Skip to comments.Think-Tank Accuses Ministers Of 'Spin' Over Migrants' Tax (UK)
Posted on 01/04/2004 4:50:13 PM PST by blam
Think-tank accuses ministers of 'spin' over migrants' tax
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
The Government is accused today of exaggerating the contribution made by immigrants to the economy to cover up its "failure" to control the country's borders.
Ministers have claimed repeatedly that legal immigrants pay £2.5 billion more in taxes than they receive in benefits. This figure is based on Home Office research published last year. But Migrationwatch UK - an independent think-tank that questions the need for mass immigration - challenges the way ministers used the research.
It says they omitted qualifications in the original paper, chose a year when the British budget was in surplus and failed to allow for the extra infrastructure costs of large-scale immigration.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, drew parallels with the "dodgy dossier" on Iraq. "An apparently useful fact was plucked out of a lengthy document, shorn of its necessary qualifications, placed in a prominent position in the executive summary and then repeated endlessly - a classic example of spin doctoring."
The Home Office research found that, although immigrants cost £28.8 billion in welfare benefits and state services in 1999-2000, they contributed £31.2 billion in taxes. The figure was boosted by the higher salaries earned by immigrants compared with the local population - on average, 12 per cent higher than those of people born in Britain.
This was enough to outweigh the higher-than-average levels of unemployment and child benefit, housing and council tax rebates, and income support claimed by many first-generation immigrants.
The Government said that it was the first time such an analysis had been undertaken and ministers have used the results whenever the current levels of immigration have been under scrutiny.
But Migrationwatch says the research paper was far more cautious than ministers have acknowledged. It described the estimates as "tentative" and "conditional on the period in which they are calculated".
Sir Andrew said that ministers had used the figure to justify record levels of net inward migration, running at 170,000 a year. The pressure on public services, transport and housing had not been taken into account.
"The Government's calculation is clearly unsound yet it goes on repeating the claim, presumably in the hope it will be accepted as fact.
"As one of the main justifications for the present policy of massive immigration, it is astonishingly thin."
However, the Government believes a high level of inward migration is to the country's advantage. Unlike other major European economies, Britain is to give full employment and settlement rights to the new EU member states when they join in May.
For the first time since the late 1960s, Britain is explicitly committed to increasing the population and the workforce through immigration.