Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): I wish I could say it is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson), but I cannot. The only thing I will say is that when it comes to a world view and political values, he and I are probably on the opposite sides of the spectrum. His intemperate remarks about Scottish independence do him no credit whatsoever. He wants to pull up the drawbridge and leave the European Union and other institutions, whereas we want to join the world and we welcome the fact that the world will welcome Scotland as an independent nation.
The Government’s stated aim with this Bill is to make the UK a more “hostile environment” for illegal immigrants. I give the Minister 10 out of 10 and say to him, “Well done and pat yourself on the back,” because the Government have most certainly achieved that with this Bill. They have just made the UK an even more intolerant place for the rest of us to live in.
This Government have also achieved something I never thought I would see in the 12 years I have been a Member of Parliament: an Immigration Bill that is even nastier and more pernicious than all those that have gone before. All these right-wing immigration Bills have to achieve is two simple things: kick as many people as possible out of the country and prevent as many people as possible from getting in in the first place. That is what every single immigration Bill we have had from right-wing Governments, whether they be Blairite or Conservative, has done: kick out as many people as possible and prevent as many people as possible from coming in.
Sometimes Governments have to be inventive. This Bill relies on some of the traditional routes, such as making appeals harder, enforcement more difficult and life more miserable for people living in this country who should not be here. However, it is also inventive, because it covers social services and health and tells landlords to become immigration officers. This Bill will turn race relations into a nightmare, bringing suspicion based on ethnicity into our social services and the housing market.
Like most right-wing parties, the Tories’ pre-conceived idea about immigration is that it is a bad thing that has to be dealt with and managed. To them it is a burden. Right-wing Conservatives such as those in this Government
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want to get the numbers down. That has been the case throughout history. Conservatives would probably have tried to stop the Normans and the Vikings coming here on their boats in the 9th and 10th centuries. Theirs is a world view of barriers and of preventing people from coming here.
We live in a globalised, interconnected world in which the transfer and movement of people have never been greater. We are standing in London, for goodness’ sake! This is one of the greatest cities, if not the greatest city, in the world. One third of the people who live and work in London come from outwith the United Kingdom. It is they who built this magnificent city.
We should listen to what the Mayor of London has to say about these issues. He wrote a fantastic article in The Daily Telegraphthe other day—I wish the Conservatives would read it—under the headline, “It’s mad to blame our housing crisis on ‘blooming foreigners’”. I would not put it that way, but the Mayor of London is spot on. He recognises the value of and contribution made by high-end and low-end migrants to London. I recommend that my many Conservative friends in the House take a look at what the London Mayor has to say about this issue, because they will get some sense from him, unlike the hon. Member for Peterborough.
Yes, this country has changed. My country, Scotland, is changing, too. We do not vote Conservative. We approach these issues differently. Debates such as this show that we are pulling apart politically. We would not have such a debate in Scotland; we would not discuss such themes. We are drifting apart as a political culture.
This place is living in the early days of UKIP UK. That is where we are in this country. It started a little while ago, but it really came through with UKIP’s success in the local elections. That changed everything. We now live in UKIP UK. The party does not have one member in this House, but it is pulling all the Conservative party’s strings and dominating political debate. Everything is predicated on UKIP and Nigel Farage.
UKIP’s victory was closely followed by the hate vans and the ridiculous texts trying to get people to go home. I secured a debate on the hate vans last week. Perhaps I should get a bit of credit for getting rid of the appalling things. It took ages for the Minister to respond to me about them, but a week after the debate, we have got rid of the hate vans. That is a result.
Even this Conservative Government realise how ridiculous it was to drag a billboard around the streets of London, ranting at people to go home, with a telephone number and a text number. That is what they were reduced to. It could not get more ridiculous. What would have been next? The Minister was one of the few people in the Home Office who was prepared to defend the hate vans. He was in the studios all last week saying that, with a bit of refinement around the edges, they might be okay. He was prepared to put son-of-hate-vans on the streets. Thank goodness that has been ruled out by the Home Secretary. Let us be sure that it does not happen.
Are the Opposition opposing the Bill? I do not know. They do not like aspects of it, but they are compromised. If they are to win the next election, they have to win votes in the south. That brings us back to UKIP UK. They are aware that immigration is a hot issue in seats
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that they have to win, so they are having to be very careful about what they say. The Conservatives are right to point the finger at them because they are not doing a thing, but they should not let the Conservatives bully them. The Conservatives are saying that the seven to nine years of high immigration when Labour was in government were a waste. One of the best things that Labour did was to get people into this country. It built cities such as London and rejuvenated cities such as Manchester and Leeds. Labour Members should not let the Conservatives bully them into thinking that they did the wrong thing on immigration.
Pamela Nash (Airdrie and Shotts) (Lab): I would appreciate some clarity on the SNP’s position. I presume that the UK Government will need help from the Scottish Government on the landlord checks and on the NHS proposals, as those areas are largely devolved. What is the SNP line on that?
Pete Wishart: I am very grateful to the hon. Lady for reminding me to talk about Scotland. There are proposals that relate to devolved services that we are in control of. We do not like them—we do not like them at all. We are in charge of the health service in Scotland. We would need to be convinced that these measures were in the best interests of Scotland before we would go through with them. Scotland is a different country. The hon. Lady knows that, and I think she would agree that we would not do these things.
Dr Huppert: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his debate last week. I agree with him on that issue. I also share his concerns about landlords. Is he as pleased as I am that there will be only one pilot in one location and that the policy will not be rolled out without a vote? Does he take some comfort from that, even though he might not be totally reassured?
Pete Wishart: I take a little comfort from that, but not a great deal. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is thinking, but I am sure that he will not vote for this nonsense tonight. I know what he has said. I can see all the Liberals sitting there thinking, “Uh-uh! This is not a liberal Bill.” It is one of the most illiberal Bills that we have seen from this Government. It will be an absolute disgrace if even one Liberal goes through the Aye Lobby tonight. When I sat on the Opposition Benches with them, I heard them rant against new Labour immigration Bills. This Bill is 10 times worse than anything new Labour concocted.
Scotland has had the “go home” project. The UK Border Agency office in Glasgow was telling people to go home before they had even sat down. Now that we have got rid of the appalling hate vans, I want the Minister to guarantee that we will not have “go home” messages at UKBA offices. We do not want that in Scotland. We do not have UKIP in Scotland. Nigel Farage had to get a police escort out of Edinburgh. We hate UKIP to the bottom of our ballot boxes. It has not secured one deposit in Scotland. We do not want to take part in the appalling race to the bottom that the Conservatives are engaged in with UKIP—a race to the bottom that they can never win. They will never out-UKIP UKIP. It is the master of right-wing gimmickry. If the Conservatives enter a race with UKIP, they will only get beaten. I think that the Minister knows that.
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This matter is important for Scotland. The hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Pamela Nash) is right about that. We have our own demographic issues and population requirements. I will tell Members the difference between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. When the Scottish Government received the latest population figures, they put out a press release welcoming the rise in the Scottish population. Could you ever, Madam Deputy Speaker, imagine a UK Government welcoming a rise in population? That is what distinguishes us as a Government from them—we welcome the contribution of immigration. We have our own population requirements, but we are stuck and burdened with a set of immigration policies that are almost the exact opposite of what we require. That is why we must wrest control of our own immigration requirements.
Our population has gone up and that is good, but there are concerns that it might still fall. Even 10 years ago, we were worried that our population might fall below the 5 million mark. Thankfully, that did not happen. The health provisions will cut across our responsibility for devolved services, and we will have to look at them carefully before we do anything.
There is one thing I want to say about immigration, because we do not like any of this stuff—it is just rubbish. The UK Government’s immigration policy is having an impact on Scotland’s great universities. We have three universities in the top 200 universities in the world. We have fantastic world-class universities and this Government are hurting them. Just stop it. We want to ensure that we get the best possible students to our universities. All this rubbish that the Government are proposing puts more and more people off. We have to compete with other English-speaking nations around the world to ensure that our universities stay world class. We just wish the UK Government would get out.
This issue is simple. Let us admit that Government Members seem to be going in one direction—the emerging UKIP UK has its own set of values, culture and political direction—and in Scotland we are going another way. We do not like this stuff. We do not vote Conservative and we hate UKIP, so we are not going to go in that direction. Here is a novel solution: why do they not do their own thing and we do our own thing? It is called independence and it works for most countries. Next year, thank goodness, we will achieve it.