Michael Howard – 2005 Speech on Controlling the UK Borders

The speech made by Michael Howard, the then Leader of the Conservative Party, in London on 29 March 2005.

Fair play matters. I believe in a Britain where government upholds the rules – not turns a blind eye when they are bent and abused. And let’s be quite clear. Our immigration system is being abused – and with it Britain’s generosity.

Firm border controls are essential if we are to:

– Limit immigration;

– Fight crime; and

– Protect Britain from terrorism.

In 1997 Mr Blair promised that he would deliver “firm control over immigration”. That was all talk. Mr Blair has totally failed to secure Britain’s borders.

At the week-end it was revealed that Mr Blair’s Government is now operating a DIY deportation policy. Immigration officials allow people with fake or suspect ID to enter Britain for 48 hours – instructing them to return later for questioning or deportation.

Does anyone seriously imagine that someone with the clear intent to inflict harm or terror in Britain would turn up?

It’s hard to imagine a laxer system.

We face a real terrorist threat in Britain today – a threat to our safety, to our way of life, and to our liberties. But we have absolutely no idea who is coming into or leaving our country. There are a quarter of a million failed asylum seekers living in our country today. No one knows who they are or where they are. To defeat the terrorist threat we need action not talk – action to secure our borders.

Action to secure our borders will also help in the fight against crime. As Stephen Lander, head of the new Serious Organised Crime Agency, has said:

“We are not winning. Drugs or people smuggling … some we are holding our own just but we are clearly not rowing back the problems … nobody would claim we are on top of these problems – any of these problems at all”.

Illegal immigrants are extremely vulnerable to exploitation. To get here many have to undertake long and dangerous journeys at the hands of unscrupulous people smugglers. Once in Britain they are often forced to work long hours in terrible conditions, for less than the minimum wage.

A Conservative Government will take action to limit and control immigration and secure Britain’s borders.

Parliament will set an annual limit on the number of people that can settle in Britain – just like they do in Australia.

We will introduce a points system to control work permits so that priority is given to those whose skills Britain needs.

So today we are announcing a new British Border Control Police.

We will have one face at the border.

One police force.

With one chief constable.

With just one job: securing Britain’s borders.

The clearest line of accountability in any organisation is to a single individual: a person who sits behind a desk with a sign that says “I’m responsible – the buck stops here”.

Britain is an island nation.

We can control our borders.

But it will only happen if we have a government with the determination to act.

People will face a clear choice at the next election: between controlled and limited immigration with the Conservatives or unlimited, uncontrolled immigration under Mr Blair and the Liberal Democrats.