Credibility of Government immigration figures challenged


December 22, 2003

The credibility of the Government's immigration statistics and the use made of them has been questioned in two reports out today from think-tank MigrationWatch.

The first report concerns the population statistics issued by the Government on December 18 which the organisation accuses
them of 'manipulating.'

'There has been a consistent pattern of downward manipulation of the projections which have been seriously wrong for several years. Over the last five years net immigration has been running at 158,000 - yet the Government has assumed a figure of 103,000 going forward - while choosing to ignore policies that can only result in even larger numbers seeking to enter Britain,' said Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of MigrationWatch.

'Our estimate is that a more realistic figure for net inward migration is 170,000 which includes an allowance of 20,000 for failed asylum seekers who stay on but no allowance for those who enter Britain clandestinely or who overstay their visas.'

'Nor have the government made sufficient allowance for the fact that from next May Britain will be the only major EU country whose labour market - and benefits system - will be open to 73 million citizens of Eastern Europe when their countries join the EU.  The government have, on their own admission, set in hand a major increase in immigration but they have airbrushed the effects from their projections,' he said.

The second report comes from its analysis of the interim report 'Review of Housing Supply,' published by HM Treasury.

It says that estimates of the shortfall in housing outlined in the report could be only half the true figure as demand was based on seven year old immigration figures.

'While the report dealt primarily with the supply of homes its estimates of demand came from 1996 population projections and were therefore seriously out of date,' said Sir Andrew.

Immigration is now a major factor in the projection of households.  In 1996 net immigration was projected at 65,000 per year - accounting for 29,000 of the annual 39,000 shortfall the Review identified.

Using the same statistical basis as the Review team and even using the Government's latest, if flawed, 103,000 figure for net immigration, the extra 38,000 immigrants per year translate into an additional housing requirement of a further 17,000 per year. This increases the shortfall in housing to about 56,000 a year (39+17), or more than one million over twenty years - about 80% of which is due to net inward migration.

As indicated above however even the Government's latest figures could well underestimate the real numbers which Migrationwatch estimate to be 170,000 per year.

If this proves correct, the housing shortfall, again using the methodology of the Review team, would be a further 25,000, boosting the total shortfall to 81,000 a year, 87% due to net immigration - more than double the estimate used by the Review team.

'So it is now official,' said Sir Andrew. 'When the government catch up with the fact that they are using seven year old population projections, they will have to recognise that we will need at least an extra one million homes over the next twenty years and probably considerably more.  Most of these will be to house immigrants.  Given the inflexibility of housing supply highlighted by the Barker Report, this will put continuing upward pressure on house prices, especially for young people, and it will bring mounting demands for yet more development, particularly in the South East, where most immigrants seek to settle,' he said.

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