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Britain cannot absorb huge numbers of foreign workers

Conservatives have reiterated their demand for a specific annual limit on the number of foreigners allowed into the UK to work, after it emerged that over 700,000 overseas job seekers were issued with national insurance numbers in the last financial year.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green warned of the impossibility of absorbing such a huge influx, while Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Chris Grayling highlighted the strains on the welfare system, at a time when so many British people have lost their pensions.

According to the latest official figures, the UK issued National Insurance numbers to 713,000 overseas nationals in the year to 2006/07, and to more than two million since 2003/04. Of the 713,000, around a quarter of a million were Poles granted a NI number for the first time, while some 583,000 were people under the age of 35. In the financial year 2002-2003, some 349,000 NI numbers were allocated to overseas nationals.

Commenting, Mr Green said: "These extraordinary figures show that over two million new foreign workers have come to Britain in the last four years - and this is simply the number for those who are working legally.

"The numbers coming in are not only huge, but accelerating. It is impossible for the British jobs market to absorb so many people so quickly without causing severe strains."

He added: "This is a graphic illustration of why Conservatives are calling for an explicit annual limit on the numbers allowed to come here to work from outside the EU. Nearly 300,000 people arrived here in 2006/7 from the rest of the world. Without this control, the benefits of immigration will be lost among the social and economic difficulties caused by the sheer scale of the current numbers."

And pointing out that thousands of foreigners who come to the UK to work end up claiming welfare benefits within six months - at a cost of 80m to the taxpayer - Mr Grayling, stated: "At a time when Gordon Brown is refusing to provide a pensions lifeboat for the 125,000 British pensioners who have lost their pensions, people will find it surprising to say the least that so much money is being spent by our benefits system on people who are supposed to have come to the country to work."

Green, Damian

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