Britain is not at all full up insists senior civil servant

More of Surrey is given over to golf courses than houses

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Indy Politics

Britain is not “full up” and has “masses of space” for new buildings, a senior official at the Government’s tax and spending watchdog has said - pointing out that Surrey has more land devoted to golf courses than housing.

Stephen Nickell, a board member at the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), told MPs that immigration is “not very important” economically. He admitted the public is worried about the number of migrants, but said only 10 per cent of the country was urbanised.

He said: “One argument says ‘We are a small island, not much room’. On the other hand, of course, there is masses of room. The urbanised part of Britain occupies less than 10 per cent of the surface area. The urbanised part of Surrey occupies less of Surrey than golf courses. So in some senses, plenty of space.”

Questioned by the Commons Treasury Select Committee, Mr Nickell added: “The evidence suggests that, since more immigrants mean more housing, more roads, more airports, more incinerators, people by and large don’t like these things - especially if they are near them.”

He conceded that migrants may have held back the pay of unskilled migrants but insisted: “Some 35 per cent of health professional are migrants. It’s quite plain that, if they weren’t there, the health service would be in absolutely dire straits.”

“There’s plenty of room, these issues are really not very important,” he added. “People think about these things on the basis of their experience and what they read in the newspapers. Most of the things that people object to arise because there are just more people.”

Responding, Ukip leader Nigel Farage recalled that Mr Nickell had predicted the 2008 recession would be “minute”, so people should be “very wary of taking his word on anything.” He added: “His solution seems to be to pave over swathes of the British countryside in order to accommodate more and more people. And for what? We found out earlier this year that the economic effects of mass migration have been negligible, while strain on the NHS, roads, police, and other national infrastructure has risen like never before in British history.”