Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has published a pamphlet entitled “Too Much of a Good Thing?? calling for a balanced policy on immigration. In a centre page article in the Evening Standard he explains how his research on government housing policy affecting Hertfordshire led to the conclusion that “John Prescott?s housing targets for Southern England are driven by the Home Secretary?s immigration policy.? He says that government figures show that a third of extra households will be the result of net immigration into the UK but in Southern England it is nearer 40%. This equates to the 40% of homes the government says will have to be built on green field sites.

    Peter Lilley said: “I believe immigration enriches this country economically and culturally. But there should be a rough balance between the number arriving to live and work here and those returning or leaving to live abroad ? so that we do not add to the population of an already crowded island.

    “The economy is like a car and immigration acts as a lubricant not a fuel (as the government mistakenly believes). Some immigration is essential but, beyond a certain point, increasing the amount does not make the economy go better. So setting an annual limit makes a lot of sense.

    Unfortunately the government has been deliberately increasing the rate of immigration. Since 1997, the net inflow has trebled ? to over 150,000 a year. That is equivalent to two new constituencies which have to be housed every year ? most of them in the South East.

    Of course, most immigrants ? who are as likely to be Belgian bankers as Bulgarian building workers or Bangladeshi catering workers ? initially arrive in London. But then Londoners (of all races) move out to the home counties simply because you cannot get a quart into a pint pot.

    I examined the arguments used by Tony Blair to justify encouraging unlimited immigration and they crumble on inspection:

    Economic Growth: The Prime Minister has claimed that immigration increases per capita incomes. This is not true. Immigration does make the economy bigger but that does not make us on average better off.

    Shortages: The Prime Minister claims that Britain needs immigrants to fill labour shortages. Yet this ignores the fact that the demand generated by immigration creates as many new jobs as immigrants fill.

    Fiscal benefits: The Government claims that immigrants make a net fiscal contribution of ?2.5 billion. The data on which this statement rests is flawed and ignores the large pension liabilities immigrants are accruing.