Labour’s supposedly tough points-based immigration system actually led to huge increases in foreign workers and students cleared to live in Britain, it emerged last night. Experts said the new Government had a ‘mountain to climb’ to bring migration under control.
Labour ministers, led by Gordon Brown, repeatedly claimed the Australian-style points system for non-EU nationals would reduce immigration. Economic migration was expected to fall by as much as 12 per cent.
But analysis published last night showed that, in fact, it increased by 20 per cent – while the number of foreign students went up by more than 30 per cent.
The revelation comes as the Tories prepare to set out how they will reduce net immigration to levels not seen since the 1990s.
Sir Andrew Green, of Migrationwatch-which produced the study, said: ‘This is Labour’s guilty secret. ‘When they talked about immigration at all before and during the election campaign, they claimed that they were getting it under control with their tough new system. The truth was quite different.
‘They have left an immigration system in chaos and the coalition with a huge mountain to climb in order to fulfil David Cameron’s election promise that net immigration would be brought down from the present level to tens of thousands, as in the 1980s and early 1990s.’
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week showed net immigration had increased the total population by 142,000 last year.
The points system, introduced in 2008, subjects migrants to a series of tests. It is up to ministers to decide how tough they should be.
Foreign workers are awarded points for their salary, qualifications and past experience. For students, points are based on qualifications and the course they hope to study.
Migrationwatch said Labour ministers had been asked parliamentary questions on the effects of the points system but had not given answers ahead of the election.
However, analysis of fresh government figures shows that the number of non-EU migrants given work permits, or permission to carry on working in Britain, increased by 20 per cent, from 159,535 in 2007 – the year before points were introduced – to 190,640 last year. The total includes dependents.
For students, which came under the points system a year later in 2008, the number of approvals increased by 31 per cent from 208,800 that year to 273,445 a year later.
The figures undermine the repeated claims by Labour that the points system would have a dramatic impact. The issue is not over whether the system itself is effective, but over how high Labour ‘fixed the bar’.
In 2008, Phil Woolas said that ‘had we introduced the points-based system a year ago there would be 12 per cent less migratory workers in the country than there are now’.
During the election campaign, Gordon Brown said: ‘I think we have got to show people that we are taking tough action and the points-based system we have introduced is changing things. I hope that voters understand that we have got a very tough attitude on this.’
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week showed that more than half the 503,000 immigrants who arrived in the year to last September – 270,000 people – were from outside the EU.
At the same time, the number of foreign nationals given British citizenship rose above 200,000 in 2009 – up more than 50 per cent in 12 months.
The ONS also published projections showing the national population will hit 70million in 2029.
Last night, Government immigration spokesman Damian Green said: ‘The Government will be introducing an annual limit on work permits as an important part of bringing immigration down to reasonable levels.’