IMMIGRATION has risen up the political agenda in recent weeks.
It is almost exclusively discussed in a negative way, but one event I attended this week was a reminder of how important immigrants are to our economy.
It was a rally by the House of Commons’ contract cleaners.
They currently get the minimum wage of £4.85, no company pension and 12 days holiday.
The Transport and General Workers Union is calling for better pay and conditions.
These men and women, living in one of the World’s most expensive cities, rise at 3 or 4 in the morning to come in and clean Parliament’s offices, committee rooms and debating chamber.
Almost all of them come from outside the United Kingdom.
Without them, and others, the work of parliament, and many other public services would collapse.
If there was a national one day strike by immigrant workers much of Britain would grind to a standstill.
But there is genuine concern about abuse of the immigration and asylum system.
Politicians must respond to genuine concerns.
It is not racist to want to stop criminal gangs from organising people trafficking and sex slavery, but it would be wrong to deny entry to a legitimate asylum seeker because of an arbitrary quota.
I am proud of the fact that my successor as councillor for Canton, Ramesh Patel, came to Britain as a migrant; and indeed that this country gave refuge to Bernat Hecht, the father of Michael Howard, when he fled the Nazis.
A fair immigration system welcomes people who want to work in jobs that this country needs doing, and those genuinely fleeing persecution.
And those who are here legally, like the Commons cleaners, deserve decent pay and conditions.