Hello again everyone, I’m sorry that the blogging has been a bit light over the last few days: it’s been the last week of university lectures down here in Auckland and things have been very busy! Luckily you’ve had Shannon’s excellent last blog post to keep you entertained. Now I’ve got a bit of breathing space as the exams aren’t for a couple of weeks. Then the joy that is marking can begin! Hopefully the baby number 2 will be a good boy and hold his horses for a few more weeks yet and allow us to get a few things finished (including marking) before then. On that note, Shannon and I had the final scan today for the baby and everything was healthy and tracking well. He seems to be bigger than average and may decide to come a bit earlier than we had thought. Oh well, we can’t plan these things!

Speaking of growing families, I’m glad that Bill Oddie (of Goodies fame…I wasn’t aware of who they were and had to look them up) isn’t in control down here.  He has recently claimed on a morning show on the BBC that British families should be “contained” as an answer for overcrowding and instead of limiting immigration.  MSN reports:

“The 73-year-old former member of The Goodies said: ‘There should just as likely be a restriction on the number of children that British people have because over-population is what you are talking about here, the big problem.  So you say these perfectly well-qualified people can’t come in, but the woman down the road has just had her 10th baby. Well I’m sorry, but they are the people that really should be contained. It would make a difference.’”

Oddie stated that immigrants to the UK had contributed mightily to UK culture and that trying to stop other people from living in the British Isles was a “kind of chauvinism”:

“’I’m happy to say I’m not proud to be British. In fact, I’m very often ashamed to be British. We are a terrible race, all the hooliganism and God knows what.’”

Lord knows that the British are not uniformly all saints, nor has their history uniformly saintly, but we can admit that there are some things that the world can thank the British for: notions of the rule of law; the spread of democratic ideals; helping to deafeat Napoleon; Wilhelm II and Hitler etc etc And this is without mentioning their most important contributions to society: the cooked breakfast and cricket.  

But is Oddie right? Is the UK overpopulated because of native birth rates? Well according to a quick look at the Office for National Statistics shows that there were 560,000 people who immigrated to the UK in the year ending March 2014. During 2013, there were 698,512 live births.  Thus both immigration and births can be said to contribute significantly to the population growth.   

Alp Mehmet, the vice-chairman of Migration Watch UK replied to Oddie in this manner:

“‘He’s right, population levels are increasing, but that is largely driven by immigration, not large British families. The fact is we can control and are controlling immigration and we should continue to be aiming in that direction, rather than going down the Chinese route of limiting the number of children people can have.’”

And that’s the debate to be had here. Do we try and control natural population growth or immigration if we are worried about overcrowding? Surely in terms of the human rights abuses, the answer should be obvious: you limit immigration before you start trying to control how many children your citizens can have.  Is immigration really that much of a liberal shibboleth that people would prefer state coercion as to how many children they can have???

Besides, the trend is a positive one for Oddie: the British fertility rate was 1.85 children per woman in 2013. This was down from 1.94 in 2012.  This was the biggest annual decrease since 1975.  Maybe people are too busy re-watching back episodes of the Goodies…

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...