services. It comes as the City Council and the UK Border Agency confirmed that almost thirty migrants have returned home after being found living in makeshift camps in the city. Earlier in the show Doug Styles from homeless shelter St Theresa’s revealed that this year’s rough sleeper count shows that the number of rough sleepers in the city has more than doubled in the past year. (TAPE)
STYLES: Rough sleepers we found on the night, yes you’re quite right, the majority came from the migrant community. It is the highest count we have ever had, certainly in my knowledge in Peterborough. And the trends, which is what the authorities tend to look at, are definitely upwards compared to the last year, when I think there were only thirteen or fourteen people found. (LIVE)
GALL: Peterborough’s MP Stewart Jackson wants the audit, and joins us in the studio now. Good morning Stewart.
JACKSON: Good morning Andy.
GALL: So these migrants are returning home voluntarily as part of a pilot scheme. Do you support that?
JACKSON: Well I think it’s a good initiative, but unfortunately I think it’s very late, because this has been an issue in the city for at least, I would have thought, four or five years. And I think what the Government need to do, the new Government, is to do an audit of the particular issues in the city, as a result of this unplanned migration over the last six years, since two thousand and four, and particularly the impact on public services. Because this is only part of the picture. Obviously it’s good news that people who can’t or won’t work from EU countries are going back to their home countries, but equally it doesn’t take away the fact that we’ve got pressure on housing, health, education, crime and policing, which aren’t going to go away.
GALL: It’s a difficult balancing act though, isn’t it, for everybody? If you talk about immigration you just, you know, there’s so many sort of pitfalls in this, and the way that people can come across, they come across as being xenophobic and all sorts of horrible things. But you know it is an issue that you have to address now, isn’t it?
JACKSON: It definitely is an issue, and practically on every doorstep in the General Election campaign I was shocked and surprised by what a massive issue it all was. And people in this city are traditionally very welcoming. They’ve welcomed different groups, different ethnic groups, different nationalities over the years, but what they’ve objected to is the fact that lots of people have come, there’s been no consultation, and we haven’t had the resources, we haven’t had the funding from central government to deliver good public services. And the burden ..
GALL: Well you’re set to meet the Immigration Minister, aren’t you?
JACKSON: I am. I’m meeting Damian Green in the next few weeks to talk about this. And I’ll be raising the issue of an audit, and also the Migration Impacts Forum, which the last government began. And also to look at the whole financial issue. I know we haven’t got much money nationally at the moment, but it’s not fair that Peterborough taxpayers are bearing the burden of this immigration policy, not least because these people that are working, from Eastern European countries, are raising tax for the Treasury, but the money’s not coming back into Peterborough to deliver the services.
GALL: Do we know what .. because obviously during the campaigning in the Election we weren’t entirely sure what each respective government’s manifesto was on immigration, can we now clearly explain to people what the Coalition Government’s attitude is to immigration?
JACKSON: Well I don’t think it’s tough enough frankly, and I made that point perfectly clear. Our policy as a Party, the Conservative Party, was that we would put transitional arrangements in place for any new entries into the European Union. That obviously doesn’t help us in Peterborough, where we have twenty seven countries in the European Union now, and there’s free movement. Going back in time we urged that the Government should put transitional arrangements in place as other countries did, the vast majority of EU countries, for seven years.
GALL: What is this arrangement? Is it an arrangement that you’ll help sort of migrants find their way back to their original countries?
JACKSON: No. The transitional arrangement was basically to say, and they did it in Germany, in France, in Spain, to say to migrants you can’t come here and work as part of the Workers’ Registration Scheme, as part of the Free Movement Directive, for seven years, until we had an oppoirtunity to see how our own labour market can cope. We didn’t do that, along with Ireland and Sweden, and I think we’ve paid the price in terms of very difficult circumstances. Because we welcome people of course to come and work here, and they do play a vital role, but what we’ve also done is we’ve embedded welfare dependency for home-grown people who could work. And they’ve been pushed out of the labour market. So it’s been a very difficult situation. We need to face the reality that we haven’t had the resources necessary to deal with it.
GALL: But we can’t deny the fact that there is some rather unhelpful rhetoric amongst certain groups of people about migrants within the city, isn’t there? There’s that isue as well.
JACKSON: Well we didn’t have a British National Party candidate at the General Election, and I think, to be fair, all the parties were talking about migration. It’s not based on race, ethnicity, religion or anything like that.
GALL: It’s a pretty economic view isn’t it, as far as I can tell?
JACKSON: Well what I’m saying is people in Peterborough have not had a chance to properly debate this. No-one has ever asked them whether they want sixteen to twenty thousand new people in the city.
GALL: Ok. Within the next twelve months, what do you want to have happened?
JACKSON: Well I want to meet the Minister. I want him to understand the issues that we have here, and they also have in places like Wisbech, and Boston and Kings Lynn. And I think central government needs to reflect that in the grant it gives to local government. Because we’ve got many many more people in this city than officially recognised. And central government needs to look at that. And they also need to look at how the Free Movement Directive and the Workers’ Registration Scheme actually is operating, and how it impacts on Peterborough.