The latest immigration figures are not good news. Net migration in the year to September 2010 was the highest for five years. At 242,000 it was up 96,000 on the previous year and was close to the record level of 260,000 set in the year to June 2005. This goes a long way to explaining why our population is now growing at its fastest rate for fifty years - twice the rate of the 1990s and three times the rate of the 1980s.
In early July, our cause was given a boost by a speech from lain Duncan Smith in which he pointed out that British employers should have a responsibility to give British workers a chance. The statistics are extraordinary. In the last ten years the workforce has expanded by 1.6 million but the number of foreign-born workers has increased by 1.77 million. Thus the number of British workers has actually fallen by 140,000. With youth unemployment running at 18% this is completely unacceptable.
The immigration lobby are gradually having to admit that there are negative implications for low paid workers and for their prospects of finding a job. Furthermore, in early May the National Institute of Economic and Social Research admitted that the benefit of East European immigration to GDP per head was "insignificant". This reinforces the findings of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee in April 2008 to which we continually draw attention.
On the political front, there has been something of a sea change. I mentioned David Cameron's speech of 14 April in lily last newsletter. Since then the leader of the opposition has recognised that immigration was one reason for his party's loss of trust among their traditional supporters. Now Lord Glasman, one of Miliband's policy advisers, has called for immigration to be stopped virtually completely for a period. He added that free movement of workers in the EU should be re-examined. A senior Labour source described these views as Lord Glasman's own but it is helpful that such sentiments should be voiced, even if they are impractical.
The Liberal Democrat leadership has been largely silent on immigration but a poll which we conducted in May indicated that 72% of their potential voters favoured the government policy of net immigration of "tens of thousands".
The task now is to keep the government up to the mark. The Home Office have just proposed that economic migration should not carry the automatic right to settle in Britain. This is something for which we have long pressed and which we believe the opposition will accept. In the medium terns, it will be a major step forward.
The Home Office has also recently produced a consultation on tightening up the marriage route to minimise the number of false and sham marriages. They are very good proposals which we intend to support.
By the end of the Autumn, the measures which have been proposed will largely be in place and we will be able to make some estimate of their impact on net migration. It is already clear that it will be no easy task to get the numbers down to tens of thousands but the alternative is for the population to continue to expand at a rapid rate with huge consequences both for our public services and our society as a whole.
Sir Andrew Green
Chairman, Migrationwatch UK
Chairman, Migrationwatch UK