Labour MP calls on party to be more explicit on EU migration

Kingdom Of Great Britain

Labour should state explicitly that for the forseeable future it would be better if fewer EU migrants came to Britain, John Denham, the Labour MP and a former close adviser to the Labour leader Ed Miliband suggested on Monday.

He said a reduction in the number of EU migrants is the purpose of Labour migration policy "but we are so politically correct we cannot admit that's the aim, even though that's exactly what most of our voters want to hear".

In an article for Labour List that is likely to disturb some in the party, he said fewer EU migrants would mean Britain "can create a more balanced labour market and reduce future pressures on services and housing. So we should work actively to reduce the number of EU migrants coming to the UK, and move closer to the relationship we have with the rest of the world. Of course, that is exactly what current policies – clamping down on dodgy agencies, enforcing minimum wage, requiring apprenticeships, tackling unregulated housing – are designed to do"

He also warned that a "sharp increase in local population does put more pressure on public services. It's reasonable to ask whether resources would go further without these pressures. A flexible mobile workforce encourages employers to switch to agency work offering worse working conditions. Isn't it reasonable to ask if this is in voters' interest? Let's acknowledge these issues and say how we will deal with them". Denham was one of the first suppporters of Miliband's bid for the party leadership and acted as his parliamentary aide.

He added in his article: "Many of the EU citizens who are entitled to come here are people we would reject if they came from anywhere else.

"That is the logic of our own points based migration system. Free movement has advantages and disadvantages. Labour's view is that the advantages, including for our own people, outweigh the disadvantages. Ukip says the opposite. That's an honourable difference for us to argue. It does not mean we have to pretend we'd actually like them all to come here, or that this is a point of absolute principle we have to defend. Nor does it mean we can't campaign for radical changes to the current free movement system."

He denies such views are "milk and water Farage", or involve any rejection of the EU. He writes: "There is nothing in Labour history, values or traditions that require us to be in favour, in principle, of unlimited immigration."

He also asserts "There are lots of non-racist reasons to worry about migration" saying some people "are not so sure about paying into the welfare state when they are paying to give newcomers services they have not yet substantially paid for, which our voters would not receive if they went abroad . That's about fairness and Labour's nearly forgotten contributory principle, not racism".

He adds "It is only human to feel concern about the pace of change in communities. Many middle class 'progressives' once lionised working class mining communities for their solidarity, strength and identity. Many other working class communities – and an increasing number of aspirational and middle class communities -also feel their economies and communities have changed much faster, and in much more bewildering ways, than they can easily be asked to cope with".

He also claims "the arguments against multi-culturalism were conceded too easily with nothing, save a few initiatives like Connecting Communities, to put in its place".

Arguing as a former home office minister that Labour in government had actively tried to reduce the number of Commonwealth citizens that would came to Britain adding even Tony Blair did not operate an open door policy when Prime Minister.

He insists" let's not be shy of taking measures which advantage local workers and local access to services, and discourage future migration. There's much more that could be done, from using national monitoring in employment to granting protected access to affordable housing".

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Patrick Wintour, for The Guardian on Monday 2nd June 2014 23.15 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010