Half of Britons Say Immigration Bad for EconomyBulgaria in EU | January 7, 2014, Tuesday // 07:50| views
Romanians landing at Luton Airport were greeted by Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz on the first day of new rules allowing the migrants to work in the UK. Credit: ITV News
More than three-quarters of people surveyed in a poll have said they want immigration to be cut, with 56% calling for major curbs, according to the annual British Social Attitudes survey, as cited by BBC.
Almost half of people asked, 47%, think immigration is bad for the economy.
Among the 31% of respondents who said immigration is good for the economy, half wanted to see it reduced anyway.
More details of the annual British Social Attitudes survey are to be revealed in a BBC Two documentary called The Truth About Immigration.
BBC political editor Nick Robinson said all political parties now "promise to control" immigration because they are "acutely aware of the high level of public concern" about it.
In the programme, he looked back to a civil service paper published in 2001 which examined the economic and the social impact of immigration.
The paper concluded that there was "little evidence that native workers are harmed by migration".
David Cameron has said he wants net migration - the difference between the number of people coming to live in the UK and those emigrating - to be less than 100,000 per year.
But in the programme, Business Secretary Vince Cable criticised that "arbitrary cap" which he said "almost certainly won't achieve" its target.
The Liberal Democrat said politicians must be "practical" and accept that some migration cannot be controlled.
He said the number of Britons leaving and returning was not controllable, and free movement to and from Europe could only be stopped by leaving the EU.
Former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw said the previous government had "got it wrong" on immigration, "and I deeply regret it".
He added: "I regret it because it undermines trust in government, if you're that wrong."
Labour MP and ex-home secretary David Blunkett added: "We didn't spell out in words of one syllable what was happening, partly because of a fear of racism."
Current Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I think the problem in the past has been that there's been this general assumption that immigration was always good for the economy.
"I don't think people have looked at it sufficiently closely to be able to recognise the impact it has on members of the public."
UKIP leader Nigel Farage told the programme: "They tried to rubbish us, they tried to say that anybody that dared to talk about this subject was necessarily a bad person and racist, that was what they tried to do and actually this has been going on ever since [Enoch] Powell's speech."
In the so-called "rivers of blood" speech, made in 1968, Mr Powell said Britain's immigration policy was like watching a nation "heaping up its own funeral pyre".
He was sacked from the Conservative shadow cabinet by party leader Edward Heath, who said it was "inflammatory and liable to damage race relations".
Asked whether he thought Mr Powell was right, Mr Farage said: "He was right for the wrong reasons. He was wrong in the sense that he felt that black and white would find it difficult to mix, but unfortunately he's been proved to be right because the sheer numbers that have come into Britain have led to segregation."
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