Rob Butler, MP for Aylesbury, has welcomed the government’s new immigration proposals during a debate in parliament. The Immigration Bill will end free movement of EU citizens, and instead introduce a new set of rules that will apply to people wherever in the world they hail from. Speaking on a video link to the House of Commons chamber, Rob said:
“Immigration is a good thing for the United Kingdom. More than that, immigration has shaped many aspects of life in today’s United Kingdom. People have come to this country from overseas for centuries, bringing their skills, their ideas, their cultures.
“But for the last forty years, people wanting to live here have been treated in different ways not based on what they can offer, share or contribute, but purely on whether or not they came from the European Union.
“Those from some of our oldest allies like the United States; our greatest friends in the Commonwealth like Australia and New Zealand, India and Pakistan, they have all been treated differently.
“But in fact, it’s been worse than different treatment. It’s been discrimination. This bill will end the discrimination and replace it with equality and fairness.
“In the referendum on the EU, along with 17.4 million people I voted to leave because I wanted the UK to take back control of its laws, its money and its borders. Not to close the borders, not to say no to immigration, far from it. To say yes, we welcome people who want to come to the UK to contribute, to make this an even better country.
“If you’re from Spain and want to come here to do that, excellent. If you’re from South Korea and want to come here to do that, excellent. With this bill, from now on, you will both have an equal chance, a fair opportunity… a level playing field, if you will.”
Addressing opposition claims that the new law would prevent the NHS hiring workers from overseas, Rob said:
“During this horrendous coronavirus pandemic, we’ve all seen the massive contribution to the NHS from thousands of staff who’ve come from overseas to settle in this country.
“At some time in our lives, each and every one of us is likely to have been diagnosed, treated or nursed by healthcare professionals who were born abroad.
“And I want that to continue, for the NHS to have access to the best talent, the greatest minds, the most compassionate carers, wherever in the world they come from.
Nothing in this bill will change that.”
Rob said the new system would allow flexibility in the future, but also urged the government to give special consideration to the needs of small businesses:
“Coming from a constituency with a large number of micro-businesses, I would just ask that there be sufficient focus and attention devoted to small firms, to ensure they have the guidance and support they need to implement these new measures at a time when they already face considerable challenges resulting from Coronavirus.”
Rob went on to welcome the changes that will be made to prevent serious criminals entering the UK, saying:
“Stricter controls will help ensure that serious criminals cannot come to our country, to commit offences and create more victims of crime. Can anyone really disagree with that?
“Too often as a magistrate I saw criminals who'd been able to come into the UK unchecked because of EU free movement.
"I am therefore pleased that in future we will have the right automatically to reject EEA migrants with criminal convictions.”
Rob concluded his speech by reflecting on the timing of the bill, and looking ahead to the country’s recovery from the Coronavirus crisis:
“Some people have said that this is the wrong time to introduce this bill. I respectfully disagree.
“At a time when we’re encouraging the country to try to go about its business while staying safe and alert, in this House we too should be going about our business, delivering the legislation that we promised in December's election.
“This is the right time for this bill.
“It helps set the shape of the country we’ll become in the years and decades ahead. Paving the way for a strong, dynamic recovery from a health crisis that’s crippled the globe. Welcoming the best and brightest, equally judged, free of favour. Unshackled from the EU, open to the world. The United Kingdom rightly in control of its own borders.”