Leading article: A shameful spinning of the facts on immigration

In fact, the Government statistics debunk the myth of ‘benefits tourism

Share
Related Topics

The only really surprising thing about the number of migrants claiming benefits in Britain is that the figure is so low. Even more cheering is that a mere 2 per cent of the claims are illegal. Out of 370,000 recipients, fewer than 7,500 are bogus – hardly more than a distant statistical murmur in the context of the 5.5 million people supported by the state. But if the numbers themselves are not shocking, their misrepresentation both by Government ministers and parts of the media most certainly is.

To be clear, the vast majority of the foreign nationals receiving benefits in Britain are wholly within their rights to do so. More than half are people who have since taken citizenship; almost all have come here legally, worked, paid taxes and are now entitled to support. Listen to the Employment Minister, however, and one could be forgiven for concluding otherwise.

Chris Grayling released his newly crunched numbers to the Daily Telegraph accompanied by an opinion piece portentously stressing that he will check every migrant claimant's entitlement. He denies that giving such prominence to so tiny a problem is scaremongering. It is a matter of credibility, the minister says; he must be able to "look people in the eye" and assure them that they can have confidence in the immigration system.

Mr Grayling should be ashamed of such disingenuousness. Of course the Government should apply statistical rigour to immigration and welfare numbers. Of course it should clamp down on benefit fraud of any kind. But to skew reporting of so proportionately negligible a number for a roar of approval from Britain's overdeveloped anti-immigration lobby is as irresponsible as it is inexcusable.

In fact, Mr Grayling's figures wholly debunk the myth of migrants descending on Britain en masse to milk an overgenerous welfare state. But rather than focus on the more pressing question of the millions of British people claiming benefits – legitimately or not – the minister segues straight to efforts to prevent the very "benefits tourism" his researches reveal as a fallacy. After such a display, it is a wonder he can look anyone in the eye at all.

Neither is Mr Grayling the only member of the Government to be taking an objectionable tone on immigration. David Cameron has talked of "discomfort and disjointedness" in local communities, a dog whistle to the Tory right branded by Vince Cable as risking "inflaming extremism". To little avail. Iain Duncan Smith has called for British businesses to hire British workers (a move which, taken literally, would break European law). Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Damian Green talks up plans to slash net migration, causing anxiety to companies that need to fill jobs that Britons are either unwilling or unable to undertake.

More alarming still is the lack of response from the Opposition. Mr Grayling and Mr Green claim that Labour "should be embarrassed" by the mess it made of immigration. Labour should be more embarrassed not to have been on the radio yesterday morning refuting the Government's erroneous spin. Indeed, the Opposition is woefully undecided on the whole subject of immigration. And the Liberal Democrats are little better. Aside from Mr Cable's single broadside, Nick Clegg's party has been almost entirely silent on the subject.

With the economic outlook darkening, and the issue of immigration rising back up the agenda, such reticence cannot continue. Without decent opposition, the unashamedly xenophobic anti-immigration lobby will lead the debate on its own over-simplified terms. It is up to all who would defend Britain as an open society to stand in their way.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (retail, upgrades, rollouts)

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project...

Technical Project Manager - Software and Infrastructure - Government Experience

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Central Lon...

Secondary teachers needed for supply roles in Sudbury

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers requi...

Head of Technology

Negotiable: Randstad Education Reading: Head of Technology needed for a Outsta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A homeless person sleeps in the streets  

This is why I am sleeping rough outside the party conferences

Max J Freeman
Strikes were carried out by manned air force and navy aircraft (File photo)  

Syria air strikes: President Assad now has the enemy he always wanted – Islamist terrorism

Kim Sengupta
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits