A UK think tank has today revealed that the British government is refusing to disclose figures related to recent immigration from the European Union, citing concerns over the Prime Minister’s EU membership “renegotiation” as a reason for withholding the statistics, and potentially confirming analysis by Breitbart London in August.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research’s principal fellow Jonathan Portes reports that “there is a small but vocal minority who think that the government has been lying to us for years about the true scale of immigration” specifically referring to a question posed by Breitbart London over what Mr. Portes describes as the “increasing divergence between official immigration and population statistics and the administrative data held by the [Department for Work and Pensions] on the numbers of National Insurance numbers issued”.
In August of this year, I reported: “For the year to March 2015, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that there were 53,000 new Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants – “a statistically significant increase and almost double the 28,000 in the previous 12 months”.
“Indeed such a rise is significant, but the question is – why are the National Insurance numbers (NINos) so different, at a total of 214,000 registrations of Romanians and Bulgarians (EU2) to the year ending June 2015.”
Concluding: “But as people are noticing, the discrepancy between EU2 countries immigration figures and the NINo figures are particularly striking. There were 917,000 registrations in the year to June 2015, an 62 per cent increase (352,000) on the previous year. A whopping 76 per cent of these (697,000) were from within the European Union.”
“It stretches credulity to believe that immigration can stand at just 53,000 while National Insurance registrations can be at 214,000.”
Mr. Portes picked up on the issue in December, producing the graph (right) to show the discrepancy.
Now it appears that the British government is refusing to discuss the issue further, despite holding information that would explain the discrepancy.
Mr. Portes “asked DWP and HMRC [Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs]… using the same computer systems from which this data comes (which holds information on national insurance, benefits, tax credits and PAYE) to tell me how many National Insurance Numbers issued to recent migrants were “active” – ie showed recent payments of tax or NI, or benefit claims. This would give us a much better idea of the accuracy of the official statistics, which, using only survey data, estimate how many EU migrants have migrated here and how many are in the workforce.”
“Astonishingly,” he reports, “HMRC have refused to give me this data. Not because they don’t have it. Not even because it would be too much work.”
A Freedom of Information request response claimed: “I can confirm that HMRC does hold information in scope of your request but it is covered by the exemption in section 35(1) (a) information held for the formulation or development of government policy.
“The government’s policy on EU migrants’ access to benefits is currently under development. The information requested is exempt from disclosure to protect the private space within which Ministers and their policy advisors can develop policies without risk of premature disclosure.”
But perhaps the most extraordinary part of the response is the following:
“However, following the General Election, there is an active negotiation process at an international level in which UK Ministers and officials are engaged to secure support from the European Commission and other Member States for changes in EU law governing EU migrants’ access to benefits in the UK, in line with the Government’s manifesto commitments. The information is being used to inform the development of policy options as part of the negotiation process and therefore relates to the formulation of Government policy. HMRC continues to believe that releasing information in the form requested would, at this stage, be unhelpful to the negotiation process.”
Mr Portes notes that he did not ask for any information relating to the government’s policy proposals, but simply the real immigration statistics.
He concludes, though being originally sceptical of my suspicions outlined in August, that “[m]y current expectation is that it would reveal there are actually considerably more such recent migrants than the official immigration or labour market statistics actually suggest.”