James Gray, MP for North Wiltshire - Any influx from the east needs to be constrained

Unless we can do something pretty dramatic and urgent about it, our shores will be open as of the New Year to the populations of Romania and Bulgaria, whose economies, being so very much poorer than ours, will inevitably see real benefits from coming here.

Yet this little island is already overburdened, and our infrastructure and services can bear little if any further population growth.

So the inflow – if there is to be one – must be constrained and controlled. Everyone is agreed to that principle. The debate is how to do it.

The government, forced by EU law and a treaty signed by Labour, can do little other than fight a rearguard battle to defend our benefits system, healthcare and other public services.

They are doing their best to curb immigration, with some modest success– even against the EU bureaucrats and courts.

Yet sceptics like me fear that Iain Duncan-Smith’s efforts to curb benefits for immigrants is less like Horatius defending the bridge over the Tiber, more like King Canute commanding the waves to reverse their centuries-old surf.

So I have rebelled against my government by signing an amendment to the Immigration Bill currently before Parliament, which would have the effect of at least deferring the Romanian and Bulgarian influx by five years.

Its success will depend on support from Labour, who caused the foul-up in the first place. So watch this space.

My friend, the Rev Simon Tatton-Brown, the rector of St Andrew’s in Chippenham, is reported to have got into hot water last week over some unscripted and impromptu – if, in the event unfortunate – remarks to a primary school class about some of the stories surrounding Santa Claus.

Mr Tatton-Brown has done great work for the people of his church, and of the wider area for so many years.

His has been a most wonderful ministry, and you could not hope to meet a more sainted, if perhaps insufficiently worldly-wise, minister.

The Christmas story is based on migration – Mary and Joseph and the babe in transit to Bethlehem for a census.

Scholars may scoff that it never happened. But for me it’s as real as Santa.

He is the spirit of giving and of Christmas and I, for one, firmly believe in him.

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