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Q&A: government immigration report

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 01 April 2008

A government report has concluded that levels of immigration to the UK should be capped and that immigration is not necessarily beneficial to the country's economy.

The report argues that the number of job vacancies has remained essentially static since 2001

What does the report say?

The report delivered a blow to the Home Office by concluding that record immigration had led to "little or no impact" on economic well-being.

What about the claim that immigrants fill vacant jobs created by a booming economy?

The report argues that as migrants fill jobs they also spend the money they earn on goods and services, thus creating greater demand for more goods and services.

The report argues that the number of job vacancies has remained essentially static, at about 600,000 since 2001 despite high net immigration numbers.

What has been the effect on wage levels in the UK?

The report says that immigration has resulted in a small gain in the wages of highly paid workers and a small loss in the wage levels of low paid workers.

It argues that even a small loss at the bottom end of the scale, where people are earning barely above the minimum wage should be considered a serious downside to high immigration.

How has immigration affected housing?

The report says that if net immigration was zero, house prices would be 10 per cent lower in 10 years time.

If immigration and house building remain at current levels, however, house prices will be forced up by 10 per cent in the next two decades.

But the government said that immigration contributed £6bn to Britain's GDP in 2006; surely that's a good thing?

The peers called this an "irrelevant and misleading" figure because GDP is only a meaningful when calculated on a per capita basis. Therefore, as the net population rises due to immigration the per capita income increase is minimal.

"They show unequivocally that the benefits of the current immigration policy to ordinary UK citizens are largely non-existent."
David Davis

How did the government respond?

The Home Office countered this claim by saying that individuals were on average £30 a year better off as a result of immigration.

What are the predictions for population growth?

As immigration stands at present, the UK has a net inflow of 190,000 people per year. This means Britain's population would increase by 10 per cent to 71 million by 2031.

What does David Davis, the shadow home secretary say?

"They show unequivocally that the benefits of the current immigration policy to ordinary UK citizens are largely non-existent.

"We are delighted they say there should be an explicit target range for immigration through controls on non-EU applicants.

"This is a policy that we have been arguing for, for years and which the government has consistently rejected."

What does Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne say?

"This report makes it clear that the government has completely lost track of the number of people who live in this country.

"No wonder there is a total inability to manage immigration or create policies that deal with its effects.

"It is impossible for local authorities to plan for the impact on housing and services if they are working with such large amounts of erroneous data."

What conclusion does the report reach?

The report says that ministers should set an "explicit target range" for immigration and set the rules to keep within that limit.

It raised the prospect of cutting the number of partners and other family members allowed to settle in Britain because a relative is already here.

It also warned that the much-trumpeted new points-based immigration system carried a "clear danger of inconsistencies and overlap".

Inquiry chairman Lord Wakeham said,

"Looking to the future, if you have got that increase in numbers and you haven't got any economic benefit from it, you have got to ask yourself is this a wise thing to do?"

What does the Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, head of migration at the Institute for Public Policy Research, say?

"To say that there is no evidence of the economic benefits of migration is simplistic and misleading.

"Recent immigration has brought immense benefits to the UK in terms of economic growth, increased competitiveness and the delivery of public services."

What does anti-immigration group Migrationwatch say?

Chairman Sir Andrew Green said: "This report is a watershed. A heavyweight committee of parliament has torn to shreds the government's economic case for the massive levels of immigration which they have actively encouraged."

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