THE last Labour Government made a “spectacular mistake” by relaxing immigration restrictions on Eastern European migrants, former Home Secretary Jack Straw has admitted.
The Government lifted the restrictions on Eastern European states such as Poland and Hungary when they joined the EU in mid-2004, allowing migrants to come to Britain to live and work.
The former Home Secretary described the decision as a “well-intentioned policy we messed up”.
In a column for his local newspaper the Lancashire Telegraph, Blackburn MP Mr Straw said: “One spectacular mistake in which I participated (not alone) was in lifting the transitional restrictions on the Eastern European states like Poland and Hungary which joined the EU in mid-2004.
“Other existing EU members, notably France and Germany, decided to stick to the general rule which prevented migrants from these new states from working until 2011.
“But we thought that it would be good for Britain if these folk could come and work here from 2004.”
He explained that official predictions had suggested that a relatively low number of migrants would make their way to the UK, but that the reality far outstripped this.
“Thorough research by the Home Office suggested that the impact of this benevolence would in any event be ‘relatively small, at between 5,000 and 13,000 immigrants per year up to 2010,” he said.
“Events proved these forecasts worthless. Net migration reached close to a quarter of a million at its peak in 2010.
“Lots of red faces, mine included.
“Analysis of what has happened in the past is infinitely easier than what should happen in the future.”
In his column he did, however, suggest that there were some positives to the situation, since research shows that immigrants are less likely to claims benefits and contribute more in tax.
“Research published this week by University College London says that immigrants who arrived after 1999 were 45 per cent less likely to claim state benefits or tax credits than UK natives in the period 2000-2011, and that those from the EU ‘put in considerably more in taxes and contributions than they received in benefits and transfers,'” he said.
“Even those from outside the EU area contributed two per cent more in taxes than they received, compared with indigenous Brits who paid 11 per cent less in tax than they got back.
“I have never under-estimated the social dislocation that can occur when large numbers of people from abroad settle in a particular area – as has happened in East Lancashire.
Mr Straw’s successor as Home Secretary, David Blunkett, also commented on the issue this week.
He warned that Britain’s cities could be faced with rioting in response to unrest caused by an influx of Roma migrants.
Mr Blunkett called on the Roma to “change their culture” to avoid racial tensions from boiling over, saying that their children should be sent to school and that they should stop dumping litter and loitering in the streets.
“If everything exploded, if things went wrong, the community would obviously be devastated,” he said.
Migration restrictions will be relaxed in January, throwing the doors open for Romanian and Bulgarian people to live and work in Britain.
The Daily Express is demanding that David Cameron re-think the lifting of these restrictions and has launched a petition which has attracted more than 110,000 signatures.
Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who has already added his signature, has urged David Blunkett to follow suit in light of his comments.
“It would send a strong message that we must end uncontrolled immigration,” he said.
See on www.express.co.uk