Parties in denial on UK migrants
By James Boxell, Home Affairs Correspondent
Published: May 27 2009 01:10
Last updated: May 27 2009 01:10
England is taking a far bigger share of immigrants than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, leading to accusations from a cross-party group of MPs that the main political parties are in denial about how the country will cope.
Figures provided by Karen Dunnell, the UKs national statistician, show that from 1991 to 2007 some 92 per cent of British immigration was to England. England took in 11 times more immigrants than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, during that time, though its population is only five times larger.
The disclosure came in response to a parliamentary question from Nicholas Soames, the Tory MP and co-chair, with Labours Frank Field, of the cross-party Balanced Migration group.
It comes at a sensitive time in the debate about immigration, with the far-right British National Party hoping for gains in next months European parliament elections.
Mr Soames and Mr Field who have argued that Britain would need to build another seven Birminghams to deal with expected population growth by 2031 said in a joint statement the research showed immigration was overwhelmingly an issue for England rather than other parts of the UK.
Balanced Migration believes that the expected influx of overseas nationals is unaffordable and will push social services in England to breaking point. The political establishment is in denial on immigration, they said, even though it is of concern to nearly 80 per cent of the population.
However, Keith Best, chief executive of the Immigration Advisory Service, which represents immigrants and asylum seekers, said while London had been historically the first port of call for many foreign workers it was completely skewed to suggest that people never moved to other parts of the UK. Scotland is crying out for people because of depopulation, Mr Best said. We need some proper research to look at the ultimate destination of migrants.
Experts also argue that predictions about immigration and population growth could be rendered obsolete as rising unemployment makes Britain a less attractive destination. Figures from the Office for National Statistic last week showed that the number of eastern Europeans returning home had more than doubled.
Employers are keen not to cut off the supply of younger foreign workers as the UKs population ages. But the use of migrant labour, often perceived to be cheaper, has led to wildcat strikes at building sites and oil and gas plants.
The UN predicted this year that Britains population would rise from its current 61m to 72m by 2050, meaning that it would have the largest population in the EU. About 70 per cent of the rise would come from immigration. England is already poised to overtake the Netherlands as the EUs most densely populated country, according to the ONS.
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