Analysis: Labour Has Lost Control Of Borders

Analysis: Labour has lost control of borders

By Philip Johnston,
Home Affairs Editor
The Telegraph
Last Updated: 7:29am BST 28/09/2007

A two-page report from the Office for National Statistics yesterday illustrated graphically how Labour lost control of immigration.
Immigration estimates out by 45,000 a year Minorities fill 20pc of school places

It had the somewhat bland title “Long-term assumptions for UK population projections”. What it showed was that Ministers have grossly underestimated the numbers coming to Britain to settle from abroad.

When Labour came to power in 1997 net immigration was running at around 50,000 a year. This is the difference between those who come to Britain and those that leave. By the turn of the millennium, the immigration assumption was upgraded dramatically to around 130,000.

Then a few years ago, it was increased still further to 145,000. Yesterdays report puts the assumed annual net immigration figure closer to 200,000 – a four-fold increase in a decade.

It is clear that immigration has been running at or around this figure for five years or so – well ahead of the official assumptions. Figures also show that more British are leaving than ever before and not returning, changing the ethnic complexion of the country.

A second set of figures from the ONS gave an insight into the impact of these levels of recent immigration. One child in five in primary schools in England is now from an ethnic minority. In five town and cities, white British children form a minority of the school roll. This is mainly because immigrants tend to be in their 20s and 30s and have young families.

What the two set of figures show is that the consequences of record immigration were never planned for. How could they have been when the Governments calculations were out by so much? Until the mid-1990s, the official public policy assumption was that net migration would fall. In the 1991, the projections assumed an increase to 65,000 by 1993-4 and then decline to zero by 2015.

This was in line with the declared Government policy since 1970 to minimise the level of migration for permanent settlement. That policy was jettisoned by Labour without any obvious debate. Arguably, it lost control of what was happening and then sought to make a virtue of its failure.

Local authorities have been telling ministers for years that their population levels are greater than Whitehall claimed. Accurate figures matter to councils because their grants are linked to the number of people. But they say they have been left short-changed and unable to cope with the extra demands on public services.

Schools, GP surgeries, transport services – all are under strain in some parts of the country, especially the South East. If councils have to provide language help as well the costs go up more. Some authorities are unhappy even with the revised figures which they feel underestimate the huge influx from eastern Europe over the past two years.

Westminster City Council said their own research showed that 24,000 migrants were not being counted at any one time, leaving the authority short by 18 million per year. Earlier this week, Sadiq Khan, a government whip and the MP for Tooting, south London, cast doubt on official immigration statistics.

But all this should have been apparent for several years. In 2002, the Migrationwatch think-tank predicted that net immigration would be two million over the next following decade. This was far higher than anything previously forecast and was denounced by the Home Office as “scaremongering”.

But the ONS projections show they were absolutely right. They also mean that more than 80 per cent of the population increase of six million between 2003 and 2031 will be due to new immigrants and their descendants.

The Government argues that immigration is good for the economy because it brings in new workers and stimulates growth.

However, while immigrants may add to overall wealth, on a per capita basis the advantage to the country is negligible because they also add to the population. As many studies have shown, the principal beneficiaries are the immigrants themselves.


Related articles
27 September 2007: Asylum seekers 'enter UK in Tony Blair's car'
27 September 2007: One fifth of schoolchildren from ethnic minorities
24 September 2007: Labour minister doubts immigration figures
23 August 2007: One in four UK babies born to a foreign parent
18 April 2007: Immigration has 'deeply unsettled' Britain

Immigration estimates out by 45,000 a year Minorities fill 20pc of school places

External links
The Office for National Statistics online