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Hopes for PM's speech on Europe
11:36am Wednesday 23rd January 2013 in News
IN the past week, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to ask question number one at Prime Minister’s Questions – a rare ‘top billing’ that I used to probe the positive effect of recent pension changes on hardworking stay at home mothers.
On Monday there was a welcome opportunity to quiz the education minister about his work to speed up the pace of adoptions.
The Prime Minister’s long-awaited speech on Europe was rightly delayed last week in the light of the horrific events in Algeria.
I know that a great many constituents resent any loss of sovereignty and feel that, if we left the EU tomorrow, our economy would be the better for it.
I am instinctively sympathetic to those sentiments. It is deeply vexing that decisions over what constitutes human rights and whether prisoners should forfeit the right to vote for the duration of their sentences are not in the hands of Westminster.
However, what concerns me more is the relationship between EU membership and immigration, and its potential to undermine the careful and reasonable controls that this Government has been steadily putting in place.
The unknown numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians who may shortly wish to relocate to the UK are a cause of grave concern – not least because of the implications of large influxes of people for the supply of both social and private sector housing.
Local builders are already telling me that they are being held to ransom by clients who, in some circumstances, feel able to name the price they want to pay in the certain knowledge that some underpaid immigrant labourers will always do the work more cheaply.
This sets up a ‘black economy’ of people who are here legally but who are effectively semi-bonded workers, often living in inhumane conditions and not enjoying the protection of the minimum wage.
We urgently need a recalibration of the degree of autonomy we possess within the EU and I hope that the Prime Minister will spell out clearly how he intends to achieve this – as well as offering the British people the opportunity to vote on it in a guaranteed referendum.