How many people live in Britain – by Greg Hands MP

portrait-greghands.jpgReading from the Gospel at a carol service in my constituency two months ago, I was reminded that for more than 2,000 years Governments have felt a need to accurately count their populations.

This Government in particular has shown a fascination with gathering demographic data, especially when it is linked to equalities issues.

Nevertheless, there is a growing debate on what should be a very simple question – how many people live here?

The Office of National Statistics (ONS – http://www.statistics.gov.uk/ ) records that in mid-2006, the UK’s population stood at a rather precise sounding 60,587,000, with growth accelerating slightly to 0.5% per annum.

The reality is this: nobody really knows. Slough Borough Council recently did their own count, and their estimate was between 3,000 and 7,000 more than the ONS said. The ONS itself uprated its forward projection for 2024 for my Borough by some 30,100 in just one year – remarkable, when the population is currently around 180,000 (although nobody can be sure of that figure either).

Many observers think the UK’s population is much bigger. A leading figure at Tesco recently told one of my parliamentary colleagues that they estimate the population of the UK to be closer to 80 million, based on the volume of certain staples they sell. Tesco are probably a world leader in understanding their consumer market, so it would be foolish to disregard their opinion.

In my London Borough, for the most recent year available, 2006-07, 9,310 foreign nationals registered for a National Insurance number. That’s 5.2% of the total population of the Borough. Actually, that was only the 5th highest figure in the UK. 9,310 people in one year – that’s more than the total employed by the Borough’s largest employer, the BBC!

Recently, the Bank of England called into question the ONS’s figures (http://neweconomist.blogs.com/new_economist/2006/01/politics_and_uk.html ), and the Treasury Select Committee is currently enquiring into how Britain’s population is counted (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtreasy.htm).

If Tesco’s unofficial figure proves to be correct, a political storm is sure to erupt – just who are these extra 20 million people?

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4 thoughts on “How many people live in Britain – by Greg Hands MP

  1. I will add something from my own personal experience. I was a census taker in 2001, and since then I have not trusted a single figure to come out of the census. I can tell you that, in order to pay us as little as possible, we were not given enough time to check all our results. I would assess that at least 20% of the data I collected were unreliable. Add that census takers came mostly from the unemployed lists, and most of them may not have been highly educated and competent to verify some facts, and that we not infrequently met people who spoke no English and to whom it was difficult to even explain what we wanted, and that census may best be described as an exercise in futility. Not that I did not get some interesting side-lights on London society = one large building in Haggerston, London, seemed to be populated exclusively by an incongruous mix of charming teen-age Brazilian prostitutes and terrified hijab-clad Somali refugees! (I also found a man sleeping with someone else’s wife, an obvious villain or two, and a number of African immigrants who spoke no English but excellent French.

  2. Who are the 20 million? East Europeans, most of whom are uncounted, bogus students from all over the world who overstay when their visas run out, and illegals who have just disappeared.

    From the VISIBLE population increase on Labour’s watch it is obvious that the Tesco figures are not far out. It is easy to see that there are around a third more people than there used to be in the UK in the 1990s. Everywhere is way way more densely populated, streets more crowded, supermarkets busier, schools bursting at the seams, traffic congestion much worse, despite schemes to reduce it.

  3. The increase has come about because government has made it impossible to discuss mass immigration. During the years it was going on initially, we were told it wasn’t; then we were told it had happened and that we must accept it; then we were told to celebrate it, and that it was illegal to complain. For a short period under Mrs Thatcher it was reigned in. Then the floodgates were deliberately opened by Blair and Brown, and Cameron is now saying he wants to return to “tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands* coming in … as if that were acceptabe! The complacency and irresponsibility of the ruling class since the war has amounted to treason – worse than jining the EU, because membership can be reversed, but mass immigration can’t be. We are stuck with our Balkanised African future.
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