Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Making 'Em Pay

The real world? What's that?

Like all Home Secs, Jacqui loves to talk tough. Her latest foray is to make migrants pay for all those public services they consume. It's time to Get Tough, and newcomers will be Made To Pay. It's all clearly set out in her radical Green Paper The Path to Citizenship.

Well, no.

Not really.

That was just the spin on the pre-publication leak. The reality is a bit different:

"Money... will be raised through increases to certain fees for immigration applications, with migrants who tend to consume more in public services – such as children and elderly relatives – paying more than others. We will work closely across Government to develop a clear and transparent methodology for the appropriate surcharge. We would aim to raise tens of millions of pounds, with the fund operating from April 2009."

So as per, they haven't a clue how it will work. What's more, the revenue target is minimal: today's side briefing says £15m.

Let's just remind ourselves of some facts.

When we first blogged this issue it was in the context of Slough's problems with a massive wave of migrants from Eastern Europe (see here). At that point, the official line from the Commissars was that the issue was hugely overblown. Ludicrous wibblers like the £13m pa tax-funded Immigration Advisory Service, assured us that Slough's 15,000 new arrivals were young and single, so didn't make much call on public services. That was despite the fact that just two of Slough's primary schools had taken in 50 Polish and 60 Somali kids in just one term.

Now, just 18 months later, everyone accepts it's A Big Problem. Because in truth, the vast majority of immigrants are not those high earning, high tax-paying, non-service consuming, skilled workers who feature so heavily in government propaganda. In fact, many are not even workers at all. They are dependents of one sort or another.

As we blogged here, the independent and authoritative National Institute for Social and Economic Research has dredged through rafts of official stats and came up with the following conclusions (based on the Labour Force Survey for Q1 2007):
  • 4.6% of the British population arrived here in the last decade- an extraordinary 2.7m people
  • Only 20% of arrivals were working in high skill jobs ("professional, managerial, and associate professional occupations")
  • 1.3m were not working at all- ie roughly half of all arrivals
  • 0.5m were not even of working age- ie roughly one-fifth of arrivals were children and old people

So nearly half of all arrivals are not contributing directly to GDP, but they are most certainly consuming public services. Not just schools, hospitals, and social housing, but also our criminal justice system: as we blogged here, foreigners are now responsible for more than half the murders in London, immigrant crime is costing us somewhere in the range £3- £10bn pa, and foreign prisoners are occupying 14.3% of our jail places (end 2006).

Now compare those ESTABLISHED FACTS with what Jacqui's wibbling Green Paper says today:

"Today, migrant workers are filling skills shortages and meeting labour market demands... In the same way free trade and capital mobility boost our income, so does migration... The Treasury has estimated that total net migration contributed around 15-20% of trend growth between mid-2001 and mid-2006, adding about _ a percentage point to annual output
growth, equivalent to £6bn of additional output."

"about_a percentage point"? Yes. That's taken verbatim from the Green Paper, and it tells us they're not even on top of their own propaganda. Most serious studies now reckon the impact of recent immigration on per capita GDP has been zero at best (see many previous blogs eg here).

One thing the Green Paper does not do is shed any more light on how precisely Jacqs intends to control immigration numbers. Yes, we know she's going to have an Oz style points system, but without an annual limit that's meaningless. If there's one thing we don't need it's yet another expensive pile of useless forms to process.



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