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Artillery Row

Who’s advising the migration advisors?

We deserve more transparency when it comes to who and what influences British immigration policy

“Transparency is a pillar of liberal democracy.” That is the refrain we hear time and again from left-leaning outlets like LBC and Byline Times. This is mainly because their business models hinge upon the parroting of Tufton Street conspiracy theories, or relentless campaigns against the expenses claims of some fringe backbench MP, to agitate witless FBPErs. 

However, were they to truly be the bastions of democratic openness then they would be equally vexed by the hazy decision making that surrounds Whitehall’s immigration policy. As one of the key issues in the country, surely it is right that there is some sunlight shone upon those calling the shots.

Later this year Tory MPs will face the wrath of an electorate who, despite voting repeatedly for a dramatic reduction in numbers, now see inward migration running at 1.2 million people per annum and tens of thousands of illegal migrants pouring onto Kent beaches. 

Although resting on the precipice of electoral wipeout, ministers have failed to summon the necessary political will to actually tackle the issue. Indeed, it beggars belief that the One Nation faction of the parliamentary party still cleave to the idea that strong borders are not popular with the “middle-ground of British politics”. 

But this political illiteracy only partly explains the mass migration experiment. 

Since 2010 we have seen the management of Britain’s borders gradually outsourced to a nomenklatura of quangos, staffed by liberally inclined experts. Their processes remain obscure, yet their influence is vast.

The OBR is, of course, the pin-up boy for the pro-migration blob. So eager is it to espouse the virtues of mass migration that its forecasts have actually over-egged the benefits by at least £8bn since 2019. 

But equally influential is the Migration Advisory Committee, a New Labour construct that has been allowed to operate a backdoor for cheap overseas labour to flow into Britain. Its Shortage Occupation List, now known as the Immigration Salary List (ISL), permits UK corporations to recruit foreign labour for discounted wages and with a streamlined visa process offering discount fees. 

The key accomplishment of this body has been to burden the United Kingdom with the presently inadequate Health and Social Care visa system. Let us not forget that this system has allowed for the arrival of thousands of economically inactive dependents, led to falling sector standards, and disincentivised investment. 

Indeed, for company execs, having your sector placed on the ISL is the golden ticket. It allows you to shirk your obligations to the British workforce, bring down your wage bill, bolster your topline, and pay out some tasty dividends.  

The MAC claims to spend a lot of its time carrying out “stakeholder engagement” and listening to the concerns of the private sector. The evident selection bias that is inherent with this approach does not seem to factor into their considerations, because the quango is now essentially the Home Office’s very own in-house lobbyist, flying the flag for cheap labour. 

We saw this last week with the release of its “rapid review” which was nothing short of a taxpayer-funded broadside against plans to increase the minimum salary threshold for migrant workers. 

Professor Brian Bell, head of the MAC, complained to the Financial Times that the Home Office was now making it harder for companies to recruit qualified foreign nationals at a salary that is less than the British median. Drifting into incredulity, Bell asked “What’s the logic? Why would you not want that worker (earning the British median) to come into the UK?…What’s the objective here?”

The objective — to stop the undercutting of British salaries — does not appear to be a consideration.

And it is no wonder, the MAC was not set up to represent the interests of British workers who are seeing their wages suppressed. It is a receptacle for the grievances of large corporations and trade bodies. Which corporations and trade bodies in particular? Well, we do not know. 

The MAC refuses to divulge the details of any of its private sector meetings and hides behind its alleged obligations to “confidentiality”. We do not know with which organisations the committee members are meeting, with what information they are being furnished, nor upon what data they are basing their decision-making. 

It is the epitome of sterile technocracy

Were a government department to be as secretive about its engagements with corporate interests then the Secretary of State could expect to feel the full force of Fleet Street’s ire cast upon them. Yet the MAC, despite being a key protagonist in Britain’s immigration farrago, remains immune from public scrutiny. It is the epitome of sterile technocracy. 

Be in no doubt, the Conservatives could have corrected this situation if they had wanted to, but, owing to the absence of conviction politicians, the party has been far too happy to govern on auto-pilot. Perhaps finally, as the mountain veers into view through the mist, ministers might try and grab the yoke. 

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