Labour veteran slates 'open door' immigration

The economic benefit of immigration is miniscule compared to the cost argues Frank Field as he lays

The Government’s open door policy on immigration has led to an unprecedented level of new arrivals. Over the last three years alone, something like two million newcomers have moved to these shores. Two reports out yesterday showed that the economic benefits are small, compared with the extra costs imposed on social services.

While there is no doubt that most recent migrants have come here to work, the beneficial effects on the economy are less certain. A report by the Home Office claims that migrants add £6 billion a year to the nation’s income.

But, as MigrationWatch point out, the benefit is miniscule when you consider that this amounts to half a percent of total production and that new arrivals add at least half a percent to the population. So the effect on GDP per head is tiny.

Importantly, the Home Office report didn’t focus on the effect migration is having on the Government’s welfare to work programme. The drive to get British unemployed into work is clearly being hampered by migration.

What else can account for the fact that while three million new jobs have been created since 1997, the number of British people on out of work benefits has only fallen from 5.65 to 5.4 million? Most of the new jobs have been taken by immigrant workers.

Why should a business bother to recruit and train the young British unemployed when they can get cheap and already qualified labour from abroad?

The second report from the Migration Impacts Forum, established to look at the social costs of migration, re-stated what everybody from the Local Government Association to the Head of Cambridgeshire police have said time and again.

Eight different regions took part in a consultation and of these, five reported increased difficulties on crime, six experienced growing pressures with health services and seven drew attention to growing housing problems resulting from immigration.

Everybody is now agreed, after years of mis-management, that the level and rate of immigration needs to be checked and brought in line, not only with the particular business needs, but also with the resources available to deliver high quality social services. The open door policy on immigration should be over.

But the Government will be unable to make this work under current EU agreements because new members of the EU have full rights to travel and reside in this country, and apart from temporary restrictions imposed on Bulgaria and Romania, to work here too.

Given that living standards in the old Eastern block are around one third of our own, it is no surprise they want to come here in large numbers. They will continue to do so until their economies catch up. But this will take decades. The Government must therefore begin talks on renegotiating the free movement of labour in the EU.