Phil Woolas admits Government got it wrong over Eastern European immigration
Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, has said the Government got it wrong by failing to judge the numbers of Eastern Europeans who would come to Britain following EU expansion in 2004.
Last Updated: 7:30AM BST 13 May 2009
Mr Woolas said the accession of Eastern bloc nations to the European Union is still having a “significant” impact on public services in the UK.
Ministers vastly underestimated the scale of immigration, running into hundreds of thousands of new entrants, from the so-called A8 countries who joined the EU five years ago.
The Government subsequently introduced tighter restrictions on the movements of workers from Bulgaria and Romania when those countries acceded in 2007.
“The lesson from the A8 accession is that the disruptive effects we got wrong, we didn't predict that properly,” Mr Woolas said during a debate at the Foreign Press Association in London.
“And the reason why we got it wrong was because we didn't reckon on the decisions of other European countries.
“We based our assumptions, or the LSE (the London School of Economics) based their assumptions, on the idea of a level playing market and of course it turned out not to be.
“And that turned out to have a very significant impact – and still is having a significant impact – on our public services.”
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the Migrationwatch, said that even its predictions that 40,000 Eastern Europeans would come to the UK each year were below the mark.
“There was a major miscalculation made as the minister recognised,” he told the same discussion.
“At the time they said 5,000 to 13,000 a year. We said that estimate was worthless, that 40,000 would be a cautious estimate.
“We were wrong, it was three times that. The Government was 10 times wrong.”
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