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Here's why Amber Rudd's "barista visa" is a load of hot air

If the Tories want Brexit to succeed, they'll need to start being a lot nicer to immigrants. 

Amber Rudd has a new wheeze to keep the flow of young workers that Britains’ ageing population needs to keep its shops, care homes, bars and so on open and the economy ticking over – a so-called “barista visa”.

Under the scheme, the Sun reveals, people from the European Union will be able to come to Britain for two years to work in hospitality, retail and other similar industries – but they won’t be able to claim benefits or to stay longer than two years.

It’s modeled after the “youth mobility scheme”, which is open to 18 to 30 year olds from Australia, Canada, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  To qualify, people who come to Britain under the scheme need £1,890 in savings.

It’s not a particularly attractive offer, is it? Come to Britain to work in a coffee shop. If you get promoted? You can’t stay. If you fall in love? You can’t stay. If you set up a new business or establish yourself as a writer while working at a coffee shop? You can’t stay.  Small wonder that the scheme attracted just 42,000 last year – from countries with a combined population of around 350m.

And keeping Britain attractive to people who want to come and make a life here matters. Britain has close to full employment and an ageing population. Neither its job market, nor the needs of its elderly, can met through the indigenous population alone. Whatever post-Brexit immigration policy it has, it will have be attractive enough to draw in equivalent numbers of immigrants from around the world that come to Britain today. To keep attracting close to the 286,000 who came to Britain from elsewhere in the European Union in 2016, that regime is going to have to either be as attractive to people living in the European Union as the existing one or the barriers to migration from the rest of the world will have to be a hell of a lot lower.

It shouldn’t be revelatory to say this, but apparently it is: you can’t persuade people to come here if you are also trying to get those same people to leave. For Britain to thrive after Brexit, we’re going to have to start being a lot nicer to immigrants.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.