UK Government Confirms It Has Stopped Sharing Data On Welfare Usage By Migrants Due To “Xenophobia” Fears

Jack Hadfield

The UK government is no longer sharing the data of the tax contributions and welfare usage of migrants, a decision partially based on a report that such statistics could be used to spread “xenophobia.”

In December last year, Conservative MP Neil O’Brien emailed HMRC, the British tax authority, requesting information on when the 2021 data for the amount of tax paid by migrants would be published. Along with tax credits and child benefit claims, the data was published annually. In an email sent to O’Brien on Monday, HMRC confirmed that the data had been discontinued.

“The data we need to have a more sensible conversation about migration is being deleted, not improved,” O’Brien said in a post to X that included a screenshot of the email reply.

Data from the Department of Work and Pensions on the welfare claimants of migrants has also stopped being published, as O’Brien confirmed in a question in Parliament in January. While the two decisions were in fact made in 2023 and 2022 respectively, there has been little public awareness until O’Brien drew attention to them this week.

The changes on the availability of the tax data were made after only two responses to a consultation on the issue. Notably, they were also performed in partnership with the Immigration Lawyers Practitioners’ Association. 

In their response to a consultation from the Office of National Statistics in 2016 regarding migration data, the group said that any data published on the economic activity of migrants would be used “by xenophobic politicians and media to portray all those who are economically active as scroungers.”

Writing on Substack, O’Brien highlighted further areas where data was either not being collected, or not being released by the government, such as arrests by nationality, or the immigration status of prisoners.

“Number 10 and the Home Office should grip this and start a cross-Whitehall push to improve migration data and start joining it up,” O’Brien concluded.

“It is possible: when I was a junior health minister and Robert Jenrick was immigration minister we had a joint project that gave us a more accurate estimate of migrants’ use of the NHS (which led to the increase in the Immigration Health Surcharge announced last year). The two new immigration ministers are both excellent: No.10 should set them on a cross-Whitehall mission to fix this.”

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