Ahead of the May 7 election, the Peterborough Telegraph is asking parliamentary candidates to discuss different issues, starting with the views of Peterborough’s candidates on immigration. Next week, North West Cambridgeshire candidates will discuss the economy and taxation.
Lisa Forbes - Labour Party parliamentary candidate
Firstly, I love Peterborough and one of the reasons for this is because of the diversity of the people living here.
When I moved here 27 years ago I found the city to be vibrant and alive with different cultures and customs and this made it an attractive place to live.
Peterborough had for many years before my arrival welcomed new waves of immigrants from Italians, Poles and the Irish to Asians and Afro-Caribbeans. More recently we’ve seen the arrival of Eastern Europeans.
When speaking to residents on their doorsteps I’ve found that, in the main, people I’ve spoken to on the subject of immigration to the city have taken a balanced approach.
Whilst there’s concern at the recent pace of new arrivals, they don’t want to see us pull up the drawbridge either and recognise the economic benefits.
They understand that people migrate for a better life and that traditionally Brits have emigrated abroad for the same reasons.
Migrants here have filled jobs locals prefer not to do, but there’s concern recent migrant labour has forced down wages for the wider population, creating instability and insecurity, especially in the low and medium skilled sectors.
That’s why Labour will control immigration with fair and sensible rules. Labour will stop the undercutting of wages by increasing the minimum wage to £8 an hour and make sure it’s enforced.
We’ll ban the abuse of zero hour contracts and agencies from only advertising local jobs abroad. Labour will safeguard the benefit system from the minority who seek to abuse it by ensuring any welfare entitlement is earned through a contributory scheme - there will be a requirement to have been in the country for two years before taking out.
For more information on Labour’s policies on immigration, visit www.labour.org.uk/issues
Stewart Jackson - Conservative Party parliamentary candidate
Immigration’s the major issue on the doorsteps in Peterborough.
It has been since Labour in government designated the city as an asylum dispersal area and then failed (unlike most EU countries) to impose “transitional” controls on new accession country migrants in 2004.
No one begrudges foreign workers the chance of a better life, if they work hard, pay taxes and are law abiding.
But it’s the pace of change that’s concerned so many people and the impact on public services like schools and healthcare.
Under Labour, we had soaring welfare bills, rising unemployment and open borders.
I’ve never been afraid to raise these issues in government or been cowed by the liberal elite in the media or Westminster.
Raising concerns with ministers directly about school places, I lobbied for more money to cope with increased numbers.
I resigned from the government payroll to campaign to give British people a say in an EU In/Out referendum.
I voted to postpone Romanian and Bulgarian migration, to cut the EU budget and put forward a bill to drastically amend the Free Movement Directive.
UKIP seek to exploit immigration for their own ends (a vote for them is a vote to let Ed Miliband into Downing Street) whilst Labour ignore the consequences of their own failed policies.
Conservatives are committed to a balanced, tough but fair approach - anyone from the EU who is looking for a job will not get any out of work benefits.
If they fail to get a job within six months, they will have to leave the country.
If they do get a job, then they won’t get any in work benefits until they’ve been in the UK for four years and they won’t be able to send any child benefits or tax credits for children not in the UK.
John Fox - Independent parliamentary candidate
Britain, as an island nation, is one of the richest and most democratic places in the world and its people are envied across Europe and around the world.
So much so that many make Britain a destination of choice.
That choice has become so popular that the influx of today’s migrants could be seen as having a detrimental impact instead of being a benefit.
Many areas, like Peterborough, have seen increases in population creating severe pressure on housing, schools and much more, and it’s about time we got to grips with the situation.
At the same time we must deal with public opinion that immigrants take jobs away from local workers.
Now whether that is born from fact or fear, it still needs to be addressed.
I am concerned because if that is so, why are there still nearly two million people on the unemployment register?
Another frustration for the public is people who claim unemployment benefits when they have not lived in the country or paid into the system.
I would support any government that is willing to commit to an urgent reform on the availability of benefits, dependent on your time in this country.
I will admit I don’t blame anyone for coming to this country to better their lives.
How many millions have migrated from Britain and settled for a better life abroad?
In certain parts of Europe you will find whole streets taken over by ex-pats running bars named the Red Lion or White Swan, selling fish and chips and more, yet we complain about others doing the same in our country.
I am bursting with pride when I look at Peterborough’s diversity and the excellent work carried out by community leaders who strive to make our city one of the most cohesive in Britain.
Mary Herdman - UKIP parliamentary candidate
Since 2004 Peterborough has had a massive influx of immigrants and it is now struggling to cope.
It has an immigration problem that is driving down wages and creating housing shortages. It is also causing primary schools that are failing and a hospital that is groaning under the strain.
In order to sort out these problems in Peterborough, the grassroots of immigration and our open border policy needs to be addressed.
This is why UKIP would take back control of our borders and introduce a visa system based on the Australian points model. This would be an ethical visa system for work and study, based on the principle of equal application to all people.
We will tackle this by:
. Increasing our border staff and police force by 3,000, making sure that ex-servicemen are given job priority.
. We would establish one passport queue for British citizens and a second passport queue for the rest of the world.
. Criminals will lose the right to citizenship and we will remove the passports of those who choose to fight alongside terrorist organisations.
Under UKIP all immigrants will have to have health insurance for the first five years they are in Britain and they will have to make tax and national insurance contributions for five consecutive years before claiming UK benefits.
The Conservatives, Labour and Liberals are in favour of this ‘open door’ immigration policy but they just don’t care about the consequences to cities like Peterborough.
Our infrastructure cannot cope - we are having to build more and more houses.
Under UKIP, housing priority would be given to our ex-servicemen and women and to citizens whose parents were born in Britain.
To help Peterborough recover from this mass immigration, please vote UKIP on May 7.
Darren Fower - Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate
I’m a first generation Peterbororian and Liberal Democrat and I’m proud that Britain is an open, welcoming country.
Our city has a long history of people coming to our city and contributing to local society and culture, whether that’s people from the West Indies or from London.
Highly-skilled migrants have brought many economic and social benefits to us over the years.
Thanks to immigration, £20 billion was added to the public finances between 2001 and 2011, not forgetting £6.8 billion of human capital.
The problems often cited by some to immigration I believe in the main can be associatedto home grown failure, like insufficient jobs in our city, closing down schools, selling off council housing and not building enough affordable homes etc.
That said, under Labour there were of course failures in the system.
They didn’t even have proper checks to detect people who were overstaying their visa.
We need to bring more control to the system to stop people breaking the rules.
As the Liberal Democrat candidate for Peterborough, I’m campaigning to bring back control to the immigration system by introducing exit checks so the government can keep track of who is leaving the country and identify people who are overstaying their visa.
Lib Dems are already rebuilding trust in the system by helping cut immigration by a third and ensuring highly-skilled immigrants can help us build a stronger economy.
I am also proud that we have ended Labour’s disgraceful practice of routinely detaining innocent children for immigration purposes.
At the end of the day, even our present MP for the city moved from London to Peterborough for employment!
Darren Bisby-Boyd - Green Party parliamentary candidate
I have lived in Peterborough for seven years and I’ve seen a lot of changes.
Some of these have helped us to progress as a city and develop. Immigration is one of those progression areas. When discussing immigration in Peterborough some of the major parties such as UKIP decide to slate our ethnic diversity. I have worked with many different groups in our society and I am glad to be given the opportunity to promote the skills they bring to Peterborough.
Often immigrants are used as scapegoats by other parties but, unlike the others, the Greens support the motion to tackle the real problems by providing more housing, bringing the NHS back into public hands and changing the wage to a living one, therefore creating a fairer society.
In times of uncertainty it is far easier to blame certain ethnic groups but this is wrong and means the wider problems are ignored.
In a speech by Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion she said: ‘If the Government is really serious about addressing people’s concerns, it should be developing border controls that are fair and humane….. It should also invest in our communities so that everyone – whether you are born here or not – has somewhere decent and safe to live, the prospect of a job and can access school places or the NHS, for example, when they need to.
Instead, not content with attacking the poorest and low-paid through cruel and unworkable welfare cuts… and our public sector workers by slashing their rights and pensions, the Tory-led government is now turning its fire on yet another vulnerable group in society.’
I agree with Caroline, instead of blaming immigration we need to work together to create a better country and the only party which is offering a solution is the Green Party.