Tom Whitehead, London Telegraph, December 8, 2009
The proportion of the population who are foreign-born has almost doubled in the past two decades to 11 per cent, or 6.7million people.
One of the key factors behind Britain’s population increase has been the flow of migrant workers from Poland, Lithuania and six other Eastern European countries that joined the EU in 2004.
At the same time, the percentage of children being born to foreign mothers has also reached new levels, reported Jil Matheson, the national statistician.
The Office for National Statistics figures showed that in 2008 some 11 per cent of the population were born abroad, up from around 8 per cent in 2001 and 6.7 per cent in 1991. Figures are not available for 1997 when Labour came to power but, based on trends, is likely to have been just over 7 per cent.
Britain’s population is on course to pass 70 million in around two decades, Ms Matheson warned. She said projections based on past demographic trends suggest a 17 per cent increase in population over the next 25 years to hit 71.6 million by 2033.
It currently stands at 61.4million and ministers have insisted the landmark total will not be reached.
The figures are likely to fuel recent claims by a former Government adviser that Labour deliberately ran an open-door policy on immigration to radically change the country and “rub the Right’s nose in diversity”.
Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, and both his Conservative and Liberal Democrat counterparts will today stage a key debate on immigration.
Damian Green, the shadow immigration minister, said: “This Government has never had any control over immigration numbers. Some Government insiders have said this was a deliberate plot, others claim it was just a mistake.
“Either way they have left our borders unprotected. It is one of the biggest policy failures of the Labour years.”
The number of Eastern European nationals that are resident in Britain has risen sharply from 114,000 in 2001 to 689,000 last year. More than a tenth of them are children.
Immigration is having a double impact on population numbers because as well as those arriving in the country, the proportion of children born here to foreign mothers has also hit a new high.
Some 24 per cent of the births in England and Wales last year–or 170,834–were to mothers born outside the country, the highest level since records began in 1969.
That is double the 12 per cent in 1990 and the proportion has increased year on year since, according to the Population Trends report, produced by the ONS.
In England alone, the proportion is now as high as 25 per cent.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch, said: “The proportion of foreign born people in Britain has almost doubled in 20 years. This is a measure of the way in which our society is being changed without the British public ever having been consulted.
“Immigration on this scale can only add to the strains in our society and the pressure on our public services.”
Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “It is difficult for anyone to accurately forecast the population now, let alone in 30 years, after Labour and the Tories abandoned exit checks.
“We cannot know how many people live here if we do not count people out as well as in.”
Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “These population projections do not take into account the impact of future government policies or those Eastern Europeans who came here, contributed, and are now going home.
“Projections are uncertain. For instance in the 1960s they said our population would reach 76 million by the year 2000, this was off target by 16 million.
“And let’s be clear the category ‘foreign born mothers’ includes British people born overseas–such as children whose parents are in the armed forces or those who come to Britain at a very early age.
“Overall, net-migration is falling, showing that migrants come to the UK for short periods of time, work, contribute to the economy and then return home.”
In October, Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett, claimed that the sharp increase in migrants over the past 10 years was partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to boost multiculturalism.
He said Labour’s relaxation of controls in 2000-01 was a deliberate plan to “open up the UK to mass migration”, but ministers were nervous and reluctant to discuss such a move publicly for fear it would alienate its “core working-class vote”.
It centred on early drafts of a Cabinet Office report in 2000, which allegedly also had passages if possible links between immigration and crime deleted before it was published.
Cabinet ministers have denied any suggestions of “secret plots”.