David Davis comments on the Government’s decision to reveal the true number of immigrants to the UK


As reported in the Daily Mail:
We Will be Told the Real Number of EU Migrants

The EU referendum battle took an astonishing new twist last night after officials caved in to demands to come clean about the true scale of mass immigration.

The U-turn – a major victory for the Daily Mail – sets the stage for the potentially explosive figures to be published just one month before the June 23 vote.

The information could reveal up to 1.3million extra EU citizens are living here – electrifying the referendum debate and giving a major boost to the Out camp.

MPs said the Government was only releasing the information under huge pressure. One said it was Late, but a good deal better than never’.

Senior Tory backbencher David Davis said: These figures will highlight the extent that the Government is not in control of our borders and the importance of Brexit.’

Lord Green of Deddington, the chairman of Migrationwatch, said: This is progress. The Government have at last recognised that they cannot continue to obfuscate on a matter of such importance to the public and possibly to the referendum.’

The decision follows a bitter row over so-called active’ National Insurance numbers. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show some 919,000 EU migrants have arrived in Britain since June 2010.

But, in the same period of time, officials have issued 2.2million NI numbers to EU migrants.
MPs say the gap suggests huge numbers of incomers may have been missed by the ONS, leaving officials in the dark about the true scale of the pressure being placed on hospitals and schools.

In a sustained campaign, backed by the Mail, Brexit campaigners and economists have called for the release of the active’ NI numbers, which means those which are currently being used to claim benefits or pay taxes.

This data will give a snapshot picture of who is actually here – and ensure the public are not voting in the referendum on the basis of inaccurate information on immigration.

But ministers and officials have been blocking their release. HMRC chiefs refused to answer Parliamentary questions, Freedom of Information requests or letters from MPs on the grounds it would be too costly’ – sparking allegations of an official cover up’. However, in the wake of huge pressure from MPs in favour of quitting the EU, Downing Street has now ordered their release.

MPs said they believed this was because the pressure had become unsustainable.
The information is being sent to the ONS by HMRC chief executive Lin Homer. She has separately said it will be sent to MPs on the Treasury Select Committee by the end of this month.

Government sources said this was being done with a view to the ONS publishing a paper at the end of May which will attempt to explain the true scale of immigration in recent years. This will be published alongside the latest net migration statistics on May 26.

Last week, Britain’s statistics watchdog said the British public must be informed about the true extent of immigration ahead of June 23. The UK Statistics Authority said it is concerned that current data on how many people are arriving in Britain falls short of providing a full picture’.

Officially, 257,000 EU nationals were said to have arrived last year alone, but 630,000 people from the EU were given NI numbers. The figures include 209,000 NI numbers given to Romanians and Bulgarians. Officially, only 55,000 Romanians and Bulgarians settled here last year.
The first request for the NI data was made by the economist and former senior government adviser Jonathan Portes last November. The Government rejected the request, saying it would not release the information because doing so would be unhelpful’ to the Prime Minister’s renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership.

Mr Portes appealed and in February the Government again refused his request saying that getting the information would be too expensive.

Mr Portes said the data on the number of recent EU migrants would shed considerable light on possibly the most important – and certainly the highest profile – issue in what is certainly the most important electoral campaign in the UK in recent memory’.

Others who have been demanding its publication include Cabinet ministers Chris Grayling and John Whittingdale as well as Mr Davis.

Mr Davis said the difference between the ONS figures and the number of NI numbers being doled out had significant implications for the job prospects of British citizens, housing and public services.

He added that the information should be made available in its raw form, and not only in a form which had been processed by the ONS.