With recession biting and unemployment high it is no surprise immigration has worked its way to the top of the political agenda to the point where there is not a single mainstream party prepared to say "it's not as bad as you think".

And that, it is claimed, is exactly why the government has delayed publication of its own study into the issue apparently showing just that – it is not as bad as ministers have been suggesting.

Downing Street is denying any suggestion the report has been pushed to the back of a very deep shelf for fear it will undermine its tough, vote-winning message on immigration.

Officials have insisted the report is not yet ready but, in a move which will immediately be seen as evidence of a deliberate delay, expect it could now be released within days.

There seems little doubt that, if the conclusion is as controversial as has been reported, it would open up the debate over immigration and jobs in a way that may not help ministers with their simple "get tough" message.

Home Secretary Theresa May has previously seized on figures from the Migration Advisory Committee which suggested for every 100 non-EU immigrants, 23 UK workers would not be given a job.

But now it is suggested by BBC Newsnight that the latest and wider MAC study shows the actual figure for the number of jobs displaced is much lower, with some suggestions it is "virtually nil".

The latest row follows on the heels of the revelation that ministers are miles away from meeting their target of cutting net immigration to below 100,000 people a year by 2015.

And there have long been suspicions that immigrants are being used as a scapegoat during difficult economic times and that they actually benefit rather than harm the British economy.

Latest labour market statistics, for example, show that 87% of the 425,000 new jobs in the UK economy in the past year went to British workers with only 13% going to foreign nationals.

Critics of the current approach claim the political parties do not even attempt to present the true picture about migration and its effects on the UK but allow scare stories about the alleged threats to jobs and social cohesion to go unchallenged.

There is a recognised issue over so-called "benefits tourism" which was acknowledged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel when she visited Britain last week. But it is believed to be a relatively minor issue.

And now it appears the other routine line of attack – that migrants take jobs that could otherwise be done by Britons – is also over played.

Ministers are routinely accused of marching to the Ukip tune and its leader Nigel Farage immediately dismissed the latest alleged findings saying it still showed that some Britons were losing jobs to immigrants.

"Even more pertinent is the effect on wages of people in work and we've had wage compression and it's meant lower wages for millions and millions of people," he said.

But there now seems to be a growing recognition that the contradictory claims need to be tested and that the debate over immigration should be based on facts.