The editorial ‘Clash on immigration — a win for the Cabinet’, which was published in the Evening Standard on 4 June 2018, is sloppily written and contains a number of factual errors:
- It alludes to what it calls the Prime Minister’s ‘opposition to visas for foreign NHS doctors’. This is a misrepresentation. As the government has said, around a third of Tier 2 visas go to the NHS. This does not imply ‘opposition’. Moreover, it was recently confirmed by the government that no Tier 2 visas had been refused for nurses, paramedics and various doctors, including posts in emergency medicine, clinical radiology and old age psychiatry. Calls by the NHS for more immigration are likely designed to distract from their embarrassing failure, after years of procrastination, to provide sufficient numbers of training opportunities for young people in the UK who wish to take up NHS jobs. A shortage in NHS posts may also be due to a recent increase in the departure of UK doctors, probably due to low morale and rising workloads which are partially driven by current levels of mass immigration – around a quarter of a million a year.
- The editorial says that Mrs May’s opposition to removing students from the immigration figures ‘turned out to be based on Home Office statistics that were completely wrong’. This is a gross overstatement. While a sample of only one-year of Exit Checks did suggest that 97% of students who left were in compliance with terms of their visa, these checks by definition only covered those who left the country so the extent of overstaying by those who did not leave was unknown. Moreover, following a thorough analysis, the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration warned the government earlier this year that the Exit Checks system was so unreliable that it was unlikely to provide an accurate picture of the extent of illegal overstaying.
- The editorial says that the House of Lords passed an amendment to remove students from the immigration figures. This is incorrect. The amendment attempted to remove international students from the figures but only for ‘public policy purposes’ ie for the purposes of the net migration target. (Of course, both courses of action would be extremely unwise. The Royal Statistical Society has said that removing students from the net migration figures would be a ‘major mistake’ that ‘especially if demanded by politicians – would set a dangerous precedent and damage ONS’s independence’. On the other hand, removal of students from the net migration target would be a transparent manipulation of the statistics by politicians, and would only serve to further damage the, already low, public confidence in official reporting of the true scale of immigration.)
- The editorial suggests that, because the target to cut net migration below 100,000 per year ‘is nowhere close to being met’, that is a reason to drop it. What an absurd suggestion. Why should politicians be let off the hook from their promises simply because they have failed to keep them? Poll after poll suggests that a majority of the public not only support the target but that nearly two-thirds wish to see a substantial reduction in immigration levels.
- The piece quotes Ruth Davidson as calling for the government to scrap the target. Ms Davidson seems unaware of, or is deliberately ignoring, the scale of rapid population growth which has impacted the UK over the past two decades and which the target was designed to reign in. As a result of this, England is already one of the most densely populated places in Europe and three-quarters of the public say the UK is crowded. Removing the net migration target would simply set the stage for immigration to run even further out of control. (The Cabinet and Ms Davidson should be aware that between 80 and 90% of Conservative voters also want immigration reduced.)