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  1. Long reads
16 April 2008

’Time to be realistic about immigration’

Conservative immigration spokesman Damian Green argues a report that demonstrates no link between im

By Damian Green

The headlines announcing that a police report has “proved” no link between immigration and crime are disguising the real issue. A crime is a crime no matter who commits it. There is no evidence to suggest an immigrant is more likely to commit a crime than a UK citizen and it is, of course, wrong to suggest that immigrants are more likely to commit crimes

The Chief Constables who have raised the issue originally were making a different point. They were saying that their forces were finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the rapid and unplanned rises in population caused mainly by recent levels of net immigration. The Chief Constable of Cambridgeshire was first to make this point, because she runs a relatively small rural force which is not designed to cope with such pressures.

Other forces have similar complaints. Last year Thames Valley police said they were spending more than £1 million a year on interpreters as officers tried to meet the demands posed by an influx of migrant workers. The most detailed analysis came from the Chief Constable of Kent, Mike Fuller. He wrote to the Home Secretary saying that 78% of population growth in Kent stemned from immigration, that he would need 500 extra constables.

The real problem for police forces across the country arose not because immigrants commit more crime but because 750,000 people arrived in this country when the government had made absolutely no provision for them.

Back in 2004 the then Home Secretary proclaimed that no more than 13,000 immigrants would arrive from the new EU member states. All public services, including the police, have been put under pressure because of this misjudgment.

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2004 figures show net migration will create the equivalent of 73,000 new households a year in England.

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According to the government’s own figures, that’s a third of the demand for housing in England. The Local Government Association estimates that as many as twenty-five local authorities face funding shortfalls because Whitehall has underestimated the size of their populations. One of those is Slough Borough Council, facing a £15 million budget shortfall. And the obvious result is that key services suffer.

The problems faced by certain police forces and councils will not go away. If we want decent public services we must ensure that national government takes a realistic view of how many people will be using them, and then takes effective decisions about how to implement its policies.

A Conservative Government would make significant changes to the currently chaotic immigration system. We believe that Britain needs to operated transitional arrangements for any new countries joining the EU (as most countries did in 2004), and a limit on immigration from the rest of world. The present Government differs from us on these ideas, and as a result the current difficulties faced by the public services in some parts of country because of rapid unplanned population growth will continue for the next couple of years.

Damian Green is shadow minister for immigration