Minister Hint On Immigration Limit

Minister hint on immigration limit

The Press Association
Oct 5, 2008

Campaigners for a “balanced migration” policy welcomed hints from the Government's new immigration minister that he may seek limits on the number of migrants coming into Britain.

Phil Woolas said Government policy must reflect the need for an upper limit on the size of Britain's population, in order to provide confidence to the native population that migration is “under control”.

His comments follow a recent European Commission report predicting that unless trends change immigration will drive a surge in UK population from 61 million to 77 million by 2060, making Britain the EU's most crowded state.

The co-chairs of a cross-party parliamentary group calling for balanced migration are to meet Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on Wednesday to discuss their call to stabilise UK population over time by limiting the flow of people into the country to match the numbers leaving each year.

Mr Woolas told the Sunday Times that it was vital “to provide confidence to the indigenous population that migration is under control”.

And he added: “On a common sense level there has to be a limit to the population. You have to have a policy that thinks about the population implication as well as the immigration implication.”

The minister's remarks appear to suggest a possible shift in Government thinking towards the possibility of a cap on migrant numbers, after years in which ministers have focused on ensuring that those entering the country are able to contribute to the economy. The Government's points-based system is intended to ensure that non-EU nationals without useful job skills are barred from entry to the UK, while high-skilled migrants are welcomed.

But Mr Woolas said: “On the one hand is the rationale that we have got to strengthen our economy. But we have got to provide reassurance to communities that the numbers coming in are not bad for us. Community cohesion is crucial. After the economy, this is probably the biggest concern facing the population.”

The co-chairs of the All-Party Group on Balanced Migration, Labour's Frank Field and Conservative Nicholas Soames, said in a joint statement: “We welcome the remarks by the new minister for immigration in which he acknowledged the importance of limiting the growth in our population, much of which is due to immigration. We look forward to working with him to give these ideas practical form and we will be discussing them with the Home Secretary when we met her this week.”

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: “We cautiously welcome the sentiment but we have had plenty of tough talk from New Labour before, which was only followed by zero action. A great deal of damage has been done by Labour's refusal to face up to this issue.”