VIDEO: Immigration focus of debate at General Election hustings held in Wisbech -candidates and public have their say

Hustings meeting with Steve Barclay and Lucy Nethsingha

Hustings meeting with Steve Barclay and Lucy Nethsingha - Credit: Archant

Britain can and will reduce immigration as part of renegotiation of European treaties, Conservative candidate Steve Barclay told a hustings debate in Wisbech.

Responding to a questioner who asked if we can “safely assume immigration to remain at same high levels for the foreseeable future” Mr Barclay promised the issue would be “a key focus of the renegotiation”.

But UKIP’s Paul Smyth said: “You can’t do anything about it while you stay within the European community.”

He said that with just under 300,000 coming to this country every year the increase was “unsustainable and you can’t change that until you come out of the European Union”.

Both were speaking at the hustings organised by the regional office of the Country Landowners Association and chaired by Editor John Elworthy at Elme Hall Hotel, Wisbech.

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Labour’s Peter Smith spoke of how migrant labour in Norfolk and the Fens “has been used and exploited by unscrupulous employers to under cut wages.” He said he frequently saw “bus loads of workers coming from appalling conditions and kept in caravans”.

Mr Barclay praised Operation Pheasant for clamping down on illegal practices in the area and said he had also met with the Latvian ambassador to deal with people “got over here on a false promise by criminally illegally gang masters”.

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Lib Dem Lucy Nethsingha said immigration was impacting differently in different parts of the country. In Cambridge – and at Addenbrooke’s hospital especially- they were recruiting internationally to fill skills shortages.

“There are places where immigration is important”, she said.

Ms Nethsingha said only in “pockets” of the country had there been “very rapid” immigration. She agreed though that “low wage, low skills immigration can have a difficult impact on a community.”

Green candidate Helen Scott-Daniels called for politics to be “done differently” and told the audience that “change is desperately needed.” Her party would give “the most vulnerable the highest priority”

Towards the end of the debate one heckler suggesting Wisbech should be left alone to find it own way. His ‘remedy’ was for Britain to withdraw from Europe and his advice to young people was to abandon college and “just go to work”.

* More from yesterday’s debate will follow.

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