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By Philippe Legrain 2 COMMENTS

Danny Finkelstein of the Times, who incidentally favours immigration controls for other reasons, points out that the House of Lords report is not definitive in any way.

The House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs has examined
the available evidence on the economic impact of immigration. The media
coverage suggests that the report has shredded the argument of those
who believe imigration boosts prosperity. It’s a big event this. But
read the report and it is clear it hasn’t come close to shredding
anything.

The… impression you may have gained is that immigration has
failed to increase the income per head of the existing resident
population. But the report does not reach that conclusion…  It
does not have the data to do so.

He adds:

I would expect the arrival of new immigrants has helped Britain to
become a more vibrant, competitive economy… But doesn’t the
report firmly stamp on the idea that there are any such dynamic effects
from immigration? No. That’s another of the things it doesn’t say.

What
the authors have to say about such effects is this: “We found no
systematic empirical evidence to suggest that net immigration creates
significant dynamic benefits for the resident population in the UK.”
And they add: “This does not necessarily mean that such effects do not
exist.”

Quite.

Posted 03 Apr 2008 in Blog
  1. Lurker says:

    “The Lords report doesn’t prove anything” – summons up mental image: Phil with his fingers in his ears shouting “Ner ner ner I cant hear you!”

  2. Stan Ogden says:

    Well thank you Phil, for this latest dispatch from the Clutching at Straws Dept.
    Even a cursory reading of Danny’s actual article will highlight the irrelevancy of your own lead-in: “The Lords report doesn’t prove anything”.
    What Danny says, of course, is that it doesn’t shred anything, not that it doesn’t prove anything. He may well be right, but in effect his piece is rather more a commentary on the media response to the HoL Report than on the report itself. I can’t see where Danny points out, as you assert “… that the House of Lords report is not definitive in any way.” If you happen to be at a loose end and can spare time out of your busy schedule perhaps you could be good enough to point out where he makes such a claim.
    One of the things to which Danny takes particular umbrage, and which you unfortunately chose to snip in the course of paraphrasing, was the notion that nobody has benefitted economically from immigration. But again, according to Danny, such a notion is, to the extent it actually exists at all, an invention of the media. Danny has absolutely no doubt, nor for that matter did the Select Committee, that foremost amongst the beneficiaries of immigration are the immigrants themselves, as well as their offspring:
    “…from reading the news you might have gained the impression that no one benefits economically from immigration. But the report doesn’t say that. On the contrary, it states that “immigration creates significant benefits for immigrants and their families”. That’s what I meant when I said there had been benefits for me. My father came here as a stateless and penniless refugee. Is it so wrong of me to count the fact that we are no longer penniless or stateless as a benefit?”
    Of course what the Committee actually said, and indeed flagged as a key policy recommendation was that “… the primary economic consideration of UK immigration policy must be to benefit the resident population in the UK” (p.61). Which is rather different than what Danny flags up as being, as far as he is concerned, the principal economic benefit delivered thus far.
    As for the key issue of income per head of the resident population, Danny is surely correct in noting that:
    “…The… impression you may have gained is that immigration has failed to increase the income per head of the existing resident population. But the report does not reach that conclusion… It does not have the data to do so.”
    Any more that Gordon Brown has the data to show that the increase in GDP per capita since 1997 that he crowed about in the Prime Ministerial press conference the other day is a direct consequence of the increase in immigration over the same period. Both he and Phil would appear to be claiming that is the case, but we should be mindful that correlation is not necessarily the same as causation. After all, as Phil is often at pains to remind his audiences, contemporary woes such as house price inflation, crowding on the Tube, and ‘swamping’ of public services etc are far more likely to have arisen because the UK has an existing population of 58.5 than as a consequence of the mere 1.5 million or so migrants who have arrived in recent years. That being the case, wouldn’t it then seem much more rational that the growth in GDP per capita as promoted by both he and Mr. Brown is more likely to be due to the efforts of the existing 58.5 million that the recently arrived 1.5?

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