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Last Updated: Saturday, 21 January 2006, 15:39 GMT
UK had 'no idea' over EU migrants
Tony McNulty
Mr McNulty admitted the government had been 'in the dark'
The government was "in the dark" when it estimated how many workers would come to the UK after the EU expanded in 2004, a Home Office minister has said.

A government report estimated 5,000 to 13,000 workers from the 10 new EU countries would want to stay in the UK.

In fact 293,000 immigrants have applied for work permits since May 2004.

Tony McNulty told BBC's Newsnight many of the 293,000 had not stayed in the UK and that estimates were skewed as other EU states had not yet let workers in.

Mr McNulty pointed out the government's initial estimate was based on how many people would come to settle permanently in the UK.

He said the 293,000 figure was the number who had applied for the Workers Registration Scheme (WRS), but did not take into account people's movements in and out of the country.

'Good news'

Many of those who had come into the country on the WRS would leave as the rest of the EU opened its labour markets, he said.

"Part of the early stages of deciding what the forecasts would be were in the dark, in the sense that we didn't know exactly what every other country was going to do," he said.

"So all this is done in the context of simply Britain, Sweden and Ireland having free labour movement and all the others shutting up shop."

Mr McNulty was interviewed after a Newsnight investigation discovered there were 3,000 Polish immigrants living in Crewe, which has a total working population of about 60,000.

Local schools and public services in the town complained they were under pressure to cope with the influx.

But the minister said he felt Crewe's experience was an example of a "good news" story.

"Given that we had no notion really about how many would come, in what numbers and where - the concentration initially was London and the south-east and now they're moving out - I think this is just about the dynamics of the new European labour market," he said.

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