Cutting immigration ‘will harm deficit reduction’

Cuts to immigration will increase Britain's debt-to-GDP ratio, the chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility said today.

Robert Chote told the Treasury committee that immigrants improved forecasts for Britain's fiscal sustainability because they come at a point in their lives when they are least likely to claim benefits and most likely to pay into the economy.

"Because they’re more likely to be working age, they're more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spent on them for education, for long-term care, for healthcare, for pension expenditure," he said.

Higher net migration therefore allowed a "more beneficial picture" for public finances, he added.

Chote's comments are in line with most economic assessments of immigration to the UK.

UK residents typically cost the taxpayer more at the start and end of their life, but contribute more to the Treasury during the middle period when they are working and paying tax on their income and their purchases.

Immigrants tend to arrive in the UK once they are of working age, thereby saving the taxpayer education costs, and often leave before they hit retirement age, sparing state pension and NHS costs.

But public opinion of immigration is broadly unaffected by repeated evidence of the economic benefits of immigration.

A Guardian/ICM poll this morning showed just 36% of respondents thought immigration was "good for Britain, because immigrants claim fewer benefits and help the country pay its way", even after being reminded that EU migrants are more likely to work than British residents.

Fifty-four per cent of respondents said European migrants who come to work are "bad for Britain, because [they] take jobs and push wages down".

The negative view was expressed across all three mainstream parties and is similarly strong among men and women.

Young people are evenly split, however, and professional voters in the AB social classes are mostly positive on immigration.