Reid to set limit on immigration
By Brendan Carlin, Political Correspondent
John Reid reacted to mounting public anxiety over immigration yesterday by effectively calling for official limits on the numbers coming into Britain.
John Reid denies there is an unmanaged tide of immigrants
In a significant policy shift, the Home Secretary said that new independent migration advisers should set out an “optimum level of immigration” consistent with the country's economic needs and “social stability”.
Only a month ago, Tony Blair appeared to pour cold water on the idea of setting up a commission to look at the optimum future size of the UK population.
Yesterday's move, likely to stop short of previous Conservative calls for a cap on immigration, was portrayed by Mr Reid as a way of taking immigration “away from the party political football” and of demonstrating that the Government was listening.
He also called for a culture change so that people “get away from this daft so-called politically correct notion that anybody who wants to talk about immigration is somehow a racist”.
The move comes just one week after a leaked Home Office report revealed deep concern over the rising numbers of immigrants from new EU countries in eastern and central Europe coming to work in the UK.
However, the Home Secretary denied that there was an “unmanaged tide” of immigration and gave no indication that he would block the right of Romanians and Bulgarians to work in Britain when they joined the EU next year.
David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, responded last night by warning Mr Reid that he could not “duck accountability” for immigration.
He said: “The chaos and confusion in the immigration system will require more than just a media offensive to put it right.”
According to the latest estimates, 600,000 people from Poland and seven other new EU countries have moved to work in the UK since 2004.
The numbers are running at 20 times the original estimate of only up to 13,000 new immigrants a year.
In a speech later this week, Mr Reid will say that mass migration is “the greatest challenge facing European governments”.
In a recognition of public concerns, he will tell the Demos think-tank that the volume of migration “can also carry insecurity into the heart our communities”.
Plans to create a new Migration Advisory Committee, with the aim of advising the Government on where in the economy migration should sensibly fill skills gaps, were briefly outlined by Mr Reid in last month's plans to shake up the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.
But yesterday, in an interview on BBC1's News 24 Sunday programme, the Home Secretary appeared to give it a far more extensive and powerful role.
Mr Reid said the body 'would tell us the optimum level of immigration that would be beneficial in terms of enhancing the economy of the country commensurate with our social stability”.