Immigration: Economic arguments 'a smokescreen'

January 14, 2005

Government claims for the contribution that immigration makes to the UK economy have been described as grossly misleading in a report out today. (Read report).

The report, from think-tank Migrationwatch, has analysed the two key arguments that Ministers have used as they seek to persuade a sceptical public that the highest immigration levels in our history are based on sound economics. The research has shown this is far from the case.

Having no real explanation for why net immigration into the UK is set to add, even on their own figures, five times the population of Birmingham to our population the Government have fallen back on trying to present it as being in our national economic interest, said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch.

They claim that although migrants make up only 8% of the population they contribute 10% to the UKs Gross Domestic Product and the Prime Minister himself has claimed that without immigration the nations economic growth would be some 0.5% lower for the next two years.

Our research completely discredits these arguments, he said.

On the 8%/10% claim Sir Andrew said that this had a fatal flaw as the number given for migrants did not include their UK-born dependent children.

It is common sense to include them as they would not have been here but for immigration. If they are included we find that migrants make up just over 10% of the UK population, he said. Since their contribution to GDP is 9.8% they are not adding proportionately more to GDP, as the Government claims.

On the claim that growth would be 0.5% lower, asserted by the Prime Minister in his major speech to the CBI in April, the analysis has found that it is based on a crude calculation which failed to take account of the obvious fact that migrants, and, later, their dependants add to the overall population as well as to production.

Using the Governments own methodology the group has calculated that the real effect of migration on income per head is certainly less than one twentieth of one percent or 7 per head per year, or 14p a week nor, crucially, does it take account of the additional infrastructure and congestion costs which immigration on this scale is bound to create.

It is quite unacceptable for Ministers, right up to the Prime Minister, to keep repeating figures that cannot stand up to critical analysis on an issue of such importance, and concern, to the country.

No wonder such a large proportion of the population simply disbelieve the government on this whole issue. Instead of giving us the full picture they seek to hide their lack of a coherent policy behind a smokescreen of grossly misleading statistics, said Sir Andrew.

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