Frank Field: Anger over immigration could 'spread to the streets' if it is not debated
Immigration is the election issue which dares not speak its name in the campaign, according to a former Labour minister.
By Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor
Published: 7:34PM BST 13 Apr 2010
Frank Field, a former Welfare Reform minister, gave warning that unless the issue was debated in the campaign then anger could spread to the streets.
In 1997, annual net immigration into the UK stood at 48,000, rising to 237,000 a year in 2007 and falling back to 163,000 in 2008.
At current projections, Britain is on course to have a population of 70 million by the year 2029 because of soaring net immigration.
Yet politicians were deliberately avoiding discussing immigration despite it accounting for 70 per cent of this population growth over the next two decades, Mr Field said.
Along with the economy, it was the issue that dare not speak its name.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: No sensible person is calling for a policy of no immigration. It is the scale of population change, which over the past decade has transformed parts of Britain, that voters wish to make an election issue.
Immigration had put huge strain on public services that had been masked by 10 fat years of public expenditure.
Yet maternity units were now struggling, with one in four births in England and Wales being to foreign-born mothers, while primary schools were finding uit hard to find space to educate extra children from migrant families.
In housing, the influx of new migrants meant that, at current rates, 40 per cent of all new households over the next 25 years will be formed due to immigration, he said.
Mr Field, who is Labour's candidate in Birkenhead, gave warning that the stresses put on the system caused by this forecast influx of migrants would intensify alarmingly unless we get public-sector reform of rising outputs with lower budgets.
People were aware of this and were asking for action to tackle immigration. But politicians were deaf to their demands.
Mr Field continued: Our political leaders must allow the ballot box to decide this issue before anger over the scale of immigration spreads to our streets.
Mr Field said the answer was to commit to a dual lock, firstly by breaking the link between coming to work in the UK and becoming a citizen.
He said: There is all the difference between coming here to work, for a set period, and then to be almost automatically offered citizenship.
The second lock was to cap net immigration into the UK every year the numbers who arrive less those who leave.
Mr Field added: It is absolutely essential that governments should have a clear net limit, and direct their policy to meet it.
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