- Nov 22, 2003
- Reaction score
Wednesday 26 July 2006
Immigration - how New Labour got the numbers completely wrong
By Jeff Randall
When future historians assess New Labour's vandalism of the United Kingdom's cultural, political and commercial fabric, the wilful destruction of border controls will surely be judged as the measure that caused most pain.
Yesterday, Home Secretary John Reid admitted as much, promising to end the disastrous easy-come, easy-go approach to immigration, introduced by his government in 1997.
By encouraging the greatest wave of unchecked arrivals that these islands have ever experienced, the Blair regime has eroded our traditions of tolerance and understanding, while forcing fundamental social change on millions who never voted for it.
New Labour's last three elections manifestos contained not a word about cranking up immigration.
Adding insult to injury, the Prime Minister and his diminishing band of allies still seek to justify their negligence (it cannot be dignified as a policy) with bogus assertions about immigration's economic benefits, the validity of which not even a D-grade GCSE student would have trouble demolishing.
Any debate about the non-economic issues of allowing large numbers of people from overseas into Britain is, of course, a separate matter. While the sudden imposition of racial and cultural diversity can be destabilising, I accept that not everyone is hostile to it. An influx of fresh ideas and unfamiliar habits has its attractions.
But when the Prime Minister says "if we don't have migration, we don't have the growth from the economy that we all benefit from," he is either dissembling or displaying a level of ignorance which, hitherto, one imagined was the exclusive preserve of John Prescott.
New Labour's case for an open door to inward migrants appears to have three strands: 1) There are not enough domestic workers to do all the jobs that need doing; 2) There are universal benefits from having large numbers of foreigners, prepared to work for low wages; 3) A decline in domestic birth rates means that millions more immigrants are required to fund our pension pots.
None of these bears a moment's scrutiny. For a start, there is not a shortage of labour in Britain. Unemployment is at a six-year high of 1.6m and another 2.7m are claiming long-term incapacity benefit. There may well, however, be a shortage of skilled labour, especially in the construction industry. Hence the success of the Polish plumber.
But tradesmen aside, the reason most immigrants are able to find employment here, while millions of indigenous workers remain idle, is price, ie, wages. Many immigrants, especially those from eastern Europe, are prepared to undercut established pay rates and, by all accounts, work a lot harder than locals. No wonder UK businesses like them so much.
Three years ago, Britain had 600,000 job vacancies. Since then, there has been a net inflow of 700,000 legal workers and who knows how many illegal. Yet, the number of unfilled posts is still 600,000. The reason for this paradox is that, as well as providing services, immigrants also consume them. They add to demand as well as supply. Simply by going shopping, buying a coffee, catching a bus, they create jobs, thereby sucking in yet more immigrants.
But the idea that everybody benefits from mass immigration is a fallacy. Research by Professor George Borjas at Harvard University shows that in the long run it transfers wealth from grubby bedsits to swanky penthouses.
By lowering wages, migrants enable the middle classes to hire more home-caterers, dog-walkers, house-cleaners and hedge-trimmers for less cost than before. Very nice, if you're an investment banker in Kensington. Not so hot, if the last job you had was polishing his Bentley.
Put another way, mass immigration is a bit like outsourcing overseas. It allows public companies and private employers to extract greater value from their assets without the hassle of moving operations abroad. Instead of taking jobs to the workers, they bring workers to the jobs.
As for the argument that migrants will ease our pensions crisis, what are its proponents smoking? The obvious hole in their case is that one day all these workers from overseas will, too, grow old and need pensions themselves. They don't solve the problem, they merely postpone it.
Research by Professors David Blake and Les Mayhew for the Royal Economic Society concludes that "up to 10m more migrant workers might need to enter the UK between now and 2025" to help fund the state pension system.
I've no idea if their calculations are correct but I'm pretty certain that a 16pc population increase in less than 20 years would crush our infrastructure of health care, schools and transport, and further threaten social cohesion.
As it is, Britain's population has risen by 20pc since 1950 and is set to rise from 60m to 70m, perhaps by as early as 2050. That total, however, doesn't reflect huge regional imbalances, with England accounting for 50m people, more than half of whom are jammed into the South East.
This level of overcrowding, according to the Optimum Population Trust, makes England the fourth-most densely populated country in the world, excluding small island and city states. Only Holland, South Korea and Bangladesh are more packed.
Ironically, the average British couple is now opting for a small family: the current projection on fertility rates is about 1.74 children per woman, well below the natural replacement rate of 2.1. But the country's population continues to rise, partly because of lengthening life expectancy, but mainly due to very high net inward migration.
The standard of discussion on the true cost of immigration has been woeful. The agenda has been hijacked by lobby groups such as the Refugee Council, human rights lawyers and politically correct bullies who throw the "racist" dart at anyone daring to suggest that Britain would be a more comfortable place if we didn't have to suffer the extra pollution, pressure on amenities and loss of Green Belt that inevitably comes with a rapidly expanding population.
I'd like to think that, at last, we have a Home Secretary who is really serious about stopping the rot. Many believe it's already too late.