Later this morning David Cameron will deliver a speech on population and immigration. He’ll be addressing the Policy Exchange think tank. I’ll be there and will report with more afterwards.
It is expected that Mr Cameron will say that Britain needs a much more coherent strategy to cope with Britain’s rising population. Britain’s population is projected to rise by more than ten million over the next 25 years (although population projections are notoriously unreliable).
He is expected to highlight the need to…
- Curb net immigration. The Conservative Party has proposed an annual cap on immigration from outside the EU but has limited powers to control immigration from within the Union.
- Improve border controls.
- Invest in family life so that we reduce the pressure on the housing stock caused by splits in households.
- Improve the skills base of British workers so there is less demand for qualified workers from overseas.
The Conservative leader will say that the Blair-Brown failure to get to grips with Britain’s demographic challenges is a large part of the reason for frustratingly slow progress in the NHS, schools and in housing:
"This country faces a choice. Some people argue that the demographic changes I’ve talked about are just an inevitable part of the modern world and that policymakers had better get used to it. This assumes that we can’t do much about family failure, we can’t get significant numbers of people off benefits and into work, and that we use immigration to deal with our capacity shortages. That is Gordon Brown’s choice. But I don’t think it’s sustainable – for a simple reason."
Mr Cameron’s focus on immigration – the CCHQ’s advance press notice promises a speech on The Challenges of a Growing Population – is a triumph for the traditionalists advising him. Certain leading modernisers will have opposed this speech and they have been over-ruled.
The speech comes after renewed public anxiety about the level of immigration into Britain. The issue regularly tops the list of voter concerns. Simon Heffer and Peter Oborne both wrote about the subject (in characteristically strong terms) on Saturday.
Also well worth reading is the leader in last week’s Business. These were the concluding paragraphs:
"The biggest danger associated with immigration is that it becomes an excuse not to tackle the deep seated problems that have been created by the welfare culture, with migrants used as substitute labour while a British-born underclass is paid not to work. It is a national scandal that, while youth unemployment is increasing, 43% of the Eastern European workers arriving are aged 18 to 24.
Immigration has been at the heart of Britain’s success; newcomers continue to make huge and essential contributions to culture, the arts, the professions, sports, academia and, of course, business. Over the past few years, immigrants have fuelled Britain’s economic renaissance; long may it remain so.
But it is also undeniable that the country is buckling under the strain; to avoid the public turning against migrants, the government must make Britain more like America: a country that accepts that it is a nation of immigrants, seeks to integrate them and builds new homes and schools to accommodate them. Pretending that levels of immigration are much more modest than they really are, or that they are not causing any problems, is no longer a tenable strategy."
Reducing the level of low-skilled immigration into Britain and investing in our own young workforce must be at the heart of the Conservatives’ promise of an integrated ‘population strategy’.