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UK government 'withholds immigration report'

The UK's Coalition government has been accused of withholding a report prepared by civil servants because it suggests that the Government has greatly over stated the "negative effects of immigration to the UK".

The BBC television news programme Newsnight has alleged that the government has delayed publication of the report because its findings disagree with earlier research prepared for the government which found that 23 Britons are displaced from jobs for every 100 immigrants who come to the UK.

The comprehensive study suggests that fewer British workers are 'displaced' from their jobs by immigrants than previously thought.

Migration Advisory Committee

In 2012, the government's independent advisory body on immigration, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), released the report which suggested that 23 Britons were 'displaced' from work by every 100 immigrant workers. This research was cited by the Home Secretary, Theresa May as a justification for continuing to take steps to cut immigration.

The BBC says that some government departments, led by the Treasury (in many Countries called the finance ministry), doubted that the MAC research was accurate; a cross-governmental report was commissioned to pull together as much data as possible on the issue. The BBC says that the report is ready and should have been released.

But, according to the BBC, the UK's Prime Minister, David Cameron, has blocked release of the report because it is politically unpalatable. The BBC says that the cross-governmental report has arrived at a much lower 'displacement figure' and alleges that the Prime Minister's office has blocked release of the report,

PM's office denies blocking publication

The Prime Minister's office denies blocking publication and says that the new report will be published 'in due course'.

If, as the BBC alleges, the report found that the 'displacement figure' is significantly lower than 23 British workers per 100 immigrants, then this could prove awkward for the government which has invested a great deal of political capital in its immigration policy.

Mr Cameron came to power in 2010 after promising to reduce immigration from the then level of 250,000 a year to 'tens of thousands' a year. This has always been taken to mean below 100,000 a year. Mr Cameron's Conservative Party did not win an outright majority but were the largest party after the election.

Public row on immigration

The Conservatives probably attract more votes from people who are 'anti-immigration', than the centrist Liberal Democrats who are widely seen as being more 'pro-immigration'. However, many businessmen who tend to vote Conservative are also 'pro-immigration'. There have been public disagreements between the two parties on the subject of immigration for some time.

Despite this, the government has introduced many measures to help meet the 'tens of thousands' target. It has

  • Removed the Tier 4 sponsorship licence from 700 further education colleges, thereby preventing them from teaching students from outside the European Economic Area
  • Closed down the Tier 1 (General) visa which allowed entry of skilled professionals to work for any employer in the UK
  • Closed the Tier 1 (Post Study Work) visa which allowed foreign graduates of UK universities to stay in the UK and work for two years after graduation.
  • Made it harder to obtain a Tier 2 (General) skilled worker visa.

Government policy has made it harder for UK firms to compete

UK universities and businesses have complained that the government's policies have made it harder for them to compete internationally. Universities say that foreign students are choosing to study at universities in Australia, the US and Canada while businesses complain that it has become harder to get visas for skilled workers.

Meanwhile, critics of the government complain that the government cannot really control the net immigration figure because two of the three figures comprising the net immigration figure are not within its control.

The net immigration figure for any given period is calculated by finding the number of people who immigrated to the UK over that period both from inside and from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and adding them together and then subtracting the number of people who leave the country over the same period. The resulting number is the net migration figure.

Government has no control over EU immigration

Of these three figures, the only one that the UK government can control (at least to a certain extent) is the number of immigrants allowed in from outside the EU. EU immigrants are allowed to move to the UK to live and work because of the UK's EU membership which allows 'free movement of labour'. The number of UK citizens that decide to leave the Country can vary quite considerably.

Consequently, although the government has managed to cut the number of non-EEA migrants to the lowest figure since 1998, the net migration figure for the year to September 2013 rose by 52,000 on the previous year because of high levels of immigration from the EU (up 60,000) and low levels of emigration by UK residents (down 23,000).

Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com said 'The government is apparently withholding a report because it shows that immigration is not as damaging to the job prospects of UK citizens at the Government has claimed.

Government immigration policy 'an awful mistake'

'It seems that the Government has made an awful mistake. They should change current immigration policy, which is clearly damaging to the economy.

'Research repeatedly shows that skilled immigrants are good for the economy. They are more likely to set up businesses, are better educated and pay more tax.'

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