THE impact of immigration and the future makeup of Boston came under the spotlight when MP Mark Simmonds was quizzed by councillors and the public on Friday.
Mr Simmonds said the arrival of economic migrants had been the most noticeable change since he was elected in 2001 but said tensions had eased since 2004 when there was a riot in Boston which was partly due to the issues.
Mr Simmonds told Boston Borough Council’s inquiry – a task and finish group on the social impact of population change – that immigration issues are ‘very serious and complicated’ with ‘no simplistic answers’.
However, he said that only a small proportion of the letters and emails he receives are on the topic.
He added: “That’s not to say it’s not a serious issue and doesn’t require forensic analysis to try to alleviate some of the problems immigration creates but as evidenced by my postbag it’s not one of the top issues that people in the borough of Boston are currently concerned about.”
He added: “I think there is an acceptance by the vast bulk of the population that those who come to the UK and pay taxes should be welcomed into communities as long as they are here legitimately and legally.”
Mr Simmonds feels the last government made a mistake by not using powers to stop Eastern European workers coming to the country when they first joined the EU as other countries such as Germany and France did.
Those powers expired last year, meaning Eastern Europeans have more options when moving abroad.
He said the Government now aims to cut immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands by the end of the parliament and feels people coming to this country should learn the language and local customs to help integration.
Mr Simmonds (pictured above) also stressed the country does need economic migrants such as consultants for the Pilgrim Hospital.
He said there are an estimated 7,500-8,000 EU migrants in the borough, although he believes the figure is possibly double that.
He said even if the figure is 10,000 the number of unemployed people in the borough is only about 1,300 and questioned: “If we get rid of 10,000 EU migrants who are doing work then who is going to do the work?”
He said work and pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith is currently working to crack down on inappropriate benefit claims for overseas nationals but said it is wrong to suggest migrant workers cost the state money.
He said: “There’s absolutely no question that the balance, in terms of the contribution they make through taxation to what we spend on them, is in favour of taxation. We are net gainers from the tax they pay to the exchequer.”
The MP also said he has heard about 25 per cent of new houses sold are to migrants and said babies born at the Pilgrim Hospital to migrant mothers are helping to keep it open.
He said: “I would seriously question its viability in terms of numbers if it wasn’t for the migrant population using its facilities. A very significant number of births, nearly 40 per cent, are from the migrant population.”
On the issue of homelessness and crime, Mr Simmonds stressed the EU freedom of movement directive only allows people to stay in a country for three months if you are not working or looking for work. He feels that should be enforced more.
The Office for National Statistics predicts that outside of London, Boston and Corby will see the most population growth in the country – with most of Boston’s coming from migrants settling and having children.
Mr Simmonds, however, challenged whether there will soon still be the need for such a large overseas workforce.
He said: “In the next decade we won’t need packers in the packhouses, it will all be automated. We won’t need people to plant in fields and won’t need people to cut out of the ground. The machines already exist.”
Evidence from the task and finish group will be used to fight for more cash for Boston from the Government.
Mr Simmonds says he will use the report to lobby the Government and revealed he has already brought the matter up with the Prime Minister.