RUTH Davidson, leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, is just the latest politician to call for the abandonment of the Government’s immigration reduction target.

In the light of the recent experience of some members of the ‘Windrush generation’, where previously government policy sought to create a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants, the new Home Secretary has indicated that instead, he now prefers the term ‘compliant’ to ‘hostile’. Dianne Abbot, Labour’s immigration spokeswoman has, in effect, called for the abandonment of measures to identify and remove illegal immigrants, including the closure of the detention centres.

I hope that the distinction between ‘compliant’ and ‘hostile’ is just semantics. I regard it as vitally important to both have effective immigration controls and to enforce them rigorously. Not to do so, sends a very powerful signal to hundreds of thousands of other potential illegal immigrants that UK is a soft touch and that it is open house. As for the suggestion that now is the time to abandon our legal immigration reduction target, it is folly.

Even though we have little experience of it in the New Forest, nevertheless, for years the level of immigration was the top concern in my postbag. Although that concern has abated somewhat, it has not gone away, and if mishandled by politicians it will undoubtedly return.

Ever since in the late 1970s when Mrs Thatcher, then Leader of the Opposition, caused a furore when she referred to people feeling “swamped” by the volume of immigration, it became a subject to be treated with proper caution and sensitivity by mainstream politicians.

So many of my correspondents are clearly nervous about expressing their concerns and hedge their use of language fearful that by expressing their opinion they might be thought to be racially prejudiced. If politicians, unwilling to provoke the opprobrium of a vociferous ‘liberal elite’, fail in their duty to address the issue, then they leave the field open to demagogues of a much less fastidious nature.

I see no good reason to relax immigration policy at this time. We live in one of the most densely populated countries and we already have an acute housing shortage.The evidence that immigration boosts economic growth and genuine economic welfare is, at best, mixed. We already have significant problems arising from the failure to sufficiently assimilate existing immigrant populations.

Whilst London, our capital city, wears as a badge of honour and celebrates its ethnic diversity, and the revelation of the 2011 census that only a minority of its population (44%) is now ‘White British’, for many of our subjects this is something about which they are somewhat uneasy. A sensible immigration policy needs to take that unease into account. There has to be a balance to deal effectively with short term skills shortages and economic opportunities, whilst reassuring people that immigration is very much under control.