Got a TV Licence?

You need one to watch live TV on any channel or device, and BBC programmes on iPlayer. It’s the law.

Find out more
I don’t have a TV Licence.

Live Reporting

All times stated are UK

  1. UKIP's Australian points system for immigration

    Maybe not as tight as you'd think

    Ed Brown

    Newsnight producer

    As one would expect, UKIP weren't particularly complimentary about the immigration figures this morning. They described the Government as having "catastrophically failed". Which is fairly unambiguous isn't it.

    UKIP's alternative in the run up to the election was an Australian style points system. Indeed, they tweeted this morning "Never has the case for an Australian-style points based immigration system been clearer".

    So it seems reasonable for us to have a look at how the Australian system performs relative to ours.

    The World Bank holds net migration data which we can use to compare them. Here it is:

    Migration to UK and Australia

    You can see that Australia has slightly lower migration than the UK over that period - but about a third of the population. So actually, net migration relative to the size of the population was actually much higher under the Australian system.

    Now, UKIP might argue that the Australians at least have control of the numbers - they happen to have chosen what looks like quite a high level of migration, but at least they had a choice - whereas we have no direct control over the number of EU migrants that come into the UK.

    But for UKIP to achieve their target on migration - which, as I understand it, is something in the low tens of thousands - just doing the Australian style points system as the Australians have done it won't be enough. They want a five year moratorium on unskilled workers. But even with that factored in, they would have to set limits on skilled workers that were much, much tighter than those in Australia.

  2. A headache for the forecasters?

    What today's immigration figures mean for economic policy

    Marc Williams

    Newsnight Election Producer

    Weather forecast map

    Aside from the political and social consequences of higher immigration, today's figure of 318,000 for net migration will, if it persists, necessitate a recalculation of a lot of the assumptions on which politicians and forecasters are planning our economy.

    The Office for National Statistics issue a long-term assumption (for example, see page 14 here) for net migration to the UK. This is currently set at 165,000, having been lowered from 200,000 for the 2010-based projections. They also give  "high" and "low" migration variants which are 60,000 people higher or lower than the central assumption: that is, 225,000 on the high side and 105,000 on the low side.

    We are currently in a situation where the net figure is nearly 100,000 higher than even the high-end forecast. This is not just an academic matter. All of the forecasts that the Office for Budget Responsibility make on things like growth, jobs and wages are based on the ONS' migration assumptions. If those assumptions are wrong, then so are many of the metrics on which George Osborne is planning the economy for the next five years. 

    We've already seen the OBR having to change tack as a result. Their Economic and Fiscal Outlook report in March said that:

    "We have made a number of adjustments to our estimates of potential output growth since December, in light of recent news...

    This reflects: 

    • our assumption that net migration flows will follow the levels assumed in the ONS principal population projections, rather than the low migration scenario, given the much higher than assumed flows in recent data. This raises cumulative potential growth by 0.6 percentage points. This largely reflects the effect of stronger adult population growth (+0.5 percentage points), with a further small positive contribution (+0.1 percentage points) via the trend employment rate, as the age structure of inward migrants is assumed to be skewed towards those of working age."

    To explain, the OBR are saying that they moved the basis of their calculations from the low number mentioned above (105,000) to the central one (165,000). If the net migration figure stays as high as the one published today, the OBR might have to move to the higher figure (225,000) and maybe even beyond.

    The OBR was not exactly known for being bang on the money during the last Parliament. There may be worse to come in this Parliament. 

  3. All or bust?

    Liz Kendall...

    Laura Kuenssberg

    Newsnight Chief Correspondent

    Liz Kendall
    Image caption: Liz Kendall

    It's traditional for politicians to venture into the overcrowded, stuffy Moncrieff's cafeteria in the Houses of Parliament to talk to lobby journalists who have the pleasure of working out of Westminster from time to time. They rarely go without the intention of dropping some hint, or giving away a little bit of their thinking. But normally, just a little.  

    Today though, it seems Liz Kendall, one of the contenders for the Labour leadership used the lunch to go all or bust. It looks like she will be the only so called "moderniser" in the contest (for what it is worth, the party is generationally very different to the old and pejorative tags of who is a Brownite, who is a Blairite - ergo, who is in hoc to the unions, who is signed up to an obsession with pleasing Middle England focus groups). 

    But if being a "moderniser" means she is a new face, compared to the well known characters of Burnham and Cooper who both sat around the cabinet table for years, that is certainly true. And today she made no bones about her differences. 

    For a flavour - she criticised the recent union muscle-flexing over the contest, joking about Len McCluskey's "attempted sabotage". She said Ed Miliband's energy price freeze hadn't been believable, and said she would not oppose Tory plans for more free schools. But interestingly she also suggested she would sign up on more defence spending to hit the 2% NATO target beloved by Conservative backbenchers, and would make an early and passionate case for staying in the EU whatever the result of David Cameron's renegotiation.

    In a race that so far has been heavy on how the candidates are apologising for Labour's past, her candour today makes a change. 

    I wasn't at the lunch today but it certainly made an impression on Westminster colleagues. There is a round up here.

    You can watch our interview with Liz Kendall from Newsnight last week here.

  4. Playing a percentages game on immigration

    Marc Williams

    Newsnight Election Producer

    Home Office UK Border Agency

    As is often repeated, the Tory Government's elusive goal on net immigration is to get it down to the tens of thousands. Their failure to meet this target is largely blamed on the inability to control immigration from inside the EU. 

    However, to get a sense of how this issue has escalated in such a short period of time, there was a time not that long ago when, forget about "tens of thousands", net migration to the UK from inside the EU could be measured in the thousands (2,000, in fact) in 2002. This was just before the accession of Poland, Czech Republic et al in 2004.

    The latest figures out today show that the equivalent figure is now at 178,000. This represents an 8900% increase. The net figure for migration outside the EU has fallen in the same period (from 248,000 to 197,000). While this is still historically high, it is quite clear that if the Government is to get anywhere near their overall target, the numbers from within the EU will need to be curbed.  For this to happen, David Cameron's EU renegotiation has to deliver something much more substantial than some tweaks around the edges.

  5. Three treasures of Palmyra

    Lewis Goodall

    Newsnight producer

    Palmyra is without doubt one of the true treasures of the ancient world. It dates back to the early second millennium BC as a caravan stop for those making the dangerous journey across the Syrian desert and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. As art historian Dan Cruickshank told Newsnight last night: "This is a cultural crisis of the highest order. Palmyra is one of the most beautiful, evocative and important archaeological city sites in the world. It's utterly mesmerising." 

    Syrian director of antiquities Maamoun Abdul Karim told AFP last week: "If ISIS enters Palmyra, it will spell its destruction."  Here are a few of the sites at risk.

    1.) Temple of Bel

    Consecrated in 32CE and dedicated to the Semitic god Baal, the temple is considered to be one of the best preserved examples from the period.


    2.) The Great Colonnade 

    The main colonnaded avenue in the city. It originally stretched for more than a kilometere and is linked to the temple


    3.) Arena of Palmyra

    Again, one of the best-preserved Roman theatres remaining in the world. It is enormous, the stage alone is 149 by 34 ft. The Emperor Nero (characteristically modestly) placed his own statue in the grounds.

  6. EU migration and GDP

    Ed Brown

    Newsnight producer

    A point some people are making to the PM today (and indeed Theresa May this morning) is that higher net migration is being driven by our economy being stronger than much of the rest of the world's.

    Now, net migration is at almost exactly the same level from outside the EU as it was in 2010 - just shy of 200,000.

    So the number that has changed is the migration from inside the EU, which he cannot directly control unless Osborne and Hammond manage to pull a real rabbit out of the hat with their EU renegotiation.

    I haven't seen anyone put these two numbers (EU migration and GDP) together on the same chart today. So here you go. Take a look at the data and decide for yourself. (Blue line is GDP, red line is EU migration).

    EU migration and GDP
    Image caption: EU migration and GDP

    As ever, I'd recommend you remember that correlations are not always what they seem.

  7. Britain is shopping again

    Duncan Weldon

    Economics correspondent

    a graph

    Figures out this morning show that retail sales are up 4.7% year on year. Well ahead of the consensus forecast, 

    That's a good sign for growth and helps allay some fears over a recent slowdown. But most importantly, it's the single best bit of evidence that Britain isn't entering a deflationary slide. 

    In "bad deflation", prices fall, profits fall and wages fall. Demand is sucked out of the economy and the real burden of debt rises. 

    What seems to be happening instead is that, faced with higher disposable incomes thanks to lower food and energy costs, consumers are buying more stuff. 

    Sales at household goods stores are up 11.9% year on year. That, to me, is the single best indicator of consumer spirits - people don't go and out and buy a new fridge unless they are feeling pretty confident. 

  8. Escaping the net

    The problems for David Cameron in meeting his immigration target

    Marc Williams

    Newsnight Election Producer

    The Government were clearly expecting today's immigration figures to bring bad news, scheduling a keynote speech from the Prime Minister on what they are going to do to tackle immigration. 

    The bad news has duly materialised: ONS figures show that net migration is now at 318,000, just 2,000 short of the highest level it has ever been at (320,000 in June 2005). It is also over three times the level ("tens of thousands") which is the Tories' overarching target.

    There are three arguments the Tories used before the election in their defence.

    Firstly, that they were restrained from taking decisive action by their Coalition partners, the Lib Dems. They can no longer use that excuse.

    Secondly, that they had succeeded in getting non-EU immigration under control. The data just doesn't support that claim, as this graph from the ONS shows:

    Immigration to the UK by citizenship

    It's clear that, while they did succeed in getting non-EU immigration down between 2011 and 2013, that trend has now been reversed.

    Thirdly, the counterpoint to the above argument, they said that the real problem was the uncontrolled flow of migrants from within the EU. The above chart shows that this is still a growing problem. Their solution is to renegotiate matters relating to freedom of movement as part of their general renegotiation of our relationship with the EU. The issue, however, is that, even if they succeed (and given the noises coming out of EU capitals this is by no means likely), it will take time for this to feed through into the net migration stats. 

    This all means that the Tories could have a difficult few years on the immigration numbers game.

    Given that the political flak revolves around the net figure (understandably, since the Tories renewed their pledge during the campaign), it is a bit surprising then that the message of David Cameron's speech today is about people who do not always show up in the figures: illegal immigrants. He plans, among other things, to introduce measures to seize the wages of people who work here without authorisation.

    The problem in tackling illegal immigration is that the Government has no real idea of the extent of the problem. Immigration Minister James Brokenshire told the House of Commons in June 2014: 

    "It is not possible to accurately quantify the number of immigration offenders in the UK as, by their very nature, those that deliberately evade immigration control to enter and stay in the country illegally are not officially recorded until they come to light and are arrested."

    This is a question that has plagued politicians for the past fifteen years or so. Tony Blair, being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman in 2005, struggled to answer the question about how many illegals there were in the country. By opening up the question of illlegal immigration, a problem whose extent is unknown, to deflect today's bad news, Mr Cameron may be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.