was after Cameron’s “conservatives” party pledged to reduce immigration from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands.
DAVID CAMERON HAS TO STOP IMMIGRATION CRIPPLING BRITAIN
Far from showing a drop in immigration, as David Cameron promised, they show that it rose a little to 575,000 in the year to December 2010. Combined with a sharp fall in the number of people leaving the country the figures reveal that net inward migration (the number of people coming to live in Britain minus the number of people leaving) has surged from 198,000 to 239,000 in the space of a year.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. The Conservative manifesto stated unambiguously: “We do not need to attract people to do jobs that could be carried out by British citizens, given the right training and support. So we will take steps to take net migration back to the levels of the Nineties—tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands.” The coalition agreement written after the election was similarly tough, reiterating the Tories’ promise for a cap on immigration from outside the EU.
Since then David Cameron has allowed Nick Clegg to downgrade his immigration pledge to an “aspiration.” Yet it isn’t even being treated as an aspiration at the moment. In only one 12-month period has net migration ever been higher: the year to the end of June 2005, immediately following the accession of eastern European countries to the EU. But the details tell an even worse story.
Far from repelling low-skilled immigrants, who do the jobs which unemployed British citizens should be doing, we are attracting ever more of them. The number of foreign nationals coming to Britain to take up an agreed job offer—ie, migrants in professional occupations with skills their employers could not find in Britain—actually fell last year to 110,000.
Meanwhile the number coming here on a speculative hunt for work rose. In the year to March an incredible 705,000 new national insurance numbers were issued to non-British nationals. This number is higher than the total number of immigrants because many did not stay the whole year.
It is inconceivable that there is not a link between a rise in immigration of low-skilled workers and the disturbing rise in the number of so-called Neets (people aged between 16-24 who are not in employment, education or training). In the second quarter of 2011 this stood at 979,000, up 107,000 on the same figure for 2010.
Put the statistics together and it isn’t hard to see what is happening. Foreign workers are substituting British ones, increasing numbers of whom are becoming locked into a cycle of unemployment and welfare dependency. This is not just a failure of the immigration system. The benefits system, in spite of promises by successive governments to “make work pay,” has continued to dole out money to the workshy with few questions asked.
So long as Britain remains a member of the EU David Cameron can huff and puff about immigration as much as he likes but he has no power whatsoever to limit the number of EU citizens coming to Britain. What he could do at least is to make sure that the welfare system is less generous to immigrants. Those who cannot find work in Britain should be expected to return home, not be placed on benefits paid for by British taxpayers. The Government could also ensure that planning rules are enforced and that the laws on squatting are reformed.
Many migrant workers are able to undercut UK workers because they are prepared—and they are allowed—to live in slum-like conditions which we thought had been eradicated decades ago. Eastern European workers in Peterborough have been found to be living in 15 illegal encampments around the city, some hidden among bushes on roundabouts. Back gardens in Slough sprout numerous sheds illegally being used as accommodation for migrant workers.
A few months ago on a flight to Berlin I met a girl from eastern Germany who was flying home for the weekend from her gap year in London. She and her friends had decided to spend a year in London, she said, because it was so cheap to live there. London, cheap? It turned out that they were in a squat—legal in Britain but which would have earned them arrest in Germany.
That is just one more way in which Britain has become a soft touch. We have at least made some progress in the immigration debate. The main political parties, which for so many years were too frightened to discuss the issue for fear of being accused of racism, will at least talk about it. Britain has always been, and I hope always will be, a welcoming country. But it is reckless for any government to allow immigration above and beyond the capabilities of the country’s infrastructure and public services.
It ought to have been obvious that a population boosted by eastern European migrants would require more housing, more transport, more school places, more hospital beds and so on. And yet Labour unforgivably failed to plan for any of this. Blithely it kept lecturing us on how good migrant workers were for the economy without taking into account the cost they imposed on public services.
David Cameron did finally promise us a coherent policy on immigration. It is vital for the health of the economy and our communities that he sticks to it and delivers it.