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Aldershot MP stands behind controversial immigration comments

Aldershot MP Sir Gerald Howarth said he worked "to protect the constituency from Joanna Lumley's ill-conceived campaign"

Sir Gerald Howarth
Sir Gerald Howarth

Aldershot's MP has said he stands "firmly and squarely" behind controversial comments regarding immigration that he made to a constituent.

Sir Gerald Howarth was reported to have said in an email that he believed Enoch Powell, the late author of a notoriously anti-immigration speech from 1968, was correct in his views.

Many of his constituents have benefited from immigration, with ex-Gurkhas and their families being allowed to settle in the UK in 2009 following a campaign led by Joanna Lumley.

Despite this, the MP this week told the News & Mail that he would continue to voice his thoughts on the issue and that it was "pretty disgraceful" to suggest that he should stop for fear of causing offence.

Despite his office having received some "pretty unpleasant calls from people without British accents" in the aftermath of his comments, he said: "Someone has got to stand up and say something.

"I work really hard to protect the constituency from Joanna Lumley's ill-conceived campaign. There are a large number of my constituents that are offended that their country has been changed in a way they have not been consulted on."

Powell's speech, delivered in Birmingham, warned of violence and "rivers of blood" if non-white immigrants were not deported.

It has been described as a low point in race relations in the latter half of the 20th century, and Powell was immediately sacked from the Conservative shadow cabinet.

'Massive immigration concern'

Sir Gerald's leaked comments were regarding the recent revelations about the governing boards of schools in Birmingham being infiltrated by Islamic extremists - something he described as a "tragedy" and a "betrayal by the state".

Sir Gerald's constituency of Aldershot has one of the highest rates of immigrants in the UK. The 2011 Census showed that 7.8% of the population in Aldershot were Nepalese and 5.4% in Farnborough.

Last week it was revealed that net immigration into the UK had increased, despite government targets to reduce it.

The proportion of children born to foreign-born mothers in Rushmoor also rose from 27.5% to 29.1% from 2012 to 2013.

The rate is higher than in neighbouring local authorities Surrey Heath (21.5%), Hart (6.7%), Guildford (26.6%) and Waverley (17.7%).

Asked if he felt that representing constituents who may feel they are the subject of his condemnation meant he should tone down his comments, Sir Gerald said: "Most of them don't speak English so they wouldn't understand them anyway.

"I have excellent relations with the ex-Gurkha organisations. The young ex-Gurkhas are not the problem. The problem is the elderly who do not speak English and do not understand our customs. It's not fair on them. It's not in their interests that immigration should continue to be such a cause for concern.

"I stand firmly and squarely behind what I said. There is massive concern in the country about immigration.

"We've a crowded island. Look at the traffic jams everywhere and the demand for property.

"These are serious issues that deserve serious discussion."

 
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