In a BBC interview Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said she was “sorry” after the Government admitted it had got its figures wrong on the increase in foreign nationals working in the UK.
Ms Smith, who has recently taken over responsibility for running the Home Office from John Reid, said it was “bad” that the statistics originally issued for the increase in foreign nationals since 1997 had been incorrect.
Her admission came after Work and Pensions Secretary, Peter Hain, was forced to apologise after revealing that the number of additional foreign nationals working in the UK since 1997 was 1.1 million, 300,000 more than previously stated.
Foreign nationals have taken 40.7% of the 2.7 million jobs created since Labour came to power, and now account for about 8% of the 29.1 million people working in the UK.
“Of course it is bad that these figures are wrong and ministers have apologised for that, I am sorry about that,” Ms Smith told BBC Breakfast on Tuesday.
“But the important point is that actually there are 2.7 million more jobs in this country than there were in 1997.
“That is more jobs, yes, that have been filled by those who have come from abroad, but many more jobs that have been filled by UK nationals and vacancies still out there for UK nationals.”
Asked about Gordon Brown’s reference in his Labour conference speech to “British jobs for British workers”, Ms Smith insisted that the majority of the 2.7 million jobs had gone to British workers.
She said: “Out of the 2.7 million more jobs that there have been since 1997, the majority of those have been filled by British workers.”
I was interviewed on this subject on the Simon Mayo Radio 5 Live talk show and later on BBC News 24. Also on the panel were Sir Andrew Green of ‘Migration Watch’, the anti-immigration watchdog, and Shadow Immigration Minister, Damien Green, both calling for limits on the numbers of economic migrants from outside the EU.
My stand point was that economic migration has been good for the UK economy, and that countries which had restricted immigration, such as Germany and France, had achieved slower growth.
To be fair to the Government, it is virtually impossible to keep count of every Eastern European or even non EU migrant that comes to the UK for a number of simple reasons:
· Europeans do not need a visa and can freely enter the UK.
· Not all EU migrants register as employed under the Workers Registration Scheme and employers are totally confused by the system, which also excludes other EU members from Bulgaria and Romania.
· Working migrants from outside enter the UK under many different visas, such as dependants of Work Permit holders or students, which are not automatically counted on the working migrant figures.
· An estimated 200000 people leave the UK each year and there is no sure fire way of tracking exact numbers emigrating or returning home.
· The UK does not yet have a “count-in, count-out” system and cannot keep accurate figures on the numbers of people passing through its borders.
At the end of the day the “300,000 extra workers” are doing just that – working!
They are paying taxes and contributing towards the £6 billion which, says Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, immigrants bring to the UK economy.
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