Boris Gagged

According to the Boris Blog, Mr Johnson’s regular column has been dropped from today’s Torygraph in favour of a rather dull piece by Michael Howard trying to justify his dodgy immigration policy, reproduced here in all its swivel-eyed glory because of the Torygraph’s stinky registration requirements (itself an appalling encroachment on the rights of browsers…):

Migration needs to benefit all Britons
By Michael Howard
(Filed: 27/01/2005)

The first responsibility of Government is to control the nation’s borders. But this Government has comprehensively failed in its duty to police entry to our country.

For all those of us who believe that Britain benefits from immigration, the Government’s failure is a particular tragedy.

Modern Britain is immeasurably better off as a result of the new Britons who have made their homes here over the last century. We all benefit from the social diversity, economic vibrancy and cultural richness which immigration has brought.

But, if those benefits are to continue to flow, we need to ensure that immigration is effectively managed, in the interests of all Britons, old and new.

If we are to maintain good community relations, then the number of new citizens we welcome has to be controlled. As the Government’s own Community Cohesion panel has pointed out, when it comes to securing public assent for new migration: “The pace of change is simply too great at present.”

If we are to maintain support for immigration, people have to be reassured that the numbers coming here are publicly known, widely accepted and efficiently managed.

The current system doesn’t provide that reassurance. The numbers have risen, without the public, or Parliament, being asked, from less than 50,000 a year in 1997 to more than 150,000 people a year. The Government has admitted that it doesn’t know precisely who is entering the country. And David Blunkett has conceded that the Government sees “no obvious upper limit to legal immigration”.

The result of this chaos is additional pressure on overstretched public services, with the poorest paying the highest price. As the Community Cohesion panel also pointed out: “The pressure on resources in those (disadvantaged) areas is often intense and local services are often insufficient to meet the need of the existing community, let alone newcomers.”

The failure to control our borders also poses a threat to national security, with the system potentially open to abuse by terrorists or organised criminals.

Indeed the role of organised crime in our immigration system is one of the most tragic aspects of this whole scandal. Because of this Government’s failure to have an efficient and transparent system, an opening has been created for people traffickers who exploit migrants and force them into the underground economy.

The principal route for economic migrants should be the work permits system. But under this Government that system has fallen apart, as the British consul in Bucharest pointed out, only to be disciplined for telling the truth. The Government insisted that 90 per cent of applications be decided within 24 hours. But that makes serious checks of the kind a Government serious about immigration would insist on all but impossible.

To object to this mess isn’t racist. It’s plain common sense. No Government could possibly be proud of a system which breeds fear, encourages illegality, stokes prejudice, allocates resources irrationally and undermines our national security.

In 1997 the Government’s immigration budget was £200 million. Now it’s nearly £2 billion. In Australia, they spend just £286 million policing their immigration system. Even through they process three quarter of a million more applications than we do.

How can the Government defend its inefficiency when a better system is there, ready to adopt?

We will set an upper limit on the number of people we take, which Parliament will debate and the public can accept. Within that limit there will be a quota for asylum seekers. We will ensure that those we take are those in most need rather than those whom organised criminals smuggle to our shores.

We will continue to ensure our economy benefits from new skills and diversity by having a rational, point-based system of work permits based on the contribution each new migrant can make.

And we will safeguard our security by having a 24-hour watch kept on our ports.

These proposals won’t bring the current chaos under control overnight. The scale of the problem is too big. But they will allow us to restore order to our immigration system, as Australia has done.

If we are to restore order, however, we need to ensure that policy is decided in accordance with the needs of the British people – something Labour refuses to do.

The Prime Minister will not withdraw from the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees even though he has conceded that “It was drawn up for a vastly different world in which people did not routinely travel huge distances across multiple borders.”

And he cannot set a limit on the number of asylum seekers Britain should accept, because his Government has ceded control of huge swaths of immigration policy to Brussels. Despite the Prime Minister’s claim in the House of Commons that he has not given up the power to set our asylum laws, he has signed up to every directive on immigration that has come from the European Commission. He has surrendered the powers necessary to police our borders. A Conservative government would take back these powers and say no to the further loss of control which the European Constitution would bring.

We have a detailed, costed timetable for action that addresses work permits, asylum, immigration loopholes, national security and our international obligations. It is rooted in the experience of other nations, and underpinned by our belief in fair play for all. Above all, it is designed to make immigration once again an efficient, successful and tightly managed process so that the chaos we face today becomes a thing of the past for ever.

  • Boris Johnson returns next week

For shame! let’s just hope that Boris does return!