We can't go on sending mixed messages about immigration

20 Feb 2013 at 15:48

I have absolutely no evidence for this nor even a snippet of tea room gossip, but my waters tell me that there looks like the beginning of a turf war between Number 10 and the Home Office. Let me explain why.

The control of immigration, or rather lack of it, is an issue that is high on the public’s worry list. It is that, rather than Europe, why the Kippers skim some of the soft Tory vote. Theresa May is all that a Home Secretary should be. Decisive, focused and determined to make her traditionally dysfunctional department do what it says on the tin. She, as a former Party Chairman, understands very well that the public want tight controls. UKBA is a disaster area and she was right to read the riot act to those civil servants who changed policy against her orders. And she is sensible and ambitious enough not to take her eye off the ball of that little nest of vipers.

The trouble is that industry needs skilled and semi skilled immigrants to function efficiently. Add that to the fact that David Cameron is in India trying to encourage their best and their brightest to come over here and you have some mixed messages.

And then there is Gavin Barwell. I have known Gavin for years. He is one of that new breed of Tory backbenchers whom when you chat to him you are not worried if there is a full moon and not concerned at all that you don’t have that string of garlic, crucifix or wooden stake that are a necessity when talking to some of them. And speaking of Nadine Dorries, isn’t silence golden and blissful? Withdrawal of the whip when it is soon to be resection time concentrates the mind wonderfully.

But back to Barwell. He doesn’t shoot from the hip, has common sense views and is rather thoughtful. No wonder he appears on the dart board of the green inkers. Today he has written a well argued piece in the Telegraph about mixed messages over immigration. Since May’s populist views on radically cutting the numbers back he has shown that the number of talented students from India has dropped as has investment. This is a serious problem.

Gavin is no ordinary backbencher. He is the PPS to Michael Gove, another effective and decisive minister who knows what he wants and is determined to get it. He also has a department that has traditionally been hand in glove with the teaching unions and whose civil servants aren’t necessarily the most loyal or obedient. He too is sorting them out to squeals of indignation and horror. Good God the bloody man wants to make exams tougher, raise standards and put children before teachers. The swine.

So for an aide to write such a piece he must have had the blessing from Gove, a man who would rather bite off his right arm than undermine his friend Cameron. So far I have not read any counter briefings. But these are early days.

We all know what is wrong with immigration but feel uncomfortable saying it. We don’t want people coming over here purely as economic migrants, disappearing into closed communities who don’t share our values. And we don’t want hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians flocking to our shores for the sole purpose of collecting handouts or become health service tourists. We want the best, the brightest and the hardest workers who can enrich our cultural lives, work hard and pay taxes. And we don’t want unskilled workers sending child benefit back home. It is insane, unfair and desperately unpopular.

A balance must be struck and a clear policy must be agreed. Quickly. Number 10 and the Home Office must be at one.

Then there is the problem of primary legislation regarding Article 8 (the right to a family life) and criminals. May has been very badly advised on this one. To take a swipe at the independence of the judiciary is bad politics. They just interpret the law that Parliament makes. Former Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls Harry Wolfe is a brilliant jurist and not some mad leftie. He is right to point out that judges don’t just act on what is said in Parliament but the law. The guidelines are the law. They were introduced as delegated legislation on July 15th last year. Primary legislation won’t make a difference at all.

May stated that Criminals have “an unqualified right to remain”. That is just plain wrong. It is worth quoting Article 8 in full:

" 1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except as in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interest of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

Those are my italics. Pretty clear eh?

God they are an absolute shower at the Home Office. Poor old Dominic Grieve, who understands these things rather well, must be tearing his hair out.