Politicians divided over positive impact of immigrants

19 Mar 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Britain is a country divided over the impact of immigration, and it appears that politicians are equally uncertain about how to approach the issue in Parliament.

Recent research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Sunday Times found that just 23 per cent of all of the major parties think that all or most immigrants to Britain in recent years are making a positive contribution to British life. However, this figure differed greatly between the parties, from the eight per cent of UKIP members in agreement with the statement, to the 43 per cent of Liberal Democrats who agreed.

The survey took place amid discussions about restricting immigrants' access to the NHS and welfare benefits. Additional questions found, unsurprisingly, that those who shown the lowest level of support for immigrants have the highest support for the restrictions. These views were reflected among the government and the general population.

Some people have suggested that the views simply highlight how damaging recent media coverage of immigration issues has been. It has been suggested that, rather than restricting access to services, politicians should instead be working harder to stress the fact that immigrants typically claim fewer welfare benefits and make fewer demands on the NHS than non-immigrant families.

YouGov president, Peter Kellner, described this as “a tough ambition to fulfil”. He added that this is because the arguments over the restrictions “play into a far wider debate about public spending”.

“YouGov research has shown consistently that people see too little connection between the taxes they pay and the way the government spends the money,” Mr Kellner explained. “They like the broad idea of the contributory principle – that people should pay in when they can and obtain help when they need it. They have great difficulty nowadays seeing the link between the two.

“Immigration is only one facet of this debate; scroungers, cheats, individual and corporate tax avoiders, and the sheer, mind-blowing complexity of the system, also play their part.”