Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible

MigrationWatch’s e-petition calling for a 70 million person cap on population sets a dangerous precedent, is damaging for our economy and unrealisable.

Ruth Grove-White is a policy officer at the Migrants’ Rights Network

The new e-petition masterminded by MigrationWatch and reported on across today’s newspapers may be in-step with a proportion of public opinion, but will provoke heated debate.

The petition argues that ‘mass immigration’ has been permitted, contributing to the Office of National Statistics’s predictions that the UK population will hit 70 million within 20 years.

It calls for the government to:

“Take all necessary steps to get immigration down to a level that will stabilize our population as close to the present level as possible and, certainly, well below 70 million.”

The intention is that 100,000 signatures will be gathered, potentially provoking a debate in parliament on the issue in the near future.

Here are three reasons why we disagree with the assertions made in the MigrationWatch petition:

1) The UK should avoid introducing a population policy by stealth

Historic and contemporary attempts to control population size in countries across the world, from mandatory birth control to experimental eugenics, have been highly controversial.

One lesson that most politicians have learned is that attempting to control population levels is often asking for trouble. The UK currently does not have a policy on what a desirable, or undesirable, population level should be – and rightly so, because history has taught us that this can be dangerous ground indeed.

So calls for a UK population ceiling of 70 million are extremely problematic. Basic economics tells us that there is simply no inherent reason why having a population of 70 million would be any better, or worse, for the UK than the current population of 62 million.

The test of a population size is in how resources are distributed across the population – and with a growing gap between rich and poor in the UK there are quite some issues to address already here. Calls to slash immigration should not be a way of side-stepping bigger questions about the well-being of our society, whatever size the population is.

2) Immigration cannot be switched on and off at the push of a button

Although it has not advocated a population limit of 70 million, the coalition government has had the explicit aim of reducing net migration to the UK since May 2010. One year and a half on, despite a host of restrictive measures including the cap on economic migration, net immigration levels  have risen by 21% in 2009 to hit 239,000 in 2010.

The MigrationWatch e-petition calls for ‘all necessary steps’ to reduce immigration levels, towards a drop in population growth – but what would this actually mean in practice? In fact, there aren’t many tools left in the policy box that are not already being employed towards the goal of cutting net migration levels.

The latest batch of ONS immigration statistics showed that net immigration levels in 2010 were largely a story of declining emigration, rather than a surge in immigration. The UK also saw an increase in net migration from Eastern Europe – again largely due to a drop in European nationals leaving the UK. Due to freedom of movement, migration within the EU cannot be curbed without effectively rewriting the UK’s relationship with the European Union.

The message is that immigration levels are subject to huge fluctuation, and policy-makers are simply limited in what they can do to control them.

3) Immigration will continue to be a necessary part of the UK’s future

The MigrationWatch petition paints a bleak picture of recent immigration, as compromising “our quality of life” and putting pressure “on our public services”. But immigration to the UK over past decades has played a significant role in stimulating economic growth, generating tax revenue and powering the development of our public services.

Evidence indicates that the fiscal impact of immigration has been positive, with East European immigration in particular making a positive contribution to the public purse despite an overall budget deficit in the UK.

More than this, looking into the future there is no way around it: immigration will continue to be critical. Universities, businesses and public service providers have been vocally protesting against ongoing cuts to immigration levels, which they argue will have devastating economic impacts on them and, more widely, to economic recovery in the UK.

With immigration worth billions to the UK, policies which enable migrant workers, students, families, and others to come here must continue to play a key role into the future.

Ultimately, there is every reason why immigration policies should be carefully reviewed in terms of their impact on communities and migrants themselves in the UK. But the messages coming from MigrationWatch seem more likely to whip up fears about immigration and population levels than to really move towards an immigration policy fit for the future.

See also:

How to create a Telegraph migration scare storyMatt Cavanagh, September 9th 2011

Express and Mail fail the migration stats testSunder Katwala, August 26th 2011

New Migration Watch report misses opportunity for balanced debate on migrationRuth Grove-White, February 22nd 2011

More misleading Mail migration claimsSarah Mulley, October 29th 2010

More misleading claims about migrationSarah Mulley, June 3rd 2010

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35 Responses to “Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible”

  1. Political Planet

    Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible: MigrationWatch’s e-petition calling for a … http://t.co/Tms2MHPI

  2. Noel Igoe

    Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible: http://t.co/dn9A1r9b writes @Migrants_Rights’ @RuthGWhite

  3. Real Ale News

    Migrationwatch's 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible – Left Foot Forward: Telegraph.co…. http://t.co/hoh7rKvC #realale

  4. Real Ale Network

    Migrationwatch's 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible – Left Foot Forward http://t.co/REh1yWql #realale

  5. Mrs G Geography

    An interesting debate going on here. useful for classroom discussions about the impact of #Migration @MrGeographer http://t.co/ECwrpfTW

  6. So is Britain really “full up”? | Left Foot Forward

    […] also: • Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible – Ruth Grove-White, November 1st […]

  7. Migrants Rights Net

    RT @leftfootfwd: Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible http://t.co/XrpXrVMi

  8. william

    Scotland is not full,but nobody wants to live and work there.Ditto, Wales,and Northern Ireland.Everybody wants to live in London and the south east,make lots of money and have fun.Population growth and immigration are one of the reasons Labour,as a party,barely exists south of Watford, and faces electoral oblivion when the constituencies are revised.Talk up immigration,lose in 2015 BIG TIME.

  9. Rob the crip

    Yes but we cannot carry on with immigration unless we dam well build homes for the people who are born here, and I’m talking about the poorest who have to fight to rent a home, and since all governments now seem more interested in the middle class, and offering immigration to the middle class, perhaps people at the bottom should be asked to leave.

  10. Heaven Crawley

    RT @leftfootfwd: Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible http://t.co/XrpXrVMi

  11. RabCM

    Too late to stop uncontrolled mass immigration because of the numbers already here and the high breeding rate. I suggest a “window” of 6 months during which anyone who is uncertain that they have adaquate immigration status documents can apply to be investigated. Then, using troops fresh from Afghanistan (rested and retrained) sweeps through our towns and cities can establish the true number of illegals- who, with family- can be put straight on the plane home. No “human rights” delays and no further aid for uncooperative returnee States. For the remaining population- if at least one grandparent was not born here, the automatic continued right of residency is withdrawn. That does not mean immediate expulsion (subject to good behaviour) but would allow a humane and civilised 20 year repatriation plan to commence, without massive disruption. Anything is achievable in a democracy. No new houses needed, if we just stop voting like turkeys for Christmas

  12. Northern Worker

    Why do the left always defend allowing uninhibited immigrations? Don’t they realise it’s a guaranteed vote loser? It’s driving traditional Labour supporters into the arms of the BNP and EDL. Traditional Labour supporters are traditional. They see immigrants as stealing their jobs; they see them as the cause of the housing shortage; and they lap up stories about asylum seekers on benefits. Whether right or wrong, these are Labour voters.

  13. ian cudahy

    yes we are full to bursting ,schools with to many in the classroom ,waiting lists at our hospitals getting longer ,unemployment riseing,and no housing for people who have lived here for generations,it is time we stoped all eu spongers and assilam seekers reeping the benifits the british tax payer has worked so hard for.
    thank you
    ian cudahy

  14. Dave Citizen

    Yet another article presenting a totally skewed take on immigration and population growth.

    Clearly there are pros and cons to immigration but if people insist on only discussing those aspects that fit with their own ideological position we are bound to make a right mess of things. Ultimately this will play into the hands of the powerful vested interests who couldn’t care less about conditions for the majority and will do what ever boosts the bits of the economy that benefit them – most likely this will mean attracting as much cheaper labour as they can squeeze in to areas well away from them and their kid’s private schools.

  15. Sarah

    I thought fabians already had this debate following the impact immigration had on New Labour last time out? At least we’ve moved on from ‘your racist’. The majority of the public, when asked via IPSO polling, are against high levels of inward migration. Brief pro-fabian MP’s to put forward your points, at the debate.

  16. Julie Gibbs

    RT @leftfootfwd: Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible http://t.co/XrpXrVMi

  17. Richard Shear

    I suggest you shut up and put your cloth eared ideology in your suitcase and leave. This is a democracy and PEOPLE DONT WANT ANY MORE IMMIGRATION. Our countryside is disappearing and our public services are at breaking point. This is a small island with finite space. Ruth Grove-White you are a deluded parasite.

  18. Mr. Sensible

    Migration Watch et al are very good at this, I’m afraid.

  19. Mr. Sensible

    Who said anything about unlimited immigration? But a headline-grabbing cap is not the way to do it; the way to do it is an evidence-based, skills-based points system.

  20. Richard Shear

    DEMOCRACY. Something your marxist meglomaniacs dont think much of. 250,000 a year is NOT sustainable. Why dont you loonie left wingers look at the facts as opposed to your short sighted ideology? I for one do not want to see urban sprawl at an accelerated rate. I mean where the HELL ARE THESE PEOPLE SUPPOSED TO LIVE? WE HAVE A HOUSING AND UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS.

  21. pat elsmie

    @migrants_rights Ruth Grove-White 4 @leftfootfwd: Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible http://t.co/lBZN7uz6

  22. Migrants Rights Net

    Thanks for the link @adpucci You can read our response on @leftfootfwd http://t.co/XrpXrVMi

  23. Pucci D

    Thanks for the link @adpucci You can read our response on @leftfootfwd http://t.co/XrpXrVMi

  24. Free Movement

    RT @leftfootfwd Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible: http://t.co/twThrumB @Migrants_Rights’ @RuthGWhite

  25. Runnymede Trust

    "Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible": MRN (@migrants_rights) writes on @leftfootfwd http://t.co/sFQ7FwOm

  26. ciac

    2 many people in #UK? 2 much #migration? As per @migrationwatch report. Read @migrants_rights reply. Thoughts? http://t.co/t9HUFPIp

  27. Rob the crip

    So immigration is about skills not poverty, the idea to fill skills to day doctors well we have our own now, nurses now the wages are better we have our own, two of the main area for immigration, painters builders or the building trade we now have enough from Poland so we do not need Asians, but is that why we allowed people into this country,

  28. Migrants Rights Net

    RT @leftfootfwd: MigrationWatch petition – Can we really switch off population growth? http://t.co/XrpXrVMi

  29. Gavin M

    RT @leftfootfwd: Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible http://t.co/2Ty5r5xg

  30. Guy Herbert

    RT @leftfootfwd: Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible http://t.co/2Ty5r5xg

  31. Samir Jeraj

    "Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible": MRN (@migrants_rights) writes on @leftfootfwd http://t.co/sFQ7FwOm

  32. Leon Wolfson

    @5 – At repeatedly lying about it? Sure.

    Otherwise, who gets the mandatory sterilisations? Anyone who doesn’t have a job for longer than two weeks, perhaps?

    And we have an “evidence-based, skills-based points system”, which has cost the UK – in my sector – over 300 jobs and 2.5 billion in investment which I can *document* since the Tories came to power.

    That’s what you’re defending.

  33. Jennifer Green

    We are a very tiny island and the most overpopulated in Eureope and probably the world. Every country including those in the EU/Greater Europe practices fairly strict immigration controls: Switzerland are having a referendum because their immigration figures reached all time high of over 200,000 last year and their Government knows they need to take urgent action: Norway closed its borders totally when war with Libya commenced and who can blame them – as a non EU country they had the control and flexibility to do what suited them?
    France and Spain made their own rules and took only 20,000 Poles when they entered the EU and did not follow EU directives, but did what was best for their county – we have over 1m Poles and a fastest rising birth rate, because no one in Government or the Civil Service considered what might be the outcome of such an open door policy.

    Why is immigration control such a dirty word to our politicians in this country when it is about large numbers migrating into this country and our financial and social capacity to cope.

    What about the people we have a duty to here, our indigenous population, our old peole, the sick and vulnerable all who have contributed and paid their taxes and deserve proper care and support.

    We are already overcrowded, can someone see sense.

  34. Tony Dean

    I really do wonder if people who write such articles are aware Britain went beyond it’s long term sustainable carrying capacity of around 22 million back around 1840.
    Suggested study:-
    http://populationmatters.org/documents/HowManyPeople.Summary.pdf
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffDBi-jmmNk

  35. FT slam dog-whistle May’s “preference for popular pandering over rational policy” | Left Foot Forward

    […] Migrationwatch’s 70 million cap proposal is dangerous and unfeasible – Ruth Grove-White, November 1st […]

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