Govt ‘uninformed’ on UK population

Population figures used by the government to establish funding levels for local authorities are unworkably inaccurate, MPs have warned.

A report published today by a sub-committee of the Commons’ Treasury select committee concludes the problem is an urgent one because of the increasingly volatile nature of Britain’s population.

It urges the government to stop using figures from the international passenger survey, which it condemns as “not fit for this purpose” as its main focus is on tourism and business travel.

Instead the Statistics Authority should be given responsibility to prevent many local authorities continuing to suffer from inaccurate population estimates.

“Our democracy is dependent on accurate, independent statistics,” sub-committee chairman Michael Fallon commented.

“It is essential that when we consider important national issues we can rely on the data that is provided.”

He said it was now “impossible” to accurately determine the UK’s population and warned that “unreliable statistics make planning impossible”.

Mr Fallon’s call on the government “to improve the population count as a matter of urgency” was echoed by shadow immigration minister Damian Green.

He said the government had had 11 years to set up accurate immigration systems but had failed to do so.

“No wonder they can’t control immigration when they don’t know how many people are in this country, how many are coming and going every year, and where they wish to live when they are here,” Mr Fallon said.

“This basic failure to gather information has combined with years of wrong policies to produce the chaotic immigration system Britain now suffers from.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Chris Huhne also attacked the government’s “statistical incompetence”.

“Not only do internal and international migration estimates need to be improved as a matter of urgency, but the government must also reintroduce exit checks immediately so that we know when people overstay their visas,” he said.