In a Daily Telegraph article (27 December 2008) by Urmee Khan, experts have warned that government efforts to stop Britain‘s population reaching 70 million through a new points based immigration system will not work.
The new policy will only reduce population growth by 2.5 per cent, according to a report by the House of Commons library, an independent research facility for MPs.
It says the new system will only reduce the estimated population growth of ten million by as little as 250,000 over the next two decades.
This will still leave the population figure at around 70,750,000 by 2031.
Immigration Minister, Phil Woolas, claims the points-based system will control the numbers of non-EU migrant workers and cap the UK population, currently 61million, at 70 million.
“The points based system is the biggest shake-up in immigration for 50 years,” he said last month.
Under the five-tier points based system being phased in from 2008 to 2009, highly skilled non EU workers need 75 points to enter the UK under Tier 1.
Skilled workers who formerly applied under the Work Permit Scheme, must gain sufficient points to qualify to come to the UK, and can stay for duration of contract and bring partner and children under Tier 2, which started last November.
Low skilled workers do not need any points, but can normally only stay one year under Tier 3, which is expected to remain closed to non-EU migrants for the time being.
Tier 4, for students, will come into force in March (replacing the current student visa system), with full implementation expected by Autumn of 2009.
The House of Commons library however, has produced a detailed analysis on what the impact of the points-based system.
It found that an important element of the Tier 2, which requires migrants to prove they have skills not already available within Britain and the EU, would lead to only 10,500 fewer people entering the UK each year.
The House of Commons library said it put the number migrating to the UK under the Work Permit scheme (replaced by Tier 2 in November) at 88,000 a year.
The research paper states:
“A 12 per cent reduction would be the equivalent of 10,560 individuals, leaving a net total of approximately 77,500 people entering under tier 2.”
The report continues:
‘On this basis, the population by 2031 may be approximately 250,000 less than current ONS estimates, meaning that the overall population of 70million would still be reached by 2031.’
Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said:
“This proves what we have been saying, that a points system without a limit is pointless. Labour should answer our call to introduce an annual limit on non-EU immigration.”
But Mr Woolas disputed the figures in a Daily Mail interview saying:
“These projections are not accurate.
“The Government can use the power and flexibility of the points system to manage numbers coming here, taking into account the needs of the labour market and the country as a whole.
“The Government is also breaking the link between temporary stay in the UK and settlement, whereas these figures include all people in the country, including temporary migrants.”
Immigration Matters Comment
The House of Commons report may be seen as an embarrassment for the government and the controversial minister, however, Mr Woolas may well have the last laugh.
The Home Office and UK Border Agency has recently re-branded its flagship points-based scheme as an ‘immigration slashing’ tool, rather than the originally proposed plan to make migration to the UK an easier and more transparent process.
The new system will undoubtedly reduce immigration to the UK, certainly in the short term, as employers and educational providers struggle to get to grips with the new sponsoring process and potential migrants fail to meet stricter criteria.
In the longer term, market forces will most probably determine the level of immigration to the UK.