Immigration is high on the list of concerns of many people when they think about politics.
For years, the last Labour government pursued two equally misguided policies: lax, uncontrolled immigration and the building of detention centres to imprison illegal migrants – including children.
Efforts by the coalition government have reduced non-EU immigration, which is now at levels not seen since the 1990s.
While total net immigration has fallen by a quarter since its peak in 2005, the headline total remains stubbornly higher than promised in 2010.
The disastrous economic policies of the Eurozone and the free movement of EU citizens have made the UK a prime destination for EU citizens seeking work.
Bedford is a tolerant town and well recognised for how we have made in to a strength the diverse national origins of local people.
However, our town’s tolerance has been strained by a decade or more of high net migration, and by loopholes in the welfare system that are either too easily available or are open to perceived misuse.
The Government has made a number of changes to tighten access to benefits and now we expect further restrictions on access to tax credits for new migrants.
In our efforts to control immigration however we should not lose sight of our sense of justice. The coalition ended detention of children at Yarl’s Wood which almost everyone now agrees was an appalling policy.
Last week at Borough Hall, local councillors listened to experts about the harm to mental health of indeterminate detention and of the detention of pregnant women. These too should prick the conscience of each of us.
There is no inconsistency with being tough on immigration controls and being fair and compassionate with those caught up in the system. We should all endeavour to keep this sense of balance.