New cross party group on immigration established in UK parliament

A new cross-party parliamentary group focussing on immigration has been established in the UK parliament. The group is chaired by the former Labour MP and immigration minister Barbara Roche and has two co-chairs; Gavin Barwell, the Conservative MP for Croydon since 2010 and Lord Dholakia; the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. The group also includes figures from business and the unions.

The group is being launched with the express purpose of fostering an 'open and honest debate about the issues of migration'. Mayor of London Boris Johnson has written a letter of support.

Migration Matters is seen as a more moderate alternative to the better established Balanced Migration parliamentary group which is broadly-speaking 'anti-immigration'.

Balanced Migration has some 50 members in the Houses of Lords and Commons. They come from all three main political parties and call for a stabilisation of the UK's population at about 65 million by around 2050. Most estimates suggest that, on current trends, the actual population will be around 79 million. Migration Matters calls for a cap on the numbers of migrants allowed to settle permanently in the UK.

Migration Matters seeks to explode three 'migration myths' on its website
• That migration is a net economic burden
Migration Matters says that immigration boosts the UK's GDP by 0.5% annually according to the Office of Budget Responsibility
• The UK is being swamped by migrants
It says that current migration levels are no greater than the rate from the early 1900s to 1970.
• Migrants are taking all the new jobs in the UK.
Migration Matters says that, according to the Office of National Statistics, only one in ten new jobs in the UK goes to an immigrant.

Last month, Nicholas Soames and Frank Field, the two co-chairmen of Balanced Migration, spoke in favour of the motion in a House of Commons debate which proposed that the government should take 'all necessary steps' to ensure that the population of the UK is stabilised as close to the current level as possible. The motion was passed but the Home Secretary, Theresa May, said that she had no intention of introducing any legislation that would introduce a cap on the UK's population.

At that debate, Gavin Barwell spoke against the motion. He said that he could not support such a motion and said that it was necessary for there to be a national debate so that the country could decide what level of migration it wanted.

Prior to Migration Matters' launch, Atul Hatwal, group director, wrote to London mayor Boris Johnson to voice concern about the negative tone of the UK's immigration debate. Mr Johnson replied on 4th October 2012, endorsing the group's purpose. 'Your principle aim is an important one in an area often riddled with inaccurate claims, differing opinion and, consequently, strains and tension.'

Mr Johnson said 'we want a well-managed migration system that secures our borders and allows the brightest and the best to come here, contribute and thrive.'

Barbara Roche welcomed the message of support from the mayor. She said it 'underlines how important immigration is as a wealth and job creator, and how vital it is to maintaining London's position as a global economic centre.'

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