One of the biggest concerns that people talk to me about as a Labour parliamentary candidate is immigration. I think there is a commonly held view that the traditional generosity and tolerance of the British people towards strangers is being abused.
Certainly it would be wrong for people to come to Britain who have not contributed to our taxation system, and then start claiming benefits. We also need to ensure that when there is population migration, not just from abroad, but also from other parts of the UK, then there is sufficient infrastructure, schools, housing, hospitals and other facilities, to cope with the greater numbers.
However, there is also some mythology that builds up, and it is very useful that the TUC in the South West have produced an accurate fact sheet. Only 8% of the population of Wiltshire are immigrants, and while there is concern about the number of Romanians and Bulgarians who might come here, in fact they have been able to work in Britain since 2007 under the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, and have helped the UK economy by working, often in arduous low paid jobs, which employers have struggled to otherwise fill.
There are also key areas of skill shortage where workers from abroad can fill gaps, for example in the health service, and we even additionally benefit as the UK taxpayer has not paid for their education and training. For example, Hilary Walker, the chief nurse at the GWH , Wiltshire’s largest hospital recently said:
“There is a shortage of nursing staff nationally, so we have addressed this by extending our recruitment internationally, to Spain, Portugal and Ireland.”
Immigration is an issue where politicians do need to listen to the concerns of the population, but we must make sure that the debate is well informed, and that the value of immigrants to economic voters, which benefits all of us, is also acknowledged.