300,000 more foreign workers than believed, as Cameron vows to limit migrants
PETER Hain apologised last night after admitting there were 300,000 extra foreign nationals working in the UK than the government previously believed.
The revelation means foreign nationals have taken 40.7 per cent of the 2.7 million new jobs created since 1997.
The Work and Pensions Secretary admitted that incorrect figures were previously given in response to questions in the House of Commons and parliamentary written answers.
The figure for the rise in foreign nationals working in the UK since 1997 was revised from 800,000 to 1.1 million. They now account for 7-8 per cent of the 29.1 million people in work in the UK.
Mr Hain yesterday wrote to his Tory shadow, Chris Grayling, to apologise and said that the new figure was the most "robust estimate available".
But Mr Grayling branded the admission "an extraordinary development".
He said: "The fact that the government did not know the true number of overseas workers who have come to the UK in the past ten years is profoundly worrying and confirms fears that ministers have simply lost control of our systems for migrant workers. It really does call into question the competence of ministers and of the government as a whole."
Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch, which campaigns against mass immigration, said that "300,000 is equivalent to the entire city of Coventry".
"It is impossible to have a sensible discussion on immigration if the government keeps getting its figures hopelessly wrong."
The Department for Work and Pensions insisted ministers used the earlier estimate "in good faith" and attributed the rise to more detailed analysis by officials of the Labour Force Survey - which is compiled by the Office for National Statistics.
Officials said EU nationals made up just under half of the 1.1 million figure.
The remainder come from other non-EU and Commonwealth countries, including the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.
The error emerged after David Cameron yesterday pledged to cut immigration into the UK, claiming newcomers are putting an "unsustainable" burden on the country's infrastructure and public services.
The Tory leader stirred up a long-standing national debate by calling for an annual limit on the number of migrants entering Britain from outside Europe. Setting out his "population strategy", he said he wanted to slow the rate of population growth.
He added that a Tory administration would set annual limits on economic migration from outside the EU "substantially lower" than the current rate, set up a border police force with powers to track down and remove illegal migrants, and impose transitional controls on the right of nationals of new EU states to work in Britain.
Controversially, Mr Cameron said he would raise the minimum age for spouses coming to Britain to 21 and demand that they are able to speak English.
Speaking in central London, he said: "Immigration is too high. It makes it harder to build the responsible society I want to see, with strong families, communities and public services."
Limiting immigration is a popular refrain from Britain's political Right, but is an issue Mr Cameron previously avoided as he sought to soften his party's image - often seen as overly tough on foreign migrants.
"Even if it were possible to pull up the drawbridge, in our new world of freedom where Britain has so much to gain from being open to the world, to do so would be not just wrong, but self-defeating," he said. "Instead, we should bring down the level of net immigration to a more sustainable level."
Mr Cameron said that around 190,000 more people arrive in Britain from overseas than leave the country each year, and he insisted that the bulk of Britain's population rise - around 70 per cent - is driven by immigration.
Mr Cameron said: "Of course, in an advanced, open economy there will be high levels of both emigration and immigration. But what matters is the net figure, which I believe is currently too high. It is time for change."
But Liam Byrne, the immigration minister, last night accused Mr Cameron of trotting out "populist soundbites".
And Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman and party leadership contender, described Mr Cameron's speech as "fantasy politics".
Mr Clegg added: "He claims that immigration numbers should be cut without having the faintest clue as to how that would happen.
"Does David Cameron have a magic number in mind, or does he seriously think that immigration can be turned on and off like a tap?" he asked.
Q & A: TORY IMMIGRATION PLANS
Will Mr Cameron's pledge on immigration mean repatriating foreign nationals?
No. In an interview in August, the Tory leader made it clear he was not talking about sending immigrants home or unpicking existing accession agreements with countries, such as Poland, which recently entered the EU.
What are the population projections for the UK?
The UK population is predicted to grow to more than 70 million over the next 24 years, according to the Office of National Statistics.
How much of the UK's population growth is related to immigration?
Research suggests almost half of the 4.4 million population increase in the UK over the next decade will be fuelled by immigration.
Is this the first time the Tory leader has spoken about immigration?
No, although this is the first time he has said he wants a cut in immigration.
Will the public back his immigration plans?
It could be a vote winner, according to a recent Ipsos Mori study, which found 76 per cent of people thought immigration was a big problem in Britain.
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