Andrew Green

The BBC’s immigration scare story

The BBC's immigration scare story
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The BBC’s enthusiasm for anything that might undermine the Government’s immigration policy was demonstrated yet again by the excitable tone of last night’s Newsnight report (above). The thrust of the item was that a key element of the government’s case for restricting immigration had been undermined by a report written by Home Office officials but allegedly supressed by Number 10.

As usual, the context was entirely absent. The original report quoted by the Home Secretary was by the Migration Advisory Committee who have a very high reputation in these matters.  They were the first to put a number on the extent of displacement but, like all other researchers, they faced a fundamental difficulty in getting results that are statistically significant given that new immigrants are a small part of our workforce. Evidence to the House of Lords report on the economics of migration pointed out (pdf, para 83) that the absence of statistically significant evidence was not evidence that the effect was small. It simply meant that there was too much “noise” in the system to estimate the effects accurately.

More generally, Newsnight rather implied that this new report undermined the government’s case for restricting immigration. In fact, this is only one aspect of a much wider case concerning the impact of mass immigration on public services, housing and transport- not to speak of the social impact. The best thing the government can now do is publish the report so that the public can see its limited scope.

By this morning, the BBC was waking up literally and metaphorically. The tone of the Today programme was considerably more measured. In substantive terms this is a storm in a teacup. In presentational terms it demonstrates the BBC’s habitual lack of impartiality on the subject of immigration. The public have made up their minds on immigration with over 70% supporting its reduction. The BBC only undermine their impartiality and authority by reporting of this kind.

PS  Leaving aside the fuss over displacement, it is interesting to note that foreign nationals accounted for much of the growth in employment in the UK over the last ten years - particularly during the period following the EU8  accession in 2004.

Between the first quarter of 2004 (the last quarter before the accession) and the first quarter of 2008 (the last quarter before the onset of recession) foreign nationals accounted for 78 per cent of the 1.1 million total rise in employment.  There appears to have been a shift in 2012/13, with UK nationals accounting for 92 per cent of the total rise in employment in the year to July-September 2013. This is the sixth consecutive quarter in which UK nationals have accounted for the majority of annual employment growth.

Sir Andrew Green is founder and chairman of MigrationWatch