ANDREW STEPHENSON MP: We’re heading in the right direction on immigration

IT was a busy week in the House of Commons with debates on the Justice and Security Bill and an update on the deteriorating position in Syria.

I was pleased to welcome a group of 16 Samaritans volunteers from Pendle, who had a tour of Parliament before meeting with me.

It is always a pleasure to see Pendle residents in London and I am always happy to organise free tours from local groups, schools or families.

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The inquiry into the Stafford Hospital scandal, where the number of deaths between 1996 and 2007 was up to 1,200 higher than would usually be expected, still looms large over politics.

I am a great supporter of our NHS, but when things go wrong, we need to ensure lessons really are learnt and scandals never repeated.

On a more positive front, it was announced net immigration to the UK has fallen by a third since the general election.

To run through the numbers, in 2011 net migration was at almost a quarter of a million. The situation that built up under Labour was of massive, unsustainable immigration that put huge pressure on our public services and parts of the jobs market.

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An out-of-control immigration system also leads to resentment against immigrants themselves, even though most are hard working and make a real contribution.

That is why, during the last election, my party campaigned on a promise to reduce migration from the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands. Many people thought this was unrealistic. However, the latest figures from 2012 show net migration at 163,000. That is a fall of 84,000 or over a third in a year. Getting net migration down to less than 100,000 is possible and we are on track to get there.

This is a real achievement that is good for the UK and all who live here. It is good for immigrants, too. The backlog of cases at the UK Border Agency will be much easier to manage with fewer people coming in. I have been contacted by people in Pendle who have been waiting years for decisions about their immigration status, a legacy of mismanagement from previous governments.

It also makes it easier to protect our national security.

The vast majority of immigrants are law-abiding, peaceful people looking to get on and support their family. However, some are dangerous and need to be stopped from entering Britain or deported if they are already here. I am thinking of people like Abu Hamza who was finally deported last year, and Abu Qatada who the Government is trying hard to deport.

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Both these people, who are dangerous, have been protected by the law in ways most people in Britain find disgraceful and unjust.

One of the biggest disappointments for me of being in coalition is that we have not been able to make progress on drafting a British Bill of Rights to replace the European Human Rights Act.

I remain hopeful that one day the Lib-Dems will see sense on this issue.