Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, challenged Ministers on Tuesday, 20th January, in the House of Commons to spell out their policy on future levels of immigration.

    He said that although the vast majority of those seeking to live in the UK were industrious, hard working and desirable, the issue was how many we could accommodate given that net immigration is currently running at over 200,000 a year.

    He asked Ministers: “Where do you propose to house a population equivalent to the size of Southampton every year?” The Minister suggest that Mr Lilley‘s figures were not reliable but those figures were in fact based on the government‘s own statistics for the actual net inflow in 2001, the most recent year for which figures are available.


    Note to Editors:

    Attached is relevant extract from Hansard:

    15. Mr. Peter Lilley (Hitchin and Harpenden) (Con): If he will make a statement on projected levels of immigration. [148340]

    The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes): Projections on population growth and the contribution to that growth from net inward migration are made by the Government Actuary‘s Department. Its figures project, on the basis of current trends, a total annual population growth of 0.31 per cent over the next 30 years, about half of which would come from net migration. However, by clamping down on illegal immigration and unfounded asylum claims, and welcoming legal migrants where they can contribute to our economy, the Government are managing migration actively and continuously to ensure that, on the one hand, the UK is well positioned to gain the benefits of migration in an increasingly competitive global market while at the same time making sure that we are integrating newcomers successfully into our communities.

    Mr. Lilley : I thank the Minister for her answer. While the overwhelming majority of people seeking to live here are hard-working and desirable, does she agree that, at the end of the day, it is a question of the number that we can accommodate? Can she confirm that net immigration is running at over 200,000 a year and that the Government envisage no upper limit to the level of immigration? Where does she propose to accommodate a population equivalent to a city the size of Southampton every year henceforth?

    Beverley Hughes: The right hon. Gentleman is citing figures from an organisation whose figures continue to be spurious and not at all related to those published by the Government Actuary. The figures produced by the Government Actuary are nothing like the 200,000 that MigrationWatch UK has talked about.

    I shall explain our approach for the right hon. Gentleman. In saying that there is no obvious limit, we are not saying that there is no limit but that we will monitor the needs of our economy for migration in line with the numbers that we can accommodate to take account of the impact on public services and the integration that has to take place in our communities. We do not have a command economy, and we cannot take a predict and provide approach. We are responding flexibly to the needs of our labour market while making sure that, when we allow people to come here and work, we can accommodate them successfully.

    19 Jan 2004 : Column 1075