Select Committee on Communities and Local Government Committee Tenth Report

1  Introduction

Migration is the issue of greatest public concern, overtaking concerns on crime and terrorism. For nearly one in five Britons there is no bigger issue.—results of a MORI poll conducted in January 2007[1]

Community Cohesion and Migration

1.  In recent history England has experienced a number of waves of inward migration. The arrival in the 19th century of thousands of Jews from Eastern Europe fleeing persecution; the migration of many Commonwealth citizens from Asia and the Caribbean in the 1950s and 1960s; and, in the 1970s, the arrival of Ugandan Asians, again fleeing persecution, are just a few examples. Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), told us that "today, we face a completely different sort of migration", as migrants are not necessarily coming to England to settle.[2] Many of the recent arrivals from Eastern Europe are principally coming for work and may not stay. The nature of migration today, with increasingly transient populations, presents a challenge in creating cohesive and integrated local communities.

2.  There are significant public concerns about the scale and pace of migration. A November 2007 poll showed record levels of public concern about the number of migrants living in Britain. Some 41 per cent of those surveyed stated that there were too many migrants.[3] Given the level of public concern about migration and the pace of change experienced in some communities, there is a need for an informed national debate on the effect of migration on community cohesion.


3.  Our inquiry set out to examine the effects of migration on local communities and community cohesion in England, and local and national actions to manage these effects. Our task has been to examine public concerns, to reach conclusions and to make recommendations on what more is needed to improve community cohesion in areas experiencing migration.

4.  Our Report is published a year on from the Commission on Integration and Cohesion's (CIC) report Our Shared Future.[4] The Government established the Commission to investigate what further action was needed to promote integration and cohesion locally. The CIC made a large number of recommendations to Government and our inquiry provided a timely opportunity to examine progress in implementing recommendations relating to migration, as well as looking more widely at central and local government's actions to promote cohesion and integration.

5.  The social effects of migration have been at the heart of our inquiry, complementing the work of others on different aspects of migration policy. A recent House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs inquiry has examined the Economic Impact of Immigration.[5] We have a keen awareness of the debate on the accuracy of migration statistics, and comment on this issue in chapter six. Our sister departmental select committee, the Treasury Committee, has examined this issue in great depth in its report Counting the Population.[6] We have not attempted to scrutinize the Government's overall migration policy, though we recognise its important effect on community cohesion, as this is the role of the Home Affairs Committee. In examining the effects of migration on local public services, we have concentrated on local government services, since it was to these services that the majority of the concerns expressed to us related.

6.  We received 40 evidence submissions and held four oral evidence sessions. A central part of our approach was to develop an understanding of the challenges faced by local communities in building community cohesion. Committee members visited three very different parts of England to learn from first-hand experience. In Peterborough, we heard about the challenges caused by rapid inward migration, primarily from Eastern Europe. In Burnley, we learnt about the need to increase understanding and contact between second and third generation Asian and white communities. Our final visit was to Barking and Dagenham, where we gained an appreciation of the sheer pace of change in the borough. On all our visits we met settled and new residents and a wide range of local stakeholders. We would like to thank all those who contributed to our inquiry by providing evidence or meeting us on our visits. We are particularly grateful to our two specialist advisers for this inquiry, Alveena Malik, Principal Associate at the Institute of Community Cohesion, and Rachel Pillai, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Employment Studies.


7.  Community cohesion may be considered a somewhat nebulous concept; certainly it is a phrase not commonly used at the grassroots.[7] The expression was adopted by the Government following Professor Ted Cantle's report on the disturbances in a number of northern towns in the summer of 2001, and since has often been associated with race.[8] The CIC called for a new definition of community cohesion to recognise the importance of integration to cohesion, and to go beyond race relations. The Government has accepted a new definition:

Community Cohesion is what must happen in all communities to enable different groups of people to get on well together. A key contributor to community cohesion is integration which is what must happen to enable new residents and existing residents to adjust to one another.[9]

A shared understanding of the term is vital as a starting point for discussion on this topic. We welcome the Government's new definition: it recognises that cohesion is not simply about race or faith, nor only the responsibility of new residents, but how we all get on with other people within local communities.

8.  The Government has developed a new standard form of measurement of community cohesion. The new Public Service Agreement (PSA) 21 covers community cohesion and includes three particular indicators. The main indicator on cohesion, which has been used for a number of years, and was the sole cohesion indicator included in the previous PSA 10 on reducing race inequalities and building community cohesion (CSR04), is "the percentage of people who believe people from different backgrounds get on well together in their local area".[10] This indicator is measured through the national Citizenship Survey and included as a Best Value Performance Indicator (BVPI).

9.  Equally important is the need for a shared understanding of the term migration. Migration—the movement of people—is not synonymous with immigration. We have deliberately used the broader term migration throughout our inquiry, as we recognise that internal movement of people within the UK affects local communities as well as international inward migration. We are an increasingly physically mobile society, moving within the UK and internationally. One in nine people moved within the UK in the year before the last census was taken.[11] We recognise that there has also been a recent increase in the number of migrants going back to their countries of origin, given the current economic situation in the UK.[12] And there is significant emigration from the UK, with an estimated 400,000 leaving in 2006.[13]

1   Ev 78 Back

2   Q 1 Back

3   Ipsos MORI, Attitudes towards immigration, 9 April 2008, Back

4   Commission on Integration and Cohesion, Our Shared Future, June 2007. Thereafter 'Our Shared Future'. Back

5   House of Lords, The Economic Impact of Immigration, First Report of the Select Committee on Economic Affairs, Session 2007-08, HL Paper 82.  Back

6   Treasury Committee, Eleventh Report of Session 2007-08, Counting the Population, HC 183. Back

7   Annex  Back

8   The Cantle Report, Community Cohesion: A Report of the Independent Review Team, December 2001. Back

9   Communities and Local Government, The Government's Response to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion, February 2008, para 1.3. Back

10   Ev 87 Back

11   ONS, Distance moved by people changing address within the UK in the year prior to the 2001 Census,15 December 2005, Back

12   IPPR, Floodgates or turnstiles? Post-EU enlargement migration flows to (and from) the UK, 30 April 2008. Back

13   ONS, Total International Migration 1997-2006, 20 May 2008,  Back

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