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House of Lords’ immigration report “forgets environment”

As reported in the UK's Telegraph newspaper, the House of Lords' economic affairs committee has rightly called into question "Government claims that foreign workers add £6 billion each year to the wealth of the nation." The report's conclusion was "that the economic benefits of net immigration to the resident population are small and close to zero in the long run." This finding is consistent with the findings of the Australian Productivity Commission's report of January 2007. Whilst the House of Lords' reports is a step in the right direction, the UK's Optimum Population Trust (www.optimumpopulation.org) argues that the report still overlooks many of the grave ecological and social costs of the overcrowding of the the UK. (My comment: As these should rightly be regarded as economic costs, a more accurate picture of immigration would reveal that immigration comes at a high economic cost to the host nation and is not simply neutral as could be interpreted by the wording of the report.)

Optimum Population Trust

News Release- April 1 2008

Peers’ immigration report “forgets environment”

Large-scale immigration poses threats to the environment largely overlooked by the House of Lords economic affairs committee, the Optimum Population Trust said today (Tuesday, April 1).

The committee’s report, which found “little or no” benefit for the resident population from current high levels of immigration, was published today. It echoes many of the arguments put forward in recent years by the OPT - notably on pensions, job vacancies and impact on GDP – but devotes relatively little attention to the environmental impacts of mass immigration, which are potentially just as serious as the economic ones and carry their own economic consequences.

Immigration is responsible for at least 70 per cent of the UK’s projected population increase, which will take the UK from 61 million today to 85 million by 2081, according to the latest principal projection from the Office for National Statistics, published last October. The high-variant projection from the ONS says the population could be as much as 109 million in 2081.

Valerie Stevens, OPT chair, said: “The environmental consequences of such a massive population rise are alarming. They include growing water and energy shortages, problems of food production and food insecurity, increasing greenhouse gas emissions, loss of countryside and green space and all the psychological stresses that come with high population densities, overcrowding and loss of tranquillity. Britain is not only a small and crowded island – it is one already beyond the limits of sustainability.”

“Yet apart from a few paragraphs on what it calls ‘wider welfare issues’ [paragraphs 181-185 of report] the committee lays little emphasis on the environment. Even its section on housing, which points out what we have been saying for a long time – that increased population and immigration levels have contributed to higher house prices – deals largely with prices rather than the impact on green space or productive land.”

OPT analysis of the 36,000-word report shows that water, energy, food production and climate change are not mentioned at all, noise and congestion only once and the countryside only twice. The words “environment” or “environmental” are only used four times and “green” only once.

Valerie Stevens added: “For too long many people with environmental concerns about immigration levels have been afraid to speak out for fear of being labelled racist. If the Lords report succeeds in finally exploding this conspiracy of silence, it will be very welcome.

“Unfortunately, their primarily economic brief has had the effect of seriously underplaying the entire environmental dimension – even though environmental problems usually carry severe economic consequences. The Lords make the point that the Government ‘appears not to have considered these [wider welfare] issues at all’* - but it is time somebody did.

“A recent OPT study found that the UK could support a population of only 17 million if it had to provide for itself from its own resources. We urgently need a serious environmental examination of just how many people these islands can sustain.”