Immigration – our viewing model needs fixing

When the Home Secretary says we cannot take in as many immigrants as a large section of the population now believe we should, she justifies this by pointing out there is an acute shortage of housing and the other elements of the welfare state which have trouble coping with the numbers that they currently have to deal with.

In all of this she is probably right. Where I’d hazard she is wrong is in how she is viewing the situation.

Anyone who has read Robert Winder’s book Bloody Foreigners will know that migrants to Britain have historically been net contributors to the economy rather than drains as The Daily Mail would have us believe. If she viewed the recent Calais borders fiasco less as a Little Englander and not even as a moral global citizen, but as an employer, she’d look at the matter differently.

How many of those people could fill the shortages in the NHS, how many of them could fill the vacancies in the restaurant sector? Just today a catering daily news wire reports on a number of restaurant and bar openings which will create over 1000 jobs. Just today. The biggest problem we face in the hospitality sector is the lack of people to fuel our growth. I look at the faces of those migrants and I can see many of them filling the vacancies I and other restaurateurs have which local people feel is beneath them.

In London, it was reported last week that 35 per cent of building companies were short of staff to deliver the developments currently taking place.

So perhaps Mrs May might do better from turning her perspective on its head. The migrants could be earning and paying taxes. Business like restaurants or property developers would be able to get more expansion done, create further and bigger returns to the public purse more quickly and trigger further economic activity with the known multiplier effects this has.

The NHS would have more people servicing the sick who are off work get back to work.

Forget for a moment about the historic nature of Britain being greater because of our being a sum of our constituent parts. Government can keep looking at things through the models it currently has. It just needs to switch to varifocal lenses.


Guest post by Iqbal Wahhab, OBE, restauranteur, former Chair of the Government’s Ethnic Minority Advisory Group, and Chair of the Centre for Social Investigation Advisory Board