Immigration is running at record levels with more than 580,000 foreign arrivals last year, according to figures published yesterday.
At the same time, a large number of British citizens have left the country to settle abroad, but the figures do not reveal to which states they are travelling.
Foreigners coming to Britain will account for the bulk of the increase in population, which is expected to rise from 60 million this year to 67 million in 2031.
Net migration into the country last year was 223,000, about 72,000 more than the figure for the previous year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics.
People from the New Commonwealth (largely India, Pakistan and the African member states, except South Africa) made up the biggest proportion of net migration with 113,000 migrants, compared with 41,100 from the old Commonwealth (largely Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa) and 74,000 from the EU.
The figures prompted the Conservatives to claim that Labour had lost control of the immigration system. Humfrey Malins, a Home Affairs spokesman, said: “This completely undermines Tony Blair’s claim that Britain would have ‘firm control over immigration’.
“Net immigration levels are now five times what they were when Labour took power.”
The estimated number of people arriving to live in Britain for at least a year rose to 582,000, a figure partially boosted by the large numbers able to travel from the East European states that joined the EU in May last year.
But a total of 360,000 people left Britain, resulting in net migration into the country of 223,000.
A Home Office spokesman said that Britain needed migration. “New immigrants bring considerable benefit to the UK—whether contributing to our wealth, our culture or our diversity,” he said.
“A large proportion of the number of migrant workers is attributable to the accession of new countries to the EU, which is expected to increase the level of migrant workers entering the UK in the short term.”
Immigration will fuel the estimated 7.2 million growth in the population over the next 25 years.
By 2031 the estimated population will be 67 million, compared with 60 million this year.
An estimated 3.1 million, or 43 per cent, of population growth will be driven by the natural increase but 57 per cent, or 4.1 million, will be a result of migrants coming to live here.
A statement from Migrationwatch, an immigration think-tank, said: “These are staggering figures which totally demolish the Government’s claim that it has a ‘Managed Migration’ policy. Foreign immigration is up 45 per cent to 342,000. That is equivalent to the city of Leicester in a single year”.
Previous estimates had put the 2031 population at 1.3 million fewer than today’s figure.
In a change to previous projections, the Government Actuary now suggests that the population will continue rising until 2074—the end of the projection period—but at a much lower rate of growth.
The new prediction is mainly due to higher migration and higher long-term life-expectancy assumptions.
The Institute for Public Policy Research said that the figures were not surprising or worrying. Danny Sriskandarajah, an IPPR research fellow, said: “The UK has seen record levels of net migration to the UK in the last year. This is not surprising or worrying and is to be expected at times of high economic growth and low unemployment” The new predictions also indicate that the pressure on pensions will continue to increase, as the population becomes gradually older.
The average age of the population is expected to increase from 39.5 last year to 43.3 by 2031, and 45 by the middle of the century.
Life expectancy at birth will rise from 76.7 years in 2004 to 81.4 years in 2031 for men, and from 81.1 years in 2004 to 85.0 years in 2031 for women.
After that the life-expectancy assumptions are “increasingly higher” than in previous predictions.
The number of people of state pensionable age is projected to increase by 9.3 per cent from 11.1 million in 2004 to 12.2 million in 2010.