National Insurance numbers for 2m migrants
By Philip Johnston,
Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 2:25am BST 26/07/2007
More than two million foreign nationals have been issued with National Insurance numbers to work in Britain in the past four years, new figures showed yesterday.
A third were allocated to the east European countries that joined the EU in 2004.
But 600,000 have been issued to workers from Asia and the Middle East and a further 300,000 to Africans.
Last year alone, there were 713,000 new NI registrations – double that in 2003-04.
The rise reflects the record levels of immigration seen under Labour. But it fails to tell the full story because there is often a lag between foreign nationals arriving and applying for an NI number which is required to work and claim benefits and tax credits.
The data from the Department for Work and Pensions showed that four years ago, 350,000 NI numbers were allocated.
This rose to 370,000 the following year and 662,000 after the expansion of the EU.
Most of the increase last year was due to Polish nationals, of whom 223,000 registered. Of the 713,000 new registrations in the year to March, 583,00 or 82 per cent were under the age of 35 and only 8,000 were over 55.
About 16,000 were claiming out-of-work benefits within six months of registering for an NI number, at a cost of 80 million to the taxpayer.
For a NI number to be issued, documents must be provided. But there is thought to be a flourishing market in forged papers.
Damian Green, the Tory immigration spokesman, said the jobs market could not absorb so many people.
Despite the huge rise in the number of migrant workers, Jacqui Smith, the new Home Secretary, was unable to provide a specific figure for its scale yesterday when she appeared before MPs.