HOME AFFAIRS – IMMIGRATION – 18 November 2010

Dr Julian Lewis: I always listen to the right hon. Gentleman [Frank Field] with the greatest respect. I understand that he has concentrated his remarks on the factor of numbers, but will he also say something about the attitudes of the people who come into this country in the hope of finding a better life? My grandparents were immigrants and wanted to come here because they preferred life as they imagined it here and wanted to be part of this country. Is not the real problem not so much one of numbers, but of people coming here who do not like and might even hate the methods we have of governing ourselves and living in this country? What can we do about that?

Mr Field: The issue is about numbers and I do not want people to move away from it, because that is where the growing sense of agreement across the Chamber and in the country at large now lies. I would have put the intervention the other way round, if I had dared to make it. I would have asked why this country has had a political elite that has paid so little attention to our open borders for so long that they did not think it suitable to suggest that people coming here should develop a primary sense of loyalty to this country. I do not think we are in any position to moan when we were so careless that we did not have the confidence to lay down what citizenship in this country was about. I am against anyone trying to turn the debate against those who came here under those conditions by saying that we do not approve of their behaviour. Not only new arrivals but others, including many people in my constituency, feel disaffected, and of course we need to find ways of affirming their citizenship.

Dr Lewis: I will not try the House's patience for too long, but I must tell the right hon. Gentleman, with respect, that I cannot quite accept what he has said. It is not necessarily the responsibility of the receiving country to lay down in advance something as basic as the fact that someone who moves to a country must have some respect and regard for the norms, customs and standards of that country. People who come here knowing what this country is like, and then proceed to dislike it and try to undermine its ways, have a degree of responsibility themselves. It cannot all be put down to the conditions on which they were admitted.

Mr Field: The hon. Gentleman changed his line during his intervention. He ended his intervention by saying that such people could not be wholly responsible, whereas he said at the beginning that they were wholly responsible. I do not think that we should duck the political failure of this place and of successive Governments who have not had their wits about them, and have not recognised that a country is in a new ballgame when it opens its doors to mass immigration. We were negligent, and that applies to both sides of the House of Commons.

Let me emphasise that I do not want the debate to turn against people on whom we placed no duties when they came here. We did not bother to teach the meaning of citizenship to people who have been based here for generations, including many in my constituency. The hon. Gentleman has touched on what is, in fact, a much wider question.