Commentary


By Sir Andrew Green
Chairman of Migration Watch UK
The Daily Mail, London, 01 November, 2011

Today, you, the public, are being given an opportunity to say what you think about the mass immigration that has taken place in the last decade.

For years the public have been ignored, or worse, condescended to by the political class. Those who have expressed concern about immigration have been accused of economic illiteracy or even of closet racism.

Meanwhile, the whole scale of immigration has been allowed to spin out of control. The latest official projections show that the population of the UK will increase from 62.3 million in 2010 to 70 million in only 16 years. This is equivalent to seven cities the size of Birmingham or fourteen times Bristol or Manchester.

Five million of that increase will be future immigrants and their children. Nobody wants to see such a massive and, indeed, continuous increase in our population. It will not stop there of course. If immigration is allowed to continue on anything like the present scale we will head on upwards to 80 million.

That is why the political system needs to be jolted into serious activity. So the MigrationWatch campaign group of which I am chairman is today launching an e-petition calling on the Government to get immigration right down. We want to see net immigration - those who come minus those who leave - down to about 40,000 a year as it was in the early 1990s. This would result in our population reaching a peak of 68 million but not until mid-century; it would then decline slightly.

England is already, with the Netherlands, the most crowded country in mainland Europe. We are nearly twice as crowded as Germany and three and a half times France. In world rankings, leaving aside small islands and city states, we are the fifth most crowded country in the world after Bangladesh, South Korea, Taiwan and (just) Lebanon. We even have more people per square kilometre than India.

Statistics apart, real pressures are developing on our maternity services which are already short of midwives, and on our primary schools where some children are now being taught in temporary buildings.

The housing situation is even worse. The waiting list for social housing has increased by 60 per cent over eight years. There are now 1.7 million applicants on the waiting list - adding their families means that we could be talking about five million people.

Immigration is expected to account for over one third of new households in the next 20 years or so. At present rates of net immigration we would need to build 200 houses every day for 20 years or so just to accommodate new immigrants and their families.

Few things are more important than jobs. We keep being told by an elite group of pro-immigration economists that there is ‘no evidence’ that immigration affects the employment prospects of British workers.

The increase in our labour force since January 2000 was 1.9 million. The foreign-born element rose by two million while the UK-born element actually fell by 100,000. To put it at its lowest, the boom period did little or nothing to draw British workers into the labour force.

There are many reasons but the availability of immigrant workers, often willing to work for low wages, was certainly one of them.

The social impact of immigration is no less important. Moderate levels of immigration clearly enrich our society and are a natural part of a free society and an open economy. The problem comes back to scale.

Parts of our towns and cities are changing at a speed that would have been inconceivable only ten years ago. Trevor Philips, the head of the Human Rights and Equality Commission, said a few years ago that we are “sleepwalking into segregation”. He seems to have been silenced by howls from the Left but he is absolutely right.

The Prime Minister’s language is more cautious. In his speech earlier this month he spoke of “a discomfort and a tension in some of our communities”.

The public made their views very clear on the doorsteps at the last election. Yet Labour is still in denial. The best that Ed Miliband can say is that it made a mistake over failing to restrict East European migration. What he does not say is that this was only about one fifth of the three million immigrants admitted under Labour.

How such mass immigration was allowed to continue remains a mystery. Was it a cock-up or a conspiracy? It surely cannot have gone on for so long without the Labour leadership knowing of it and approving it.

It was Andrew Neather, a former speech writer to Tony Blair, who let the cat out of the bag when he said that “it was the deliberate policy of Labour ministers from late 2000 to open up the UK to mass immigration”. He added that some of his colleagues also intended “to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date”.

The Coalition government, fortunately, take an entirely different approach. The Prime Minister has made two strong speeches this year in which he has committed himself to getting immigration down to “tens of thousands” although, nowadays, he does not mention a time scale.

The problem is the Lib Dems, whose ministers are obstructing immigration reform at every turn for reasons that have more to do with ideology than democracy.

Those who are making money out of immigration are, of course, the first to exploit divisions in the Government. Businesses want the minimum of restrictions and higher education authorities want the maximum number of foreign students to bolster their finances.

Of course it will be important to ensure that immigration restrictions do not undermine the economic recovery on which all else depends.

The answer is that most economic immigrants should be admitted only for four or five years so as to give employers an opportunity to train British replacements. Only those of exceptional value to the economy or of special scientific or artistic merit should be allowed to stay on indefinitely - as the Government is now suggesting.

As for foreign students, they are hugely valuable - providing they are genuine. The problem is the many thousands of bogus students whose real motive is to work illegally and send money home. The Government has been cracking down on hundreds of bogus colleges.

These establishments now needs to intercept bogus students before they come to Britain by ensuring that dubious applicants are interviewed by an immigration officer before they are given a visa. The present situation is ridiculous. We are admitting nearly 1,000 students a day from outside the EU with no interviews to test their intentions and no checks on their departure from Britain.

The public wants action – and soon. The political system needs a jolt – a strong reminder that, outside the Westminster bubble, real people have real concerns. I invite you to sign up to our petition today. You can find it at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/19658

Sir Andrew Green is a former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Syria.

© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green

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