Britain's soaring population on course to hit 74 million
By Steve Doughty
Last updated at 3:33 PM on 19th November 200
Britain's population may grow to 74million over the next 20 years, according to official estimates.
The Office for National Statistics said that if immigration continues at high levels the population will swell by more than a fifth – some 12million – in two decades.
And according to calculations of the highest likely scale of future population growth published yesterday, numbers will reach the 70million mark in 2023, six years earlier than otherwise expected.
The projection from the ONS follows a pledge by Gordon Brown last week that numbers in the country will not hit 70million in the next 20 years.
Ministers say new immigration curbs will ensure the record migration levels of the last five years are cut back. Last month the ONS said the most likely date for the 70million level to be reached is 2029.
Growth forecast: The population will swell by more than 12million – in two decades if immigration continues at the current rate
The 74million estimate was based on what will happen if immigration continues at the highest levels seen in recent years, if birthrates among new migrants are maintained, and if the life expectancy of Britons keeps rising.
A spokesman for the ONS said the high-level population projection was calculated from ' alternative, but still plausible, assumptions'.
It said numbers in the UK, currently thought to be just under 62million, will rise at a rate of more than half a million every year, reaching 70million in 2023 and 73.8million in 2029.
The high-end projections suggest the 100million mark would be reached in 2071 – a level which would be double the 50million population of 1950.
At the other end of the scale of possible future immigration, the ONS low-end projections said the population may be under 67million in 2029.
That estimate relies on net immigration into Britain – the number coming to live in this country minus the number of those leaving – levelling out at 120,000 a year.
By contrast, the ONS high-end estimates assume future net immigration will be 240,000 a year, approximately the level seen in 2004 and 2007. Sir Andrew Green of the Migrationwatch think-tank said: 'What this report shows is that it is most likely that the population will reach 70million as early as 2029, and the variants suggest that point could be reached much earlier.
'All the projections show that the population will climb far into the future unless very tough measures are taken to cut back the massive levels of immigration that Labour has permitted, even encouraged.'
Immigration minister Phil Woolas, who last year also pledged not to let the population exceed 70million, said: 'The ONS have published projections, not forecasts, that clearly show that population growth is starting to slow down.
'This is proof that the radical reforms we have made to the immigration system over the last two years are working. Last year saw a 44 per cent fall in net migration and we expect that fall to be sustained and reflected in future projections.'
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