Immigration Level Unsustainable, Warns Former Labour Minister

Immigration level unsustainable, warns former Labour minister

Will Woodward, chief political correspondent
Thursday June 29, 2006
The Guardian

Current levels of immigration are unsustainable and the issue is being ignored by the government, the former Labour minister Frank Field said yesterday.

Mr Field, MP for Birkenhead, said politicians “played the race card” to choke off discussion. “It is only because the BNP [British National party] are so inept that the debate has not taken off,” he said. Mainstream politicians were “living on borrowed time” and needed to address the subject “before the BNP stumbles on somebody with talent.”

Some 580,000 people came to Britain in 2004, but 360,000 left, the former minister for welfare reform told the BBC. “I don't think a country's sustainable with that level of migration.” He accused the government of failing to address the issue after borders were opened to nationals from new EU member states in 2004. Britain was one of three countries not to restrict employment to people from Poland and the other new members.

“When we signed up to the new members, France and Germany were very careful to ensure that while the door was open, it wasn't just flung open,” he said. “In this country, the government said that they thought there would be 13,000 workers from the new EU members coming in the first year … Within the first 18 months it was 329,000.

“This is the most massive transformation of our population. Do we just merely accept this as another form of globalisation? That we are all just following the jobs? If we are not careful, we will be transformed into a global traffic station.”

The BNP increased its council seats in England from 20 to 46 in last month's local elections. It picked up 11 of the 13 seats it contested in Barking and Dagenham, east London, becoming the main opposition party on the council.

Tony Blair's official spokesman said the government was “completely open” in making the case for migration. It had reached a “tipping point” in its efforts to bring down the number of successful asylum-seekers. “We recognise the positive contributions immigration makes to the country and the economy. EU migration helps the economy as a whole. If we don't have migration you don't have the growth in the economy we all benefit from”.