No ceiling on immigration, says Johnson

Home Secretary says he is happy to live in a multi-cultural society

15th July 2009: It cannot be better for the immigrants. Just two days after Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green promised to introduce an annual limit on immigration if the Conservative party won the next general election, Home Secretary Alan Johnson has said he is not its favour.

Mr. Johnson categorically refused to put a ceiling on the number of immigrants coming to Britain; and made it clear the projection of population hitting 70million mark within 20 years was not giving him sleepless nights.

The comments mark a major shift in Labour’s immigration policy. The assertion comes soon after a research showed both Labour and the Tories would exercise restrain of sorts when it came to reducing the number of immigrants.

The report by the population think-tank Migrationwatch said the annual influx of migrants has to be slashed by at least three-quarters, if the UK population is to be stopped from rising to 70 million.

Migrationwatch chairman Sir Andrew Green had claimed they could expect almost another 10 million people in England in 20 years time. Out of the total, seven million would be due to immigration.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas, on the other hand, had pledged the Government would not allow the population to rise to that level.

But Mr. Johnson said at the Home Affairs Select Committee he would not bring in place restrictions as it would harm the economy.

Describing as ‘irrefutable’ the argument that immigration had a contribution to the economy, Mr. Johnson told the cross-party group of MPs that he did not lie awake at night worrying about a population of 70million.

Mr. Johnson said he was rather happy to live in a multi-cultural society, which not only welcomed those coming to live and work in the country, but also gave people the liberty to go and live and work in other countries.

He agreed the recession had made it more difficult for ministers to convince British workers that immigration was beneficial, as some had lost their jobs.

Reacting to the developments, Sir Andrew Green questioned how a broke government was going to pay for all the houses, schools and hospitals that an extra seven million immigrants would need in the next 20 years?

He said the minister should rather be having nightmares about the impact on schools, hospitals, environment and quality of life, instead of just giving up.

Dismissing Mr. Johnson’s claims of not lying awake at night, Former Labour Minister Frank Field said the assertion has to be a misquote. Mr. Field runs a cross-party group Balanced Migration, which campaigns to limit the number of immigrants to manageable levels.

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