Lords wrong on migration - EEDA

THE House of Lords has got it wrong on immigration, which is vital to the economy of the East of England, according to the region s development agency. EEDA has hit back at the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which last week argued that the Gov

THE House of Lords has got it wrong on immigration, which is vital to the economy of the East of England, according to the region's development agency.

EEDA has hit back at the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, which last week argued that the Government was wrong to believe a high level of net immigration was beneficial to the UK economy.

In a report issued on All Fools' Day, the committee, chaired by former Tory Treasury and Energy Minister, Lord Wakeham, also rejected the Government's position that a high level of net immigration was needed to prevent labour shortages.

The committee claimed that in the long run net immigration simply increased the size of the economy with no impact on the level of vacancies. The report pointed out that the labour shortage argument in favour of new immigration is often put forward by employers who benefited from greater access to cheap labour from overseas.


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Lord Wakeham said: "The Government's use of impact on overall GDP as the key measure is preposterous and irrelevant because it does not reflect the economic well-being of the existing population.

"We feel the time is now right for the Government to review the implications of its projection that future net immigration will be 190,000 people a year. Such a high level of immigration, and consequent rise in population, has major impacts in a range of areas from demand for housing to the use of public services. These impacts should be recognised and examined.

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"Decisions about the level of net immigration that is desirable must also take into account important non-economic considerations such as the impacts on cultural diversity and social cohesion."

But EEDA, with the highest proportion of A8 immigrants since the accession of former Eastern bloc states to the EU four years ago, said they were vital to the region's businesses.

Migrant workers manager Mark Allison said: "Our research has shown that the East of England continues to benefit from recruiting skilled migrant workers from overseas.

"Without these workers, this region's economy would suffer, as could the delivery of many public services which benefit from migrants' skills. Businesses in the East of England echo this message - they need migrant workers and the skills that they bring to ensure that they continue to compete locally, nationally and globally.

"We would have concerns over a total cap on inward migration, as it is vital the region is able to attract skilled workers in order to avoid businesses moving offshore to where the labour is available."

EEDA will be commissioning a study later this year to determine the economic risk associated with failing to maintain and attract sufficient migrant workers with the right skills to the region.

An EEDA-commissioned report, published in 2005, said migrant workers on average contributed £7,203 a year in revenue to the UK exchequer. This is a relatively higher contribution than the UK-born population and equates to something approaching a contribution of £360 million per year in the East of England, a spokesman added.

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