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National Insurance Numbers (Other EU Nationals)

Volume 608: debated on Tuesday 19 April 2016

1. When HM Revenue and Customs plans to publish data on the number of active national insurance numbers used by people from other EU countries. (904537)

The Government are committed to providing data on active national insurance numbers used by people from other EU countries. HMRC is currently compiling that information and is working closely with the Office for National Statistics, which is reconciling the four main sources of international migration data. The data on active national insurance numbers will be published as part of, or alongside, the ONS’s publication. It is up to that independent statistics authority to decide when it is ready to make public the information.

I have been asking HMRC for the figures since January. The British people have a right to know such facts, particularly in the context of the UK’s EU referendum debate. Will we know before 23 June how many foreign nationals from other EU countries have national insurance numbers?

It does take some time for HMRC to combine and match multiple datasets and hundreds of millions of lines of its own and the Department for Work and Pensions’ data. The intention is to publish the information alongside the ONS analysis. I note that according to its website the ONS plans to publish in May a note on migration incorporating the latest available migration data, and helping to explain further why the two datasets show different trends.

What about the 3.3 million people—one in 10 of the existing workforce—who pay their national insurance and tax and whose jobs are linked to UK exports to the EU? Does the Minister agree that leave campaigners should not just cross their fingers and dismiss reality and that Members on both sides of the House have a duty to spell out the fact that leaving the EU would put real jobs at real risk?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware of the Treasury analysis published yesterday that shows the various models and the consequences were we to leave the EU, including a permanent reduction in our GDP compared with what it otherwise would be and significant damage to productivity growth. The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight that point.

Do the Government welcome the opportunity to bring forward actual data without the need to project forward 14 years using techniques that have proved to be inaccurate every six months?

As I said, HMRC has gone through the data and will provide them to the ONS. It is for the ONS to decide the timing, but I have drawn the House’s attention to what it has said.

Returning to the Treasury analysis, it compares one scenario with other scenarios, and all three possible scenarios for leaving the EU would leave this country poorer than we otherwise would be.

The impact of EU membership on jobs is obviously significant. Will the Minister pass on my congratulations to the officials who did the useful analysis that was published yesterday? A regional breakdown on page 65 of the document suggests that 100,000 jobs in the north-east are dependent on EU exports. I had thought that the figure would be 140,000, so will he ask the officials to look at it again with a view to revising it up?

I will certainly take that representation on board. Of course, the north-east of England has the very large Nissan plant, which provides a significant number of jobs. The argument in the Treasury analysis is that we benefit from an open economy. If we leave the single market, we become a less open economy, which will have a cost to the British people in their living standards.

The disgracefully dodgy document published by the Treasury yesterday is, frankly, worthy of the children’s programme “Jackanory”. The immigration figures suggest that there will be 3 million more immigrants in this country by 2030, placing my hon. Friend in clear breach of the Conservative manifesto commitment to reduce immigration to tens of thousands a year. What is his response to that accusation?

The numbers are based on the ONS projection that was used at the last Budget. No account is taken of the achievements of the renegotiation secured by the Prime Minister. On the Treasury analysis, a large number of independent economic commentators have argued that it is broadly in the right direction. My hon. Friends who advocate that we should leave the EU should come forward with their own analysis, setting out exactly what model they would follow and what the economic consequences would be.