Immigration and border control signs at Edinburgh airport. Photograph: Getty Images.
Show Hide image

Osborne's living wage will increase immigration - but he won't mind

The new £9 rate will give the UK one of the highest minimum wages in the OECD. 

The Tories, in theory, have a policy of reducing immigration to the UK. Despite net migration last year reaching 318,000, the Conservative manifesto reaffirmed the party's aim of limiting it to "tens of thousands". David Cameron's bid to impose a four-year ban on migrant benefits (as part of his EU renegotiation) is designed, in his words, to reduce "the incentives for lower paid, low skilled EU workers to come here in the first place." The disparity between the amount migrants can earn at home and the amount they can earn in the UK (including through in-work welfare) must be narrowed. 

But the defining measure of George Osborne's Budget - a "National Living Wage" - will only increase the incentives for foreigners to migrate. As the OBR noted, the planned rate of £9 by 2020 will move the UK from the middle of the global wage league table to the top. Just seven OECD countries will have a higher minimum wage relative to full-time median earnings. 

This isn't the only draw for migrants. As the Labour MP John Mann, who has called for curbs on the free movement of labour, tweeted: "Biggest winners in today's budget are low skilled Europeans thinking of coming here. Free childcare, pay no tax, higher pay. The UK dilemma." But given the the economic benefits of high immigration, Osborne, a liberal on this issue, may not mind. After achieving a majority despite Ukip winning 12.6 per cent of the vote, the Tories can no longer have to permanently appease Nigel Farage. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame