Labour and Tories hammer out Fenland's immigration issues in debate with other party candidates

PUBLISHED: 15:04 23 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:37 02 June 2010

By John Elworthy LABOUR and Conservative candidates battling to win the NE Cambs seat clashed today over levels of migration into Fenland towns such as Wisbech and March. Tory candidate Steve Barclay claimed the towns could not cope with the pace and sc

By John Elworthy

LABOUR and Conservative candidates battling to win the NE Cambs seat clashed today over levels of migration into Fenland towns such as Wisbech and March.

Tory candidate Steve Barclay claimed the towns could not cope with the pace and scale of change and that insufficient Government money had been made available to help the district.

But Labour candidate Peter Roberts said Eastern European workers were "filling a gap in our local economy".

Mr Roberts said all three main political parties agreed that Eastern European migration had significant benefits for the Fenland economy "and if we are honest many businesses rely on migrants".

But Mr Barclay, in a debate on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, said the Government had provided an "open door policy for too long, allowed uncontrolled immigration for too long, and the Conservatives will deliver change. We need to get a grip on immigration".

He said people were angry that student like visas were being abused, border controls were not good enough and the Government needed to "toughen up" on unskilled workers from areas outside of the EU.

Lib Dem candidate Lorna Spenceley said there had been "a lot that's positive about immigration" from Europe and elsewhere,

"The health service for instance would collapse without these workers" she said. She accepted a strengthened border agency was needed but she supported the party's policy of directing workers to regions of Britain where they were needed.

Mr Barclay described this latter policy as "illogical" and he said more should be done to tackle training and skills for the local workforce.

Both Mr Roberts and Mr Barclay agreed that the Lib Dem policy on an amnesty for illegal immigrants was unworkable.

"It has been tried in other parts of the world and encourages more people rather than solve the problems," said Mr Barclay.

Mr Roberts added: "That's the one thing Steve and I do agree on."

UKIP's Robin Talbot said that by withdrawing from the EU, the flow of migrant workers to Britain could be halted.

"UKIP's policy is not racist, it is practicable," he said. "Immigration itself is not a problem but the rate of immigration is."

Mr Talbot said Britain should always be a haven for persecuted people and genuine asylum seekers.

"UKIP is the only party that will pull us out of Europe and by pulling out you stop mass immigration," he said.

"It's that which affects most people here in the Fens and it's that what we are here to sort out.

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