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Westminster parliament to debate UK immigration

The United Kingdom's parliament will debate the issue of immigration on Thursday 6th September 2012. The debate will be led by Nicholas Soames, the Conservative MP for Mid Sussex, and Frank Field, the Labour MP for Birkenhead. The two MPs are co-chairs of the British parliament's Cross-Party Group on Balanced Migration which carries the slogan 'We believe that immigration should be brought down to the level of emigration' on every page of its website. Its aim is to see the population of the UK stabilise at about 65 million by the middle of the century. The current projected figure is 78 million.

The debate was scheduled after a petition lodged on a government website gained 100,000 signatures within a week. The petition calls on the government to take all necessary steps to reduce immigration and to stabilise the population as close to the present level as possible and certainly to ensure that it does not reach 70 million. The two MPs posted a joint statement on the Cross-Party Group's website saying that they support the aims of the petition and will lead the debate for the motion.

The e-Petition website was launched in its current form in August 2011. UK citizens and residents are entitled to lodge a petition which will remain open for a year. If the petition attracts 100,000 signatures then the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee will consider allocating time for a debate. The immigration petition, which was created by Sir Andrew Green of Migrationwatch UK, reached 100,000 signatures in less than a week. It has so far gained over 143,000 signatures. Migrationwatch UK is a pressure group which opposes immigration.

The petition, which is titled 'No to 70 million', states that, over the last ten years, the government has permitted mass immigration. It states that the UK's population is forecast to reach 70 million within 20 years 'with two thirds of the increase due to immigration'. It continues 'While we recognise the benefits that properly controlled immigration could bring to our economy and society, this population increase…will have a huge impact on our quality of life and on our public services yet the public has never been consulted'. It calls on the government to take all necessary steps to reduce immigration to stabilize the UK's population as close to present levels as possible.

While the matter will be debated on Thursday, whatever the result of the vote following it, it will not result in the passing of any laws in the short term. The Coalition government has already committed itself to reducing immigration from the current level of around 250,000 per annum to below 100,000 by 2015.

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