Labour's justification for mass immigration was torn to shreds by experts last night.
The experts are the members of the House of Lords economics committee, which includes two former Chancellors, economists and captains of industry. They delivered a report which found that mass immigration to the UK had:
a) reduced the wages of workers in low-paid jobs
b) not improved average living standards
c) increased the cost of housing, keeping young families off the housing ladder
Importantly, the commitee rejected the argument that mass immigration was needed to fill skilled labour shortages. It noted that despite a massive influx of labour (700,000 from Eastern Europe alone since 2004), the number of vacancies remained above 600,000, due to the fact that the immigrants consume as well as provide services.
A Conservative Party spokesman let another cat out of the bag. He pointed out that relying on immigrant labour was hazardous in the long-term because it meant that the training of local workers could be overlooked. According to David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, the report showed,
unequivocally that the benefits of the current immigration policy to ordinary UK citizens are largely non-existent.
There are a series of long-term risks to the economy, not least the disincentive to train, and it presents absolutely no answer to the pension crisis.
And the Labour Party response? The Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, said of the report that:
It proves we were right to set up the independent Migration Advisory Committee to tell us which workers our new Australian-style points system should keep out or let in.
We're glad to see the committee welcome the system as well as our ban on low-skilled migration from outside Europe.
An Australian system won't really fix the problems identified in the report. In Australia we still have mass immigration; like the UK we're stuck in a cycle in which mass immigration is used to fill labour market shortages, but then creates more shortages; like the UK we're suffering from a "disincentive to train" which is most obvious in our increasing reliance on overseas doctors; nor does our system prevent low-skilled migration, with a return to Islander labour schemes now being discussed by the Rudd Government.
If the British elite is serious now about the costs of immigration then it must insist on following the report's recommendation that a cap be set on the numbers of immigrants accepted into the UK.