The Coalition Government and Immigration’s New Clothes

It appears from the view taken by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) that the Points Based System introduced by the former Labour government is working. The system has had more success in controlling immigration than its introducing Labour government had at the last general election. Drawing fanfare as a “robust” system from national newspapers and the CIPD, the PBS has functioned to reduce work visas (which were down 14% for the year ended June 2010). Coincidentally migration from Europe for the same period is also down by 14%.

Yet a reduction in skilled workers from outside the EU fails to strike any balance with assisting a recovery of the UK’s ailing economy because of the country’s heavy reliance on skilled labour. In the UK non-EU skilled labourers work in a variety of occupations. These range from the gastronomical and sartorial areas of the UK’s economy to the financial and technological areas of the economy such as banking and IT services.

The key question for an incisive exposition of the link between immigration control and economic recovery is whether the UK’s skills shortage can be overcome by training and education within the country? This question’s answer must be crafted under the assumption that  the UK’s economic recovery is still not clearly visible in the near future. Moreover, the findings of the Institute of Public Policy Research – which has reported that the economic recession and a weakened pound will make the UK less attractive to skilled migrants in any event – must be considered in answering the question set out above.

Gerwyn Davies of the CIPD cogently struck the problem at its roots when she said that “[t]he reality for employers is that training workers to plug the UK skills gap is a lengthy task,” and therefore “[t]he abrupt introduction of a radical cap would … leave many employers with a bigger skills problem and tempt employers with global operations to offshore jobs, where they can find the skills.”

All this is a far cry from the Tory party’s election manifesto slogan (“tens of thousands not hundreds of thousands”) which is now being introduced into UK immigration law. The dilemma for the UK’s battered economy is better understood by businesses because they require the work done by non-EU skilled migrants to keep things functioning smoothly. And the Business Secretary Vince Cable is making himself popular with businesses by saying what they want to hear. On recent a visit to India he expressed his disagreement with the Conservatives’ immigration policy:

“It’s no great secret that in my department and me personally, we want to see an open economy, and as liberal an immigration policy as it’s possible to have.”

The days of empire have left the UK a legacy of immigration to service its economy. Despite some of the discriminatory policies adopted by the government (such as the East African Asians’ case) the UK is a wonderful expression of cultural diversity which is reflected in its population of African, Asian, European, and other migrants.

To limit the future and economic recovery of the UK by introducing a stricter regime for immigration is a mistake because it increases bureaucracy which costs a lot to maintain. The other side of the coin is that a complicated system can have serious constitutional implications, as was the case in AP (Russia), which has the effect of increasing judicial review applications against the Home Secretary and surely burdening the tax payer with her legal bills which accumulate because of badly framed laws should be something which requires parliamentary scrutiny.

About Asad Ali Khan, BA, MSc, MA, LL.B (Hons), LL.M

Senior Partner, Khan & Co, Barristers-at-Law
This entry was posted in Article 8, Business, Constitution, Court of Appeal, Economy, Immigration Rules, Overseas Workers, PBS, Post Study Work, Tier 1, Tier 2, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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