Article for the Mirror, 15th May 2014 - it's time for practical answers on immigration
Below is the text of Yvette Cooper's article in the Mirror, 15th May 2014 - it's time for practical answers on immigration - You can find the original article at http://bit.ly/1n0dSEr
Yesterday's Bulgarian and Romanian immigration figures were a far cry from the high January predictions and show why we need sensible debate not shrill claims.
People have legitimate concerns on immigration. But it's time for practical answers, not failed promises or playing on people's fears.
The Tories promised immigration target has failed. Ministers aren't tackling employers and agencies who exploit immigration to undercut local wages and jobs. UKIP make wild claims, but their policies would make problems for low paid workers worse. So let’s be honest about the reforms we need.
I've talked to hundreds of people across Britain about their views on immigration in packed public meetings and on doorsteps. There's more agreement than you'd think. Most people told me they don't want to shut out investment, travel and trade, they believe immigration is important for Britain but needs to be properly controlled and managed. And it isn't prejudiced to want stronger controls.
Labour is calling for stronger border controls so visas are enforced and stronger controls on new European countries. We welcome overseas university students who bring in billions, but want more action on illegal immigration. We know we got things wrong on immigration in Government and we've changed.
Dodgy firms and agencies who exploit migrant labour to undercut local wages and jobs should be stopped. So we would halt abuse of zero hours contracts, outlaw agencies recruiting only overseas, and make serious exploitation a crime. Only Labour will do that.
Other parties are letting working people down. The Tories and Liberal Democrats have already made it easier to sack you. UKIP want to end paid holiday rights and reduce employment protection - making it easier for employers to abuse immigration as a cheap option.
Just like their plans for NHS charges, or millionaires' tax cuts, UKIP's Thatcherite policies are worse than David Cameron's.
Pulling out of Europe won't help - that risks British jobs as companies invest on the continent. Better to get European reforms - including stronger controls when countries join, and benefit reforms so it’s clear people contribute.
Labour won't play the arms race of rhetoric on immigration - we didn't at Christmas and we won’t in elections. But we will keep talking, listening and proposing fair reforms.
We mustn't ignore UKIP, the Tories or the Lib Dems, nor must we imitate them - we are challenging all the other parties because they have no answers to help working people.