“Foreign Babies” alert courtesy of Tory MP.

Nicholas Soames as seen by The Guardian's Steve BellMigration Watch and The Daily Express are delighting in the latest figures served up by the Office for  National Statistics in response to a twisted question by a Tory backbencher.

Nicholas Soames asked one of those smarmy questions which the Coalition government is delighted to field and answer in as much detail as possible. In full, he asked (according to Hansard):

“To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the (a) number and (b) proportion of births was where one or both parents were foreign-born in (i) London and (ii) each London borough within Greater London in the most recent year for which figures are available.”

For us, that’s a pretty loaded question. when looking at “the proportion of births where one or both parents were foreign-born” it would appear that anyone born to UK/Foreign born parents is cause for concern. The predictable results of such a question are perfectly displayed by Migration Watch and the Daily Express.

how foreign is foreign?

Of course the number of children with one or more foreign born parents is going to be higher in London – it is one of the (if not THE) most cosmopolitan cities on the planet. But a foreign born parent doesn’t mean an immigrant, it could be a person, white British born outside the UK whilst their mother was overseas (perhaps on a military posting or working abroad). Perhaps a parent is from an ethnic minority and has been here a long time. Either way, it’s not a question of nationality or, to use a term in the press a lot today “Britishness”. It is, though, useful fuel for racist hysteria.

Mr Soames, a seasoned political figure, knew the question and resulting answer would feed such headlines as he submitted the question, he did so with intent.

cheap trick

It’s a cheap trick, performed in the hope that no one looks at the way it was conceived. Soames is a old school Tory MP, howling from the backbenches and serving up long-hops for Migration Watch seem to be all this man is good for.

We have approached a far more fair minded MP to ask the same question, but substituting “UK-born” for “foreign-born”. We’ll let you know what the answer is, but we wonder if the Daily Express will?

About jcwi

Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants is a key campaigning voice in the field of immigration, asylum and nationality law and policy. It is completely independent from government funding, remaining entirely free from government influence. View all posts by jcwi

2 responses to ““Foreign Babies” alert courtesy of Tory MP.

  • alansber

    I wonder if this post slightly misses the point of the question raised by Nicholas Soames? Yes, it would be loaded to ask about the proportion of people born to foreign born parents if the sole point of that question were to call into question the ‘British’ identity of those children (as is apparently assumed).

    The question, however, serves an entirely legitimate purpose in light of recent EU law developments, and specifically the decision of the ECJ in Ruiz Zambrano that grants a right of residence in the UK to the third-country national parents of British children. (for more info see http://tinyurl.com/6obw45a)

    Nicholas Soames’ question, irrespective of his political bias on the issue, is a legitimate attempt to ascertain the actual impact of the Ruiz Zambrano case law. Finding out real figures on this rather than leaving it to the speculation of biased rhetoric is as much to the benefit of those in favour of such rights as it is to those against.

    In its use of phrases like ‘twisted’, ‘smarmy’, ‘racist hysteria’ and ‘cheap trick’ without properly exploring the issues raised by the question, this post rather condescendingly dismisses what is an entirely legitimate debate as to the proper limits of EU law in the field of national immigration policy. And in doing so it certainly does not help the liberal cause that they (and I) purport to support. This degree of sensationalism is best left to the Migration Watch and Daily Express, of which this post is, ironically, so critical.

  • jcwi

    You points may have more traction had the question been asked of the nationality of non-UK parents. Given the question was about non-UK born people, the data supplied will be useless in this regard.

    Parents who are non-UK born can be (and often are) British nationals, they are EU and non-EU nationals. The question did not discern between these three sectors and neither did the answer, so the data we are presented withtells us nothing about the numbers of children born to ‘third-country national parents’.

    We can tell by the way the data was used – immmediately and publicly by The Daily Express, Migration Watch and (a little later) The Daily Mail as to what the question actually achieved. If you want to believe Mr Soames was ineptly engaging with the debate around Zambrano, that is your right.

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