Over the centuries, migrants coming to this country to make a better life for themselves and their children have contributed to what makes Britain great. Whether it’s the Irish communities who came here to escape the potato famine and built our roads, to the Jewish community fleeing fascism, or the people who came from the Caribbean and India to work in our health service. Any industry, service, and business public or private has drawn on the initiative and hard work of immigrants.
But, Ed Miliband is clear that we have must have controlled migration and that fair rules must apply to those who come from within the EU as well as from outside the EU.
In his speech earlier in the week, Ed has spelled out how we will work with other EU countries to change the EU free movement rules.
If someone comes here from another EU country and they commit a crime they should be prosecuted and then deported. Committing a crime here means that you have broken the rules and should be sent home. Currently you cannot usually be deported unless your crime is so serious that you have been sent to prison for more than 12 months for some violent crimes, or 24 months for others. That means somebody coming to the UK from within the EU could receive a custodial sentence for common assault within a month of arriving, but not even be considered for deportation proceedings because their offence didn’t meet the sentencing threshold. We believe that needs to be looked at.
If you come here to work but your children remain in your home country, you should not be able to claim child benefit and send it back to them. Child benefit should be for children living with their parents – not for those in another country.
If you come here from another EU country for the first time, you shouldn’t be able to claim out-of-work benefits until you have been here for 6 months.
When a new country joins the EU, there should be tougher restrictions that mean people from that country should not be able to come to the UK to work without restrictions until that country has been a member of the EU for longer than the current 7 years.
And of course there are some changes that we should make ourselves and that the government should be getting on with immediately.
There should be tough enforcement of the minimum wage to stop employers using migrants to undercut the pay and conditions of longstanding workers here.
There should also be tough enforcement of the rules restricting the use of homes for “multi-occupation” so that neighbourhoods are not disrupted by employers using family homes for “hotbedding” exploited migrant workers.
Recruitment agencies should be banned from hiring exclusively from overseas, locking local people out of the labour market
People are right to value the part that is played in our communities of people who come to this country from abroad. But it has to be a two-way deal.
Harriet Harman is the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party