Public services cannot cope with second highest immigration flows
Public services will not be able to cope after net immigration hit the second highest level on record, MPs have warned.
By Tom Whitehead, Home Affairs Editor
Last Updated: 10:13PM GMT 19 Nov 2008
Despite the Government's pledge to cut numbers coming in, overall net migration has increased fivefold since 1997 to hit 237,000 last year.
It means the population has increased by more than 1.85 million in the last decade, purely because of immigration.
The rising number of immigrants questions the Government's claims of controlled immigration and its promise not to let the population go above 70 million.
In a stark joint statement MPs Nicholas Soames and Frank Field, co-chairmen of the Commons cross-party group on balanced migration, said: “Unless firm action is taken very soon, our population will hit 70 million even earlier than the Government's present forecast of 2028.
“There is no way in which our public services can cope with such a rapid increase. Nor can we possibly build the necessary houses on remotely this timescale. We need to balance migration – and balance it soon.”
The figures also mask the true impact of foreign migration on our towns and cities as they include the movement of Britons as well which kept the total down because 96,000 more Britons left the country last year than returned home.
In contrast, the net immigration of foreigners over the period was 333,000 after more than half a million arrived but only 169,000 left.
The number includes almost 90,000 Eastern Europeans in the last year alone, although separate figures show a downward trend in recent months.
Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: “Immigration can be of real benefit to the country but only if it is properly controlled.
“These figures betray a Government that has completely lost control over the last 10 years. This chaos is likely to increase as the Home Secretary and new Immigration Minister continue to be at loggerheads over Government policy.
“The Government should stop squabbling and adopt our policies of an annual limit on non-EU immigration, transitional controls on future EU immigration and establishing a dedicated UK border police force.”
Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed a net immigration of 237,000 last year after 577,000 people arrived – the equivalent of 1,580 a day – and 340,000 people left.
The figures suggest the increase in net migration was because of a large drop in Britons deciding to emigrate, as numbers both for inflows and outflows were lower than 2006.
The ONS said the fall in the number of people leaving the UK was largely due to a drop in the number of British citizens emigrating.
Nevertheless, the overall net movement, including all nationalities, was still five times the 48,000 people who were added to the population in 1997 and up by a quarter on 2006.
Only figures in 2004 have been higher.
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has said the population should not exceed 70 million. By last year the population was just under 61 million.
“These figures predate our huge shake-up to the immigration system,” he said.
“Centre stage is our points system which means only those we need – and no more – can come here to work and study and gives us the flexibility to raise or lower the bar according to the needs of the labour market and the country as a whole.”
:: ONS figures showed immigrants from the so-called A8 group of countries – the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – earned significantly less than their British counterparts.
Average weekly earnings for A8 immigrants between July and September were 290, the lowest for any group of nationalities.
UK-born employees had an average weekly wage of 438 during the same period.