A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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Immigration has benefits as well as costs - we need to strike a sensible balance
09/09/2012 21:43:00

Last Thursday, I spoke in a debate arranged by the Backbench Business Committee about immigration. The debate was in response to a petition on the 10 Downing Street website created by Sir Andrew Green of Migration Watch, which called on the Government to “take all necessary steps to get immigration down to a level that will stabilise our population as close to the present level as possible and, certainly, well below 70 million”

As regular readers of this blog will know, I certainly think that net migration into this country has been too high in recent years and that, given that we are already a fairly densely populated country, the population has been growing too quickly as a result. I therefore support the measures the Government has introduced to reduce net migration.

But I think this motion went too far.

First, we have never had a formal population limit - and if we are going to have one, it will have implications not just for migration but for how many children we can have (only 55% of the population growth over the last 10 years has been down to migration; the rest was the result of people living longer and increased fertility ie people having more children).

Second, stabilising our population "as close to the present level as possible" would mean going far further than the Government is doing - it would probably mean ending net migration. That would be a mistake because immigration has benefits as well as costs and we need to strike a sensible balance. In the short term, immigration can help get the economy growing again (the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that 50,000 net migrants add 0.1% to economic growth) and in the medium term it can help us deal with the costs of an ageing society (migrants tend to be of working age). If you want a really sobering read, have a look at this report by the Office of Budget Responsibility, which on pages 86-87 estimates the cost in terms of big tax rises and/or big cuts on top of those we are already experiencing if we were to end net migration into this country.

Third, if the concern is pressure on public services and pressure to build new homes there are other ways in which we can deal with it eg distribute the population growth more evenly around the UK (half of the growth in the last 10 years was in London and the greater South East), make sure we fund the necessary infrastructure improvements and try to tackle family breakdown (average household size has halved in the last 100 years ie for the same amount of people we would need twice as many houses).

Anyway if you are interested, you can read my speech online or watch it below:

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