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Last Updated: Monday, 31 July 2006, 22:54 GMT 23:54 UK
Immigration 'harms life quality'
An immigration worker
The UK immigration system is to undergo a shake-up
Record levels of immigration are overcrowding the UK and helping to destroy people's quality of life, says a right-wing group of Conservative MPs.

The Cornerstone Group says the number of migrants coming to the UK is pushing up housing prices, increasing road congestion and stretching services.

The group calls for new controls of migrant numbers.

The Home Office said immigration brought economic benefits, and that the rules for migration were right.

Public services concern

Home Secretary John Reid set out plans for a shake-up of the immigration and asylum system last week.

They include visible, uniformed immigration officer at ports and airports, a reintroduction of embarkation controls and penalties for employers hiring illegal workers.

The Cornerstone pamphlet is part of a submission for the Tories' review of immigration laws.

Conservative MP Julian Brazier, who wrote the pamphlet, says the work permits system needs to be "radically" tightened.

"Overcrowding is a key cause of many of the factors which are destroying quality of life: mortgage slavery, overdevelopment, congested roads, water shortages, flooding and overstretched public services," he said.

"We should do everything we can sensibly - and fairly - do to reduce the level of immigration to well below the level of emigration.

"The first and easiest step in this direction would be to return to a much smaller number of work permits, as occurred under all previous governments.

"We should also restrict them, as was always the case before, to highly skilled people."

Benefits warning

The government is already moving to a points-based migration system, designed to make it harder for unskilled migrants from outside the EU to get work permits to the UK.

The Home Office said: "The UK enjoys the highest employment rate of the G8 economies and its lowest unemployment for 30 years, by virtue of its open labour market. Job vacancies are still high at around 600,000.

"Treasury forecasts attribute 10% to 15% of economic trend growth to migration. The Bank of England... confirmed that overseas workers play a significant role in boosting the available pool of labour and helping ease shortages, therefore assisting in keeping down inflation.

"We have the right rules for migration to Britain - but we need them enforced in a tough but effective way."

The Cornerstone pamphlet comes after a leaked Home Office document said there was evidence that the influx of foreign workers from the eight ex-communist countries which joined the EU in 2004 had driven down wages in low-paid jobs.

It warned that ministers might be forced to abandon their refusal to grant council houses and welfare benefits to new arrivals who did not work.

And it said government departments had been told to have emergency plans to deal with pressure on public services when Romania and Bulgaria join the EU next year.

The reports prompted Labour MP Frank Field to say the UK should restrict the right of Bulgarians and Romanians to work in the UK when they join the EU.




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