Labour minister doubts immigration figures
By Brendan Carlin,
Last Updated: 1:44am BST 25/09/2007
A fresh row is raging over immigration levels after a government minister admitted there was no real confidence in official migration figures.
Sadiq Khan, a government whip and the MP for Tooting, south London, cast doubt on his own Governments statistics on the number of lawful and unlawful migrants.
Speaking at a Labour conference fringe meeting, Mr Khan, one of the most prominent Muslim politicians in the country, said the Government needed to recognise the real problems faced by local councils as central funding allocations did not always fully reflect extra pressures on services caused by immigration.
Theres no real confidence in official figures, he said.
Mr Khans frank remarks come amid a continuing row between local councils and the Government over the way the Office Of National Statistics records immigration figures.
Many councils believe they are not receiving fair funding because they claim ONS figures do not accurately reflect the real number of immigrants in their areas.
In his speech, Mr Khan praised the Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence who last week warned that the rise in the number of Eastern Europeans to Britain had placed additional pressures on policing.
Mr Khan warned that the main challenge facing the Government on migration was the way in which the police and local authorities received funding.
He said the revenue grants handed to councils from Whitehall failed to recognise the number of migrants and their families.
Mr Khan criticized Labour colleagues for shying away from a public debate on migration.
“I think the Left have given the impression that there are no down sides to migration, he said.
Those who were concerned about immigration levels deserve to be treated with respect even when their opinions were based on ignorance.
It is our job to try to dispel some of the myths about migration but at the same time we should treat people who have concerns about migration… with the respect they reserve and we should try to address this in a mature and helpful manner, he said.
However, Mr Khan stressed that immigration had been hugely beneficial to Britain both culturally and economically.
Since 1997, there had been a three percent increase in GDP because of the contribution of migrants, he said.
But Damian Green, the Tories immigration spokesman, claimed Mr Khan was only showing belated honesty for a problem with immigration statistics which the Tories had long warned about.
“Now the Government has admitted it, perhaps they will do something about it, he said.